Personal injury cases that involve spinal cord injuries command some of the most considerable damages. Unfortunately, medicine currently has no method for curing paralysis. Instead, treatment focuses on mitigating symptoms and helping victims live as independently and productively as possible.
Because paralysis requires lifetime medical care, awards or settlements must be very high to cover current and future costs.
Additionally, victims suffer disabilities that cause extreme pain, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. As a result, spinal cord injury plaintiffs are entitled to high general damages.
If you have suffered a spinal cord injury, you may have the right to compensation. Contact Olson & Sons for a free consultation.
What Is a Spinal Cord Injury in Kona?
Spinal cord injuries consist of damage to any part of the spinal cord or the nerves at the end of the spinal canal. This type of injury is amongst the most serious because it profoundly impacts the functioning of the body below the site of the injury. Most often, permanent losses in strength, sensation and other body functions below the spinal cord result.
Unfortunately, many spinal cord injury victims lose the ability to walk, maintain continence, and have children.
Known as paraplegia, this level of paralysis impacts every part of the patient’s life. In addition to physical disabilities, losing the ability to participate in many life activities causes profound mental and emotional damage. As a result, many people with paraplegia find themselves socially isolated, reducing the quality of their life.
Paraplegia differs from quadriplegia. Quadriplegia results from damage to the spinal cord at the neck. As a result, the patient permanently loses strength, sensation, and other bodily functions below the head. Though cognitive function may remain intact, people with quadriplegia suffer full-body paralysis, leaving them bedridden or dependent on sophisticated wheelchairs.
Many scientists have an optimistic view of advances in the treatment of paraplegia. They hope that current research will make repairing spinal cord injuries a standard procedure. However, until such surgeries become viable, treatment for paraplegia focuses on rehabilitation that helps spinal cord injury victims lead independent, productive lives.
Spinal Cord Injury Symptoms
Spinal cord injuries destroy a patient’s ability to control their limbs. Whether some or all of the limbs are immobilized depends on where on the spinal cord the damage occurred and the severity of the injury.
Doctors refer to the lowest part of your spinal cord that escapes impact as the neurological level of your injury. The lower this level, the more mobility and body functions you maintain. The higher the level, the more parts of the body that the brain can no longer command.
The medical profession refers to the severity of a spinal cord injury as “the completeness,” referring to the completeness of the paralysis. The more completeness, the more loss of function
Complete paralysis means that all feeling and ability to control movement below the injured area has been lost.
Incomplete paralysis means that the patient retains some sensory and motor function below the injury site. There are varying degrees of incomplete paralysis and varying prognoses for these cases.
If you have some motor or sensory function below the affected area, your injury is called incomplete. There are varying degrees of incomplete injury.
Healthcare providers perform a series of tests that determine the neurological level and completeness of a spinal cord injury.
Spinal cord injuries can cause one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
- Loss of movement
- Loss of sensation
- Altered sensation, including the ability to feel heat, cold, and touch
- Loss of continence
- Exaggerated reflexes
- Loss of sexual function
- Reduced sexual sensitivity
- Reduced fertility
- Pain from damaged nerve fibers in the spinal cord
- A stinging sensation from damage to the nerve fibers in the spinal cord
- Difficulty breathing
- Inability to cough productively
- Difficulty clearing secretions from your lungs
Emergency Signs and Symptoms
Emergency signs and symptoms of a spinal cord injury after an accident include:
- Extreme back pain
- Heavy neck pressure
- Pain or pressure in the head or back
- Loss of coordination
- Numbness, tingling or loss of sensation in the hands, fingers, feet, or toes
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Falling or stumbling
- Inability to walk
- Impaired breathing after injury
- Neck or back twisted out of position
When to See a Doctor in Kona
Anyone with substantial trauma to the head or neck should receive immediate medical attention. Emergency medical professionals deem it proper to assume trauma victims have sustained a spinal cord injury until proven otherwise.
A common misconception is that spinal cord injuries are immediately obvious. For example, many people have the image of a person falling and becoming instantly immobile or an auto wreck victim unable to exit the vehicle because of paralysis. While this is true in some cases, many symptoms of spinal cord injuries manifest themselves over time. For instance, numbness or paralysis may come on gradually.
Note that the time between the injury and the commencement of medical intervention is critical to obtaining the best medical result. Doctors need to determine the extent of the injury and severity of complications in order to mitigate the damage as much as possible.
Follow These Steps If You Suspect Someone has a Spinal Cord Injury
- Avoid moving the injured person. Permanent paralysis and other serious complications may result
- Call 911 as soon as possible
- Make efforts to keep the person still–hold the head and neck or place heavy towels on both sides of the neck
- Provide needed first aid, including treating bleeding and making the person comfortable
Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
Many types of incidents cause spinal cord injuries. Common events leading to this devastating diagnosis include the following:
- Auto accidents
- Boating accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Equestrian accidents
- Construction accidents
- Sports injuries
Regardless of the event that causes a spinal cord injury, the victim has the legal entitlement to compensation if the injury was caused by another person’s or organization’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions.
Proving Personal Injury Liability for Spinal Cord Injuries in Kona
Hawaiian personal injury law requires personal injury plaintiffs to prove four essential elements to win their case:
- The defendant had a duty of care
- The defendant breached the duty of care
- The breach caused the plaintiff harm
- The damages stem from that harm
Proving the Duty of Care
Often, proving the duty of care is the easiest of the four elements. This is because the law presumes a duty of care exists in a wide variety of situations. Therefore, the defendant cannot simply claim no duty exists to avoid liability.
For example, all people driving a motorboat on a lake have a presumed duty of care towards passengers and other people on the water. If the boat driver is intoxicated, proceeding recklessly, and slams into another boat, causing a passenger on either craft to suffer a spinal cord injury, the negligent boater cannot claim he has no duty of care and is, therefore, not liable.
Proving the Breach of the Duty of Care
Proving a breach of the duty of care can be more difficult. The law has no presumption that a breach occurred. Instead, the plaintiff must prove the breach.
In the case of a drunk and reckless boater, witness statements, the wreckage of the watercraft, and tests for blood alcohol level are likely to provide ample evidence of a breach of the duty of care.
On the other hand, a less obvious breach may take more effort to prove. For example, suppose the boater was sober and proceeding at a reasonable speed before a crash with another boat. Is one boater liable, or did both contribute to the collision? Lawyers, in this case, would need to dig deeper into the evidence to determine the cause of the accident and justify their arguments for who has liability.
The Breach Caused the Plaintiff’s Harm
A breached duty of care is only actionable if the plaintiff suffered actual harm. For instance, an accident where no one is hurt does not give rise to a claim. On the other hand, a spinal cord injury is obviously harm, so if it was caused by another’s negligence, it is actionable.
However, the evidence must clearly and convincingly show the link between the injury and the incident in question. For instance, if a passenger on the reckless boat driver’s craft at first reported no injury and then sought treatment for a spinal cord injury days later, the defense has room to cast doubt as to whether the boat incident caused the injury.
For this reason, it is always advisable to seek medical attention right away after an accident, even if injuries seem minor or unapparent. You could have a serious injury with delayed onset symptoms.
Proving the Damages Relate to the Harm in Kona
During the course of a personal injury case, the plaintiff’s lawyer assembles evidence showing his client’s damages. Damages can be economic and non-economic.
Economic damages include the following:
- Medical bills
- Assistive devices
- Rehabilitation treatment
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Wheelchair ramps and other home modifications
- Assisted Living
- Home health aids
- Lost income
Non-economic damages include the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
Punitive damages apply only when the defendant acted in an outrageous manner. For instance, a typical boat accident is unlikely to merit punitive damages. However, a court might assess punitive damages against a drunk boater who drove recklessly and caused another person a spinal cord injury.
Talk to an Attorney Right Away in Kona
Spinal cord injury victims suffer enormous physical and mental trauma. In addition, they face a permanent medical condition requiring costly treatments and diminishment of their quality of life. Olson & Sons specializes in investigating and proving negligence in spinal cord injury cases. If you or a loved one have suffered a spinal cord injury, contact Olson & Sons for a free consultation.
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