The spinal cord is the communications channel between a person’s brain and body. Damage to the spinal cord interrupts communication and could leave a person unable to feel or move parts of their body. Spinal cord injuries are catastrophic injuries that have the potential to change a person’s life forever.
Most spinal cord injuries result from accidents, and most accidents are the result of negligence. A person who suffered a spinal cord injury due to someone else’s negligence could seek compensation from the negligent party.
The specific circumstances surrounding an accident determine whether damages could be available to an injured person. A consultation with a dedicated catastrophic injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident could provide much-needed guidance and advice about how to hold a negligent party legally responsible.
An injured person can seek damages only from people whose negligence led to the accident that hurt them. The injured person must prove negligence on the part of the other party.
There are four elements an injured person and their attorney must prove to establish that the defendant was negligent. Those elements are:
The accident’s circumstances determine the specific proof a plaintiff’s attorney would need to present to show negligence. If the plaintiff’s spinal cord injury resulted from a car accident, the plaintiff might need to show that their brakes were defective or that another driver was disobeying traffic laws. If the injury occurred because of a fall in a restaurant, the plaintiff would need to show that there was a dangerous condition in the restaurant—like a spill or uneven floor tiles—that caused the fall.
When a spinal cord is severed, the patient will lose all sensation and ability to move their body below the site of the break. There is no treatment for a severed spinal cord, and the loss of sensation below the injury is usually total.
More often, the spinal cord is not severed but is crushed or partially broken. The patient often will lose sensation and movement below the injury, but the loss might not be total. If the cord remains intact, some feeling and movement could return with treatment and rehabilitation.
Many survivors of spinal cord injuries become paraplegic or quadriplegic. In addition, people who live with spinal cord injuries have a high incidence of several secondary conditions, including bowel and bladder management problems, blood pressure and heartbeat dysregulation, pressure sores, infections, pain, and respiratory ailments.
Treating a spinal cord injury and helping the injured person learn to adapt to it is extraordinarily expensive. Many people do not have health insurance that will cover all the expenses related to caring for a person after they have injured their spinal cord, through rehabilitation and return home. Receiving damages from a negligent person can soften the financial impact of a spinal cord injury and assure that the injured person gets the ongoing care they need.
Damages could cover pain and suffering, all medical expenses for conditions related to the injury, rehabilitation costs, lost wages and reduced future earning power, costs of adapting a home or vehicle for the injured person’s use, and many other expenses and harms. An experienced lawyer could help a family calculate their expenses and intangible losses and demand compensation from the negligent party for all of them.
Sometimes an injured person was negligent, and their negligence contributed to the accident. Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code §33.001 states that an injured person who is no more than 50 percent to blame for an accident may collect damages from other negligent parties. A judge will reduce the total damages awarded to a negligent plaintiff by an amount equal to their percentage of fault.
Adjusting to life after a spinal cord injury is a difficult undertaking for everyone. Learning how to navigate the new normal is a full-time job for the patient and everyone who loves them.
Seeking help from a knowledgeable Harker Heights spinal cord injury lawyer can make at least one part of the adjustment a little easier. To benefit from professional guidance and advocacy from the beginning, schedule a case review as soon after an injury as possible.