Spinal cord injuries are among the most severe and life-altering events a person can suffer. We often call them catastrophic injuries because they result in physical disabilities that prevent the sufferer from earning a living or accomplishing daily care tasks independently.
If you suffered a spinal cord injury in St. Louis because of someone else’s careless or reckless actions, you can seek compensation for the immense impacts your injury has had on your finances and quality of life—as well as the impacts you will likely encounter.
A St. Louis spinal cord injury lawyer at Bruning Law Firm can advise you more about this process. Our attorneys have fought for the rights of St. Louis’s injured for more than 35 years, and have recovered millions on behalf of clients who have suffered devastating injuries, such as a $1.4 million court award for a truck accident victim who suffered a severe spinal cord injury in the accident. If you have suffered a spinal cord injury in St. Louis due to another’s wrongdoing, contact us today.
About Spinal Cord Injuries
According to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for residents in the state for those ages one to 44. The most common accidents leading to unintentional injuries in the state are motor vehicle accidents and falls. These types of accidents are common causes of spinal cord injuries as well.
The spinal cord is a thick bundle of nerves that extends down the back from the base of the skull to the waist. The bones and vertebrae of the spine generally protect it. While the spine itself provides stability for the back that allows the individual to stand and walk, the spinal cord’s purpose is to relay messages from the brain to other parts of the body to allow those body parts to function and experience sensation.
A spinal cord injury involves damage to any part of the cord. This type of injury generally results in a loss of sensation and function below the damaged area, and because the spinal cord has only a limited ability to heal from injury, this injury is often permanent.
Doctors often diagnose spinal cord injuries as complete or incomplete. A complete spinal cord injury paralyzes all sensation and function below the injury, while individuals suffering incomplete injuries retain some sensation and function below the injury. Injuries occurring in the cervical (neck) region of the spinal cord will generally cause tetraplegia or quadriplegia. This destroys sensation and function below the neck, including the muscles in the diaphragm and abdomen. Injuries occurring lower on the cord will often cause paraplegia, which paralyzes the individual below the waist.
The Most Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can happen in almost any situation but are most common in vehicle accidents. St Louis traffic tends to be smoother than it is in many similarly sized cities. Despite that, thousands of car accidents still occur on the area streets each year, with many resulting in serious injuries, including injuries to the spinal cord. Across the nation, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of this type of injury, accounting for half of all new spinal cord injuries suffered each year.
Other common causes include:
- Falls. Falling either from elevation or on level ground is the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in individuals over the age of 65, and is also one of the most common causes of injury in the workplace, particularly in the construction industry. Overall, falls account for nearly one-third of all new spinal cord injuries incurred each year.
- Acts of violence. About 13 percent of all new spinal cord injuries each year are caused by intentional acts of violence, such as assault or child abuse.
- Sports or recreational activities. Sports such as football, soccer, and diving account for around 10 percent of all new spinal cord injuries.
- Medical errors. Spinal cord injuries can result from errors made by healthcare providers, such as birth injuries.
Who is most likely to suffer a spinal cord injury in St. Louis?
Men are far more likely to suffer spinal cord injuries than women, with males accounting for around 80 percent of all new spinal cord injuries. While men under the age of 30 are most likely to suffer this type of injury, the average age for acquiring a spinal cord injury is 43 years.
Common Complications Associated with Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can produce severe complications that shorten the sufferer’s life expectancy and result in life-long medical expenses.
Some of the complications most commonly associated with this type of injury include:
- Changes in bladder or bowel control, which can lead to urinary tract infections, kidney and bladder stones, or constipation.
- Changes in skin sensation. Paralysis numbs the sensation that a person with a spinal cord injury can feel below the injury. This precludes feeling the sharpness of objects or contact with extremely hot or cold surfaces. The inability to feel and respond to the pain caused by these surfaces results in an increased risk of injury and infection. Changes to skin sensation can also result in pressure ulcers—also known as bed sores—as the individual can't tell when to change positions to relieve pressure on certain body parts.
- Circulatory problems, including low blood pressure, swelling of the extremities, and an increased risk of blood clots, which can lead to a life-threatening complication known as a pulmonary embolus. This occurs when a blood clot travels through the circulatory system to the lungs.
- Respiratory issues. The leading cause of premature death for individuals living with a spinal cord injury is pneumonia, resulting from the individual’s inability to expel excretions from the lungs or throat by coughing due to paralysis in the diaphragm and abdominal muscles.
- Changes to muscle tone, including limp muscles—a condition called flaccidity—as well as involuntarily rigid muscles, a condition called spasticity.
- Changes in sexual health, including a loss of lubrication for females and the inability to achieve an erection or to ejaculate for males.
- Chronic pain, which is generally experienced by those with incomplete injuries who still can experience some sensation below the injury.
The Economic Costs and Life Impacts of Living With a Spinal Cord Injury
The expenses of a spinal cord injury vary widely, depending on the victim's age when the injury occurred and the level of paralysis suffered. Those who experience any loss of motor function from the injury can expect first-year costs of nearly $350,000 for medical treatment and living expenses, with their injury potentially costing more than $40,000 a year for each subsequent year of their life. Those suffering high tetraplegia can expect a price tag of more than a million dollars for the first year of treatment, with the cost of their injury running them close to $185,000 each year thereafter.
The financial cost of the injury is not the only impact experienced by those with spinal cord injuries. This injury can change every facet of the sufferer’s life, including their ability to earn an income, live independently, and even the nature of the relationships they have with family members and close friends. Depression is an often-overlooked complication of the injury, as the individual must adjust to a far different life than they ever imagined.
Seeking Compensation for a St. Louis Spinal Cord Injury
In St. Louis, individuals who have suffered a spinal cord injury because of someone else’s wrongdoing can seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of their injury. Your lawyer can initiate a spinal cord injury claim with a demand to the at-fault party’s insurer. This will typically begin the negotiation process, where your attorney will collect evidence to prove the case to the insurance company to obtain a fair settlement.
If the insurance adjuster fails to agree to a fair settlement, the claimant usually has five years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit.
To successfully resolve your St. Louis spinal cord injury claim, you must show:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care to take actions that a reasonable person in similar circumstances would have taken to protect others from injury. Using a motor vehicle context as an example, the duty of care all drivers owe one another is to operate their motor vehicles safely and legally.
- The at-fault party breached their duty of care by violating the duty of care. Using the motor vehicle scenario, the breach in the duty of care could be an at-fault driver’s alcohol impairment, as it is neither safe nor legal to drive while impaired.
- The breach resulted in the accident that caused you to experience a spinal cord injury and incur associated expenses and impacts.
Available Compensation in St. Louis Spinal Cord Injury Claim
St. Louis personal injury claimants can seek to recover both economic and non-economic damages through a personal injury claim. Economic damages refer to compensation for the economic harm that the claimant experienced, such as medical expenses, the cost of hiring someone to perform household duties that they can no longer do because of the injury, lost wages, and loss of future earning capacity.
Non-economic damages refer to compensation for the quality-of-life impacts a victim incurs because of the injury, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of the enjoyment of life.
St. Louis Spinal Cord Injury FAQ
Spinal cord injuries often cause extreme trauma. People know that the spinal cord is a crucial and delicate part of their body. When it gets damaged, victims can suffer catastrophic consequences. In the worst cases, victims never fully recover.
These injuries can result in a lifetime that is forever altered, causing extreme pain and suffering for the victim. Families and loved ones of spinal cord injury victims can be devastated as well.
If you or a loved one suffered a spinal cord injury, you may seek compensation from the at-fault party.
What causes spinal cord injuries?
Spinal cord injuries are most commonly caused by catastrophic accidents. The most common cause is car accidents, followed by falls. These are not the only types of accidents giving rise to spinal cord injuries, but these two combine for over half of all annual causes of spinal cord injuries.
Other causes include:
- Other types of violence
- Sport injuries
- Pedestrian accidents
- Medical malpractice
Who is at fault for my injuries?
The answer to this question depends a great deal on the type of accident you were in and how your injuries occurred. Let’s use the most common cause of spinal cord injuries as an example.
If you were injured in a car accident that was caused by another driver, you may be able to try and hold the other driver liable for the accident. Doing so could result in the other driver also being held liable for your medical bills and other financial losses.
But proving that the other driver caused your accident is easier said than done.
To make your case, you need to show:
- The other driver owed you a duty of care to drive safely
- The other driver breached that duty of care by failing to drive safely
- The other driver’s breach of duty was the direct cause of your accident
- In the accident, you suffered injuries
This process might seem straightforward to you because you were there, you saw what happened, and you know the other driver is at fault. However, proving this to a legal standard will require evidence and may even include expert testimony from medical professionals and car accident reconstructionists.
A trusted legal advocate at your side can acquire the relevant evidence needed to support your claim.
How much will it cost to get better?
Spinal cord injuries are severe injuries. Depending on the severity, spinal cord injuries can affect a victim’s life forever. Because of the severity of these injuries, they often require extensive and ongoing medical care. Many spinal cord injury victims require daily medical assistance to help them manage their daily life duties.
It’s estimated that victims who do not suffer from any paralysis but just have some motor function impairment will incur lifetime medical costs exceeding $1 million. If your spinal cord injury is more severe and causes any level of paralysis, that number will only increase dramatically. Even the most financially well-off individuals would have difficulties covering these expenses out of pocket.
When you consider that you will probably be out of work, at least temporarily, you will have no income stream. The more serious your spinal cord injuries, the less likely it is that you will ever be able to return to work full time and earn a living to support yourself. This makes it all the more imperative that you work with a skilled St. Louis spinal cord injury attorney who may be able to help you avoid financial catastrophe by collecting maximum compensation from the at-fault party.
How much is my case worth?
The value of your spinal cord injury claim depends on many factors. The type of injury you have suffered and how it affects your life are two of the most important in determining the value of your claim. However, this is a complex calculation that requires experience to accurately determine the amount of money you will need to recover.
Many spinal cord injury victims vastly underestimate the amount of money they need.
They may also miss certain pieces of the calculation that could help make their life more comfortable:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Lost income
- Lost earning potential
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of life enjoyment
- Present and future medical expenses
- Rehabilitation costs
- Home renovation costs
Throughout your injury recovery, you will probably not be able to work. If you suffered any level of paralysis from your spinal cord injury, you may never be able to return to work, at least not in the same capacity as before your accident. What many spinal cord injury victims do not realize is that this financial loss is compensable. You can try to get money from the negligent party for your lost income and earning potential. This amount could be substantial, especially if you can never work again.
Because your inability to work is not your fault, collecting compensation from the person who caused your injuries can help you focus on your healing and adjusting to your altered life. When you no longer have to worry about your bills and where your income will come from, you can focus on getting better.
Do I need to file a lawsuit?
Maybe. When you suffer spinal cord injuries, you may face serious medical procedures and costly bills. To get the compensation you need to ensure you don’t pay a dime out of your own pocket, you may need to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party.
In your lawsuit, you would allege the other person committed some negligent act that resulted in your spinal cord injury. This could happen for countless reasons, all of which could give rise to a personal injury claim.
Sometimes, however, the insurance company representing the at-fault party will try to get you to settle before you file a personal injury lawsuit. They do this in the hope that you will take their settlement and walk away. Usually, this means the insurance company can pay you much less than your claim is worth.
Many spinal cord injury victims do not understand the vast amount of money it will take to care for their immediate and future medical needs. The insurance company is banking on this and will try to take advantage of you. Their goal is to settle your case for as little as possible, which could leave you on the hook for future medical costs.
If you take the initial offer from the insurance company, you will waive your right to bring any future claims against the insurance company for this accident. Months or years later, when you still have medical bills to pay, it will be too late. You cannot go back to the insurance company and ask for more money.
You get one shot at your settlement. When the stakes are that high, you need a trusted and aggressive legal advocate fighting for your best interests. Your St. Louis spinal cord injury attorney can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, so you can continue focusing on your medical care.
Your legal team makes it their number one priority to battle the insurance company and show them why you deserve more than their initial offer. The simple act of hiring an experienced lawyer can make the insurance company rethink a lowball offer.
Will I have to go to court?
Sometimes, insurance companies refuse to settle for a fair and reasonable amount. We know you want to put this legal experience behind you as quickly as possible, but we also want to make sure that you’re not left on the hook for medical expenses and other financial losses. While our goal is to settle your case as quickly as possible, we may need to go to court to get your maximum compensation.
Going to court extends your legal battle. While that is something we work to avoid, sometimes it is necessary to get you every dollar necessary. The vast majority of personal injury claims settle out of court. However, because spinal cord injury claims often require the testimony of expert medical witnesses, insurance companies often don’t understand just how much money you will need. They may also hope that you eventually give up.
Partnering with an aggressive legal advocate will help ensure you don’t miss a beat. Your lawyer should also be experienced in spinal cord injury trials. They are complex court proceedings with detailed medical information. While your lawyer will work hard to settle your case out of court, you don’t want your trial to be your lawyer’s first.
Partnering with a lawyer who has proven experience helping spinal cord injury victims settle out of court and collect compensation at trial will be paramount to your ability to recover.
Do I have to file a claim soon?
Yes. Every state has a time limit on how long you have after suffering an injury to file a personal injury claim. Called a statute of limitations, that time in Missouri is only five years.
You might think that five years is a long time, but consider all of the hurdles you may face during that time:
- Multiple surgeries
- Extended hospital stays
- Long times out of work
- Multiple doctor visits
- Prescription medication costs
- In facility rehabilitation
- In-home care
- Home renovations
- Mental health counseling
Spinal cord injury victims face a life that will never be the same. Whether you have suffered complete paralysis or have an injury where you can recover, you will deal with your spinal cord injury for the rest of your life.
This can wreak havoc on a person’s mental state. While you may not have placed mental wellbeing at the front of your mind, do not ignore your mental health. When you are faced with injuries that will forever change your life, your medical care must include a holistic approach that cares for how your mind adjusts to your physical changes and limitations. Not only will this help you achieve a better mental state, you can focus more of your effort and energy on your physical health.
How can a lawyer help me?
The right lawyer can make a difference in your spinal cord injury recovery. After such a tragic and traumatic injury, you must put all of your effort and energy into your physical health and wellbeing, prioritizing your recovery. While you do that, your lawyer will bet the aggressive legal advocate you deserve, working diligently to collect maximum compensation so you don’t have to pay a penny out of your own pocket.
Let Bruning Law Firm Help with Your St. Louis Spinal Cord Injury Claim
When it comes to catastrophic injuries such as spinal cord injuries, having an experienced St. Louis spinal cord injury lawyer on your side is crucial to your ability to obtain the maximum amount of compensation available for you. An experienced spinal cord injury attorney not only understands the legal process of seeking compensation but also the level of compensation you require to pay for a lifetime of care.
Let us help you with your St. Louis spinal cord injury claim to seek compensation for the expenses and impacts it has had on your life. You should not foot the bill to cover a devastating and costly spinal cord injury when someone else’s wrongdoing caused it. For a free case evaluation, contact us online or by calling (314) 735-8100.
"They are so professional. Ryan and Anisa took all the stress away where all I had to do was focus on recovery from my accident they handled everything else and I'm truly thankful." - Teria H.
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