The first and most essential step in a lawsuit for incomplete spinal cord injuries is to obtain medical help shortly after the accident or incident. Next, keep a detailed record of all the information and documentation related to your case. You should then look for a lawyer with a record of handling spinal cord injury cases to guide you through the lawsuit process and maximize your potential recovery. Your spinal cord injury lawyer will conduct in-depth research to determine potentially at-fault parties and assemble evidence to prove each element of the lawsuit. Your lawyer will also open settlement talks with the relevant insurance company and file a lawsuit if necessary.
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Understanding What an Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury Is
An incomplete spinal cord injury occurs when your spinal cord sustains partial damage. This damage affects the capability of your spinal cord to transmit signals to and from the brain. As such, motor signals from the brain that trigger voluntary movement may fail to reach parts under the injury site.
Sensory signals that allow the brain to recognize touch from areas under the injury site may also fail to reach the brain. The outcome is that you might lose motor function and sensation below the injury site.
An incomplete spinal cord injury leaves some neural pathways at the injury site intact. As such, you may have some motor function or sensation in parts under your injury site. The more unaffected nerve pathways you have after an injury, the higher your chances are of recovering the lost functions.
An injury to the spinal cord may also damage all neural pathways at the injury site. This type of injury is known as complete spinal cord injury. It eliminates all the sensory or motor abilities below the injury site.
Types of Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries
These injuries fall into four main categories based on the site of the injury. These categories include:
Central Cord Syndrome
This category describes an injury to the spinal cord’s center. This catastrophic injury often causes loss of motor function and sensation at the point of injury. The impact is usually higher on the arms compared to the legs. Physical or occupational therapy can help some individuals with central cord syndrome recover some function.
Anterior Cord Syndrome
This type of injury damages the spinal cord’s front section. It typically disrupts the pain, touch, and temperature sensations. Most people with this injury can regain some motor function with physical and occupational therapy.
Posterior Cord Syndrome
This type of injury happens when the back region of the spine gets injured. It results in a loss of sense of the location of your body and its movement (proprioception). It also weakens your ability to perceive deep touch beneath your injury site. It does not affect your muscle tone, movement, and sensations of temperature, pain, and light touch.
This type of incomplete spinal cord injury refers to damage to the spinal cord’s side. It can be either the right or left side. This injury may cause loss of motor function on the same side of the injury and diminished proprioception. It may also disrupt sensations of temperature and pain on the other side of the injury, as the spinothalamic tracts intersect at the center of the spinal cord.
What Causes an Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury?
Data from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) shows that the U.S. records about 17,000 spinal cord injury cases annually. Common causes of spinal cord injuries, according to NSCISC, are as follows:
- Motor Vehicle Accidents: Vehicular accidents are the leading cause of incomplete spinal cord injuries among individuals under 65 years. They cause about 38.6% of all spinal cord injuries.
- Falls: Falls from elevated structures, or surface-level trips, slips, and falls, are the second leading cause of spinal cord injuries (SCIs). Falls cause 32.2% of all injuries to the spine.
- Violence: Acts of violence, including gunshot wounds and knife stubs, account for 14% of all injuries to the spinal cord.
- Sports/recreational activities: Sports-related or recreational activities cause about 7.8% of all SCIs.
- Medical or Surgical Errors: Mistakes associated with medical procedures or surgery contribute to 4.2% of all spine injuries.
How to File a Lawsuit for Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries
Get Prompt Medical Assistance
Start by getting medical help immediately after sustaining an incomplete spinal cord injury. Receiving a prompt medical treatment will prevent your injury from worsening over time due to bleeding, inflammation, or infection. It will also help you get your injuries documented and safeguard your rights to compensation.
Keep Detailed Records
Be sure to attend all the appointments with your doctor. The insurance company or defense lawyer could use gaps in your medical appointments to challenge the severity of your injury.
Document all the information regarding your case. This information includes new prescriptions, missed time from work, and injury-related expenses. Also, obtain medical bills, receipts, and other relevant documents and keep them safe.
Find a Lawyer
A knowledgeable spinal cord injury attorney can help you pursue the compensation necessary to adapt to lifestyle changes after sustaining an incomplete spinal cord injury. So, look for a lawyer immediately after getting discharged from the hospital. Request a loved one to help you find a lawyer if your treatment involves a lengthy hospital stay.
You generally have two years from the date of the accident to initiate a spinal cord injury lawsuit in Illinois. This filing deadline can slip away fast if you sustain a debilitating injury.
Your lawyer will start investigating your case after an initial session with you. So, ensure you provide your lawyer with all the information and documentation that can help with further investigation.
Your lawyer will review the police report, witness statements (if any), and medical records to identify potentially at-fault parties. The lawyer will also gather additional evidence and information to bolster your claim.
Initiate Settlement Talks or File a Lawsuit
Your personal injury lawyer will initiate settlement negotiations with the opposing party’s insurance company on your behalf. The lawyer will continue negotiating with the insurer while preparing to take your case to court. Your lawyer will file a lawsuit against the liable party if settlement talks fail.