Spine Injuries

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Spinal Injuries

A serious spine injury changes the victim's life forever. People hurt their backs from all types of accidents, such as Nevada car crashes, Nevada slip-and-falls, Nevada work injuries, and medical malpractice in Nevada. You might think the person or entity that injured you will do the right thing, but that is not always the case. Suddenly, you are immobilized or partially paralyzed. You  may not be able to earn a living. The lives of family members change in dramatic ways too. Accident victims who sustain spinal injuries in Las Vegas may be eligible to file a Nevada negligence lawsuit and receive compensation for all their:

  1. Doctor's bills in Nevada,
  2. Lost wages in Nevada,
  3. Loss of future earnings in Nevada, and/or
  4. Pain and suffering in Nevada

Spinal Cord Basics

Accidents can cause devastating and painful back injuries to one or more of the following parts of the spine:

  • cervical (upper)
  • thoracic (mid-back)
  • lumbar (hips and legs)
  • sacral (buttocks and pelvis)

Injuries to the spinal cord — protected by the vertebral column — vary significantly in severity. In some situations the spinal cord is severed completely or damaged severely, totally cutting off sensation to nerves below that level of the body. Spinal cord injuries are typically more severe the higher on the spinal cord they occur.

Common types of spinal injuries in Nevada personal injury cases

Spinal cord injuries occur when the spine is pulled, compressed, or pressed sideways as is often the case in a car crash where the head, neck, or back are twisted or sustain a sudden traumatic blow. This can result in spinal fractures or dislocated vertebrae, which in turn can cause the displaced fragments to bruise or tear the spinal cord tissue. This disrupts the signals sent by the nerve cells between the brain and the rest of the body. Vertebral damage can also lead to fluid buildup, swelling, and bleeding both inside and outside the spinal cord, which can result in serious mobility and sensory problems.

Typical injuries that Nevada personal injury attorneys see include:

  • herniated discs
  • whiplash
  • rotator cuff tear
  • sciatica
  • rib fractures
  • fractured vertebrae
  • fractured coccyx (tailbone)
  • vertical compression fracture
  • spinal stenosis
  • piriformis syndrome
  • degeneration disc disease
  • paraplegia (if the spinal column is severed below the arms)
  • quadriplegia (if the spinal column is severed above the arms)

In addition, spine injuries can cause other parts of the body to malfunction as well. Depending on where the injury is, back problems can impair bladder and bowel function, sexual function, fertility, and the ability to walk.

Spinal cord injuries are divided into two categories. A complete injury is one that causes a complete loss of sensation and muscle function, while an incomplete injury means that a degree of function remains. Most spinal cord injuries are caused by trauma, and are often associated with car crashes. Other common causes of spinal cord injury include:

  • Falls from great heights;
  • Sporting accidents;
  • Acts of violence;
  • Compression caused by the presence of a tumor, infection, or inflammation; and
  • A lack of blood supply.

Common Symptoms

Spinal cord injuries often manifest in different ways, but some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Weakness;
  • Loss of muscle function;
  • Muscle spasms;
  • Loss of sensation;
  • Numbness;
  • Pain;
  • Other sensory changes;
  • Loss of control over the bowels and bladder;
  • Loss of sexual function;
  • Loss of speech or difficulty speaking; and
  • Difficulty breathing.

Possible Treatments

After being involved in an injury-causing accident, the injured parties should seek immediate medical attention where physicians will be able to take a medical history and perform an examination. The doctor will then most likely perform additional tests, including:

  • An x-ray of the neck and back to identify any fractures or dislocations;
  • A computed tomography (CT) scan, which is more advanced imaging test; and
  • A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, which shows damage to tissue, ligaments, nerves, and intervertebral discs.

Southern Nevada has several medical providers specializing in treating back injuries and pain. Depending on the nature of the injury, accident victims may be able to benefit from the following interventional therapies:

  • trigger point injections: corticosteroids
  • root blocks: injection of local anesthetic where nerves exit the spinal column
  • ganglion impar blocks: blocking nerve impulses in the pelvic and rectal area
  • joint injections: steroids to treat inflammation
  • facet injections: injections of local anesthetic on either side of the vertebrae
  • intrathecal pumps: a device that delivers medicine to the spine
  • spinal cord stimulators: a device that sends electrical currents to the spine
  • radiofrequency ablation: using heat to reduce pain
  • stem cell treatments
  • experimental treatments

To manage pain, opioids are often an effective option. Common ones include:

  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone (a.k.a. Vicodin or Hycodan)
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone (a.k.a. Oxycontin or Percoset)
  • Hydromorphone (a.k.a. Dilaudid)
  • Fentanyl (a.k.a. Duragesic)

Although a doctor may prescribe steroids in an effort to reduce inflammation and swelling, many injuries are so severe that surgery is a necessity. Surgery may be needed to realign bones, remove bone fragments, or fuse broken bones. There are two main goals in spinal surgeries, including:

  • Relieving pressure on the spinal cord, which may require surgeons to remove pieces of broken vertebrae in an effort to decrease compression; and
  • Stabilizing the spine through the placement of screws, rods, and plates that help hold the vertebrae together so that the spinal cord is not damaged further.

Unfortunately, spinal surgery poses a variety of risks, including:

  • Pressure sores;
  • Urinary tract infections or urinary incontinence;
  • Loss of bowel control;
  • Lung infections;
  • Blood clots;
  • Chronic pain;
  • Muscle spasms;
  • Changes in blood pressure;
  • Kidney disease; and
  • Depression.

After successful surgeries, patients must focus on physical therapy and rehabilitation. Many patients are put on bedrest while their injuries heal or are required to use spinal traction, which requires the injured party to wear a harness that has metal braces attached and so keeps the spine from moving.

Potential compensation for spinal injuries in Nevada personal injury lawsuits

There are the expenses accident victims can be compensated for. Note that even if you were partially to blame for injuring your spine, you may still be entitled to damages.

Medical bills

Medical bills for spinal cord injury victims can be massive. Just some of the expenses victims may incur include:

  • hospital stays
  • surgeries
  • treatments
  • medication
  • rehab center stays
  • clinical visits
  • physical therapy
  • home health care
  • fertility treatment, such as sperm retrieval and IVF
  • medical equipment, including wheelchairs and other devices to make homes ADA-accessible such as stair-lifts

Lost wages

Many spinal cord injuries require months or years of rehabilitation. Others create permanent disabilities. When this happens, loss of income is likely. If your spinal injury was caused by someone else's negligence, Nevada law may entitle you to compensation for your lost income.

When victims miss work for their injuries while they are recuperating, the settlement or jury verdict may include money to compensate the victim for the following:

  • lost wages or salary
  • lost tips
  • lost bonuses
  • lost opportunities for promotions and advancement

 Receiving compensation for lost work helps put the victim closer to their pre-accident situation.

Loss of future earnings

Permanent back injuries prevent the victim from ever working again or from doing the type of work they did prior to the accident. So when permanently disabled accident victims sue, they should pursue compensation to cover the following:

  • loss of projected wages or salary
  • loss of projected tips
  • loss of projected bonuses
  • loss of projected opportunities for promotions and advancement

When victims receive compensation for their loss of future earnings for the rest of their lives, they can concentrate on adapting to their “new normal” without having to worry about where the next paycheck is coming from.

Pain and suffering

No dollar value is sufficient to make up for being disabled, but a healthy settlement can aid victims in having quality of life. Any settlement should include payment for pain and suffering.

There is no definitive way to try to calculate the extent of someone's anguish. One method Nevada attorneys use is to multiply the economic damages (such as medical bills) by a certain number. Our  Las Vegas spinal cord injury attorney would fight for the highest financial settlement possible.

Punitive damages

If a case goes to trial and the victim (plaintiff) wins, the court may also award the victim putative damages. The purpose of punitive damages is not to compensate the victim but rather to punish the defendant for the reckless or malicious behavior that caused the injury.

Most cases settle without heavy litigation. But when a case does proceed to trial, the victim's attorney would try very hard to persuade the judge to grant punitive damages. In many cases, these damages are much bigger than compensatory damages.

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