Helping Victims of Spinal Cord Injuries Obtain Monetary Compensation and Legal Damages
Spinal cord injuries in Atlanta can occur in a variety of contexts. While some people injure their spinal cord in catastrophic motor vehicle accidents, others suffer these injuries in slip and fall accidents and workplace injuries. Spinal cord injuries can result in permanent and debilitating health conditions, including paralysis and, in some cases, even death.
If you or someone you love sustained a spinal cord injury in an accident caused by another person’s negligence, you have legal rights. As an accident victim, you can file a claim or lawsuit against the at-fault party and attempt to recover damages. At Brauns Law, our experienced legal team has successfully litigated and tried numerous cases that involve serious and debilitating spinal cord injuries. Time may be of the essence in your case. If or a loved one has been seriously injured, give us a call today at (404) 418-8244, or contact us online.
The Mechanics of a Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injuries—and the consequences of those injuries, including paralysis—occur when the spinal cord is caused to stretch beyond its normal limit. When that stretching occurs, it can cause the spinal cord to sever, or snap, resulting in nerve damage and other serious consequences.
If you suspect that you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury in a serious accident, the first thing you should do is seek emergency medical care. A medical professional will be able to determine if you sustained a spinal cord injury, and if so, the extent and nature of that injury.
Depending upon the extent of the nerve damage, spinal cord injuries can result in a variety of conditions, including full or partial paralysis and an inability to move or function.
Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can occur in a variety of different contexts. Some of the contexts in which spinal cord injuries occur include the following:
- Motor vehicle accidents – A serious motor vehicle accident can cause the accident victim’s head to move forward and backward very quickly—or even dislodge the accident victim from the vehicle—potentially leading to head injuries and spinal cord damage.
- Slip and fall accidents – If an accident victim slips and falls on someone else’s premises and lands on the head, neck, or back, a spinal cord injury may occur.
- Motorcycle and bicycle accidents – Motorcycles and bicycles, unfortunately, do not afford their riders and operators much bodily protection, with the exception of their helmets. Some motorcyclists and bicyclists even choose to operate their vehicles without a helmet, seriously increasing their chances of injury. If the force of an impact throws a motorcycle or bicycle rider from his or her bike during an accident, it can cause the victim to strike the head, neck, or back on the ground. This forceful strike can lead to serious spinal cord injuries, including full or partial paralysis.
- On–the-job injuries – Injuries sustained on the job, including motor vehicle accidents on the job and slip and falls on the job, can result in the accident victim striking his or her head, neck, or back, and leading to a serious spinal cord injury.
Proving Fault and Causation in Spinal Cord Injury Cases
To prove fault for a spinal cord injury, the accident victim—or the accident victim’s legal representative—must show that another person’s negligence caused the accident. Negligence means that the at-fault party deviated from the standard of care that a reasonable person would have been expected to exercise under similar circumstances.
In addition to proving fault on the part of someone else, the accident victim must show that the accident led to the specific injury complained of—namely, the spinal cord injury. Although the accident need not be the sole cause of the spinal cord injury, it must be a cause, or one of many causes, of the spinal cord injury. Some common symptoms that can be found to determine a spinal cord injury are:
- Numbness or tingling of the limbs
- Confusion or memory loss
- Loss of consciousness
- Pain or pressure in your head, neck, or back
- Difficulty walking
- Loss of control of bodily functions
- Difficulty breathing
Recovering Damages for Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries typically require a great deal of medical treatment, and sometimes therapy, for the accident victim to fully recover. In some cases, a full recovery is not possible, and the accident victim may need to be cared for and looked after for the remainder of his or her life. A lifetime of care in an assisted living facility or nursing home does not come cheaply.
At Brauns Law, our experienced Atlanta spinal cord injury attorneys can help you pursue damages in your accident case. Available damages in spinal cord injury cases include the following:
- Medical costs (past, present, and future)
- Lost wages
- Loss of wage-earning capacity
- Lifetime care and assisted living costs
- Costs of a caregiver
- Loss of use of a body part
- Pain and suffering experienced as a result of the accident
- Loss of spousal companionship
- Lost quality of life
- Permanent disability damages
Atlanta Spinal Cord Injury FAQ
What are the common causes of spinal cord injuries?
Spinal cord injuries can happen in a variety of circumstances. For a spinal cord injury to be sustained, there often is a strong impact or blow to the accident victim’s neck or back. A spinal cord injury may also occur when there is significant damage to the soft tissues, muscles, and nerves that surround the spinal cord.
Some of the most common causes of spinal cord injuries include the following:
- Motor vehicle collisions – When a motor vehicle collision occurs at a high rate of speed and causes significant property damage, there is a good chance that an accident victim will suffer a back or spinal cord injury.
- Slip and fall accidents – In slip and fall accidents, accident victims often fall directly on their backs or tail bones. When this happens, they can suffer damage to their spinal cord as a result.
- Medical malpractice – In some cases, a spinal cord injury occurs due to medical malpractice and physician negligence. The physician may be operating in the spinal region and accidentally sever a nerve or do some other type of damage to the spinal cord.
- Bicycle and motorcycle accidents – Bicyclists and motorcyclists are at high risk for sustaining an injury in the event of an accident. These individuals have very little protective covering surrounding them. If an accident occurs, their bodies are totally exposed. If a motorcyclist or bicyclist falls directly onto the ground in a collision, the impact to the back or neck could result in a serious spinal cord injury.
- Sports injuries – Physical contact sports, such as football, present players with a high risk of injury. If a player falls directly on the back or neck while playing a contact sport, that player may suffer serious damage to the spinal cord.
If you or someone you love has sustained a spinal cord injury in an accident similar to those listed above, you may be entitled to pursue monetary compensation for your injury. This is especially true if someone else caused the accident in which you or your loved one sustained the spinal cord injury. The knowledgeable legal team of Atlanta spinal cord injury lawyers at Brauns Law Accident Injury Firm can review the circumstances of your accident and determine whether or not you can file a claim for monetary compensation.
What are the common types of spinal cord injuries?
To understand the nature of spinal cord injuries, it is important to understand the spinal cord itself and how it works. There are several basic regions of the spinal cord that may suffer damage in an accident.
Those regions include the following:
- Cervical spinal cord – The cervical spinal cord is the uppermost region of the spinal column, and is nearest to the neck.
- Thoracic spinal cord – The thoracic spinal cord comprises the middle region and is located in the middle of the back.
- Lumbar spinal cord – The lumbar region of the spinal cord is in a person’s lower back. This is the portion where the spinal cord starts to curve slightly.
- Sacral spine – The sacral spine is the lowest region of the spinal cord and is shaped like a triangle.
If you suffer a serious injury in an accident, any of these spinal cord regions may be impacted. Damage to the spinal cord could be a complete injury or an incomplete injury. In a complete spinal cord injury, the spinal cord itself suffers an injury, and the accident victim’s brain cannot send a signal to any area of the body that falls below the injury location.
An incomplete spinal cord injury, on the other hand, results from spinal cord damage or compression that leads to a significant reduction in the brain’s ability to send signals throughout the body. With incomplete spinal cord injuries, the effects and impacts can vary greatly, depending upon the person. For example, while some individuals may notice a reduction in motor abilities after sustaining a spinal cord injury, others may find their injuries have eliminated their abilities to move or feel.
Some of the most common types of spinal cord injuries that can impact an individual following an accident include:
- Tetraplegia or quadriplegia – With this type of paralysis, all four of a person’s limbs are paralyzed to some degree, and the accident victim typically can’t feel any sensation below the area where he or she suffered the injury.
- Triplegia – With this type of spinal cord injury, the accident victim loses movement and sensation in one arm and in both of the legs. Triplegia can result from an incomplete spinal cord injury.
- Paraplegia – With paraplegia, the accident victim loses the ability to move or have sensation in the lower portion of his or her body. Paraplegia, therefore, affects both of the accident victim’s legs. These spinal cord injuries typically result from damage to the thoracic region of the spine.
In addition to paralysis, there are many other symptoms of spinal cord injuries from which accident victims may suffer. These symptoms include chronic headaches, chronic muscle pain, nerve pain, mood and personality changes, pneumonia, and a loss of bladder or bowel functions.
If you or a person you love has suffered one or more of these spinal cord injuries because of an accident you did not cause, you may pursue monetary compensation from the at-fault individual. The Atlanta spinal cord injury attorneys at Brauns Law Accident Injury Firm can assist you with pursuing monetary compensation from an at-fault individual and recovering the compensation you need for your serious spinal cord injury.
What do you need to prove in a spinal cord injury case?
If you have sustained a spinal cord injury in an accident that was not your fault, as the injured individual, you have the burden of proof. This typically means that you must demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that it is more likely than not that your accident resulted in the spinal cord injury.
To prove that another individual was negligent, you must show that he or she acted unreasonably under the circumstances. For example, in the case of a motor vehicle accident or motorcycle accident, you may prove negligence by showing that the other driver ran a red light, was speeding, or violated some other traffic law, which resulted in the accident that caused your injuries.
In addition to showing that the at-fault individual behaved unreasonably, you must demonstrate that the accident was a cause of your spinal cord injury. Although the accident does not need to be the sole cause of your injury, it must be at least one of several causes of your injury.
If you can prove the elements of your negligence claim, then you may then be eligible to pursue monetary compensation from the at-fault party and/or that party’s insurance company.
What are the primary steps in pursuing monetary compensation for a spinal cord injury?
Once you have finished treatment for a spinal cord injury, your lawyer will investigate the circumstances of your accident and begin to gather all of your medical treatment records and bills. He or she will also obtain copies of any physical therapy or occupational therapy records, and review all of them. Your lawyer will then assemble all of these records and bills, so the packet can be forwarded to the insurance company of the at-fault individual. This collection of documents is called a demand packet.
Along with the demand package, your lawyer will typically include correspondence that makes a demand for settlement. Given that many spinal cord injuries are extremely serious and have various (and potentially lifelong) impacts, including the possible need for lifetime care, many lawyers will demand the policy limits of insurance coverage in these types of accident cases.
Once the adjuster reviews the demand package, he or she may come back with an offer to settle the case. If you and your lawyer believe that the settlement offer does not constitute full and reasonable compensation for the accident and your spinal cord injury, then your lawyer may continue to negotiate with the insurance company’s adjuster. It may take several rounds of negotiation before the parties reach a settlement.
If the parties still cannot decide on a favorable settlement number, then the case will move into litigation. The litigation process begins when the accident victim’s lawyer files a complaint against the at-fault individual in the state court system. Once your lawyer files the lawsuit, your case will enter the discovery phase of litigation. During this time, the accident victim will answer questions from the defendant’s attorney, regarding how the accident occurred, the injuries he or she suffered, and any resultant permanent disabilities.
Moreover, the defense attorney will most likely take the accident victim’s deposition. A deposition is an out-of-court proceeding in which defense counsel asks the accident victim for his or her account of the circumstances surrounding the accident, how he or she sustained injuries, the specific injuries that resulted, and whether or not any of the injuries are permanent, At the Brauns Law Accident Injury Firm, our experienced spinal cord injury lawyers will fully prepare you to testify at your deposition.
After a deposition occurs, the insurance company will sometimes reevaluate the case, possibly putting a higher settlement offer on it. If the case does not settle after a deposition, the parties will typically attend a settlement conference or mediation. At this time, a judge or mediator will listen to each side’s version of the dispute and attempt to facilitate a favorable settlement in the case. Oftentimes during a settlement conference or mediation, the judge or mediator will break out with each party individually.
If the case does not settle at a settlement conference or mediation, the accident victim still has the opportunity to take the case to trial. If the case goes to trial, a jury will typically decide what, if any, damages the accident victim is entitled to recover. The jury is supposed to base its decision on all of the evidence that the parties present at the trial. However, this does not always happen, and there can be serious risks associated with taking a case to trial. The legal team at the Brauns Law Accident Injury Firm can help you decide on the best course of action for your particular case.
What potential damages are available in spinal cord injury cases?
Spinal cord injuries are extremely serious and can sometimes result in a lifetime of damage, pain, and suffering. Individuals who suffer paralysis resulting from a spinal cord injury may have to spend the rest of their lives in a wheelchair, as well as rely upon others for long-term care and assistance. Moreover, accident victims may sustain permanent bladder or bowel problems, leading them to suffer from incontinence for the rest of their lives. All of these damages are compensable under the law. However, money is the only means that insurance companies have to compensate spinal cord injury victims for what they have suffered.
If you can prove all of the other legal elements of your claim, you may recover monetary compensation for your related medical treatment bills, surgical bills, medical procedures, and lost wages, both past and future. These types of damages are economic damages because they are out-of-pocket costs associated with the injuries you suffered.
In addition to these potential economic damages, you may recover noneconomic damages in a spinal cord injury case as well. These damages are in place to compensate you for all of the inconvenience, pain, and suffering (past, present, and future) that you have suffered and will continue to suffer as a result of your spinal cord injury. You may also recover the anticipated costs of future medical procedures, including surgeries, as well as the costs associated with lifetime care in an assisted care facility or nursing home.
If you suffered paralysis as a result of your spinal cord injury, then you may recover monetary compensation for the loss of use of a body part that resulted from your accident.
Finally, you may recover compensation for loss of spousal companionship or family support as a result of the spinal cord injury that you suffered.
A knowledgeable spinal cord injury attorney at the Brauns Law Accident Injury Firm can assist you with proving all of the legal elements of your spinal cord injury claim and pursuing the monetary compensation that you deserve.
Talk to a Spinal Cord Injury Attorney in Atlanta Today
Spinal cord injuries sustained as a result of someone else’s negligence can lead to a lifetime of pain, suffering, and trauma. Not only does a spinal cord injury have a significant impact on the accident victim’s life, but it can also have a serious impact on everyone in the accident victim’s life.
Although monetary compensation cannot reverse the spinal cord injury that the accident victim suffered in his or her accident, it can attempt to make the accident victim whole and feel some sense of justice. In addition, it can ensure that victims and their families never need to worry about how they are going to pay for treatment or meet their basic needs. At Brauns Law, our skilled spinal cord injury attorneys will pursue justice on your behalf and work towards obtaining the compensation you require for your future needs.