Phoenix Spinal Cord Injury Attorney
What Are Your Rights as the Victim of a Spinal Injury?
Every part of the body works together, and they do it with the help of the spinal cord. Without the spinal cord, the brain and the body can't communicate about movement, sensations, and decisions that must be made which is why spinal cord injuries have devastating effects on the people who suffer from them.
Spinal cord injuries can happen in a wide variety of accidents and can cause serious problems for motor function, the ability to take care of oneself and perform common daily activities, to hold down a job and to enjoy a normal life. According to statistics, more than 10,000 spinal cord injuries are sustained each year throughout the United States, and the lives of the victims and their families are often forever changed, in just one instance. Understanding causes, recovery, treatments, what the future may hold and how to get the right help after a spinal cord injury accident can help keep families together and make life as normal as possible for the victim and their caregivers.
What is a Spinal Cord Injury, How Does it Affect the Brain?
Spinal cord injuries are trauma that occurs at any point along the spinal cord. Complete spinal cord injuries sever the communication between the brain and the spinal cord below the injury. This is most often what causes paralysis. For those victims that suffer a complete spinal cord injury at the base of the neck, they become unable to feel or move anything below the neck. Complete paralyzation of the area below the spinal cord injury is guaranteed with complete spinal cord injuries. Incomplete spinal cord injuries, on the other hand, leave the victim's body with some ability to communicate with the brain, and the area below the injury will often have some sensations and some ability to move.
Most spinal cord injuries start with some sort of trauma that causes fracturing or the dislocation of vertebrae. These initial injuries often are what leads to the paralyzation of the victim, since it is the initial injury that causes the damage to the spinal cord. Broken or fractured bones can tear through the spinal cord, completely severing it and rendering the victim permanently paralyzed. Ligaments and disc material that simply push against and compress or bruise the spinal cord can cause temporary or partial paralysis.
What Causes Spinal Injuries?
Spinal cord injuries are not caused by any one type of accident, but instead by many different kinds of accidents. There are many different ways that victims can sustain a spinal cord injury.
Some spinal cord injuries are not caused by accidents, but instead are caused by problems like arthritis, cancer, inflammation, the degeneration of the discs of the spine, or infections. These are called non-traumatic spinal cord injuries. Unfortunately, for most people, the majority of spinal cord injuries are caused by trauma. Traumatic spinal cord injuries can occur during a serious car crash, from being struck by a car as a pedestrian or bicycle rider, falling down stairs, being struck hard in the back while playing sports, being shot with a gun or stabbed with a knife, and multiple other types of serious accidents. Slipping and falling on ice, water, spills, debris, and on uneven surfaces is one of the most common causes of spinal cord injuries, and falling down stairs is counted among these serious falls. Spinal cord injuries are also increasingly common in motor vehicle accidents.
Spinal cord injuries tend to get worse over time, rather than better, when the victim does not receive proper medical treatment. This is why it is crucial for victims who injure their backs in any type of activity to get to the doctor right away. Only a medical doctor can determine the cause of the pain and the right solution to the problem for the relief of pain and to jumpstart recovery.
Spinal Cord Injury Symptoms
Although you may think that a spinal cord injury should be easy to identify and that you don't have to be a doctor in order to notice that there is something wrong with a person's back and spine, there are many different symptoms of a spinal cord injury that may not be noticed for days or even weeks after the initial injury. This makes it critical for patients to see a doctor as quickly as possible after injury. The sooner a doctor recognizes the symptoms and begins to pursue treatment options, the better, especially in cases where an incomplete spinal cord injury could become a full blown spinal cord injury. The symptoms are different for the two different types of injuries that can occur to the spinal cord.
- Complete spinal cord injuries are characterized by a complete loss of feeling in the area below the injury. Victims of these types of injuries often also lose their ability to control their motor function. Typically loss of motor function in the case of a complete spinal cord injury is equal to not being able to move as opposed to moving out of control.
- Incomplete spinal cord injuries are characterized by the loss of only some feeling and control in the area below the injury. Only a medical doctor can determine the specific amount of injury that has been sustained by a victim and home diagnosis is highly discouraged.
While there are no other major symptoms of spinal cord injuries, if you are feeling any numbness in your extremities and have pain in your back, it is a good idea to talk to a doctor about your symptoms so that you can be correctly diagnosed.
Spinal cord injuries often can be diagnosed from symptoms alone, but doctors often do not provide a definitive diagnosis on the basis of symptoms alone. In most cases, doctors perform an MRI and other types of x-rays and tests to confirm the diagnosis provided on the basis of symptoms and a review of medical history. A specialist may be called in to look at the x-rays and determine the extent of the damage and whether any amount of recovery is possible for the victim of the injury.
For victims who suffer from incomplete spinal cord injuries, the prognosis is often mixed and will depend on the level of severity of the spinal cord injury. Those who sustain relatively mild spinal cord injuries often have the most positive prognosis, and will likely be able to make a complete recovery over time. Medium to moderate spinal cord injuries may take longer to heal and for some victims, some loss of sensation and movement will be permanent. For those victims who have suffered a complete spinal cord injury, the prognosis is grim. Although victims frequently survive complete spinal cord injuries, and can, in rare cases, gain some feeling back, the likelihood is, unfortunately, slim.
Recovering from Spinal Cord Injuries
Many new studies are being conducted to help the more than 200,000 people in the United States currently living with spinal cord injuries to find relief and possibly a cure and to better prepare medical professionals for the next generation of spinal cord injury victims, but there is no current cure for spinal cord injuries. This is especially true of complete spinal cord injuries.
Incomplete spinal cord injuries, also sometimes referred to as spinal dysfunction for medical recovery purposes, may have some ability to go through the process of recovery, though it is impossible to determine how long recovery will take or whether it is even possible for individual victims. Those victims with mild incomplete spinal cord injuries may find that it takes years to completely recover from the damage done to their spinal column and motor functions.
Treatment for Spinal Cord Injuries
Although many experimental treatments are currently in testing, there is no way to cure a spinal cord injury through medicine. Some medications may help those with mild spinal cord injuries to feel better but it is unlikely for victims to use medications or medical treatment to regain full function. Some surgeries can help those with small tears in or compression of the spinal cord to regain some function by restoring the normal state of the spinal cord. However, this will not restore full function. Light bruising of the spinal cord that resulted in temporary paralysis will eventually go away on its own with physical therapy, rest, and anti-inflammatories.
How a Spine Injury Can Change Your Life
Victims of a complete spinal cord injury see their lives change in an instant with no hope of ever returning to the way things were. When you experience a complete spinal cord injury, you lose the ability to control your motor functions and you lose feeling everywhere below the impacted area of the spine. This means that the majority of spinal cord injury victims must experience, at minimum, the loss of the use of their legs. These individuals become known as paraplegic. Paraplegics also lose feeling and control over their entire trunk area and the corresponding organs. Quadriplegic victims and tetraplegic victims experience loss in increasing amounts with quadriplegics unable to feel or control any part of the body below the neck.
These types of injuries make it impossible for even the hardest workers to maintain a full time job over the short and long term. This often means that spinal cord injury victims are unable to hold any type of job after sustaining their injuries. For victims who were the sole or primary wage earner in a family, this can have devastating results emotionally, mentally, and financially for the entire family.
Safety and Prevention
Standard prevention measures for all injuries can help to reduce the risk for a spinal cord injury, though the risk can never be totally eliminated. Some of the best ways to reduce the risk of suffering a spinal cord injury include driving safely, never diving into shallow water, not rough-housing, playing sports with the safety of others and yourself in mind at all times, and watching out for hazards wherever you go, whether you're walking up and down the stairs, riding a bicycle, or just enjoying a stroll through the park, down the street, or the department store.
Legal Answers After a Spinal Cord Injury
If you or someone you love has sustained a spinal cord injury due to the actions of another person, you're going to need some help from a skilled Phoenix injury attorney. The Husband and Wife Law Team is acutely aware of the frustration that comes with these types of injuries and can help you hold the negligent party responsible for what has happened to you and for the permanent and depressing changes your life has gone through.
For help with your spinal cord injuries and finding ways to enjoy life again contact Phoenix spinal cord injury attorneys Mark and Alexis Breyer at (602) 267-1280.