Data suggests that there are currently as many as 294,000 current U.S. residents who have received spinal cord injury (SCI) diagnoses. Each year there are an estimated 18,000 Americans newly diagnosed with spinal cord injuries, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC).
If a recent accident resulted in you suffering a spinal cord injury, you’ve likely already gained a glimpse into what your quality of life and medical expenses may be like moving forward. The extent of the injuries a spinal cord injury patient has suffered tends to become apparent within the hours or days immediately following their accident. They reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) on average 18 months post-injury.
Considering how the Louisiana statute of limitations that applies to most personal injury cases is one year, you don’t have long after the onset of your injury to take legal action and file a lawsuit to hold the party who caused your impairment accountable for how they forever changed your life. A Baton Rouge spinal cord injury lawyer can provide you with competent assistance in compiling evidence in your case necessary to receive maximum compensation to cover any outstanding medical costs and lost income, as well as your future needs.
Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
Various types of preventable accidents attributable to others’ negligence can result in spinal cord injuries. The NSCISC resource cited above lists the leading causes of spinal cord injuries as follows:
- Motor vehicle accidents (including a motorcycle, bike, pedestrian, truck, or car accident)
- Acts of violence (like shootings)
- Contact sports incidents
Instances like a car crash, slip and fall, a physical assault, and sports injuries aside, additional incidents that can cause SCIs include medical malpractice. As you might imagine, there are always potential complications associated with all treatment options, whether they’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury or cervical spine or thoracic vertebrae injuries impairing their motor function and causing nerve damage. There is that fine line between potentially acceptable risks and negligence, though. Medical malpractice is the latter.
An experienced lawyer from our Baton Rouge law firm, Bianca | Matkins, may recommend that clients file a personal injury lawsuit in the case of the latter. In filing a spinal cord injury case, you may not only be able to recover damages to pay for future medical expenses related to your accident but also lost wages and future lost income that you’re sure to have as you adjust to your newfound circumstances.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
There are two main categories of spinal cord injuries that individuals suffer, with several subcategories that comprise each type.
Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries
As the name suggests, incomplete injuries leave the spinal cord partially damaged. Individuals who suffer an incomplete spinal cord injury often retain some ability to move. The extent of an incomplete injury patient’s ability to move varies depending on the severity of their injury and the portion of the spine that sustained spinal cord damage.
Complete Spinal Cord Injuries
Doctors diagnose patients with a complete spinal cord injury when they’ve suffered permanent damage to their spinal cord. This injury is generally attributable to bruising of the spinal cord that affects blood flow to the affected areas instead of it being cut.
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, at least half of all spinal cord injury diagnoses are complete SCI ones. Injuries like these often result in a patient losing all sensory and motor skill functionality beneath where their injury occurred.
Subcategories of Complete Spinal Cord Injuries
There are three subcategories of complete spinal cord injuries, including:
- Quadriplegia: This type of spinal cord injury impacts each of a person’s four extremities and can result in total paralysis
- Tetraplegia: Spinal cord injuries like these also affect each of a person’s four limbs and causes some degree of paralysis
- Paraplegia: This severe spinal cord injury affects the lower portion of a person’s body, causing them not to experience sensation in that portion of the body
The prospect of having a permanent loss of functionality in your limbs can be a hard pill to swallow. It can greatly affect your ability to do things independently as you’ve been accustomed to.
While there may be little that anyone can do to restore your pre-accident functionality, our Baton Rouge spinal cord injury lawyers at Bianca | Matkins can help you recover compensation that allows you to afford the best possible care necessary to restore some semblance of normalcy to your life.
As a spinal cord injury victim, you’ll likely incur significant medical care and caregiving costs throughout your lifetime. Reach out to us to schedule your initial free consultation to discuss your injury and how we can help you recover compensation to pay for your medical bills and other needs today.
Expenses Spinal Cord Injury Patients Have
When most people think of medical expenses, they tend to either think of someone’s immediate hospitalization after they get hurt or their long-term needs, but seldom both. Spinal cord injury patients are unique in that they require immediate care following their injury and follow-up health care for the rest of their lives. Costs SCI victims incur across their lifetimes include:
Time is of the essence when a person suffers a spinal cord injury. The more immediate medical attention is, the better chances they have of a spinal cord injury leaving behind the most life-changing impairments. This is why it’s sometimes necessary for individuals who’ve suffered an injury to their spine to be transported by helicopter to the hospital.
SCI patients may also need to be transported to another medical facility better equipped to care for the special needs of spinal cord injury patients. Costs associated with these transportation options can quickly mount.
Transportation expenses don’t end after someone who’s suffered a spinal cord injury is transported to the hospital. Patients often require transportation home in a wheelchair-accessible vehicle and often to follow-up medical appointments for the remainder of their lives. SCI patients must often purchase their own handicap-accessible vans to give them a sense of independence after their accident.
Emergency Medical Care and the Initial Hospital Stay
The NSCISC data referenced above shows that patients initially stay, on average, 11 days in the hospital immediately following their diagnosis of a spinal cord injury. During that time, SCI patients may undergo surgical treatments or receive groundbreaking health care that aims to cool down their spinal cords and alleviate pressure along their spine—procedures that have proven successful in reducing permanent spinal cord damage. This type of specialized treatment can be costly.
Follow-Up Medical Care
SCI patients often initially require physical therapy or occupational therapy after the onset of their injury to learn how to better use the functionality they have to live as independently as possible. This type of care may be ongoing across a patient’s lifetime to ensure their best possible quality of life.
Follow-up medical appointments and surgeries may be necessary to deal with:
- Chronic pain management concerns
- Neurologic (nerve) issues associated with muscle spasms and temperature regulation
- Mental anguish and behavioral health issues such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder
- Infection control associated with bed or pressure sores and urinary tract infections (stemming from catheterization)
- Fertility issues
The list above is only a few reasons why a person with a spinal cord injury may need to seek follow-up health care, causing a significant increase in their lifetime medical expenses.
Additional costs SCI victims must account for include caregiving. Someone with an incomplete spinal cord injury or a complete one that has left them with some degree of mobility of their limbs may be able to take care of most of their basic needs without any others’ assistance. However, those with tetraplegia or quadriplegia who don’t have any sensations below their neck, for example, and don’t have family members able to care for them must rely on outside home health care providers to care for them around the clock, which is quite costly.
Wheelchairs and Assistive Devices
Another big expense for spinal injury patients is equipment costs. There are adaptive devices like hand straps, metal reachers, lifts, slide boards, cushions to minimize the risk of bed sores, and bathroom or shower chairs that, by themselves, may seem relatively inexpensive, but can add up. There is also the cost of wheelchairs. Non-electric ones can be particularly expensive and often must be replaced every few years, making for a costly, but much-needed investment.
Medical Supplies and Medications
Individuals with SCIs must often take medications to ensure their bodies perform optimally if their normal functioning has been affected by their injury. Also, using the bathroom requires special medical equipment like sterile catheters resulting in hefty medication costs.
Another common cost that SCI patients often have is retrofitting their yards and homes to be wheelchair accessible. Doing this may include:
- Paving a driveway or walkway leading up to the door so that a wheelchair can easily traverse the yard
- Building a wheelchair ramp so that a wheelchair can make it in the door
- Installing an elevator to ensure an SCI patient can gain full access to their home
- Widening doorways so that a wheelchair can fit through them
- Installing a roll-in shower that can accommodate a wheelchair
Lowering cabinets and installing voice-enabled smart devices to control different devices in the home are two additional examples of adaptations a home may require to better accommodate someone with an SCI. Each of these modifications comes at a significant cost.
Factors Affecting Costs Spinal Cord Injury Victims May Incur
The expenses someone who has suffered a spinal cord injury may incur across their lifetime can be high. The medical bills and other expenses a spinal cord injury patient accumulates during their lifetime may vary depending on:
- The extent of triage care a patient receives immediately following the onset of their injury
- When the onset of their spinal cord injury occurred (how old the victim is)
- The impact location (the level at which the injury site is)
- What type of ongoing rehabilitative care or surgical interventions the patient may need
- How autonomous the spinal cord injury victim is (and how much caregiving support they need)
Data shows that someone who suffers a spinal cord injury in their 20s can easily incur between $2 and $5 million across their lifetime. Of course, medical costs only continue to rise.
If you suffered a spinal cord injury due to someone else’s negligence, one of our Bianca | Matkins spinal cord injury attorneys can help. We’ll help you take legal action against the negligent party responsible for your predicament using the one method that our Louisiana legal system allows for—filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Establishing Elements of Liability in Baton Rouge Spinal Cord Injury Cases
Louisiana law allows you to recover compensation from an at-fault party when they’ve caused you harm. You must be able to show that the following is true to move forward in filing a spinal cord lawsuit and securing compensation, though:
- That the alleged negligent parties owed you a duty of care
- Who you’ve deemed to be the at-fault party breached the standard of care they owed you
- You sustained harm that you can show is attributable to someone else’s negligence
- There are monetary losses and other damages you have sustained due to the would-be defendant’s reckless actions
Provided you are able to establish all these elements of liability, you’ll be able to file a personal injury claim to secure fair compensation for what you endured.
Why You Should Let a Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Handle Your Case for You
Each spinal cord injury attorney on our team can’t emphasize enough how critical it is to secure a fair settlement when you’ve suffered catastrophic injuries. This is why you shouldn’t negotiate with an insurance company alone. You’ll need every little bit of the compensation you recover to ensure you’ll be able to afford the best possible care as you navigate your mental anguish surrounding your Baton Rouge injury incident and incur future medical expenses in the years to come.
Our Bianca | Matkins attorneys represent clients here in Baton Rouge and across Louisiana who have suffered serious injuries due to the wrongdoing of others. Each spinal cord injury lawyer on our team has extensive experience handling a personal injury case that involves a serious brain or spinal cord injury.
During our decades of experience advocating for our clients, we’ve had the pleasure of walking them through their legal options, including filing a spinal cord injury lawsuit when warranted. No matter the type of personal injury case an injury lawyer from our Baton Rouge office handles, our priority is to represent clients who’ve suffered injuries as zealously as possible to ensure they receive maximum compensation.
When speaking with prospective clients, we recommend that they don’t just hire any Baton Rouge injury lawyer to be their advocate, but instead, one that has a proven track record of recovering compensation for those who have sustained spinal cord injuries. Get in contact with us to schedule a free case evaluation so we can get started working for you before Louisiana’s one-year personal injury statute of limitations runs out.