In our everyday conversation, we often use the term “backbone” to refer to the characteristic of strength or fortitude or to a central structure from which other branches sprout. These definitions are certainly aptly applied to the human backbone, or spine, because so many of the functions of the entire body are dependent on it.
Steve Heisler, The Injury Lawyer, knows that when an accident victim has sustained a spinal injury, it’s going to take concentrated effort to obtain adequate compensation for the person’s life-altering trauma. Steve is a compassionate and experienced personal injury lawyer who has been helping those in the Baltimore and D.C. areas for nearly three decades. Call (410) 625-4878 if you need a competent legal advocate after a spine injury.
Parts of the Spine
Running from the skull down to the tailbone, the spine contains bone, nerves, and cartilage. A blow or twist to the back can damage one or several of the units comprising the spine.The mental image we usually associate with the spine is a long, curving series of small bones.
These bones provide a channel and protection for the spinal cord, which acts as the conduit for carrying messages from the brain (see also: brain injuries) to other parts of the body. In between the vertebrae are cartilage disks which allow the spine to flex without damage to the bones. And finally, to support the whole assembly, there are muscles and ligaments.
In keeping with its importance, the spine is a complex arrangement, and an accident which damages any part of it can cause pain, disability, paralysis or death.
Injuries to the Spinal Cord
The most frequent cause of spinal cord injury (SCI) is motor vehicle accidents. According to the Mayo Clinic, more than 35 percent of the spinal cord injuries each year result from car, truck and motorcycle accidents.
The next leading cause of SCI is falls, usually in the elderly. Violent attacks and athletic or recreational injuries also contribute to the total of new spinal cord injuries each year in the U.S., a total amounting to about 12,000 new cases annually. Birth injuries can also affect the spine, usually in the neck area.
A person who has experienced a spinal cord injury may have suffered a complete SCI or an incomplete SCI. Complete SCI results in complete paraplegia or complete quadriplegia. With paraplegia, the person loses sensation and movement in the legs, bowel, bladder and sexual function, but arms and hands are not affected. Quadriplegia involves the loss of hand and arm movement as well and may result in the need for a ventilator to assist in breathing. If the SCI is incomplete, there is a loss of some movement and/or feeling.
The type and severity of the SCI determine the degree of impairment and potential for rehabilitation. Generally, disability is worst for those whose trauma occurred to the upper area of the spine. For example, injury at the C2-C3 level in the upper region is usually fatal because of inability to breathe; if the victim survives, he or she will forever be totally dependent on others for all care. On the other hand, those who suffer injury at the T1-T6 area may be rehabilitated to be independent, use a wheelchair and work full time.
Other Spinal Injuries
Not all spine injuries involve the spinal cord. The vertebrae may be dislocated or fractured without damaging the spinal cord. When back bones are broken, surgical procedures may be required, often involving the use of metal screws, rods and cages to stabilize the spine. Complications can arise during or after the surgery, including the leakage of spinal fluid.
Sudden force or jerking can damage the cushions, or disks, between vertebrae. Herniated disks cause pain, numbness, muscle weakness and often affect the sciatic nerve going down the back of the leg. A common injury in car accidents, whiplash causes neck and back pain, headaches and other symptoms that may last for years.
Costs Associated with Spine Injuries
First, of course, there are going to be medical bills, and these are likely to be astronomical. According to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, the average expense for a patient with C1-C4 tetraplegia is $1,023,924 in the first year after the injury and $171,808 each subsequent year. Even less severe injuries can cost hundreds of thousands per year.
In addition to doctor and hospital charges, a person who has suffered a spine injury is likely to require one or more of the following:
- Assistance with feeding, dressing, toileting, etc.
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Respiratory therapy
- Durable equipment and assistive devices
- Psychological counseling.
Depending on the severity and duration of the disability, the patient may require an acute, subacute or long-term rehabilitation program in a nursing home, an assisted living facility or a transitional living program and may benefit from day-treatment options.
The patient’s family will suffer from the loss of his or her income, both present and future, and they may require household assistance and counseling in order to bear the burden of care pressed upon them.
Spine Injuries in Maryland and D.C.
At the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler, we understand the enormous financial and emotional ramifications of a spine injury. When the injury was due to the negligence of a motorist, a manufacturer, a property owner or an employer, we work diligently with medical experts and life-care planners to determine the projected lifetime cost of a spine injury. Then we pursue full and fair compensation from the responsible parties, whether that takes a jury trial or can be accomplished through settlement negotiations.
Whether your accident occurred in Maryland or in the District of Columbia, Baltimore spinal cord injury attorney Steve Heisler will provide experienced and thorough legal representation. Initial consultations are always free, and you will owe no fees unless and until Steve is successful in obtaining compensation for your injuries. Use the online contact form or call (410) 625-4878 for more information about how Steve Heisler can help your family.