Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are among the most catastrophic damages an accident victim can suffer. In many cases, these are permanent injuries that will forever change your life as you know it. The costs of your injury will be high. The economic costs will be prohibitive, not to mention the life-changing effects that your injuries will have. You and your family will endure a lifetime of challenges just because someone else was careless or reckless.
Families may not have the money to pay these bills, nor can they make up for the lost earnings that the accident victim would have made.
Abels & Annes will make it our mission to hold them accountable when someone else was responsible for your injuries. We obtained millions of dollars in settlements for injury clients, including $195,000 for a client with a lumbar spine herniation.
We will leave no stone unturned in our pursuit on your behalf of the financial compensation that your family needs to both care for your injuries and make up for the income that you would have provided.
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As we will describe below, SCIs are incredibly costly. Roughly 18,000 people will suffer SCIs in the United States each year. Some estimates place the number of people who live with SCIs at approximately 300,000. Due to the varying nature of SCIs, those with these injuries can live different lives. Some victims can maintain some aspects of their previous lives before the injury, albeit with significant adjustments. Others end up with no mobility or function and need around-the-clock care.
Here are some accidents that can lead to SCIs:
- Slip and falls
- Car accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Workplace injuries
- Sports accidents
All it takes is one moment of impact to cause a catastrophic injury.
Car accidents can happen on I-17, I-10, or U.S. Route 60, and at dangerous intersections such as 75th Avenue and Indian School Road. You might fall while shopping at Fry’s or the Biltmore Fashion Park. These accidents can happen anywhere in Phoenix, usually when you least expect them. One moment you are enjoying yourself at Madison Park, and the next, you are in an ambulance, heading to St. Joseph’s Hospital with a spinal injury.
The spinal cord is the message carrier between the brain and the rest of the body. Without a functioning spinal cord, the communication between the brain and the limbs can be impaired, keeping the person from controlling them.
The spinal cord is extremely delicate. It consists of nerve tissue covered by thin layers of membranes. The vertebrae surround the spinal cord and the membranes. Any sudden trauma to the upper part of the body may damage the spinal cord.
SCIs happen when neck and back injuries cause the vertebrae to damage, crush or cut off the spinal cord. Accident victims will lose some or all sensation and movement in the parts of their body below where the spinal cord is injured because they can no longer receive messages from the brain. The higher the location of the injury, the more of the body will lose its function.
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There are four primary types of SCIs. They are:
- Complete SCIs – The patient loses all function below the injury site. While the spinal cord may not be cut or severed, it is so severely damaged that it is functionally severed. Roughly half of SCIs are complete injuries.
- Incomplete SCIs – While these are often less severe injuries, they are still very serious. The patient may still maintain some function below the affected area. Surgery and rehabilitation may help them regain more function in the future. However, the patient will need to go through rehab for years, often daily.
- Tetraplegia – These injuries can affect both the upper and lower parts of the body. One can suffer either complete or incomplete tetraplegia.
- Paraplegia – The patient will maintain normal function in their upper body, but they will lose it in their legs and feet. One can suffer either complete or incomplete paraplegia.
The good news for some patients is that medical treatments for SCIs are advancing. There is news of promising new therapies to help patients regain some function. Right now, the doctor’s first option is to operate to stabilize or try to repair the injury. The priority is to remove the pressure from the spinal cord. Once the patient is stable, they may have an extensive rehabilitation routine to regain strength.
Just the medical costs of treating SCIs are extremely expensive. The flip side of promising new medical treatments is the prohibitive costs. Health insurance providers may balk at covering these treatments, especially when new
The lifetime costs of any SCI will almost certainly reach the seven figures. Even an incomplete SCI can cost between $1-2 million throughout a lifetime. The younger the accident victim, the higher the costs. Complete SCIs often have costs that top $5 million. These figures do not even account for the lost wages that the accident victim would have earned throughout their lifetime or the costs to fit the home with special mobility devices.
Other Side Effects of Spinal Cord Injuries
Depending on the severity of the SCI, the patient may have other risks that can impair the quality of their lives or even cut their life expectancy. Those who have suffered severe SCIs can have acute respiratory risks. They may even need help to breathe for the rest of their lives. The inability to move may also increase the patient’s chances of developing pressure sores that can become infected.
Then, there are the emotional costs of the injury. So long as the accident victim did not also suffer a traumatic brain injury, they will have full awareness of their injuries and reduced quality of life, leading to depression and anxiety. Your spinal cord injury lawyer may make them part of the settlement because they are damages just like medical costs and lost wages.
Factors that Can Affect Your Spinal Cord Injury Damages
Each SCI accident victim will suffer different damages in their case. Two people can suffer the same injury but not be in the same situation.
Here are some factors that can influence the size of your settlement:
- Your age at the time of the injury
- Whether the defendant is an individual or a company (companies generally have more insurance coverage for accidents and more assets to satisfy a judgment)
- The type of SCI sustained (complete or incomplete)
- The amount of care that you need daily
- The costs of your treatment or rehabilitation
- The life that you had before your SCI
- How much you earned and the remaining time that you had in your career
Be Deliberate in Seeking Compensation for Your Spinal Cord Injury
Many lawyers will tell you to rush filing a claim because of the statute of limitations. While you certainly need to keep a close eye on the calendar, the considerations are not that simple in a spinal cord injury case. Caution and deliberation can help your legal cause.
In the days and weeks after an injury, the extent of the damage is not always apparent. Spinal cord injury victims may need multiple surgeries. Then, they will progress to often intensive physical therapy to rehabilitate from their injuries.
Lawyers will advise you to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit when you reach the point of maximum medical improvement. This is the point where you will not recover further from your injuries. At this point, your future becomes clearer, and any injuries that you claim are more than just appearing speculative. If you file your claim too soon, you may be potentially leaving millions of dollars on the table.
Your Legal Options After a Spinal Cord Injury
Your lawyer will work with you on deciding the right time to file your claim or lawsuit. You can expect a difficult process, especially because spinal cord injuries involve high damage awards. While we do not want to guess or predict the amount of a claim without knowing your facts, spinal cord injury settlements and jury verdicts usually exceed seven figures because of the extent of the damages and costs involved.
At the beginning of the legal process, your attorney will work to put a dollar value on your claim. They will work with experts to estimate your needs. Spinal cord injury claims are mostly about your future because your life will never go back to the way it was before the accident.
Experts Can Help Value Your Spinal Cord Injury Case
We can consult several critical experts to help evaluate your claim, including:
- A life care planner who will outline the care you may need for your medical and personal needs
- A psychologist who can offer their opinion of the depression and anxiety that you may suffer because of your injury
- An economic expert who can give estimates of how costs may change in the future because of inflation
We cannot overstate the importance of getting this number right. This is not a back-of-the-envelope calculation that we can quickly make. An experienced attorney will put a lot of work into estimating the value of your claim. They will put even more work into fighting for the amount of compensation that you deserve. Your lawyer will see through attempts to cut your compensation and help you take a stand when necessary.
Insurance Companies Can Make a Difficult Situation Even Worse
The insurance company is not thinking about your future needs. They are thinking about their present profits. You need someone looking out for you in the process, and that is exactly the role that we play. Our job is to make your cause our own.
You may end up having to deal with two insurance companies in your case. Fifty percent of SCIs result from auto accidents. The damages may be above the policy maximum that the driver carries. As a result, you may need to file an underinsured motorist claim against your auto insurance coverage. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that your insurance company is looking out for you. They function in the same way as the other driver’s insurer does, trying to save money at your expense at every turn.
If you try to negotiate a settlement agreement for your case, you can expect it to be a difficult process. It may not even be in your best interests to quickly settle your case because it can mean that you are sacrificing some of your financial recovery for a speedy check. While you do not want to wait years to get the money that you need today, hold out for enough money to pay for all of your future costs.
You Are Entitled to Your Day In Court if the Settlement Offer Is Not Enough
In any spinal cord injury case, you will have two options:
- Reach a settlement agreement with the defendant and their insurance company
- Take your case to a jury for a hearing
Most cases will end with the first option, whether you file an insurance claim or a lawsuit. Defendants often do not want to take the chance of having a jury award you far more in an award than they would have paid in a settlement. From your perspective, going to trial adds years to your case and introduces a risk that you can lose the case entirely. If your case does go to trial, we are passionate courtroom advocates who know how to explain cases to a jury.
If you or a loved one have suffered a spinal cord injury, you will need all the help you can get. Contact Abels & Annes, P.C. online or call us today at (602) 819-5191 to secure the legal help necessary to work towards financial compensation. We can learn about you and your case during your free initial consultation and explain what we can do for you and your family.
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