Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are often life-altering and very expensive to treat. Many people who experience them often struggle to carry out their normal daily activities. A disabling SCI can also result in lifelong medical treatment, chronic pain, and physical impairments. For all these reasons, if you’ve suffered an SCI due to another party’s negligence, you are legally entitled to pursue compensation for your losses.
At Domingo Garcia, we understand the struggles you face daily. Our firm’s primary goal is to fight for fair compensation for the many expenses and personal losses that result from spinal cord injuries. Our Odessa spinal cord injury lawyers can handle the complex claims process so you can focus on your recovery and moving forward in your life.
How an Odessa Spinal Cord Injury Attorney Can Help
Our personal injury attorneys are committed to pursuing the full compensation you need to pay for all your injury-related expenses and losses. To do so, we will handle all the complex and time-intensive tasks required to determine who is liable and for how much they should compensate you, including:
Investigating Your Accident
We will thoroughly investigate your case and collect evidence to identify all factors that led to your spinal cord injury.
Evaluating Your Damages
We’ll review your medical records and confer with medical experts to understand the exact nature and severity of your spine injury. We’ll also examine its present and potential future impact on your ability to engage in everyday life and earn a living.
Identifying the Liable Party(s)
We will determine which persons or entities can be held responsible for your injuries. These depend on your accident’s specific circumstances, and sometimes multiple parties are involved.
Seeking Fair Compensation for Your Losses
We will handle negotiations with insurance companies and demand compensation on your behalf. We’ll do our best to secure a settlement for you without going to court.
Filing a Lawsuit
If the insurance company doesn’t agree to a reasonable settlement, we can help you pursue legal action against them and represent you in court.
What Damages Can You Recover for an Odessa Spinal Cord Injury?
SCI survivors might be entitled to significant compensation if they were injured in an accident to the negligence of another party. Recoverable damages are quantifiable losses that may include the following:
- Medical costs, including emergency care, hospitalization, surgeries, rehab, adaptive equipment, etc.
- Nursing homes and assisted care facilities
- Home accessibility accommodations, such as wheelchair ramps
- Lost wages due to taking time off work
- Diminished earning capacity
- Physical pain and suffering
- Temporary or permanent disability
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Mental anguish
- Loss of quality or enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
According to Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.003, you generally have to file your personal injury lawsuit within two years from the date your injury occurred or was discovered, whichever comes first. Under Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 33.001, you can recover damages if you are not found more than 50% at fault. However, your compensation will be reduced proportionately if you are found partially at fault for your injuries.
Medical treatment for severe SCIs is extremely expensive. If you don’t have the funds to cover treatment costs or comprehensive health insurance, you may feel pressure to accept lower-quality medical assistance and care.
If you pursue a lawsuit for your injuries, however, you may recover damages to compensate for costly medical procedures or rehabilitative services. An Odessa spinal cord injury attorney can help you identify and calculate the value of all your current and future medical and financial losses.
Wrongful Death Compensation
Family members who lost a loved one in an accident due to a spinal cord injury may be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the liable party(s). The claim must be filed within two years of the decedent’s passing.
Example of a Domingo Garcia Wrongful Death Settlement
Ramon G, a client of Domingo Garcia, was fatally injured when the front driver’s wheel of a construction vehicle fell into a two-by-two foot hole. The contractor who dug the hole failed to place caution tape or signs around it or attempt to cover it. As a result, the lift fell on the driver’s side and impacted a wall brace that was set up. Ramon’s head struck the concrete while his co-workers watched in terror, unable to help.
This wrongful death was caused by the defendant’s gross negligence, intentional misconduct, and omission. Attorney Garcia was successful in helping this family settle for $900,000. After all bills, medical expenses, and attorney fees were paid, the family received a net amount of $451,931.
The family also received workers compensation benefits. This recovery was in addition to the workers compensation benefits and was solely for punitive damages under the Texas Workers Compensation statute (plug in a link to Texas Labor Code 408.001(b)
Can I Recover Damages for Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation?
If you are pursuing compensation for an SCI, you are entitled to seek damages to cover the costs of various rehabilitation treatments and specialists, such as the following:
- Physical and occupational therapists
- Speech and language pathologists
- Psychiatrists and psychologists
- Vocational rehabilitation counselors
- Physical medicine and rehabilitation (physiatrist)
- Social workers
- Rehabilitation nurses
Can I Recover Damages for Spinal Cord Injury Diagnostic Testing?
You will probably have to undergo several tests to diagnose and determine the severity of your spinal cord injuries. You can seek compensation for out-of-pocket costs related to any of the following standard tests and more:
X-rays are commonly used to identify vertebral problems, fractures, or degenerative changes.
Computerized Tomography (CT) Scans
A CT scan may be performed after an X-ray so doctors can more closely examine abnormalities and determine precisely where the spinal cord injury occurred.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRIs use imaging technology to create detailed images of bodily organs and tissue. MRIs have become increasingly common in emergency settings and are often used for their superior resolution compared to CT scans.
In addition to diagnostic tests, neurological exams may be performed to help determine the impact of the injury.
How Much do Spinal Cord Injuries Cost?
According to the Dana and Christopher Reeve Foundation, the average annual price of living expenses and medical care related to spinal cord injuries are as follows:
- High quadriplegia: $1.17 million
- Low quadriplegia: $840,676
- Paraplegia: $567,011
- Any level of motor function: $379,698
- High quadriplegia: $202,032
- Low quadriplegia: $123,938
- Paraplegia: $75,112
- Any level of motor function: $46,119
Estimated lifetime costs*
- High quadriplegia: $3.58 million
- Low quadriplegia: $3.05 million
- Paraplegia: $2.05 million
- Motor functional at any level $1.45 million
*Average lifetime costs of injured 25 and 50-year-olds
How Odessa Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers Prove Negligence in SCI Cases
SCIs can happen for numerous reasons, and recovering compensation for an SCI will depend on your unique circumstances. For example, if a motor vehicle crash caused your SCI, this may have resulted from another driver’s negligence. Therefore, to pursue compensation from the driver at fault for your injuries, you must prove their negligence and liability by establishing the following:
- Duty of care: All drivers owe a duty of care to act with enough caution to reasonably avoid harming other drivers with whom they share the road. For example, each driver has the legal duty not to drive while intoxicated because this endangers others.
- Breach of duty: Your attorney must then prove that the other driver breached this duty by driving recklessly or negligently. When a driver breaches this duty, they generally also violate a traffic law—e.g., driving drunk, speeding, texting on a cell phone, etc.
- Causation: Your attorney must demonstrate that you would not have been injured if not for the other driver’s negligent actions. In other words, if another driver injured you, you must prove that the particular breach of duty directly led to your injuries.
- Damages: Finally, you and your attorney must prove that you incurred quantifiable losses due to the accident and subsequent injuries.
Duties of care can apply to different parties in varying degrees. Therefore, your attorney must show that this duty applied to the other driver in your case. However, it is often easier to establish a duty of care than the other three elements stated above.
When asserting these elements in a claim, be prepared for the other driver’s attorney or insurance company to attempt to refute your claim. Indeed, they may try to shift blame by arguing that your injuries already existed or were caused by your own actions, those of another driver, or poor roadway conditions.
Medical Malpractice and the Medical Standard of Care
A malpractice claim is based on the negligent actions of a healthcare professional, such as a surgeon, doctor, nurse, or therapist. Healthcare professionals have the ordinary duty of care, but they must also meet specific standards set by the medical community and state and federal laws. Substandard treatment by a healthcare professional could be grounds for a medical malpractice claim.
While the standards of care vary between medical professions, for a malpractice claim involving an SCI, your claim must always prove that:
- Your doctor breached or violated a standard of medical care, likely evidenced by negligence, such as performing the wrong surgery.
- That violation or negligence caused your injury.
- Your injury resulted in monetizable damages.
In some medical malpractice cases, more than one party might be held responsible, such as the surgeon who injured you and the hospital in which you were treated.
Consulting With Experts to Help Establish Liability in a Spinal Cord Injury Case
Your attorney may consult with expert witnesses to gain testimony supporting your case. Statements from the following expert witnesses, such as doctors, police officers, and accident reconstructionists, can help you establish the other party’s liability and solidify your claim. Other experts might include the following:
Vocational Rehab Counselors
A vocational rehabilitation counselor specializes in helping persons with physical and mental disabilities seek employment and improve their lives. As expert witnesses, they can diagnose and testify to the extent of your injuries, suffering, and capacity to function in the workplace.
Economists or Accountants
An economist or an accountant is an expert witness who can serve on your behalf to evaluate the extent of your financial losses following the accident and in the future. The testimony of a financial expert can be a crucial component to recovering the compensation you deserve.
Life Care Planners
A life care planner is an expert who assists permanently disabled individuals plan out their future. As an expert witness, a life care planner can assess the extent of your disability and determine what kind of future care and resources you will need. Their testimony can serve as vital proof that supports a claim demanding future compensation.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries?
In general, SCIs result from activity that damages the cord or bundle of nerve strands that the spinal column, or backbone, protects. The nerve cord in the spine is responsible for communicating signals from the brain throughout the rest of the body. Spinal cord damage typically results from a traumatic injury to the spine or a disease or condition.
Powerful, traumatic impacts on the spine can cause the bones (vertebrae) to dislocate or break, shearing the nerves underneath. In addition, damaged vertebrae can swell, putting pressure on the nerves, which can, in turn, cause intense pain and further damage the nerves.
Traumatic SCIs are relatively uncommon, representing only about 54 individuals per one million people in the U.S. annually. However, these injuries are more prone to happen in certain situations.
Automobile and Motorcycle Accidents
The most common cause of SCIs of all types is motor vehicle accidents. Cars and trucks weigh thousands of pounds and drive at high speeds, meaning accidents exert tremendous force on victims’ bodies. This is especially true for motorcyclists, who have no external shell to protect them at all.
Of all reported SCIs in the U.S. between 2015 and 2020, vehicular crashes caused 38.6%, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistic Center (NSCISC). The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reports 2,597 motor vehicle accidents in 2021 in Odessa alone. And sadly, the International Association of Traffic Safety Services (IATSS) notes that motorcyclists are much more likely to suffer injuries in traffic accidents and be more severely affected by them than occupants of other vehicles.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Slips, trips, and falls comprise a broad category that accounted for 32.2% of SCIs reported by the NSCISC. These accidents include:
- Same-level slips or trips
- Stairway mishaps
- Falling out of structures or buildings
- Bathroom or shower slips
- Falling from ladders
- Falling out of trees
- Rolling out of bed
- Slipping on ice or snow
Of note, elderly individuals aged 65 or older are much more likely to be injured and killed in slips, trips, and falls, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that slips, trips, and falls cause most workplace or occupational injuries. Overall, they comprise a significant portion of the total number of SCIs in this category and disproportionately affect men.
Regrettably, the third leading cause of SCIs in the U.S. from 2015 to 2020 was gunshot or knife wounds, according to the NSCISC. Specifically, violent attacks accounted for 14% of all SCIs during this period.
Gunshot and knife wounds from the front or back can inflict massive trauma on the area they impact. Moreover, any violent injury close to the spinal cord can directly sever the spinal cord or cause the site to swell or become infected.
Sports and Recreational Injuries
This category of SCIs is also broad and affects younger individuals more often. Altogether, the NSCISC reports that sports and recreational injuries accounted for nearly 8% of 2015–2020 SCIs. These kinds of injuries are most commonly due to:
- Diving in shallow water
- ATV and dirt bike crashes
- Injuries while playing ball sports (football, baseball, basketball, volleyball, soccer, etc.)
- Snow skiing, snowmobiling, and other winter sports accidents
- Horseback and rodeo falls
- Water skiing and surfing accidents (particularly boat strikes)
- Wrestling accidents
- Trampoline falls
- Gymnastic accidents
Tragically, these injuries tend to occur in the neck rather than in the lower parts of the spine. Consequently, sports and recreational injuries result in higher rates of quadriplegia. In 2018, there were over 3,000 sports-related neck injuries. And although they are rarely due to another party’s negligence, they can be in certain circumstances. For example, defective gym equipment could fail during use.
Surgical or Medical Errors
Spinal surgery is highly complicated and risky. Unfortunately, permanent damage can occur if the surgeon accidentally nicks the spinal cord during surgery intended to fix other spinal issues. Poor or negligent medical care following spinal surgery may also lead to SCIs. Medical mistakes account for just over 4% of all spine injuries, according to the NSCISC.
Some diseases or conditions attack either the bones of the spine or the nerves directly. Medical conditions that can affect the spinal cord include:
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Degenerative disc disease
- Herniated discs
- Lyme disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Spinal stenosis
- Vertebral tumors
Spinal Cord Injuries: Types and Severity
An SCI can result in many common and painful problems, including herniated discs and degenerative disc disease. However, many injuries are much more severe and result in long-lasting or permanent impairments and loss of mobility.
The “neurological level” is the lowest spinal cord section that remains intact after an injury, according to Mayo Clinic. There are four spinal cord sections, and each protects different nerves that control the body. As such, the areas affected by spinal cord injuries often depend on the section damaged and include:
Cervical Spinal Cord Injuries
These affect the neck and the head region above the shoulders. These are typically the most severe spinal cord injuries and may result in whole-body paralysis, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS).
Thoracic Spinal Cord Injuries
These affect the upper chest, abdominal muscles, and middle back and commonly result in paralysis of the lower half of the body.
Lumbar Spinal Cord Injuries
These affect the hips and legs and can result in some loss of function in these areas.
Sacral Spinal Cord Injuries
These can affect the hips, buttocks, thighs, and pelvic organs and generally cause loss of function in the hips and legs.
Unfortunately, damage to the spinal cord can cause temporary or permanent paralysis in all or part of the body. The type and extent of paralysis depend on the location and severity of the SCI. Specifically, anything below the site of the injury that completely severs the spinal cord will be paralyzed.
SCI-related paralytic conditions include the following:
Cleveland Clinic notes that paraplegia is a form of paralysis in which a person cannot move or feel the lower half of their body. This condition results from an injury to the lower part of the spinal cord. Furthermore, individuals with paraplegia still retain the use of their arms and torso and typically use a wheelchair.
Quadriplegia (aka tetraplegia) is the most severe form of paralysis. It causes a person to lose movement and sensation in all four limbs and torso. This condition results from an injury to the upper portion of the spinal cord—most often from a broken neck. Overall, quadriplegic individuals require much more care and oversight than paraplegic individuals.
Other forms of paralysis include monoplegia and hemiplegia. A person with monoplegia loses function and sensation in only one limb. A hemiplegic person is similarly affected but on one whole side of their body. Both forms usually result from damage but not total severance of the spinal cord in different areas.
Complete vs. Incomplete Paralysis
There are two types of paralysis depending on the spine injury’s severity:
- Complete: All muscle control is lost and sensation. A completely severed spinal cord will cause complete paralysis of one form or another.
- Incomplete: There is still some motor or sensory function in varying degrees below the affected area of the spinal cord, which is not severed but compressed or injured.
Work With an Odessa Spinal Cord Injury Attorney Today
If you are living with a spinal cord injury that resulted from another’s negligence, we want to help you recover fair compensation from the liable party. Our spinal cord injury attorneys are ready to review your claim and advise you of your legal options.
At the Domingo Garcia, we will ensure you are heard, treated with respect, and boldly represented. Please contact us as soon as possible for a free, confidential consultation.