Spine Injury Lawyer - Accident Compensation Claims - Canada Law
A spine injury lawyer is a specialist personal injury advocate with expertise in accidents that cause spinal cord injury. Most spine injuries are caused by the negligence or deliberate act of another person. Our spinal cord injury lawyers offer a wealth of experience and give free advice with no further obligation on liability and the potential value of a claim. Payment for legal services is agreed on a contingency fee basis which means that our spine injury lawyers get paid only when you get paid. If the spinal cord injury compensation claim is lost there is nothing whatsoever to pay. There are time limits and failure to take legal action for spinal cord injury within the limitation period can mean that the opportunity to claim compensation is lost forever. Severe spine injury resulting in paralysis including paraplegia is as catastrophic as it gets and it affects the victim’s and their family’s lives forever. A spine injury lawyer will make sure that you get a fair deal.
Spinal cord injuries are most commonly caused by accidents at work, motor vehicle collisions, falls from height or sports injuries. This is an injury that causes trauma to the spinal cord so that there is paralysis at and below the level of the injury. There can be complete transection of the cord, a crush injury to the cord, penetrating injury or partial cord transection. The peripheral nerves fail to reach the brain and brain nerves fail to reach the peripheral nervous system. Sensation and motor skills are damaged in such an injury. In partial transections, there can be some limited use beneath the level of the partial transection.
Spinal cord injuries can be accidental or can be the result of negligence on the part of another. If negligence is found to be the cause of the injury, the injured party’s personal injury lawyer can file a compensation claim against the defendant for recovery of damages sustained because of the trauma. This can include a claim for pain and suffering, loss of wages, change of lifestyle, loss of opportunity, medical bills, reasonable expenses and emotional damage as a result of the spine injury.
It has been found that early emergency management of spinal cord injuries improves outcome and prevents further damage to the cord. This often means that if there is pressure on the spine, it is relieved as soon as possible at a hospital. The neck is stabilized so that further injury doesn’t occur. Sometimes, function of the spinal cord can be reversed if the repair is done quickly and efficiently. Patients can receive methylprednisolone (cortisone), which shrinks the swelling around the cord so unnecessary swelling does not occur. Doctors also need to treat the patient hypoxia. This involves giving the patient 100 percent oxygen at the time of injury. This treats shock, along with intravenous fluids, so the maximum amount of oxygen is in the system.
Emergency management of spinal cord injury is a delicate thing. If it is done incorrectly, a spine injury lawyers claim may be made against the treating physician for medical malpractice. In such cases, there may be two defendants, the treating doctor and the person involved in the cause of the spinal cord injury.
Spinal Cord Injuries
There is more than one kind of spinal cord injury syndromes. There can be a cut spinal cord, excess pressure on the cord, hematoma pressing on the cord, bleeding in the cord or a partial cutting of the cord. These are treated differently from one another and some of these spinal cord injuries recover themselves, at least partially. Central cord syndrome involves loss of function of the central part of the spinal cord but not the lateral parts of the cord. Paralysis can occur and, in some cases, just fine motor control in the upper extremities is the only symptom. Bladder control can be lost in such an injury.
Loss of Function
The degree of function loss in spinal cord injuries depends on where the level of the injury occurs. There is more loss of function the higher the level of the cord injury. In severe injuries, the individual can lose the ability to breathe on their own and need a respirator. Lower in the spine, there might be partial or complete loss of upper extremity function. Damage to the thoracic and lumbar spine segments can result in paraplegia or loss of ability to move or feel their legs. The individual in all these cases are generally wheelchair bound.
Paraplegia & Quadriplegia
For example, loss of C2 function means you can’t breathe on your own. Loss at C5 involves loss of function below the extension of the wrist. C7 injury means loss of function below the elbow. T1 affects the abduction of the little finger. L2 affects flexion of the hip. L3 affects knee extension and L5 affects the extension of the great toe. S1 affects the plantar flexion of the ankle. Cervical injuries are considered to be the cause of quadriplegia. Thoracic or lumbar issues cause paraplegia but normal function of the upper extremities.
Spine injury lawyers claim larger financial awards, the higher the level of the injury on the spine. The higher the injury, the greater is the loss of function. The spine injury lawyer asks for very specific evaluations of the level of function so that the degree of injury is better assessed. There is a calculation that determines the degree of claim, depending on the level of injury, loss of future job prospects and emotional damage. There are usually several specialists from different disciplines involved in testifying as to the injuries of the spinal cord-injured patient.
In the courtroom, spinal cord injury lawyers and other specialists explain the symptoms of having spinal cord trauma. They explain that symptoms depend on the level of injury with symptoms being paralysis of the arms and legs, paralysis of just the legs and loss of bladder and bowel function. Partial transection leads to partial symptoms but, in all cases, wheelchairs or special chairs are needed for the remainder of the person’s life in order to help the patient get around. In some cases, especially in the beginning, there can be loss of consciousness or coma that usually resolves itself.
Spine Injury Examination
How do doctors examine spinal cord injury? They assess the sensory function of the entire body as well as the motor function of the entire body. Where the injury is, determines the degree of symptoms noted. Doctors also do a myelogram, which inserts dye into the spinal space, checking for crush injuries, hematomas, bleeding or a transected cord. Alternatively, a spinal MRI can be done to see the small details of the spine and spinal cord.
In some cases, doctors can do surgery to decrease the degree of symptoms. Pressure can be taken off the spinal cord and hematomas can be evacuated. Bony fragments can be picked out of the wound so they don’t cause further trouble. Transections of the cord cannot be treated surgically because it is impossible to stitch together a cord that has separated from itself. A halo can be placed around the skull in order to stabilize the cervical spine and prevents ongoing injury. Halos do not correct the problem but do a good job of making sure no further injury occurs.
When the spine injury lawyer makes a claim, he or she must take into consideration that the spinal cord injured person will need rehabilitation and this often lasts a long time. It is also very expensive; it is a good thing that the claim, if successful, will pay for this expensive treatment. Physical therapy helps keep the extremities from becoming too stiff. It also helps patients deal with bowel and bladder problems. A plaintiff’s lawyer will include physical therapy and rehabilitation as part of the claim.
Spine Injury Overview
A spine injury can represent an injury to the bones of the spine, the vertebrae, or to the spinal cord itself. The most serious of all injuries is to the spinal cord, caused by trauma, such as motor vehicle accidents, falls from a great height or sports-related injuries such as horse jumping and diving in shallow water. Depending on where the injury is located, the patient can suffer from ventilator-dependent paralysis or just incontinence. A spinal cord injury can be “incomplete”, meaning that there is residual function because a part of the spinal cord is not injured or “complete”, meaning the loss of function below the level of the injury.
The American Spinal Injury Association or ASIA first published a classification of spinal cord injuries in 1982. This has gone through six revisions of the International Standards for Neurological Classification of Spinal Cord Injury, which is a manual that documents the sensory and motor impairments after a spinal cord injury. It is based on what motor or sensory functions are present at each dermatome as well as the strength of each muscle provided by the dermatome.
Traumatic spine injury is classified as follows:
- A is a complete injury with no sensory or motor function and no bowel or bladder function.
- B is an incomplete injury where sensory function is spared but not motor function.
- C is an incomplete injury where motor function is preserved but less than half of muscles have a muscle grade of 3 or more.
- D is an incomplete injury where motor function is preserved and more than half of the muscles have a muscle grade of 3 or more.
- E is a situation where motor and sensory scores are normal, despite a spinal cord injury.
The signs and symptoms of a spinal cord injury depend on the level of injury. For example, any injury above T1 affect some aspect of neck function, arm functions and diaphragmatic function. T1-T6 handle the trunk above the waist and the intercostal muscles. T7-L1 control the abdominal muscles. L1 through L4 control thigh flexion and L2 through L5 control various aspects of the leg muscles. S1 and S2 control other aspects of leg function, along with lumbar levels.
Each section of skin that is covered by one nerve root is called a dermatome. Doctors can tell where the injury is by assessing the sensation and other function of a dermatome. Injury to the spinal area can cause anesthesia or pain in the dermatome. A group of muscles covered by a specific nerve root is called a myotome. Voluntary motor function can be lost if the nerve root is lost. They may become weak, be paralyzed or contract uncontrollably.
The injury can be complete, with loss of everything below the spinal level. It can also be “incomplete”, in which only part of the spinal column is lost. If the patient has sphincter control or if they can feel a pinprick touch around the anus, the injury is, by definition, an incomplete injury. This is called “sacral sparing”. The sparing of the sacral pathways is attributed to the lamination of these fibers inside the spinal cord.
With a complete injury, there is usually little hope for recovery of function. There has been a greater proportion of incomplete injuries to complete injuries lately, largely due to better care. People with incomplete injuries have a better chance of regaining at least some function.
Cervical injuries lead to a full or partial tetraplegia or quadriplegia. Limited function of the hands is spared in some cases where C7 and T1 are not injured. If the injury is at the level of C1/C2, there is loss of ability to spontaneously breath and the patient becomes ventilator dependent. Those with injuries above C7 often cannot handle activities of daily living and need considerable help in life. These people also have a reduced ability to regulate their blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. This is what is called autonomic dysreflexia.
If the injury is in the thoracic area, the patient develops paraplegia. From T1 to T8, there is an inability to control the abdominal muscles. From T9 to T12, there is a partial loss in trunk and abdominal muscle control. Above T6 and you also get autonomic dysreflexia.
Injuries in the lumbar or sacral areas of the spinal cord reveal decreased muscle control of the legs and hips with a loss of bladder and bowel function. Sacral loss is most associated with bowel and bladder function. Sexual function is also lost when the spinal sacral segments are damaged.
One incomplete injury is called the central cord syndrome. This is when the outer part of the cord is spared and the central parts are injured. In this case the hands and arms are paralyzed while the lower legs are functional. This is associated with cord ischemia, hemorrhage or necrosis of the central cord. The symptoms may be transient or permanent.
Another incomplete injury is anterior cord syndrome, which happens with a flexion injury to the cervical spine that causes damage to the front of the spinal cord and damage to the blood supply from the anterior spinal artery. Below the injury, temperature and pain sensation are lost and motor function is lost. Things like proprioception and sense of vibration are usually just fine.
In posterior cord syndrome, damage to the posterior spinal cord occurs. There is a loss of proprioception along with stereognosis and graphesthesia below the injury level. Things like motor function, sense of pain and sensitivity to light touch remain completely intact.
In Brown Séquard syndrome, the cord is hemisected. This occurs in penetrating wounds like knife wounds and gunshot wounds. On the same side of the injury, there is a loss of motor function, vibration, light touch and proprioception. On the opposite side of the injury, there is loss of pain, crude touch sensation and temperature.
Spinal cord injuries are often due to trauma, such as extreme lateral bending, dislocation, rotation, hyperflexion or hyperextension of the cord or cauda equina. These types of accidents are caused by motor vehicle accidents, falls from a great height, work related accidents, penetrating trauma and sports injuries. There are rare non-traumatic injuries such as cancer, disc disease, infection, vertebral injury and vascular disease of the spinal cord.