Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers
Serving SCI Victims in California and Across the Nation
About 200,000 people live with spinal cord injuries (SCIs) in the United States. The leading SCI causes are forms of trauma. A spinal cord injury may result from direct injury to the cord itself or indirectly from damage to surrounding bones, tissues, or blood vessels.
The following are the most common SCI causes in the United States:
- Motor vehicle accidents are the leading SCI causes for people under age 65, accounting for almost 50 percent of new spinal cord injuries each year.
- Falls make up approximately 22 percent of spinal cord injuries and are the leading SCI causes for people 65 years and older.
- Acts of violence account for 15 percent of spinal cord injuries and include such things as gunshot and knife wounds.
- Sports and recreation account for approximately 8 percent of spinal cord injuries.
If your spinal cord injury was caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to seek compensation. Our award-winning Los Angeles attorneys at Wisner Baum are committed to helping victims with these serious injuries seek the care and resources they deserve.
Call (855) 948-5098 to get started with a free consultation.
What Is Spinal Cord Injury Trauma?
Spinal cord injuries occur when the spinal cord is damaged by trauma rather than disease. A spinal cord injury, or SCI, is often sudden and unexpected and can happen to anyone, young or old, male or female, of any race, religion, or socioeconomic status.
Approximately 11,000 people in the U.S. sustain a spinal cord injury each year and nearly 200,000 Americans currently live with a permanent disability related to SCI trauma. The effects of a spinal cord trauma depend on the severity and location of the injury and can result from motor vehicle accidents, aircraft accidents, falls, sports injuries, industrial accidents, and assault, among many others. Accounting for over 50 percent of spinal cord injuries are accidents involving cars, motorcycles, and trucks.
Approximately 99 percent of traumatic spinal cord injuries lead to permanent disability, including paralysis and loss of control of one’s own body and independence. A traumatic spinal cord injury will also have a deep impact on a survivor’s family and community. With rehabilitation and support, a spinal cord injury survivor can learn to navigate the world once more, reconditioning the body and mind to compensate for paralyzed limbs and deteriorated strength.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
The effects of a spinal cord injury vary according to its type, the severity of the injury, and the location of the injury on the spinal column. A traumatic spinal cord injury damages the nerve fibers passing through the injured area of the spine, usually causing permanent disability or loss of movement (paralysis) and sensation below the site of the injury. Additional damage will most often occur over days or weeks following the initial trauma due to fluid accumulation from bleeding, swelling, and inflammation around the spinal cord.
How Are Spinal Cord Injuries Classified?
Spinal cord injuries are classified as either partial or complete, depending on the amount of the spinal cord damaged. In a partial cord injury, or incomplete injury, the spinal cord remains partially intact and able to carry some messages to and from your brain. Survivors of a partial spinal cord injury may retain some sensation and motor function below the affected area.
Impairments Associated with Spinal Cord Injuries
Impairments caused by spinal cord injuries are wide ranging and may include:
- Motor deficit
- Sensory deficit
- Breathing difficulty
- Bowel and/or bladder dysfunction
With a spinal cord injury, paralysis can be sudden and immediate. The extent of paralysis depends on the severity of the injury as well as what parts of the body it affects. Paralysis results from damage to the nerves carrying sensory information and will often affect the arms, legs, or trunk. It can affect only the one side of the body, or both. Paralysis can also affect nerves which control the heart, lungs, glands, intestines, speech, behavior and cognitive ability.
Unfortunately, 99 percent of traumatic spinal cord injuries will lead to one of the following types of paralysis:
Paraplegia: When the injury only affects the lower body, it is called paraplegia. Paraplegia results when an injury to the spinal cord is below the first thoracic spinal nerve. Paraplegics retain movement and sensory abilities in their arms but will experience impairment of leg movement or have complete loss of leg movement all the way up to the chest. About 52 percent of spinal cord injury survivors are considered paraplegic.
Quadriplegia or tetraplegia: Refers to paralysis that involves the majority of the body, including the arms and legs. Quadriplegia/tetraplegia can also affect the abdominal and chest muscles, making breathing difficult. This type of paralysis is a result of a spinal cord injury above the first thoracic vertebra. Approximately 47 percent of spinal cord injury survivors are considered quadriplegic/tetraplegic.
Spinal Cord Injury Complications
Secondary complications occur as a direct result of a spinal injury and are a major health issue for those living with a SCI. While loss of sensation and movement are the most common spinal cord injury complications, other systems in the body can be significantly affected. Spinal cord injury complications, such as pressure sores, urinary tract infections, spasticity, and osteoporosis, if not treated, can lead to serious illness or death.
- Pressure sores (skin breakdown): Also called decubitus ulcers, pressure sores are dangerous spinal cord injury complications. Pressure sores are caused when an individual sits or lies in the same position for a long period of time. The pressure prevents blood from reaching the skin causing the skin to die. People with spinal cord injuries are particularly susceptible to pressure sores since damage to the spinal cord keeps messages of pain and discomfort from reaching the brain, making it very difficult to identify a developing sore. Pressure sores are a common cause of hospitalization, and if not treated, cause death. The best way to prevent these sores is changing positions frequently.
- Urinary tract infections: A traumatic SCI can often lead to loss of bladder control, which increases the risk of urinary tract infections. Urinary incontinence may also cause kidney infection and kidney or bladder stones. These types of spinal cord injury complications can be avoided by drinking plenty of clear fluids and using a catheter—a thin tube that is inserted into the urethra and bladder to drain urine—several times a day.
- Spasticity: Muscle spasms, or spasticity, can develop after a spinal cord injury. These involuntary twitches are exaggerated reflexes caused when some of the nerves in the lower spinal cord are stimulated. Unfortunately, this does not mean that a person is recovering. The nerves, sensing discomfort or pain, are merely causing muscle contractions that the brain is no longer able to control or regulate. Almost anything can trigger spasticity. A paralyzed person cannot perform normal range of motion exercises, making their joints and muscles less flexible and therefore more prone to these types of spasms. The best way to manage or reduce spasticity is to follow a daily range of motion exercise program. If spasms become severe, medical treatments may be needed.
- Osteoporosis and fractures: The majority of spinal cord injury survivors develop osteoporosis. Osteoporosis means “porous bones” and occurs when bones become weak and brittle due to lack of calcium and phosphorus. Normally, bones are kept strong by bearing weight and through regular muscle activity. In people with spinal cord injuries, however, decreased or eliminated muscle activity as well as decreased load on the bones can lead to loss of calcium and phosphorus. In the years following spinal cord injury, some degree of bone loss will occur, which, in turn, increases the risk for fractures. Using one’s legs to provide some support in transferring or standing using a standing frame is helpful in increasing the load on the bones, which can help slow down the osteoporotic process and reduce the risk of fractures.
Other spinal cord injury complications:
- Changes to circulation and respiration
- Changes to muscles, joints, and bones
- Edema, swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in the body’s tissues
- Changes to the kidneys and gastrointestinal system
- Blood clots in the lower limbs
- Feelings of numbness or pain
- Skin injury
- Bacterial infection
- Sexual difficulties
- Abnormal sweating
- Abnormal breathing or heart rate
- Balance problems
- Difficulty thinking
- Behavioral issues
- Difficulty speaking or swallowing
- Vision problems
- Chronic pain
- Low blood pressure
- Disruption of the normal working of the tissues, glands, and organs
The True Cost of a Spinal Cord Injury
The spinal cord injury cost can be overwhelming. Individuals with spinal cord injury have many additional living expenses which might include rehabilitation, medication, assistive devices and equipment needed for mobility. Only 52 percent of spinal cord injury survivors have health insurance at the time of their injury, leading to many questions regarding the spinal cord injury cost of treatment and rehabilitation. Some people may be eligible for economic assistance from the state or federal government. There are also many charitable organizations that offer economic support to those facing seemingly overwhelming expenses.
Spinal Cord Injury Cost Statistics
Spinal cord injury cost, on a national level, is an estimated $9.7 billion each year. The annual cost of treating pressure sores alone is estimated at $1.2 billion. Spinal cord injuries very often require lifetime care, including health care. Depending upon the People who suffer a spinal cord injury can also face difficult challenges to achieve employment, making it even more difficult to take on the added expenses associated with SCI care.
People who suffer a spinal cord injury can also face difficult challenges to achieve employment, making it even more difficult to take on the added expenses associated with SCI care. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, 57.5% of those persons with SCI admitted to an SCI Model System, reported being employed at the time of their injury. At post injury year one, 11.5% of persons with SCI are employed. By post injury year 20, 35.4% are employed.
Coping During Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation
Sustaining a spinal cord injury is a life changing event, especially if that injury leads to paralysis. Disability can be painful and confusing, leaving spinal cord injury survivors wondering how their injury will impact their relationships, career, everyday activities and long term happiness. A person faced with paralysis will go through a spectrum of emotions including denial, grief, anger, and, finally, acceptance. Although it is a long and difficult process, treatment and spinal cord injury rehabilitation allow many people with spinal cord injuries to lead productive, fulfilling and independent lives.
If you or someone you love has sustained a traumatic spinal cord injury, the future can seem daunting. Coping with paralysis is very difficult; however, there are some things that can and must be done to ensure long term success and independence.
Educating Yourself and Your Family
In order to regain control of your life after a traumatic spinal cord injury, it is imperative that you educate yourself about your injury. As you adjust to your disability, familiarize yourself with the wide range of equipment and modification products available today that will assist you in reclaiming an independent life. Also important in spinal cord injury rehabilitation is teaching those around you about the facts of your disability. Talking about your paralysis with loved ones can help ease the tension and difficulty that comes with adjusting to such a change. Being open and straightforward about your injury and how it affects you might not be easy at first, but it will often strengthen relationships with family and friends, making coping with the sudden change more manageable.
Below are a few reliable and informative web sites regarding spinal cord injuries:
- Mayo Clinic
- MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
- National Spinal Cord Injury Association
- Christopher Reeve Foundation
An essential part of spinal cord injury rehabilitation is to seek out and build a strong network of support. The following are just a few websites that offer forums and communities made up of spinal cord injury survivors and their families. These forums give those affected by a spinal cord injury the opportunity to share their stories and can be very helpful in opening the door to conversation, education, and connections that will help make coping with a spinal cord injury manageable.
Focus on What Can Be Done
New technologies, treatments and devices can help you focus on the things you can do when living with paralysis. In fact, due to this modern engineering, spinal cord injury survivors are able to not only accomplish necessary daily activities without any assistance, but many can participate in and accomplish activities for pleasure and fun, including sporting events. Inventive and ingenious medical devices allow people with paralysis to become more independent, more mobile, and more active. Modern wheelchairs are light, comfortable, and made strong enough to travel over rough terrain. Some can even climb stairs or elevate passengers to eye level, making it easier to reach high places without help. Also, computer devices and other gadgets are wonderful at assisting with common day-to-day tasks. Computer-controlled gadgets can help with cleaning, reading, bathing, dressing and grooming while voice-activated computer technology allows you to communicate person-to-person or to dial and/or answer a telephone.
Fifty years ago, the prognosis for those having suffered a spinal cord injury was bleak. Today, faster and fuller spinal cord injury rehabilitation is made possible by advances in stem cell research and nerve cell regeneration. Scientists and doctors are constantly directing their focus to biomedical devices and novel forms of spinal cord injury rehabilitation. These new and advancing technologies are already restoring some measure of independence to those with severe spinal cord injuries. It is unclear when research will find a cure for SCI, but today you can remain confident, while living your life to the fullest, that the future of SCI research will yield some answers.
Spinal Cord Injury Risk Factors
Every year, approximately 11,000 new spinal cord injuries are documented. Although a spinal cord injury is often caused by an unexpected accident that can happen to anyone at any age, some groups of people are more likely to suffer a spinal cord injury. These include:
- Men: Men are more likely than women to sustain a spinal cord injury. Over 80 percent of all spinal cord injuries are sustained by men.
- Young adults: People are at a higher risk of sustaining a spinal cord injury between the ages of 16 and 30. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading SCI causes for young adults.
- Seniors: Spinal cord injuries suffered by people over 65 years-old are most oftentimes caused by a fall. Falls account for a large number of spinal cord injuries in older people.
- Athletes: Sport-related injuries account for 8 percent of spinal cord injuries each year. High impact sports such as wrestling, football, rugby, and gymnastics result in a higher risk of spinal cord injury.
$2.0 Billion Verdict Personal Injury
In May of 2019, the jury in the case of Pilliod et al. v, Monsanto Company ordered the agrochemical giant to pay $2.055 billion in damages to the plaintiffs, Alva and Alberta Pilliod, a Bay Area couple in their 70s.
$105 Million Settlement Pharmaceutical Settlement
Wisner Baum obtained $105 million on behalf of multiple clients involved in a pharmaceutical negligence case.
$18 Million Settlement Whistleblower Settlement
Wisner Baum secured an $18 million settlement against the Boeing Company for overcharging the U.S. government on aircraft maintenance.
$17.5 Million Settlement A Major US Plane Crash
Wisner Baum obtained a $17.5 million settlement on behalf of a client who was killed in a major U.S. plane crash.
$15 Million Settlement Truck Accident
Our firm successfully negotiated a $15 million catastrophic injury settlement for our clients. The case stemmed from a Southern California accident involving a commercial truck and a pedestrian.
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