Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are catastrophic. There’s no other way to say it.
These traumas often lead to death, partial or complete paralysis, and a range of other lifelong physical challenges. Unfortunately, spinal cord injuries devastate tens of thousands of people each year. Excluding fatal cases, about 17,000 people suffer SCIs annually in the U.S.
SCIs happen under many circumstances. Common scenarios include vehicle collisions, diving mishaps, or industrial workplace accidents. People also suffer spinal injuries during surgeries and injections. Any time you undergo a procedure that takes place on or around the spinal cord, the risk for injury increases.
However a person sustains a SCI, the outcome is the same: financial hardship, physical and mental anguish, and deep suffering for the victim and their family. That’s why spinal injury compensation claims must cover the full breadth of the trauma.
Damages included in a spinal injury compensation payout case include both economic and intangible suffering. Economic damages encompass medical bills, lost wages, and any other quantifiable losses related to the injury. In other words, the things you can touch, taste, and feel.
The intangible losses refer to quality of life issues such as emotional suffering, lifestyle changes, and inability to take part in cherished activities. These are more difficult to quantify, but they are essential to evaluating the full spectrum of a back injury compensation case.
SCI victims may assume they’re only eligible to recover their medical expenses and lost wages, but it’s important to take a holistic look at your losses. Although nothing can alleviate your physical pain and challenges, a fair settlement can ease the burden on you and your family.
Let’s look at exactly what types of damages can be included in a settlement:
Medical expenses related to the initial injury can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars and above. However, SCIs often require a lifetime of treatment, so you must anticipate these costs as well.
Van Wey, Metzler & Williams, PLLC works with experts in medical life care planning to assess a client’s likely future needs, and we build those expenses into their compensation claim. As we’ll discuss shortly, SCI patients encounter a wide range of additional physical problems, such as reduced mobility and incontinence. Covering past and future medical care is so important because SCI-related medical debt can further devastate your already grieving family.
Lost Wages and Loss of Earning Capacity
If a person can return to work, we help them claim the wages they would have earned during their recovery. But most SCI injuries result in a partial or complete loss of wage-earning capacity. A person may only be able to work part-time or be forced to take a lower-paying job. In extreme cases, the victim can no longer work at all.
When building claims on behalf of these clients, we hire vocational experts to assess their residual earning capacity. These consultants determine what the client can and cannot do physically, giving us a sense of how much they’ll be able to work over their lifetimes.
We then take those projections to economists who put numbers to those earning losses. During a trial, we call these consultants as testifying experts to educate the jury on the huge economic ramifications for our clients’ families.
Physical Pain and Suffering
SCIs cause many long-term physical problems. Depending on the nature of the injury, a person might have difficulty walking, be confined to a wheelchair, struggle with bowel and bladder control and suffer sexual dysfunction.
Each of these challenges — which are just a sampling of the potential complications — requires its own set of doctor’s visits, medications, physical therapy, and other treatments. The costs and level of suffering rise even higher for those confined to a wheelchair or to their beds, as they demand an even greater level of care.
People often overlook the mental anguish component of a spinal cord injury. Victims may struggle to talk about the internal grief and frustration they feel, and well-intentioned friends and family can’t empathize with their pain unless they’ve endured a SCI themselves. We can’t imagine what it’s like to cope with the reality of living in that state for the rest of your life.
Not only must victims cope with their physical limitations and pain, they must also come to terms with the ways their injuries change their relationship to those around them. They can no longer enjoy long weekend bike rides in the mountains, travel to Europe with their spouses or play catch with their children. These realities are devastating and can create ongoing mental trauma.
Loss of Consortium and Companionship
Patients aren’t the only victims of SCIs. Spouses can bring claims for loss of consortium and companionship as they, too, suffer from these tragedies. Without a partner to help manage the household, care for the kids, and contribute financially, spouses face an enormous physical, psychological and emotional burden. The wife or husband of an injured person can also sue for loss of household services, such as lawn care or cleaning. Ultimately, the goal is to compensate all the losses the person has suffered due to the partner’s injury.
We’ve brought loss of consortium and companionship cases for children as well. The virtual loss of a parent is extremely difficult for children, and they also deserve compensation for the ways their lives have changed. Some families install a hospital bed in their homes and gather around the injured parent each night so they can still eat dinner together. One client told us his biggest achievement was making it to his son’s football game. He spent three days preparing for the outing, and he was wiped out for the next three when he came home. But he was determined to see his son play. These are the types of scenarios for which we account in our spinal injury compensation cases.
Hiring a Spinal Injury Lawyer
Spinal cord injuries will impact you for the rest of your life, so it’s vital that you retain a spinal injury lawyer. You do not want to take a DIY approach to these cases, no matter how justified you feel in your claims.
A spinal injury lawyer knows which tools and resources to draw on to maximize the compensation you receive. They know the questions to ask, the angles through which to evaluate your claim and the less obvious aspects of a valid case. For instance, a person who invests their earnings each quarter can claim compensation for lost investment opportunities. That makes a big difference to your settlement number and to how well your family is able to maintain their quality of life during this trying time.
Spinal cord injuries are devastating and traumatic enough without trying to represent yourself in court. Retain a spinal injury lawyer who understands your case and is willing to see it through so you and your family receive the damages you deserve.
By: Kay Van Wey | December 26th, 2017