A spinal cord injury (SCI) occurs when trauma to the spinal cord fractures or dislocates vertebrae. A spinal cord lesion may result from anatomical disruption, compression, ischemia (insufficient blood supply) or a combination of the above. Spinal cord injuries may result in partial or complete paralysis and injured victims often require a lifetime of expensive medical and rehabilitative care. First-year treatment alone often exceeds $1 million. It is not at all uncommon for negligent parties to aggressively deny responsibility and liability due to the extreme costs involved. It is absolutely essential for an SCI victim to obtain a highly qualified and experienced West Virginia spinal cord injury lawyer when pursuing compensation. The Charleston injury attorneys at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC have been successfully representing spinal cord injury clients in Charleston and throughout West Virginia for decades.
Spinal Cord Injury Statistics
Spinal cord injuries are more common than most people realize. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), there are approximately 17,810 new SCI cases in the United States every year. As of 2020, around 294,000 people are living with SCIs. The expense of living with the lowest level SCI can amount to over $1,000,000 in a lifetime. Higher levels of injury, such as high tetraplegia, can cost an average of $5,100,941 if the person was 25 years old at the time of injury. The average age at the time of injury has increased from 29 years old in the 1970s to 43 years old currently.
According to the NSCISC, males account for the majority of all new spinal cord injury cases, around 78%. Since 2015, non-Hispanic white people have accounted for the highest percentage of SCI cases, with 58.9%. Non-Hispanic blacks account for 23.9%, Hispanics 12.8%, and Asians, Native Americans, and others less than 5%. The most frequent type of spinal cord injury is incomplete tetraplegia, at 47.2%. This injury partially damages the spinal cord, typically with some motor and sensory function retained. The second-most frequent type is incomplete paraplegia, at 19.6%.
Proving Negligence For a Spinal Cord Injury
In order to prove negligence in a personal injury claim, your West Virginia spinal cord injury lawyer must prove the following:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff
- The defendant breached the duty by action or non-action
- The defendant’s actions or non-actions caused the damages/injury
- The plaintiff was injured as a result of the defendant’s actions or non-actions
The legal team at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC understands how important it is for you and your family to receive compensation for your injuries and is here to help.
Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
The majority of spinal cord injuries are preventable. They typically stem from the negligence of others, such as distracted drivers or careless property owners. Currently, the most common cause of SCIs is car accidents, at 38.6% of all new cases since 2015. Slip and falls account for 32.2%, followed by 14% violence, 7.8% sports, and 4.2% medical/surgical complications. In 2014, auto accidents accounted for 48.3% of female and 29.3% of male SCIs. Falls accounted for 21.5% of female injuries and 22% of male injuries. Other common causes of spine injuries include:
- Gunshot wounds
- Diving injuries
- Falling objects
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Person to person acts of violence
- ATV accidents
- Skiing and snowboarding
- Boating and jet skiing accidents
- Horseback riding
- Surfing and other sports-related injuries
Whatever the circumstances of your spinal cord injury, talk to a West Virginia personal injury lawyer at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC. We can investigate your case to determine if someone else’s negligence contributed to the accident. If so, you could be eligible for financial compensation. If someone else attacked you and caused an SCI, you can file a civil claim against the perpetrator during an ongoing criminal investigation or trial in West Virginia. Talk to our attorneys about how and when to file your claim before missing the deadline.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
There are several types of spinal cord injuries depending on the area of the spine affected. The type of injury determines the area impacted and the extent of injury. There are four main spinal cord regions: cervical (uppermost portion of the spine), thoracic (middle), lumbar (lower), and sacral (lowest). Loss of sensation and movement generally occurs below the point of injury. Paraplegia describes paralysis in the lower region of the body and legs, while tetraplegia (or quadriplegia) refers to paralysis of all four limbs and torso.
Spinal cord injuries can be complete or incomplete. A complete spinal cord injury means the spinal cord is fully severed. Victims with complete SCIs have no function below the severed region of the spine. Through therapy, it may be possible to regain a portion of function. An incomplete SCI means the spinal cord is partially severed. The victim retains some percentage of function and/or sensation in this case. The degree of functionality depends on the severity of the SCI.
What Are Some Common Spinal Cord Injury Symptoms?
After an accident that impacts the back or spine, a victim may or may not experience immediate symptoms of a spinal cord injury. Symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe. In general, a spinal cord injury could result in the inability to move the extremities below the point of injury. The victim might also notice the inability to feel temperatures and pressure. Muscle spasms, pain, numbness, or burning sensations may also occur, as well as loss of bladder or bowel control depending on the location of the injury. If the injury affects the upper sections of the spine, the victim might also experience difficulty breathing. The higher up the injury, the more limbs and areas the injury will affect.
Diagnosing a Spinal Cord Injury
Always visit a hospital as soon as possible after suffering a back, neck, or spine injury. Spinal cord injuries are delicate injuries that require immediate professional attention. If your spine feels injured, stay where you are after the accident. Do not move. Moving the wrong way could turn a minor SCI into a major one. Call 911 and wait for paramedics to arrive. Once you’re in the hospital, physicians will perform a careful examination to test for movement and sensory function. They may also ask questions about the accident. Emergency tests can help diagnose an SCI if the patient is unconscious.
A doctor might use x-rays, a CT scan, or an MRI to diagnose a spinal cord injury. These scans can show bone fractures and issues within the spinal column. A comprehensive neurological exam might come a few days after the injury to determine the completeness of the SCI. During these tests, a doctor will assess the ability to feel pressure and pain, motor skills in limbs and digits, and reflexes. The doctor will then issue a letter from A to E on the ASIA impairment scale, where A is a complete spine injury and E is no spine injury. A muscle grade number from zero (no strength) to five (normal strength) will also apply.
Spinal Cord Injury Treatment
In the past, spinal cord injuries were mostly fatal. Thanks to modern-day technologies and medical advancements, this is no longer the case. Today, victims have access to treatments and rehabilitation processes to survive an SCI. There is also the potential to regain sensation and motor function after an injury. SCI survivors may undergo surgeries and medical procedures in an effort to repair and decompress the spine. The earlier the surgical intervention, the better the recovery prognosis.
Doctors will also prescribe treatments for SCI complications. Many different complications can arise after such a serious injury. An SCI could have a detrimental effect on bladder and bowel control. It could also cause pressure sores, blood clots, muscle spasms, blood pressure problems, or respiratory issues. Doctors will take steps to remedy SCI-related health problems, and help the survivor lead a normal life. Medications to alleviate pain may also be used. In the years following an injury, SCI survivors will enter rehabilitation and other treatments to help with muscle development and maximize the odds of recovery.
What Compensation is Available For a Spinal Cord Injury Victim in West Virginia?
To find out what your spinal cord injury case could be worth, call Tiano O’Dell, PLLC for a free case evaluation. Each case is unique and requires professional evaluation to determine what types of compensation could apply. A seasoned West Virginia spinal cord injury lawyer can gather bills and documents and help prove losses in front of a judge and jury. You could be eligible to collect damages, such as lifelong medical costs, lost wages, lost capacity to earn, in-home care and modifications, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. Retaining an attorney can help you maximize the amount of recovery you receive for a catastrophic spinal cord injury.
Contact Our West Virginia Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers Today For a Free Consultation
If you sustained a spinal cord injury that was a result of another’s negligent conduct, make absolutely certain that you are represented by a reliable and knowledgeable lawyer. The attorneys at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC are recognized as West Virginia Super Lawyers, in addition to Top 100 Trial Lawyers. It is our goal to help our clients obtain the compensation they deserve, while also holding the negligent parties accountable for their actions.
We offer a free legal consultation so that you can ask the questions that are on your mind regarding your future course of action. There are no fees unless we win your case. Contact us online to schedule your complimentary consultation, or call our Charleston office at (304) 720-6700.