Sometimes accidents can result in spinal cord injuries. In South Carolina, if someone else is responsible for your injury, you can seek compensation for the financial losses associated with your accident and back injuries and hold the at-fault party accountable under personal injury law.
Fortunately, you do not need to face the legal process alone. A spinal cord injury attorney at Hite Law Firm Trial Lawyers in Abbeville, South Carolina, can help you understand your rights and advocate for you. Schedule a consultation with our catastrophic injury lawyers today to learn more about your legal options and the compensation you could receive.
How Do Spinal Cord Injuries Occur?
Any accident in which your body experiences forceful trauma can potentially result in a spinal cord injury. Consider how these accident cases we focus on can warrant a civil claim or lawsuit that may follow
Many collisions result from one party’s negligent driving, violating traffic laws that can lead to a crash and cause substantial damages. Types of auto accidents that may result in spinal cord damage include the following:
- Head-on collisions: Arguably one of the most violent types of auto accidents, a head-on crash is often the result of drunk, distracted, or drowsy driving. The outcome can be devastating depending on the speed at which the collision occurs and the vulnerability of people in the front seats.
- Commercial truck collisions: Given the size of semi-trucks, the potential for severe injuries when colliding with one is high. These cases can become more complex because several parties, including the trucking company, truck manufacturer, and other third parties, could bear some liability for the collision.
- Motorcycle accidents: Motorcyclists are among the most vulnerable on the road and are more likely to suffer severe injuries in an auto accident. Broken bones, lacerations, and back and spinal cord injuries are among the most common.
- T-bone accidents: Intersections are where most T-bone accidents occur, and given the point of impact, the damage to a driver’s or a passenger’s spine can be catastrophic.
- Pedestrian accidents: Anytime an auto accident involves a pedestrian, the potential for severe spinal cord injuries or even death is high.
Our experienced spinal cord injury attorneys at our Abbeville firm are familiar with what it takes to get to the bottom of an auto accident case and can help you understand the legal steps you should take against a negligent driver.
The potential for a dangerous accident can vary depending on where you work and in what industry. More than any other American worker, construction employees are at risk for serious injury. Working at high heights and on heavy machinery puts workers in hazardous situations daily.
An onsite fall or mishap with equipment could result in a spinal cord injury or worse. As a result, employees may face pay loss with insufficient workers’ compensation coverage or need to file an at-fault claim against a third party for damages.
Slip and fall accidents
Slip and fall accidents can occur anywhere, and specific demographics, such as older adults and people with previous injuries, are more susceptible to severe injuries. If you slipped and fell on someone else’s property, causing a spinal cord injury, the property owner may be liable for the accident and resulting damages. For example, if you visit someone’s home and fall down the stairs after grabbing a faulty handrail, the homeowner would likely be responsible.
According to South Carolina’s premises liability laws, property owners must maintain reasonably safe conditions for anyone lawfully present on the property. Failure to keep the property free of potential hazards or provide a sufficient warning makes them responsible for your losses.
What Types of Injuries Cause Spinal Cord Damage?
Since a spinal cord injury can occur in many ways, the types and levels of damage can vary drastically—however, most fall under the categories of complete and incomplete injuries.
Levels of SCI
Spinal cord injuries can occur at one or more of the four different sections of the spine:
- The cervical spinal cord covers the neck and head area just above the shoulders. Injuries to the region are often the most severe, sometimes resulting in permanent paralysis.
- The thoracic spinal cord covers the area between the upper chest and the middle of the back. Injuries in this area can impact hand and arm function.
- The lumbar spinal cord covers the area below the mid-back and to the hips. Injuries in this area impact a person’s ability to walk, often leaving them in a wheelchair or using braces.
- The sacral spinal cord includes the hip and pelvic area, impacting the thighs, pelvis, and buttocks. Injuries at this level will likely not affect a person’s walking ability.
At each level, various injuries can occur and be more or less severe. However, most cause severe symptoms that require intensive medical care and missed work.
Complete vs. incomplete spinal cord injuries
The fully severed or compressed spinal cord has a complete injury. It can no longer carry signals from the brain to other parts of the body. An incomplete spinal cord injury refers to an injury that allows the person to retain some function or feeling below the area where the damage occurred.
Types of incomplete spinal cord injuries include:
- Posterior cord syndrome: This occurs when there is damage to the rear spinal cord, and most survivors will maintain muscle tone, posture, and movement, making it an incomplete injury.
- Anterior cord syndrome: Damage impacting the front of the spinal cord may interfere with motor function and sensory pathways. It can affect temperature and pain signals, but many people recover some movement.
- Central cord syndrome: When an injury impacts the cervical spinal cord at the center, it can result in loss of sensation in the arms and legs. Recovery of arm movement is rare, but some people recover some movement in the legs.
- Cauda equina syndrome: Spinal compression at the lower level causes muscle weakness and loss of sensation. However, most people retain their movement ability, and repairing or regenerating some damaged nerves is possible to help improve function.
- Conus medullaris syndrome: This spinal cord injury has symptoms similar to the cauda equina syndrome, affecting reflexes in the lower limbs.
This is not a comprehensive list of injuries impacting the spinal cord, and many accident victims face more than one type of injury.
A complete SCI is the most damaging, causing a total disturbance to the person’s life and often rendering them unable to work. With the help of a spinal cord injury attorney, you can fight for the financial security owed to you by the person who negligently or intentionally caused you harm.
How Are SCI Victims Impacted for the Long Term?
The most severe long-term impact of spinal cord injuries is permanent paralysis. However, many complications can arise in the aftermath, and some develop over time. For example, loss of bladder and bowel control can result from the brain’s inability to send signals to those areas of the body, and this can cause kidney infections, bladder stones, and deregulation of the bowels.
Other potential complications include:
- Pressure injuries caused by loss of sensation in the skin
- Circulatory problems, such as hypotension or swellings in the arms, legs, hands, and feet
- Increased risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures
- Ongoing or recurring muscle or joint pain
- Changes in sexual health for men and women
These issues can also impact an SCI victim’s mental and emotional health over time. For example, it is not uncommon for people with spinal cord injuries to suffer depression as they deal with changes their bodies undergo. Compensation should reflect these potential complications and how these injuries could impact a victim in the future. A lawyer at our firm can help you understand how to value those losses.
What Damages Can You Recover From a Spinal Cord Injury?
The court refers to the losses you incur from the accident and your injuries as damages. Recoverable compensatory damages are those you can prove are the direct result of the at-fault party’s conduct.
Given the severity of a spinal cord injury, the potential for substantial losses is high. While every case has unique circumstances, there are some common economic and non-economic damages for cases involving severe injuries.
The direct financial impact of your accident and injuries make up the economic damages. These can include:
- The cost of medical care, including emergency care expenses, hospital stays, doctor visits, surgeries, medications, rehabilitation, medical devices, and future care
- The loss of income for current and future missed work opportunities and loss of earning capacity
- The cost of repairing or replacing damaged property, which is common in auto accident cases
- The cost of replacement services, such as childcare, household help, and transportation to and from medical visits
- Any other out-of-pocket expenses related to your case
With the help of a spinal cord injury attorney, you can prove economic damages using written documentation, such as medical bills, pay stubs, tax returns, repair estimates, and other receipts.
Non-economic damages reflect the mental and emotional impact of your accident and injuries. A spinal cord injury affects more than your physical health. It can significantly interfere with your quality of life. Examples of recoverable non-economic losses include:
- The physical pain and suffering caused by your injuries and the care endured to treat your injuries
- The emotional pain and suffering
- Mental anguish, often manifesting as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Losing your ability to enjoy life as you once did
Proving these losses is more challenging than proving economic damages. Your attorney may interview people in your daily life and ask you to keep a journal to document how your injuries impact your day-to-day experience. Doctors and mental health experts can testify to how a spinal cord injury can affect a person’s physical and psychological health.
An experienced spinal cord injury attorney may use different methods to assign a monetary value to non-economic damages. For example, the most common tactic is multiplying the total cost of medical expenses by a number between 1.5 and 5, with a higher number indicating more severe injuries. A spinal cord injury would likely qualify for a higher multiplier.
What Does a Spinal Cord Injury Attorney Do?
People are often apprehensive about contacting an attorney because they fear the lawyer fees. However, our spine injury lawyers work on contingency, meaning we charge no fees upfront to work on your case. Other benefits of having legal representation include:
- Investigation experience: We will investigate the accident independently of the police and insurance company to find evidence of negligence and damages.
- Negotiation experience: Using the information collected during their investigation, our team at Hite Law Firm will draft a demand letter and begin negotiating a fast and fair settlement with the insurance company immediately.
- Professional representation: Your attorney will handle all communication with the insurance company or other attorneys with professionalism and tenacity.
- Administrative duties: Our lawyers handle all the paperwork to ensure you submit all necessary forms without error to avoid potential delays.
- Legal knowledge: An attorney understands the legal process and will protect your right to fair compensation.
One of the most valuable benefits of having our spinal cord injury attorneys on your side is a complete understanding of your damages. Identifying and adequately valuing the damages available in your case ensures you receive a settlement or award that covers your losses and allows you or your loved one to start rebuilding or adjusting to a new life as comfortably as possible.
When Should You Contact a Spinal Cord Injury Attorney?
If you suffer a spinal cord injury or any severe injury due to someone else’s negligence, there is no time too soon to contact an attorney. At Hite Law Firm Trial Lawyers, we understand the physical, financial, and emotional devastation an SCI can cause you and your family. We will fight for your right to fair compensation and hold the at-fault party accountable for their actions. Contact Hite Law Firm Trial Lawyers in Abbeville, South Carolina, to schedule your free consultation and speak with an experienced, compassionate spinal cord injury lawyer.