Spinal cord injuries can be catastrophic, often resulting in severe lifelong disability. If one of these injuries results from negligence on the part of another party, it may be worth a significant amount in damages.
Typical Damages for Spinal Cord Injuries
For extreme spinal cord injuries resulting in lifetime tetraplegia (loss of use of all four limbs), the average lifetime medical costs are estimated to be over $5 million by The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center. However, many spinal cord injuries only result in a partial loss of mobility, such as paraplegia (lost use of the legs and lower body).
On top of the medical costs of spinal cord injuries, injured parties are typically entitled to lost wages and pain and suffering, which may drive up the value of the case multiple times over.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries consist of damage to the spine, in which the spinal cord may be bruised, torn, or—in extreme cases—severed entirely. This results in either partial or complete paralysis from the injured point in the spine down.
Spinal cord injuries can be classified into four different varieties as described below.
The neck has seven vertebra (bones that surround the spinal cord) which are called the cervical vertebra. An injury to the spinal cord in this region is therefore called a cervical spinal injury, and it often results in quadriplegia/tetraplegia.
Behind the chest are the twelve thoracic vertebra where the ribs attach. Injuries to this region often affect the chest and result in paraplegia.
The vertebra between the ribcage and pelvic region are the lumbar vertebra. An injury here could limit the use of one’s legs.
The last five vertebra are the sacral vertebra, and a sacral spine injury can likewise result in lost leg and hip function.
Factors Affecting the Value of Spinal Cord Injury Lawsuits
While severe spinal cord injuries can result in large payouts, the exact value of these injuries depend on several factors, including:
- Medical expenses, including surgeries, treatments, and therapy
- Lost earning capacity and income
- Diminished quality of life
- Pain and suffering
All but the last two are considered to be economic damages that can be easily tallied up. However, pain, suffering, and diminished quality of life are difficult to quantify in concrete terms. Often, these noneconomic damages are based on the value of the economic damages in the case. Those evaluating your case typically use a multiplier method, in which your economic damages are multiplied by a number based on the severity of your pain and suffering.
For example, if your pain and suffering are considered to have a factor of four, your economic damages will be multiplied by four and added onto your total damages.
Other factors that may affect a spinal injury case include:
- Comparative negligence (if the injured party is partially responsible for the accident)
- The defendant’s ability to pay damages (such as if there are coverage limits)
- The ease of proving fault in the case
Naturally, the skill and experience of your attorney will also play a role. If you have received a spinal injury due to an accident, Hart David Carson LLP may be able to help you.