Chicago Spinal Cord Injury & Paralysis Accident Lawyers
Accidental injuries affecting the spinal cord are among the most devastating that a person can experience.
When there is an injury to the spine or backbone, the body's ability to transmit information back and forth between the brain and other bodily systems is damaged, often resulting in partial or total paralysis of the limbs.
Spinal injuries can and usually do forever change a person's life.
An Illinois Spinal Cord Damage Accident Attorney can Help
The experienced Chicago personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC realize the debilitating effect paralysis has on our clients' lives. Suppose another person's negligence was responsible for your injury. In that case, our law office will work to ensure you receive rightful compensation for both the ongoing medical care you could need and the wages you might lose because of your inability to work.
Spinal cord injury victims have many special needs that will likely last for the rest of their lives. The medical costs alone can be staggering, often reaching well into the millions of dollars over a person's lifetime.
The decisions you make following a catastrophic accident involving paralysis directly impact your future physical and financial well-being.
Discuss your case during a free case evaluation with our Chicago spinal cord injury lawyers today. If we cannot resolve your personal injury case, you do not owe us any payment for our services.
Spinal Cord Injury and Paralysis Accident FAQs
Does Spinal Cord Injury Cause Paralysis?
Any shock, impact, or blunt force trauma to the spinal cord could produce a spinal shock that leads to a loss of reflexes, paralysis, or sensation. Typically, the loss of sensation appears below the area affected by the damage to the spinal column.
According to the National Institute of Health, many spinal cord injuries can cause temporary paralysis that produces associated symptoms lasting for days, weeks, or months.
What Happens if a Spinal Cord Is Injured?
Any damage to the spinal cord by blunt force trauma, medical condition, or medical malpractice can cut the communication between the body and brain. Damage to the spinal nerves restricts communication along the spinal tracts that move information to the body, including muscle movement, organ function, and reflexive moves.
What Level of Spinal Cord Injury Causes Paraplegia?
Damage to the spinal column in the lumbar region (L1 – L5) can cause temporary or permanent paralysis (paraplegia). Individuals with paraplegia often lose their lower body's physical sensation and lose sexual dysfunction, bladder, and bowel control.
Can You Walk Again After Spinal Cord Injury?
Recovering from damage because the spinal column might take weeks, months, or years to heal completely. Severe spinal cord injuries often leave patients with the inability to walk.
The doctor might recommend physical therapy to learn how to walk again. The therapy might help restore bodily function when possible.
What are the Levels of Spinal Cord Injury?
Medical professionals categorized the levels of spinal cord injury into four areas corresponding to the spinal nerves. These categories include:
- Cervical injuries at the C1 – C8 spinal vertebrae
- Thoracic injuries at the T1 – T12 spinal vertebrae
- Lumbar injuries at the L1 – L5 Spinal Vertebrae
- Sacral injuries at the S1-S5 spinal vertebrae
Typically, the injuries will result in sensory and functional problems involving the injured area.
What Organs are Affected by Spinal Cord Injury?
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), spinal cord injury could cause systemic inflammation, multiple organ dysfunction, and various complications. Spinal cord damage could cause numerous disorders, including:
- Neurogenic pain
- Lung injury
- Liver damage
- Cardiovascular disease
- Urinary tract infection
- Increased susceptibility to developing pathogen infection
Damage to the spinal column's upper areas can cause quadriplegia where the spinal cord injury affects the legs, trunk, hands, arms, and pelvic organs. Damage to the lower spinal column can cause paraplegia that affects the pelvic organs, legs, and trunk (torso).
Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries Resulting in Paralysis
According to the most recent figures published by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), there are about 17,730 new spinal injuries (SCI) cases each year in the United States, not counting injuries that result in the immediate death of the victim.
However, the National Spinal Cord Injury Association estimates this figure at a more conservative 11,000. Many of these individuals are left permanently paralyzed, and many do not ultimately survive.
Fewer than one percent of SCI victims are fully restored to their pre-injury state. There are estimated to be approximately 291,000 people in the U.S. living with spinal injury. The great majority of SCI patients—nearly eighty percent—are male.
The incidence of SCI is highest among persons aged sixteen to thirty. The leading causes of spinal cord injuries are:
- Vehicular accidents — More than thirty-nine percent of spinal injuries are sustained during an auto accident. These statistics include motorized vehicles such as car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents and boats, aircraft, ATVs, and construction equipment such as forklifts.
- Falls are the second most common cause, accounting for nearly 32 percent of SCIs. Falls have been gradually rising over the years as a percentage of SCI cases, while vehicular accidents have gradually declined.
- Acts of violence — primarily gunshot wounds
- Sports/recreational activity of all kinds, including team contact sports like football and skiing, diving, and hang gliding
About 9.2 percent of these injuries are work-related, according to NSCISC figures.
Medical and surgical complications account for a statistically small percentage of all SCIs, but this has risen from just 1.2 percent in the 1970s to 4.4 percent during 2015-2018.
This trend, along with the rising incidence of falls, is believed to be related to the aging of the U.S. population. The average age of spinal cord injury victims has gradually increased over the years, rising from twenty-nine about four decades ago to about forty-three in 2018.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC represents people with all types of spinal cord injuries suffered in motor vehicle collisions, falls, and work-related accidents. Contact our Illinois paralysis injury firm at (888) 424-5757 to discuss your case and see if we can help you recover damages for your injuries.
Any bodily trauma could result in a spinal injury. The location of the impact and the force inflicted on the spinal column determine the injury's scope and the extent to which a person can recover.
Spinal cord injuries occur when there is acute traumatic damage to the spinal column, nerve roots, or spinal cord, including the nerves at the end of the spinal canal. The damage usually causes permanent or temporary loss of motor function, sensory function, and bodily systems' autonomic function.
Beyond paralysis of limbs, SCIs can produce varying symptoms depending on the area that is injured and to what extent:
- Bladder and bowel control problems
- Impairment of sexual function and fertility
- Respiratory difficulties
- Spasms or exaggerated reflexes
- Pain from nerve damage
As a rule, the closer the SCI is to the brain, the more significant the injury. An injury to the cervical area (neck) might result in quadriplegia (also known as tetraplegia), which is defined as the inability to voluntarily move the body's upper and lower parts, including:
- Chest, abdomen, and torso
- Arms, hands, wrist, and fingers
- Legs, ankle, feet, and toes
- Shoulders, neck, and head
An injury to the back usually results in loss of function below the waist (paraplegia). Paraplegia is categorized as the inability to voluntarily move the body's lower parts, affecting the movement of the legs, feet, toes, and in some cases, the abdomen.
The medical community classifies three sections of the spinal column where SCIs occur according to their effects on the rest of the body:
Cervical – Eight vertebrae at the top of the spine (labeled C1-C8) that, when injured, can affect motor function, organ function, and sensory nerves below the top of the rib cage, resulting in quadriplegia.
Perhaps the most devastating spinal injury occurs between the C1 and C2 vertebrae, killing or paralyzing the victim. Any severe injury in this area inflicts neurological damage and deprives the brain of much-needed oxygen and blood.
Recovery from a C1-C2 fracture depends on numerous factors, including other damage or injury. Survival requires immediate treatment, including stabilizing the head to prevent further damage.
A severe injury to the cervical spine at C3 or C4 causes significant functional damage to the central nervous system. Spinal cord injury survivors will usually experience limited mobility in the neck's function that controls the head.
These patients also tend to experience breathing and swallowing difficulties and often require a ventilator. Medical researchers have yet to find an effective treatment that reverses spinal cord damage between C3 and C4, although some individuals have found restorative help through physical therapy.
Thoracic – Twelve vertebrae (T1-T12) that can impact the body's trunk and coordinate movement in the lower body when injured.
Lumbar – Five vertebrae (L1-L 5) that, when injured, impair lower body sensation, including sexual function and bladder and bowel control.
Both quadriplegia and paraplegia are classified as complete or incomplete.
- Complete — If there is no feeling or function below the injury area, the SCI is generally considered complete. This injury involves a severed spinal cord that eliminates all nerve function below the injury site. The individual might regain some abilities through medical treatment and therapy.
- Incomplete — An injury involving a partially damaged or severed spinal column, resulting in partial sensation and function below the injury site. Most SCIs are identified as partial and belonging to one of three categories that include:
- Anterior cord syndrome – An impact to the front of the spinal cord that affects sensory pathways and motor function, making muscle movement challenging due to lessened sensitivity
- Central cord syndrome – When trauma impacts the center of the spinal cord, damage to large nerve fibers can affect the transmission of signals from the brain, resulting in loss of motor control in the arms and hands and sometimes sensory loss of sexual function bowel and bladder control. Central cord syndrome is the most common form of incomplete SCI.
- 2 – A rare condition characterized by loss of movement and sensation on one side of the body resulting from an injury to one side of the spinal cord, often a puncture wound.
Incomplete quadriplegia is the most common type of SCI, according to NSCISC, accounting for over forty-seven percent of all injuries.
Spinal shock involves a temporary minimal to a total loss of reflexes and can develop after a life-threatening injury or severe trauma to the spinal cord. A severe form of this type of SCI can lead to autonomic nervous system shock.
Because this condition is typically short-lived, your doctor can usually predict the length of your recovery period.
Living With a Spinal Cord Injury
An SCI-causing event puts the patient on a long and challenging road to recovery and extensive medical bills. Most SCIs require an average 11-day stay in a hospital acute care unit and an average thirty-one day stay in a rehabilitation facility.
According to NSCISC:
"Since 2015, about 30 percent of persons with spinal cord injuries are re-hospitalized one or more times during any given year following injury. Among those, the length of hospital stays averages about nineteen days. Diseases of the genitourinary system are the leading cause of re-hospitalization, followed by disease of the skin. Respiratory, digestive, circulatory, and musculoskeletal diseases are also common causes. Spinal cord injury increases the risk of respiratory infection, chiefly pneumonia, which is currently the leading cause of death among spinal cord injury patients who survive their initial injury. Infectious and parasitic diseases, particularly septicemia, are the second most common cause of mortality.”
Spinal cord injuries create immediate life-changing consequences on both physical and financial levels. You will need access to extensive, ongoing medical treatments and therapies.
Your medical and physical therapy teams will need to work together to help you adapt to your changed abilities. Over time, an SCI can lead to other severe medical conditions, including:
- Bone loss
- Cardiovascular issues
- Bowel/bladder disorders
- Pressure ulcers
- Muscle atrophy
- Anxiety and depression associated with adjusting to the illness
In recent decades, there has been a notable improvement in the level of care provided to spinal cord injury patients due to a more comprehensive understanding of SCI issues. Economically, the lasting impact of spinal cord injuries often results in a drastically diminished ability to work and substantial lifetime medical expenses.
Only seventy percent of SCI patients have returned to employment one year after their injury. A spinal cord injury's overall costs over a person's lifetime vary greatly depending upon the nature of the impairment and the victim's pre-injury education and employment history.
In 2018 dollars, it is expected that a person who develops quadriplegia at the age of 25 will incur over $5 million in healthcare and living costs during their lifetime, not counting lost wages, while 50-year-old suffering the same injury will have over $2.7 million in lifetime expenses.
A 25-year-old paraplegic will incur $2.45 million and a 50-year-old paraplegic $1.6 million in lifetime costs.
People With SCIs can Lead Fulfilling Lives
While a spinal cord injury dramatically and permanently changes the victim's life and that of their loved ones, a trained medical team's services can go a long way toward helping a survivor enjoy an improved quality of life, one that involves a fulfilling work and home life and even recreational activities.
With realistic goals and access to the best medical care, medicine, and equipment along with a strong support network, the survivor can enjoy life, have relationships and children, and participate in many routine activities.
Many SCI patients can even continue to drive a motor vehicle and resume some of their other prior activities, with certain modifications.
You might need to make adjustments to avoid problems associated with bowel and bladder complications, chronic pain, inability to regulate blood pressure, and respiratory difficulties. But with a specialized care team, you can regain some degree of normalcy.
Paying for Your Continuing Needs and Care
The costs associated with living with a spinal cord injury can appear overwhelming. At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC, our personal injury attorneys are committed to helping make your life easier and significantly more fulfilling.
Our team of legal experts recognizes that your SCI has dramatically altered your way of life, and we prosecute spinal cord injury cases on behalf of our clients, including those caused by motor vehicle accidents, motorcycle accidents, defective products, car accidents, trucking accidents, medical malpractice, bicycle crashes, and industrial accidents.
Our Chicago personal injury attorneys have access to critical resources and regularly consult with leading rehabilitation neurosurgeons, physical therapists, psychologists, and medical experts to ensure you receive the best spinal cord injury treatment and therapy.
Our law firm will coordinate every available local resource to assist you with your long-term daily needs, including medical, housing, and transportation. Our legal team will seek compensation for you by building a case to present before a court.
Our comprehensive understanding of state tort law and success in litigation will ensure you receive adequate financial compensation from recovering your past medical expenses, ongoing costs, and payment for future services that last as long as the symptoms and limitations of your severe injury.
Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation case consultation. Let our team put our experience and access to resources to work for you in building a better and more fulfilling future.
We receive no payment for our legal services until after we have successfully resolved your case through a negotiated out-of-court settlement or in a jury trial award.
How is Spinal Cord Injury Diagnosed?
When a spinal cord injury is suspected, immediate medical attention is required. SCI is usually first diagnosed when the patient presents with loss of function below the level of injury.
Signs and Symptoms of Possible SCI:
- Extreme pain or pressure in the neck, head, or back
- Tingling or loss of sensation in the hand, fingers, feet, or toes
- Partial or complete loss of control over any part of the body
- Urinary or bowel urgency, incontinence, or retention
- Difficulty with balance and walking
- Abnormal band-like sensations in the chest area accompanied by pain or pressure
- Impaired breathing
- Unusual lumps on the head or spine
When patients complain of neck pain, are not fully conscious, or have apparent weakness or other neurological injury signs, the cervical spine must be kept in a rigid collar until appropriate radiological studies are completed.
The radiological diagnosis of SCI has traditionally begun with X-rays of the patient’s entire spine. Patients with a suspected SCI might also receive both a CT scan and MRI of the spine.
Even after all radiological tests have been performed, it might be advisable for a patient to wear a collar for some time.
Where Can I Receive SCI Rehabilitation Services in Chicago, Illinois?
Spinal cord injury patients in the greater Chicago area have access to several world-class rehabilitative treatment facilities.
Shirley Ryan Ability Lab Midwest Regional SCI Care System
355 East Erie
Chicago, IL 60611
Northwestern Memorial Hospital Rehabilitation Services
Lavin Family Pavilion
259 E Erie
Chicago, IL 60611
Advocate Christ Hospital Medical Center Spine Care Center
4440 W 95th Street
Oak Lawn, IL 60453
Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital
1401 S California
Chicago, IL 60608
Shriners Hospital for Children
2211 N Oak Park Ave
Chicago, IL 60635
Hines VA Hospital
5000 South 5th Avenue
Hines, IL 60414
Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital
26 W 171 Roosevelt Road
Wheaton, IL 60187
Rockford Memorial Hospital Physical Therapy Department
2300 N Rockton Ave
Rockford, IL 61103
Memorial Medical Center
800 N Rutledge
Springfield, IL 62781
What Kind of Compensation can I Receive for my Spinal Cord Accident Cases?
The lasting impact of spinal cord accidents usually results in the patient's inability to return to work, the need for significant modifications to their daily routine, and substantial medical expenses. The Chicago paralysis injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC enlist the services of vocational experts, medical experts, and economists to help in the calculation of damages in cases involving paralysis and spinal cord injury.
Your case's monetary value depends on the severity of your injuries and the extent of your damages. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC can review your case to determine your claim's worth if filed against every potentially responsible party.
Our personal injury lawyers will calculate your case's value based on the circumstances surrounding the accident, your need for future medical care, and how your injuries have altered your daily living activities.
How Long do I Have to File an Illinois Paralysis Injury Lawsuit?
Illinois generally gives victims of all types of personal injury two years from the date they become aware of their injury to file their claims (735 ILCS 5/13-202). That period might be extended if the injured party is a minor.
It is critically important to consult an attorney as soon as possible after a catastrophic accident so that he or she can protect your future recovery should you decide to sue. Your attorney can help you identify the amount of time you have left to seek monetary compensation from all persons and entities responsible for your damages.
The paralysis injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC work aggressively to ensure that accident victims receive the maximum compensation possible under the law. Call our offices today to see what you can recover from a paralysis injury lawsuit.
What are Some Sample Illinois Paralysis Accident Settlements and Verdicts?
$6.35 MILLION SETTLEMENT, Cook County, IL A 72-year-old man was rendered quadriplegic with limited arm movement after paramedics treated him after a fall downstairs allegedly failed to “collar or board” him to hold them steady during transport. Doctors intubated and sedated the victim at the hospital but did not “collar” him for several hours.
He underwent cervical surgery but developed quadriplegia. Allegedly, had he been collared sooner, the damage would have been limited. The City of Chicago paid $350,000, and an undisclosed hospital's insurance company paid $6 million.
$25 MILLION SETTLEMENT, Cook County, IL The 43-year-old company CEO/president sustained cervical fractures and spinal damage and developed quadriplegia when he fell approximately thirty feet from a chartered yacht’s top deck to the swim deck platform below.
In a product liability action, he alleged that the yacht, manufactured by Brunswick Boat Group, a division of Brunswick Corporation, lacked adequate safety railings, barriers, and warnings.
$115 MILLION SETTLEMENT, Cook County, IL A 24-year-old dance student was paralyzed after a 750-pound pedestrian shelter at O'Hare Airport collapsed on top of her during a storm. The accident severed her spine, causing paralysis below the waist, severe chronic neuropathic pain, and bowel/bladder dysfunction ($985,411 past medical expense).
After a trial jury awarded the plaintiff over $148 million, the parties settled for $115 million, believed to be the highest settlement ever reported for an individual plaintiff in Cook County. AIG Aviation paid the settlement for the City of Chicago.
$35 MILLION AWARD, Cook County, IL The defendant’s vehicle struck a 30-year-old motorcyclist while making a left turn out of a gas station on Waukegan Road in Northbrook.
The plaintiff sustained a burst fracture of the L-5 vertebra, transverse process fracture at L3-4, and a fracture-dislocation at T11-12 with complete spinal cord injury, dual laceration, and bone penetration into the spinal cord. His injuries left him permanently paralyzed below the waist.
The accident victim underwent spinal surgery, and two urological surgeries ($746,630 past medical expenses, $7.23 million future medical and caretaking expenses). The plaintiff asserted that the defendant failed to yield the right of way while exiting the gas station and further that she was acting within the course and scope of her employment with Allstate and Kelly Services at the time of the crash.
A jury found the defendant driver one hundred percent liable while rejecting liability for Allstate and Kelly Services.
$12.5 MILLION AWARD, Chicago, IL A 47-year-old teacher sustained a C-6 fracture with an incomplete spinal cord injury after her car collided with the defendant's semi-truck as the truck made a left turn at an intersection. During litigation, the parties stipulated that the plaintiff was 30 percent at fault for failing to slow down on a yellow light.
The plaintiff regained some ability to walk but suffers ongoing bladder and bowel control difficulties, neuropathic pain, weakness, spasticity, abnormal gait, and requires assistance with daily activities.
The verdict of $17.9 million for past and future medical expenses, past and future, lost earnings, loss of ordinary life, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium for the plaintiff's spouse was reduced by thirty percent contributory negligence. The insurance company paid the award for the trucking company.
Get Help From Skilled Chicago Paralysis Injury Attorneys
If you or your loved one has sustained a spinal cord injury in an accident or due to medical negligence, contact our Illinois spinal cord injury lawyers for a free consultation to discuss your options. Our Chicago personal injury attorneys have years of experience in providing legal advice and resolving complicated cases.
We offer a no-fee guarantee: If we cannot resolve your case for you, our services are free. Contact our law firm today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or through the contact form to schedule a free consultation.
All discussions with our Chicago personal injury lawyers remain confidential through an attorney-client relationship. Our accident injury lawyers handle personal injury claims involving truck accidents, wrongful death, fall accidents, workers' compensation benefits, and catastrophic injuries.