Paralysis is one of the most catastrophic injuries that someone can suffer in a car accident. It is tragic enough when someone is paralyzed when playing a sport, or engaging in a higher risk activity; but when someone is paralyzed or suffers spinal cord injuries due to the negligence of someone else, such as in a car accident, the results are often tragic and life-altering.
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What Causes Paralysis?
The most common accidents that cause paralysis are car accidents. Ironically, the best way to think of paralysis is with the analogy of traffic. In order to move, your brain sends signals down the nerves in your spinal cord to wherever they have to go to tell a limb or organ to move or operate. Those nerves are like highways, and the signals are the cars on the highway.
When there is an accident on a highway, traffic cannot get by. The same is true for your brain’s signals when there is damage to the spinal cord. The signals sent from the brain cannot travel through the nerve “highway” to reach their destination. In serious spinal cord injuries, the entire highway is cut off, forever preventing traffic (the brain’s signals) from getting to its intended destination.
However, the highway does not have to be completely blocked for paralysis to occur. In many cases, there is only a lane closed. If the spinal column is intact, but it is just being compressed by surrounding structures, the blood flow needed for the nerves in the spinal column to communicate may be cut off. Reductions in blood flow can prevent vital nerves from sending signals from the brain to the part of the body they are supposed to reach.
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Symptoms and Complications of Paralysis
The most obvious symptom of paralysis is the loss of use of or inability to move or control a part of the body. This is certainly serious, but there are other problems that are caused by paralysis, as well. If you are injured in an accident, it is important that your Ajax lawyer understand how paralysis can affect all the systems of the body.
For example, victims who are paralyzed in addition to loss of use or function to a limb or organ may also suffer
- Blood flow or breathing problems
- Muscle atrophy
- Pressure sores, which may become decubitus ulcers
- Blood clots in the extremities, especially the legs
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Inability to breathe without assistance from a ventilator
- Problems speaking or swallowing
The extent of the loss of use of a limb or body function, or the extent of the loss of sensory perception in a limb, is often dependent upon where in the spine the injury occurs. As a general rule, any function of the body that occurs lower than the site of the injury will be most affected.
For example, an injury at the C3 vertebra (one of the highest vertebrae in the spinal column) will usually result in the patient being dependent on a ventilator for breathing. An injury at the C6 vertebra will usually leave a victim able to control some function in the wrists, often enough to manipulate a steering wheel or modified items around a home or vehicle.
The same applies to the lower lumbar spine. At L1 to L5, function and feeling in the legs will be lost. Lower, at S1 to S5, a victim may only lose feeling or control in the groin, toes and some of the legs.
We tend to think of paralysis as “all or nothing.” However, in many cases, people can and do regain some level of function in areas that were immobile immediately after an accident. Often, the extent of recovery depends on the therapy and treatment that the patient receives after an accident. This is especially true in “incomplete” paralysis, where there is still some level of feeling or function in a limb or extremity.
Costs and Damages Associated with Paralysis
Obviously, all loss of function or sensation in any part of the body is a serious and catastrophic injury, which often will require extensive medical care and treatment, therapy, and often expenses such as medical devices, or modifications to a victim’s home or vehicle. Devices that assist with breathing, speaking, or eating may be needed, as well. Some victims may require full-time in-home care, as well.
The costs of lifetime care for someone who has sustained a spinal cord injury or paralysis will depend on the age of the victim, the location of paralysis, and whether the person is completely paralyzed or still has some function left. It is generally estimated that costs can range between $350,000-$1million for the first year of treatment, to $42,000- $185,000 for every year afterward. These numbers only account for medical expenses; they do not account for lost wages.
Courts and insurance companies in Ajax and Ontario look on paralysis as a very serious injury, but will still only award damages or make offers that are based on the evidence presented to them. That means that a paralysis lawyer needs to make sure that he or she understands the lifetime costs that a victim has, and can calculate for things like inflation, future earnings and earning potential, or the cost of medical procedures that may become available in the future.
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Getting Legal Help
In some cases, the costs of caring for someone who has sustained spinal cord injury will go far beyond what a victim’s own insurance will provide. In these cases, a victim may want to speak with a paralysis lawyer about filing a lawsuit against a driver that caused the accident. The responsible, negligent driver’s insurance may provide an additional source of damages that a victim can recover from, in order to help afford the expenses of lifetime paralysis.
The spinal cord injury lawyers at Preszler Law Firm can help you investigate your case and provide evidence to document your injuries and damages to an insurance company or a court. Call us today to discuss your injuries and your accident.