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Spinal Cord Injury From Medical Negligence

Spinal Cord Injury From Medical Negligence

Any type of spinal cord injury can be catastrophic. When it happens due to the negligence of a medical professional, it is even more traumatic. Spinal cord injuries often leave the victim in intense pain with a loss of sensation, a lack of mobility and challenges when taking every breath. They can also lead to significant medical challenges that may last a lifetime. If a doctor or other healthcare worker causes injury to a patient due to negligence, it may be considered medical malpractice, and the victim may be entitled to financial compensation.

Spine injuries are injuries that occur to the spinal region of the body. This area of the body includes many different parts, such as the spinal discs and spinal nerves. Spinal injuries are often very serious, since much of the body's motor system works in conjunction with the spinal cord and the spine. Injuries to the spine can often occur in conjunction with certain other types of injuries, such as head injuries, neck injuries, and lower-back injuries. Some spine injuries can lead to long-term issues, such as a loss of the ability to earn income. Spinal cord injuries can cause serious, long-term health issues. Depending on the severity of the injury, a person may lose most to all of their motor control and sensation below the level of the injury. 

What Are The Most Common Complications Of Spinal Cord Injury?

The severity of a spinal cord injury often depends on the specific area that is injured. Generally speaking, the higher up the spine the injury is, the more severe the result is. However, some complications are common to most types of spinal cord injuries, including:        

Pain – There is often significant pain associated with a spinal cord injury. In some cases, patients undergo surgery to alleviate pain, only to be injured during surgery and have more pain than before. 

Chronic medical issues – Spinal cord injuries can result in ongoing issues like blood clots, urinary tract infections, and muscle spasms.        

Loss of sensation – Patients may have numbness or tingling in parts of the body because when the spinal cord is injured, it prevents the brain from communicating with those body parts. 

Paralysis – When spinal cord injuries happen high enough up the spinal cord, an individual may suffer complete or partial paralysis. 

How Does Medical Malpractice Lead To Spinal Cord Injury? 

Accidents cause most spinal cord injuries. However, some are caused by medical malpractice, negligence, or mistakes. The most common ways that medical malpractice results in spinal cord injuries are: 

Anesthesia mistakes – If anesthesia is administered incorrectly, it increases the risk of epidural hematoma (bleeding inside of the skull, and in some cases, in the spinal column). Though this type of injury is rare, it can happen due to traumatic needle insertion, which causes bleeding when the needle is inserted into the spinal cord.  

Surgery errors – There are risks for patients associated with every surgery, and any procedures on the spine are especially delicate. When someone isn't monitored properly, a surgeon isn't trained properly, or a patient isn't positioned correctly, serious mistakes can be devastating for the patient. 

Emergency room mistakes – Emergency rooms are sometimes very busy and chaotic. However, that shouldn't mean that careful attention isn't paid when treating patients. When full attention isn't given or a medical professional is distracted, the likelihood of mistakes increases. For example, if a doctor doesn't take enough time with a spinal fracture patient or broken back, the patient may be misdiagnosed and not receive the proper treatment. Another common ER mistake is not immobilizing a patient's neck and head or moving the patient incorrectly when there is a spinal injury. 

Chiropractic malpractice – Chiropractic treatment typically involves the manipulation of the spine. If a chiropractor doesn't perform treatment correctly, it can result in spinal cord trauma occurring.       

Failure to diagnose spinal cord impingement or abscess – When a patient complains of back pain and/or neurological deficits, the doctor should order appropriate tests to diagnose the problems, which could be a ruptured disk, spinal stenosis, or a spinal abscess. Failing to order the proper tests, or failing to interpret test results correctly, may indicate a case of medical malpractice. 

What Expenses Are Associated With Spinal Cord Injuries?

The treatment of spinal cord injuries results in costs to the country's healthcare system of around $45 billion a year. But how much does it cost each individual to obtain the treatment they need for their injury? Estimated costs are between $320,000 to $985,000 in the first year after the injury, and as much as $5 million during the individual's lifetime.

Often individuals who have recently suffered a spinal cord injury are solely concerned with the medical expenses involved in treating the injury. However, these injuries can be quite complex and can result in other types of expenses, as well. Some of those expenses include:

  • Medical expenses: The medical expenses for treating spinal cord injuries can range in the millions of dollars. Some of the services that are necessary to treat this type of injury include spinal surgery; trauma care that may include the use of a ventilator; hospitalization, which may be extensive; rehabilitation services such as physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, and mental health counseling; long-term care such as the use of in-home aides; medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and home modifications to accommodate the injured individual when he or she returns home. Most spinal cord injuries involve secondary conditions that may result in the further need for treatment throughout the life of the individual.
  • Travel: Spinal cord injury patients often have to travel far from home to participate in treatments not available in the region where they live. This travel comes with associated costs such as the cost of airfare, lodging for family members, eating out on the way to and from the hospital, parking, and tips for valet and other services.
  • Lost wages and earning potential: One year after suffering a spinal cord injury, fewer than 12 percent will be employed. 20 years after the injury, only 35 percent will be employed. If an individual can return to his or her job after suffering a spinal cord injury, there will have been a significant amount of lost wages due to hospitalization and the need to miss work to attend medical appointments. Many spinal cord injury sufferers can work, but cannot perform the same duties that were part of their job descriptions before their accidents. Their injuries may force them to accept lower paying jobs.
  • Other expenses: Those who have experienced a spinal cord injury will often require mental health services to cope with the extreme changes to their employment and lifestyle. These extreme changes can produce non-economic costs in the form of impacts to the person's quality of life, including pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.

How to Prove Liability for Spinal Cord Injuries

Handling a claim for negligent medical care is complex. To build a case for recompense, a skilled medical malpractice attorney who has a comprehensive understanding of both tort law and medicine must carefully review all medical records and documents pertaining to the negligence. With an attorney, the victim is less likely to accept a low settlement amount before the full impact of their injuries is realized. 

When bringing a lawsuit, you must show that the person you are suing is responsible for your injuries. In order to establish liability, you must show that the negligent or intentional actions of another caused your injuries. Then, you must demonstrate the effects of the injury, including the types of treatment that are necessary. When someone else's actions lead to your injuries, you deserve fair and just compensation. To recover damages after an injury, you must file a spinal cord injury claim.

To make a successful claim, you will need to prove three things:

  • The at-fault party had a duty of care to you.
  • They breached this duty of care.
  • Your injuries are the direct result of the other party's actions (or inaction).

After a serious injury, one of the best ways to preserve your rights is to contact an experienced spinal cord injury attorney. An attorney can review the facts of your case and help you decide whether you should move forward with legal action. If you do move forward, a spinal cord injury case may help you recover both economic and non-economic damages.

What Type of Damages Can Be Recovered for Spinal Cord Injuries?

In many instances, a spinal injury can for the basis for a personal injury case. These types of cases normally result in various legal remedies, such as a damages award for hospital bills, lost wages, and other costs. Recovering damages for a spine injury will most likely be based on a negligence theory. Recovery is usually limited if there is complete loss of motor function and sensation below the level of the injury. This is because there is no current treatment for complete loss. If the loss is only partial, there may be recovery for additional medical bills and treatments. Spinal cord injuries may qualify you for Social Security disability payments. Nonetheless, the individual may be able to recover for the following:

  • Necessary and reasonable medical expenses
  • Loss of earnings (both presently and in the future)
  • Any other injuries caused directly by the injury
  • Pain and suffering (both physical and mental)
  • Inability to enjoy life
  • Exemplary or punitive damages for negligent or reckless conduct

Should I Contact an Attorney?

If you suffered a spinal cord injury in that was caused by someone else's negligent, reckless, or intentional actions, you may be eligible to seek compensation for these expenses through Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys. While a lawsuit cannot give you back your mobility, it can ensure that you have the funds necessary to pay for medical treatment, physical therapy, aides and attendants, social services, mobility devices, home modifications or accessible housing, a vehicle that can accommodate you, and more. Hiring an attorney that specializes in spinal cord injuries will assure that you receive the right amount of damages to ensure that life will not be made more difficult than it already has as a result of the injury.

Call our office today at 212-994-7777 or complete the convenient online contact form to set up a consultation.