Some of the most severe car accident injuries are spinal cord injuries. When an injury occurs, it is likely to impact a victim for a lifetime.
As car accident lawyers, we understand the unique issues that victims face when an accident produces a spinal cord injury. If you or a loved one is facing an injury, there are important things that you should know:
6 Things to Know About Spinal Cord Injuries from Car Accidents
1. Not all spinal cord injuries are the same
Spinal cord injuries in car accidents may involve several components. The spine is comprised of both the spinal cord and the vertebral column. The vertebrae protect the spinal cord. Between the vertebrae, there are protective disks that provide cushion and shock absorption. There are many pairs of nerves and nerve roots in the spinal cord that send and receive signals throughout the body.
When a spinal cord injury occurs, know that there may be many parts of the spine that are impacted. The exact nature of the injury depends on what is injured, the extent of the trauma and the personal characteristics of the person injured. Full and fair recovery for a spinal cord injury claim requires understanding the exact nature of the injury and its impact on the victim.
Source: Cleveland Clinic, Spinal Cord
2. Symptoms can be deceiving
Spinal cord injuries may not be immediately apparent following a car accident. There may not be symptoms. If there are symptoms, they may not be easily recognized as spinal trauma. If the injuries are not sufficiently stabilized, movement may cause additional injury.
Symptoms of a spinal cord injury may manifest as pain, numbness, difficulty moving, muscle spasms, loss of control of the bladder or bowel and difficulty breathing. A victim may think they just need or rest or mistake their symptoms for something that isn’t serious.
If you’re in a car accident, you should know that symptoms of serious injury may not appear for some time after the accident. Seek emergency medical care if there is any possibility of an injury.
3. Car accident injuries can cause especially severe spinal cord injuries
According to a study published in the Asian Journal of Neurosurgery, car accidents can produce especially severe spinal cord injuries. Car rollovers are the most common car accident event resulting in a spinal cord injury. Younger adults (ages 21-40) tend to be affected disproportionately. Because of their young age, it causes a great negative impact on their social and economic outlook.
Evaluation of the patient and creation of a medical care plan should occur with an appreciation of the potential severity of the injuries.
Source: Asian Journal of Neurosurgery, National Library of Medicine, Spinal injury resulting from car accident: Focus to prevention
4. A spinal cord injury claim is likely to require expert testimony
Some of the highest-value car accident claims are ones involving spinal cord injuries. Spinal cord injuries may cause a range of physical limitations in victims, including paralysis. A full recovery may be unlikely in any case where a paralysis persists three or more days following injury. However, there are still important quality of life and medical care provisions that the victim can benefit from throughout their lifetime. Available treatment has improved over time, like the availability of antibiotics for addressing complications.
Receiving fair compensation for a car accident spinal cord injury is likely to require expert testimony. South Carolina law allows the use of an expert to assist the trier of fact to understand evidence or a fact in issue. Medical experts can explain the nature and extent of the injury as well as the long-term prognosis and care needs of the victim. Economic experts may explain the costs associated with future care needs and the likely impact on the victim’s career and overall economic outlook.
Source: Medscape, What is the prognosis of spinal cord injury (SCI)?; S.C. R. Evid. 702
5. South Carolina law does not cap damages for car accident spinal cord injuries
Facing extensive and potentially lifelong medical care needs, a car accident spinal cord injury victim may immediately be concerned about the future. Know that South Carolina law does not cap damages available in car accident claims unless the claim involves the South Carolina Tort Claims Act (a government defendant). If the defendant is legally liable for the victim’s damages, the victim may claim them, whatever they may be. Damages caps may apply to punitive damages awards.
Medical bills alone are likely to be extensive for any spinal cord injury claim. However, pain and suffering should not be overlooked. While it can take time to fully explore the value of the claim, the victim has the right to fair compensation. With diligent case preparation, all appropriate damages can be claimed and compensated.
Source: S.C. Code § 15-32-510
6. Competent medical care is critically important
In the Ellis v. Oliver case, the victim suffered spinal injuries in a car accident. Following the accident, he had some voluntary movement, and paralysis below the waist was not suspected. However, following multiple unsuccessful attempts at medical procedures, a doctor made an incision in the victim’s neck and windpipe to insert a tube.
The next day, it was discovered that the victim suffered an injury resulting in quadriplegia. He died of complications shortly thereafter. The victim’s representative brought a claim for medical malpractice. The jury found in favor of the victim. The judgment was affirmed on appeal.
The medical care that a victim receives following a spinal injury is critically important. Medical malpractice after an accident can make injuries much worse, even catastrophically worse. If medical care fails to meet professional standards, the victim may claim medical malpractice in addition to injuries from the accident. The entire medical record should be reviewed for the possibility of a medical malpractice claim especially if additional injuries occurred or there were irregularities in care.
Source: Ellis v. Oliver, 323 S.C. 121 (1996).
Lawyers for Spinal Cord Injuries in Car Accidents
If you or a loved one has suffered a car accident injury involving the spinal cord, the Bringardner Injury Law Firm is here to represent you in claiming the compensation you deserve. Numerous honors, publications and speaking engagements of Mark Bringardner reflect the success that Bringardner Injury Law Firm has achieved for victims throughout South Carolina. He understands the complex issues in spinal cord injury claims, and he has the skills, resources and determination that get results.
Contact us today for a consultation about your claim.