The spinal cord is the main channel of communication between the brain and the rest of the body. This is one of the most important parts of the body, and unfortunately, it is not capable of healing after sustaining injury. The spinal cord carries signals from the brain to the rest of the body and severing or damaging it causes permanent disability. An injury to the higher areas of the spinal cord typically results in more widespread permanent damage, and may leave a victim completely paralyzed or otherwise unable to continue an independent lifestyle.
How Spinal Cord Injuries Happen
A spinal cord injury can occur from any sudden, traumatic impact to the spine that fractures or dislodges the bones in the spinal column – the vertebrae. In some cases, damaged vertebrae can push bone fragments into the nerves of the spinal cord, causing extreme pain or loss of mobility. Spinal cord injuries can result from:
- Acts of violence, which account for 15% of spinal cord injuries. Gunshots and knife wounds are common examples.
- Falls, which comprise more than a quarter of all spinal cord injuries.
- Motor vehicle collisions. This is the leading cause of spinal cord injury, accounting for 35% of such injuries every year.
- Sports, including football, ice hockey, and rugby. Diving into shallow water can also damage the spinal cord.
- Alcohol consumption. About 25% of spinal cord injuries involve alcohol.
Spinal cord injuries may also result from diseases like arthritis, osteoporosis, or cancer. Due to the many possible causes, it’s vital for victims and their loved ones to know their rights when a spinal cord injury happens.
Depending on where the spinal cord is injured, the permanent damage varies greatly. The most severe spinal cord injuries involve the top vertebrae closest to the base of the skull, and can result in partial or permanent paralysis. In some situations, the victim may not only lose the use of their limbs, but other bodily functions such as breathing, bowel control, and speech may be negatively affected as well.
Anyone who suffers a spinal cord injury faces a difficult future. In most cases, they are no longer able to care for themselves and must rely on constant personal care to some degree. Extensive rehabilitation may enable them to regain some lost motor functions, but this is not possible in every circumstance.
Suing for Damages
Anyone who has suffered a spinal cord injury should be able to obtain just compensation if their injury was a result of the negligent actions of another person or entity. If they are unable to communicate or speak on their own behalf, the task of pursuing justice may fall to their loved ones. In order to claim damages and compensation successfully in a personal injury case, the injured party must be able to prove negligence.
Proving negligence involves three key factors:
- The defendant had a duty of care to act with reasonable safety.
- The defendant breached this duty with a negligent or irresponsible act. For example, they may have failed to follow traffic laws and struck the victim with their vehicle.
- The injuries were a direct result of their breach of this duty of care.
A competent legal professional will be able to navigate this process for a client. Spinal cord injuries deserve careful attention, due to how damaging the injuries are for the victims. They may never be able to return to work or care for themselves again. They may need extensive rehabilitation or physical therapy to regain even a fraction of their mobility.
The legal experts at Douglas, Haun & Heidemann believe that victims of a spinal cord injury deserve comprehensive and compassionate legal representation, and we have represented clients in the Springfield and Bolivar, Mo., area for more than 100 years. Reach out to our team of lawyers to start reviewing your spinal injury case. Our extensive experience with personal injury law means that we will aggressively pursue every avenue for compensation for our clients. Spinal cord injuries stay with victims for the rest of their lives, and we believe that any negligent parties that caused the injury should pay for their actions.