A life-time of chronic back pain, or partial or complete paralysis with its various complications characterize many spinal cord injuries. These are often life-changing injuries that can require ongoing medical and even home care. To get the compensation you need, retain a Toronto personal injury lawyer from our firm to handle your claim from its onset to resolution.
Don’t let an injury cause you additional stress because an insurer or defendant has denied your claim or made a low-ball offer. Our lawyers have recovered millions in compensation for accident victims, even in the most difficult cases. We also understand that legal fees can be costly, which is why we only take payment upon settlement or verdict.
What is the Spinal Cord?
The spinal cord is a collection or package of nerve fibers and tissue that control and make up our sensory and motor reflexes. Serious spinal injuries can cause life-long suffering and disability, significantly interfering with our customary daily activities and quality of life. Motor vehicle accidents, falls, or assaults can damage the spine in numerous ways and result in substantial and ongoing medical care and expenses.
Spinal injuries are of the following types:
- Whiplash or soft tissue damage to tendons and ligaments from sudden and dramatic acceleration/deceleration motion of your neck that is often seen in rear-end motor vehicle collisions. A whiplash motion can also lead to fractures to the neck vertebrae.
- Disc herniation—this is a disc rupture from trauma whereby the gelatinous material contained in the center of the disc leaks out through a tear and irritates surrounding nerves. In some cases, it canproduceintense pain necessitating surgery.
- Incomplete spinal cord injury—a condition where the spinal cord is partially severed so that the victim may retain some degree of function. About 60% of serious spinal cord injuries are of this type.
- Complete spinal cord injury—the spinal cord is completely severed leaving victims with no discernible motor or sensory functions. Some victimsare able to regain some function from therapy or electrical stimulation.
Medical providers can diagnose a spinal injury through x-ray, CT scan, or an MRI. A neurological exam can verify the level of the injury, and the degree to which your muscle strength, movement, and ability to sense touch has been affected. In the case of a whiplash or soft tissue injury, the diagnosis can be made after a clinical examination based on subjective symptoms, but which correlate with the examination findings.
Whiplash Injuries and Issues
Whiplash injuries are a milder form of spinal injury and are generally treated with rest, ice and immobilization with a neck collar immediately following the trauma. Chiropractic treatment is commonly sought where a chiropractor may perform spinal manipulation or adjustments, do massage, apply heat packs, and subject the patient to a series of rehabilitative exercises.
Soft tissue injuries from a whiplash do not appear on diagnostic tests like x-rays or MRIs, though an x-ray that reveals a straightening of the normal curvature in the cervical spine, called hyperlordosis, along with certain symptoms might be evidence of trauma caused by a motor vehicle accident, fall or other incident where there is a sudden distortion of the neck. Symptoms of a whiplash include:
- Neck pain
- Decreased range of motion in the neck
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
- Sleeping difficulties
- Mood changes
- Trouble focusing or loss of memory
In injury claims where whiplash has been alleged, insurance adjusters for the responsible parties will often profess skepticism that the claimant was injured. In many of these cases, victims do not experience any symptoms for hours or a day or two following the trauma and may have denied any injury at the accident scene. The issue of whether the person was injured at all is compounded by the lack of any visible injury, such as bleeding or bruising. However, a physician or chiropractor trained to identify such injuries should conduct a careful and thorough clinical examination so as to verify the injury and rule out malingering, which is an exaggeration or fabrication of an injury in the interest of monetary gain. It often takes a seasoned Toronto spinal cord injury lawyer to prompt a doctor to definitively state in a report or in testimony that the client was not a malingerer if this is an issue.
Other complicating factors are proving the degree and severity of the injury where the claimants are unable to perform their normal work duties, household duties or engage in recreational activities. Although many reliable and credible studies confirm that even low impact car collisions can result in whiplash injuries, it can be difficult to convince an insurance adjuster or a jury that the claimant has suffered a serious enough injury that has necessitated months of treatment, thousands of dollars in medical expenses, and lost income. Retaining an experienced catastrophic injury lawyer from Affinity Law who has successfully handled such claims is essential if you want a satisfactory resolution of your case.
The most severe spinal injuries are paralysis cases. Though there is no cure, many patients are able to restore some degree of function though occupational and physical therapy or through use of assistive and technological devices. Early intervention is often crucial and, in many cases, can minimize the severity or extent of the paralysis.
Treatments for a spinal cord injury can also entail:
- Surgical removal of bone splinters; spinal fusion, or removal of discs
- Reduction of inflammation by steroid injections
- Transplanting neural stem cells to innervate muscles
Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury
Injury symptoms may include:
- Loss of sensation
- No longer able to sense heat or cold
- Numbness or tingling sensations in hands, fingers, and toes
- Inability to controlbowel or bladder functions
- Urinary tract infections
- Muscle spasms
- Diminished or complete loss of sexual function and sensitivity
- Loss of movement
- Respiratory difficulties
C-1 to C4 Injuries
A serious injury to the cervical or neck from C-1 to C-4 level is crucial, as it likely will result in quadriplegia (tetraplegia), which is paralysis of all four limbs. This condition may require a victim to use a ventilator to breath along with complete assistance in eating, dressing, and bathing and 24-hour care. Victims will need a specially equipped and powered wheelchair to move independently. Upper cervical cord injuries are often fatal.
Death among serious spinal cord injury victims is usually from respiratory complications, typically pneumonia.
C-5 to C-8 Injuries
The nerves in this area of the cervical spine control the arms and hands. An injury can cause partial or total paralysis of the wrist, hands, and legs. Victims will need assistance with most daily living activities.
T-1 to T-5 Injuries
The nerves in the mid-back affect muscles in your upper chest, mid-back and abdominal areas. While function in arms and hands may be unaffected, there can be paralysis in the trunk and legs. A victim can use a manual wheelchair in many cases and may stand while others will need braces.
T-6 to T-12 Injuries
Injuries to this area usually results in paraplegia, affecting the abdominal and back muscles. Upper body movement is unaffected. Victims will generally lose control of bowel or bladder function but may manage with specialized equipment. Sufferers can drive a modified vehicle and may stand or need braces for walking.
L-1 to L-5 Injuries
An injury to the lumbar spine can result in loss of bowel and bladder function and loss of movement in the hips and legs. More severely injured victims will need a wheelchair and may walk with braces.
Recovery and Prognosis
Doctors are often reluctant in many spinal cord injuries to give a firm prognosis. If there will be some recovery, it will be seen in the initial one week to 6-months after the trauma. Some patients will continue to show some improvement over the first 1-2 years.
Modern technologies are providing hope to paralysis victims. Wheelchairs are lighter and more adaptable with electric ones able to climb stairs, traverse rough terrains, and elevate the person to reach higher levels without assistance. Computers with voice commands allow anyone to type and work. More sophisticated devices use electrical stimulation that controls arm and leg muscles to permit paralyzed persons to stand or even walk. Robot technology is quickly advancing to re-train persons to walk following a spinal injury.
Damages in severe spinal cord injury cases can be substantial and ongoing. Retain a skilled Toronto spinal cord injury lawyer from Affinity Law if you or a loved one has suffered such a catastrophic injury.
The Issue of Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)
In many cases where a person suffered spinal injuries in a car, bicycle, motorcycle accident or fall caused by the negligence of another person or entity, insurers for the at-fault party mayargue that the claimant had pre-existing degenerative disc disease (DDD), particularly if current or past diagnostic tests indicate that the claimant is suffering from this condition. DDDis often the result of the aging process that erodes the discs between the vertebrae leading to stenosis, which is a narrowing of the disc space between the vertebrae. Millions of people suffer from DDD to some extent.
Those who suffer from this condition may not exhibit any symptoms at all. Others may have sharp back pain,tingling in their hands, fingers and down to their feet, and are unable to or have extreme difficulty performing daily living activities. But trauma as a result of a car accident or fall can also cause DDD.
For all personal injury claims, the plaintiffs or claimants have the burden of proving not only fault by another party but that the accident was the cause of their injuries. You areentitled to collect compensation even if you have a pre-existing injury or condition such as DDD if you can show that the accident exacerbated or worsened your condition, though a medical expert will need to opine as to the degree that it was worsened.Alternatively, your physician can state that the accident was the cause of your condition.
If you had a previous MRI or other diagnostic test that showed the absence of DDD, or of any other pre-existing condition that constitutes the injury you claim, this can be powerful evidence that the trauma caused your injuries. In the absence of prior medical evidence, you can still offer credible proof that the accident was the cause of your symptoms and condition after the accident by demonstrating the lack of documented complaints and symptoms. If you can also show that you had been vigorously engaged in certain daily or routine activities or recreation such as golf, tennis, running, or any other sport, but which you can no longer performsince the accident as verified by your doctor, then this may be sufficient to persuade a jury that trauma was the substantial cause of your injuries.
An experienced serious injury lawyer can have your treating physician, physical therapist, neurologist, or orthopedic doctor provide a detailed medical report or testify as to the nature and extent of your injury, how it has affected your life, and the prognosis for your condition.
Retain Affinity Law
Spinal cord injuries often involve complex issues of coverage and liability issues, causation, and proof of damages. An experienced Toronto catastrophic injury lawyer from Affinity Law can investigate and discover other parties who may have contributed to the accident. Because of the severity and substantial damages sustained by spinal cord injury victims, having a skilled and resourceful Toronto spinal cord injury lawyer on your side can ensure that you receive all the available compensation to which you are entitled.
Call us today for a free consultation at (905) 738-2463.