Damage to the spinal cord is one of the most devastating injuries that a person can sustain. Causes range from serious falls and sporting accidents to serious car crashes, on the job injuries, and negligently performed surgeries. Regardless of what caused the injury, spinal cord damage can have permanent and even deadly consequences, so if you recently sustained a spinal cord injury that was caused by some else’s negligence, it is important to obtain the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you obtain the compensation that will allow you to begin the process of recovery.
Spinal Cord Defined
The spinal cord is made up of a conglomeration of nerves that extend from the brain down through the spinal canal. The spinal cord plays a vital role in movement and sensory manifestations as the nerves that make it up are what allow the brain to communicate with the rest of the body and so control a person’s heart, lungs, muscles, and bowels. Because it plays such an important role, the spinal cord is protected by vertebrae in the neck, chest, and lower back. When these bones sustain damage, the spinal cord is often further injured as a result of trauma, compression, or blood loss.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Most spinal cord injuries occur when the spine sustains some type of trauma, in which it is compressed or pulled sideways. This is often the case in car crashes when the neck and back are twisted as a result of a sudden blow causing fractures and dislocations. Bone fragments can then tear or bruise the spinal cord tissue, which can cause fluid to build-up, swelling, and bleeding, all of which can disrupt the nerve cell signals sent between the brain and the rest of the victim’s body.
Generally, spinal cord injuries can be divided into two categories, complete injuries, which cause a complete loss of sensation and muscle function, and incomplete injuries, which are severe but allow a victim to retain some function.
Some of the most common symptoms indicating a spinal cord injury include:
- Weakness in the limbs;
- Loss of muscle function throughout the body;
- Muscle spasms;
- A loss of feeling;
- A loss of control over the bladder and bowels;
- A loss of sexual function; and
- A loss of speech or difficulty breathing.
The number and severity of symptoms depend on the type of injury sustained, and whether it is complete or incomplete. Even when injuries are not considered complete, however, the costs of treatment can be extremely high.
Many spinal cord injuries require surgery, although a physician may first attempt to use steroids to reduce inflammation and swelling. In spinal cord injury cases, surgery may be required to:
- Realign bones;
- Remove bone fragments;
- Relieve pressure on the spinal cord;
- Fuse and stabilize broken bones by surgically attaching screws and rods to hold the vertebrae together.
While spine surgery may be a victim’s only chance at regaining movement or feeling, it is also fraught with risks, which can result in:
- The creation of blood clots;
- Urinary tract infections or incontinence;
- Muscle spasms;
- Kidney disease;
- Lung infections;
- Pressure sores; and
- Difficulty stabilizing blood pressure.
Many accident victims also struggle with chronic pain and depression, which can be made more difficult when combined with the stresses of intensive physical therapy. Others are put on bed rest until their injuries heal, which can take a significant emotional toll.
The cost of treating spinal injuries can quickly overwhelm a victim’s finances. Fortunately, when an injured party can establish that someone else’s negligent or reckless behavior caused the accident, he or she may be able to obtain compensation for a variety of costs, including:
- Medical expenses, ranging from emergency treatment and reconstructive surgeries to physical therapy and the cost of prescription medications;
- The amount of monetary loss sustained as a result of being unable to return to work;
- Loss of future income that will be experienced because the victim is unable to make as much money as he or she did prior to the accident as a result of his or her injuries; and
- Property damage, including the cost of a new vehicle if the victim was involved in a car crash.
Collecting compensation for these costs can make all the difference in a victim’s ability to recover because he or she may be unable to return to work for months, making payment of medical bills all but impossible. Although obtaining compensation for these expenses is critical, these amounts do not take into account the emotional toll that sustaining these types of serious injuries can take on a victim. For this reason, South Carolina residents who sustain spinal cord injuries may also be able to receive non-economic damages, including:
- The cost of the pain and suffering endured by the victim as a result of the accident;
- Humiliation or mental anguish suffered as a result of the injury;
- The costs associated with permanent scarring or disfigurement;
- Physical impairment and the inability to participate in pre-accident activities and daily functions; and
- Loss of spousal companionship.
Statute of Limitations
In South Carolina, a person who sustained a spinal cord injury as a result of someone else’s negligence or recklessness must file a claim against the at-fault party within three years of the date of the accident that caused the injury. A failure to file the claim in time can have devastating consequences as the case will be barred, a court will refuse to hear it, and the injured party will lose the opportunity to collect compensation for his or her losses.
Contact a Dedicated Personal Injury Attorney in Greenville
Spinal cord injuries sustained as a result of someone’s negligent or reckless behavior are especially tragic because they could have been avoided, so if you or a loved one live in Greenville and recently suffered a spine injury, please contact the law firm of Bryan Ramey & Associates by completing one of our standard contact forms and we will help you schedule a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can ensure that the responsible party is held accountable.
1.Depending on the facts of the case, the Statute of Limitations can be much shorter than three years in South Carolina.. For example, if the negligent party is a governmental or charitable entity, the statute is very likely two years from the date of accident but could be as short as one year. If the injury was sustained on your job, the Statute of Limitation is generally two years from the date of the accident to file a workers’ compensation claim. Therefore, you should consult an attorney as early as possible after your injury to protect your rights.