A spinal cord injury is a catastrophic injury that usually affects you for the rest of your life, so the question of “how much is a spinal cord injury worth” matters deeply to your future. Because of the severity of injury and the potential long-term costs associated with it, damage awards for these types of injuries can be in the millions. However, those who have spinal cord injuries that are not catastrophic win fewer damages because they might recover from these injuries in weeks or months. The amount you get depends on how severe the injury is and how doctors expect the injury to affect your life.
What is a Spinal Cord Injury?
In most cases, damage to the spinal cord results in long-term or permanent disabilities. You might have some paralysis, lose sensation in certain parts of your body, or lose the use of bodily functions below the injury site. A spinal cord injury could also affect your mental and emotional well-being.
Symptoms That Can Impact the Value of Your Spinal Cord Injury Case
If you have a complete spinal cord injury, you lose all feeling and movement below the injury. If you have an incomplete spinal cord injury, you have some feeling or ability to move below the injured area. Doctors might refer to your injury as tetraplegia (quadriplegia) if your hands, arms, legs, trunk and pelvic organs are affected. If the injury affects your trunk, pelvic organs and legs, doctors refer to your spinal cord injury as paraplegia.
Symptoms of a spinal cord injury might include:
Difficulty breathing, clearing your lungs or coughing
Loss of movement
Pain or a stinging sensation caused by damaged nerve fibers
The inability to feel touch, cold and heat
Exaggerated spasms or reflexes
Loss of bladder and/or bowel control
Changes in fertility, sexual sensitivity and sexual function.
If you feel any of these symptoms after an accident, it is an emergency, and you should obtain medical attention immediately:
Impaired breathing immediately after the accident
Extreme pain or pressure in your back, head or neck
Your neck or back is twisted or in an odd position
Parts of your body feel weak, or you cannot move parts of your body
Loss of bowel and/or bladder control
You have difficulty walking and/or balancing
Numbness or tingling in your extremities
Loss of sensation in your extremities.
If you witness an accident and suspect an accident victim has a spinal cord injury, do not move the person — keep him or her still. Immediately call first responders, if you have not already, and let them know that you suspect someone in the accident suffered spinal cord injuries.
If you are the accident victim and suspect you suffered a spinal cord injury, keep as still as possible. Any movement could exacerbate the injury and cause further damage. Let first responders know that you suspect you have a spinal cord injury.
How Much Will I Get for a Spinal Cord Injury?
The damages you might recover for a spinal cord injury depend on the extent of the injuries and whether the injuries will cause long-term or permanent disabilities. Spinal cord injury attorneys will review your medical records to determine the damages you might deserve.
A spinal cord injury accident victim could recover two types of damages: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages include economic damages, which have a monetary value, and non-economic damages, which are harder to assign a dollar value to. The court orders both in an attempt to make the accident victim financially whole again.
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages include:
Past and future medical expenses. Future medical expenses are those that cover any medical expenses you incur after a settlement or trial award. They include expenses for additional surgeries, follow-up appointments, and appointments for physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive therapy, and other psychological treatment.
Past and future lost wages. Future lost wages, or loss of earning capacity, includes partial lost wages if you are able to work but cannot earn the same salary or hourly wage that you earned prior to the accident.
Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property.
Funeral, burial and/or cremation expenses if your spinal cord injury leads to your death.
Medical expenses also include compensation for injuries caused after the accident that are related to accident injuries. For example, an infection of an open wound you suffered in the accident is a secondary injury.
Underlying conditions could also cause additional injuries. Diabetes, an autoimmune deficiency, or medication that depletes your white cells could retard or prevent recovery.
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages include:
Pain and suffering, including emotional distress
Loss of quality of life if you have to take medications or use ambulatory aids for the rest of your life
Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy or take part in family events and activities
Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
Inconvenience if you have to pay someone to do the chores you usually do, such as house cleaning, grocery shopping, lawn maintenance, and home maintenance and repairs
Loss of use of a body part, such as a hand, arm, foot or leg
Loss of use of a bodily function, such as bladder and / or bowel control.
Punitive Damages Can Increase the Value of Your Spinal Cord Injury
You can only collect punitive damages if the court orders the defendant to pay compensatory damages. The court orders the defendant to pay punitive damages as a punishment for his or her actions or inactions that caused your spinal cord injury.
Because you have to wait until the court determines whether you can collect compensatory damages, you have to go through a second trial for punitive damages. In most cases, you will have the same judge and jury for the bifurcated (two-part) trial.
Spinal Injury Compensation Payout
Your spinal cord injury attorney will review your case and might investigate the accident that caused your injuries. After reviewing your medical records, he or she might hire expert witnesses to testify as to your injuries and the permanent disabilities they caused. Everything your attorney recommends is to help you recover the compensation you deserve.
If you are able to settle with the insurance company or the defendant, you will receive your payment several days after you sign the settlement agreement. If you have to litigate your case, you will receive your payment after the court executes the final judgment.
If you suffered spinal cord injuries in any type of accident, whether in a car accident, a slip or trip and fall accident, or another type of accident, contact Lakota R. Denton, P.A., at (828) 333-5996 for a free case evaluation.
Attorney Lakota Denton
Lakota Denton has been practicing in his own firm since 2013, focusing solely on personal injury. He is a member of the American Association of Justice, the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, the North Carolina Bar association, the American Bar Association, the National Trial Lawyers, and was awarded Top 100 Trial Lawyers by the National Trial Lawyers, the 2014 Top 40 Lawyers under 40, and the Avvo clients choice award. [ Attorney Bio ]
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