An injury to the spinal cord can change your life forever. There’s no such thing as a mild injury to the spinal cord, and many injuries are often chronic, with little chance for complete rehabilitation. In worst case scenarios, victims of spinal cord injuries rely on support from their families and community to remain active and live purposeful lives.
If you’ve suffered a disabling trauma at the hands of someone else, speak to our Miami spinal cord injury lawyer—you may be eligible for compensation. If the accident wasn’t your fault, why should you bear the financial burden? Dealing with a lawsuit is a complicated process best left to a professional who understands the intricacies of injury law.
A prudent strategy is to educate yourself about the steps involved in investigating, filing, and settling a compensation case. Here is a brief guide to everything you need to know about claiming compensation for spinal cord injuries.
Spinal Cord Injuries Explained
The spinal cord is a neurological highway, running from the stem of your brain throughout every limb and part of your body. The central nervous system (CNS) controls movement, metabolism, and cognitive function. An injury to the spinal cord devastates the CNS, sometimes crippling the victim.
While all injuries to the spinal cord are severe, not all victims are left incapacitated. Depending on the extent of spinal damage, you may be partially or completely paralyzed. Whichever way you look at it, for victims left completely paralyzed, the tragic news is that life in a wheelchair with assisted care is a near certainty.
Damage to the spinal cord occurs through traumatic events, such as vehicle and firearms accidents—or something as innocent as being thrown from the back of a horse while riding.
Experts agree that for spinal cord injuries, there are links between the severity of the trauma and which section of the spine is injured. Damage to the cervical portion of the spine (from your shoulders to the base of your skull) is more likely to result in complete paralysis. Meanwhile, injuries to the thoracic segment (the middle of your back) result in complete or partial paralysis, while injuries to the lower portion of the spine (lumbar) may result in paralysis of the lower limbs.
Treating Injury to the Spinal Cord
Almost nothing can be done to restore a severed or damaged spinal cord. A few surgeons have attempted to repair the cord, but the success rate of these operations is low. If someone you know has suffered such an injury, it’s vital to assess the situation and call for emergency services. Do not move the victim until medical professionals or paramedics arrive on the scene.
Moving the victim of a spinal cord injury could result in completely severing their cord or doing other damage. Keep the individual calm while you wait for the medic. When medical assistance arrives, they will secure the victim on a stretcher and apply a neck brace to prevent further damage.
After securing the patient on site, medics will rush the victim to a hospital to undergo a series of medical examinations, procedures, or imaging to determine the severity of the damage. Some therapies, such as steroid-based anti-inflammatory drugs, when applied immediately after assessment, reduce inflammation and swelling around the injury site, reducing the extent of the damage.
Victims left paralyzed by a spinal cord injury must receive round-the-clock intensive care in a medical facility for the first few weeks after their injury. During this observation period, doctors will outline a recovery plan with therapy recommendations and medication for pain relief. The observation period at a medical facility typically lasts 30 days, with rehabilitation for the injury extending anywhere from 90 days to life.
Understanding the Timeline of Your Spinal Injury Case
If your spinal cord injury is the result of someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation from that individual and their insurance company. While money is the last thing on your mind in the initial stages during and after the accident, it will eventually become an issue.
Treating a spinal cord injury costs a small fortune. In severe cases that leave an individual paralyzed, assisted care may be required for life. The costs of hiring an aide could run into the millions of dollars over the victim’s lifetime. Without adequate medical insurance to cover the costs, who will pay for the treatment?
How do you file a case and follow up if you are incapacitated? An experienced personal injury lawyer is your best option when pursuing your case for compensation. Your accident attorney will guide you through the entire process, from the submission of your claim to the settlement. Here is a brief timeline of the events you can expect to unfold during the course of your case.
1. Date of the Accident
The extent of the physical trauma can make it possible to lose track of events. Therefore, it’s vital that you record all of the circumstances surrounding the accident as soon as you can. Tell your family members to take note of your statement and notify police services. Take pictures of physical evidence and get copies of everyone’s ID cards, license plates, and witness testimonies. It’s best to do this at the scene of the accident. Ask a bystander to interview people on their cellphone and forward you the video for evidence.
2. Medical Diagnosis and Guidance
After any traumatic event, seek medical help immediately. Injuries to the spinal cord are not always obvious at the scene of the accident. They can lay waiting for a trigger event to manifest, such as sharply turning your head.
Therefore, it’s critical that you visit a medical facility right away and get scans of your spine on an X-ray or CT machine. During the initial moments after an injury, adrenaline and shock run through the body as a natural defense mechanism to reduce the impact of further trauma. However, as the effect of these biochemicals wears off, you may begin to experience the symptoms of a severe injury.
If you’re involved in a car accident, slip and fall, workplace fall, or similar incident, have someone take photos of the accident site, as well as any other physical injuries you may have incurred. Documenting these injuries will prove useful at a later stage when you file your compensation claim.
3. Seek Legal Representation
Think about hiring a Miami personal injury attorney to assist you in handling the details of your compensation claim. From mild neck injuries, such as whiplash, to severe injuries, such as spinal cord damage, your accident attorney will understand how to ensure you get the compensation you deserve from the liable party.
At the initial consultation after incurring your injury, your attorney will advise you of the way forward and the processes involved in handling your claim. Your attorney will provide you with an estimate of the value of your settlement and legal fees. Depending on the extent of your injuries, your attorney may advise you to wait until you have recovered to file your claim, the reason being is to assess the impact of your injury on your future state of well-being and the potential costs involved.
A study conducted by the Insurance Research Council showed that those victims of spinal injuries who sought the assistance of a personal injury lawyer received settlements more than three times that of individuals who tried to navigate the claims process themselves.
After contacting our personal injury law office in Miami and hiring an attorney, the next step is the investigation of your accident. Your attorney may hire a private investigator (PI) to collect evidence related to your case.
The PI will question witnesses and take photos of the accident scene, while your attorney continues the discovery phase by reviewing your timeline of events and consulting with expert medical witnesses to corroborate the extent of your injuries. Our accident attorneys value confidentiality and privacy, so you can expect them to work in the background and not create any further legal issues for you to handle in your fragile state.
5. Filing a Claim
An experienced spinal cord injury attorney in Miami will file your case when they are confident that your case has been worked up enough to warrant a settlement. Many cases settle out of court with negotiations between the legal counsel and representatives of the insurance company.
This crucial point of the process requires the expertise of your accident lawyer. Leave the negotiations surrounding your settlement in the hands of a professional. Attempting to take on this phase by yourself is a mistake. Insurance companies have legal teams, and if they sense you are not using a lawyer to handle your claim, they will force delays and added protocols into the investigation of your application, delaying settlement. In a worst case scenario, the insurance company may refuse your claim outright.
6. Filing a Lawsuit
If you haven’t done so by this stage in the process, now’s the time to hire a Miami spinal cord injury attorney. If your efforts to settle with the insurance company fail, your attorney will file a lawsuit on your behalf.
The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim in the state of Florida is four years from the date of injury. If the offending party leaves Florida in an attempt to flee the situation, statutory exemptions apply. While the insurance companies may not agree to a settlement before you file a lawsuit, their attitude will considerably change when presented with the suit. Your lawyer files the case with the county circuit court where the incident took place, and they then request a summons from the Clerk of Courts to be served to the defendant. After receiving the summons, the defendant has 20 days to respond to the allegations, initiating the litigation phase of your lawsuit.
5. Settlement: Why You Need the Best Legal Representation
The settlement is the final phase of your claims process. If you hired an attorney at the start of the process, the chances are that you’ll receive a fair settlement out of court. For victims left to handle their claims in court, hiring an attorney is the best means of ensuring a favorable verdict.
Hiring a spinal cord injury attorney in Miami will help you with navigating the complicated legal environment of Florida state law surrounding personal injury claims. If a spinal cord injury leaves you paralyzed, you’ll soon learn the value of a support structure in your life. Your family and friends will help you through hard times, while your attorney is dealing with other lawyers, legal departments, insurance companies, and private investigators. They coordinate the efforts of your claim investigation and negotiate your settlement on your behalf.
Don’t hire a cheap attorney to save costs. Their inexperience will end up costing you more in time and expenses than the fees of a qualified and experienced attorney. Ensure that you exercise due diligence with any attorney you consider hiring. Choose a legal firm to provide you with the support you need to file your claim. Relax and let the professionals take care of the details while you focus on your recovery.