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. This can and usually does forever change a person’s life.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC realizes the debilitating effect that a paralysis injury has on the lives of our clients, and if another person’s negligence was responsible for your spinal cord injury, we 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 spinal cord accident involving paralysis have a direct impact on your future physical and financial well-being. We invite you to discuss your case with our Chicago spinal cord injury lawyers today without any cost or obligation to you. If we represent you, we will only earn a legal fee upon a successful resolution of your case.
Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injury 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 cord injury (SCI) cases each year in the United States, not counting injuries that result in 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 cord injury. The great majority of SCI patients—nearly 80 percent—are male. The incidence of SCI is highest among persons aged 16 to 30.
The leading causes of spinal cord injuries are:
- Vehicular accidents — More than 39 percent of spinal cord injuries are sustained during an accident involving a vehicle. These statistics include not only motorized vehicles such as cars and motorcycles but bicycle accidents as well, in addition to boats, aircraft, ATVs, and even 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 not only team contact sports like football but 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 are believed to be related to the aging of the U.S. population.
In fact, the average age of SCI victims has gradually increased over the years, rising from 29 four decades ago to about 43 in 2018.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC represents people with all types of SCIs suffered in motor vehicle collisions, falls, work-related accidents and other types of professional negligence. Contact our Illinois paralysis injury firm to discuss your case and see if we can help you recover damages for your injuries.
Any type of bodily trauma can result in injury to the spinal cord. The location of the impact as well as the force inflicted on the spinal column determine the scope of injury and to what extent 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 autonomic function of bodily systems.
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 general rule, the closer the SCI is to the brain, the more significant the injury. An injury to the cervical area (neck) may result in quadriplegia (also known as tetraplegia), which is defined as the inability to voluntarily move the body’s upper and lower parts including the chest, arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, and toes, and in some cases, 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 movement of the legs, feet, toes, and in some cases, the abdomen.
- 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.
- Thoracic – Twelve vertebrae (T1-T12) that when injured can impact the body’s main trunk and coordinating movement in the lower body.
- Lumbar – Five vertebrae (L1-L 5) that when injured impair lower body sensation including sexual function and bladder and bowel control.
Perhaps the most devastating spinal cord injury is one that occurs between the C1 and C2 vertebrae, which either kills the individual or leaves them fully paralyzed. Any serious 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. Patients who survive this type of injury will usually experience limited mobility in the function of the neck 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.
Both quadriplegia and paraplegia are classified as complete or incomplete.
- Complete — If there is no feeling or function below the area of injury, the SCI is generally considered complete. This injury involves a severed spinal cord that eliminates all nerve function below the injury site. The individual may 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 and bowel and bladder control. This is the most common form of incomplete SCI.
- Brown-Sequard syndrome – 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 47 percent of all injuries.
Spinal shock involves a temporary minimal to 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. Most SCIs require an average 11-day stay in a hospital acute care unit and an average 31-day stay in a rehabilitation facility.
According to NSCISC:
“Since 2015, about 30 percent of persons with SCI are re-hospitalized one or more times during any given year following injury. Among those, the length of hospital stay averages about 19 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 SCI 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 serious 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 SCI patients as the result of a more comprehensive understanding of the issues associated with SCI.
Economically, the lasting impact of spinal cord injuries often results in a drastically diminished ability to work and substantial lifetime medical expenses.
Only 17 percent of SCI patients have returned to employment one year after their injury.
The overall costs of an SCI 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 becomes quadriplegic at the age of 25 will incur over $5 million in healthcare and living costs during their lifetime, not counting lost wages, while a 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 an SCI dramatically and permanently changes the victim’s life and that of their loved ones, the services of a trained medical team 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 normal 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, our 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 crashes, defective products, trucking accidents, medical malpractice, bicycle crashes, and industrial accidents.
Our paralysis 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 that can 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 to recover 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 SCI 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 when they have obvious weakness or other signs of neurological injury, 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 entire spine. Patients with a suspected SCI may also receive both a CT scan and MRI of the spine. Even after all radiological tests have been performed, it may be advisable for a patient to wear a collar for a period of time.
Where can I Receive SCI Rehabilitation Services in Illinois?
SCI patients in the greater Chicago area have access to a number of world-class rehabilitative treatment facilities.
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab
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 Injury?
The lasting impact of spinal cord injuries 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 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.
The monetary value of your case depends on the severity of your injuries and the extent of your damages. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can review your case to determine the worth of your claim if filed against every potentially responsible party. Our attorney will calculate the value of your case based on the circumstances surrounding the accident, your need for future medical care, and how your injuries have altered your activities of daily living.
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 may be extended if the injured party is a minor. This is why it is critically important to consult an attorney as soon as possible after an accident so that he or she can protect your future recovery should you decide to file an action. Your attorney can help you identify the amount of time you have left to seek monetary compensation.
The paralysis injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC work aggressively to ensure that accident victims receive the greatest 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 who treated him after a fall down stairs allegedly failed to collar or board him before transport. At the hospital, he was intubated and sedated but not collared for several hours. He underwent cervical surgery but was rendered quadriplegic. Allegedly, had he been collared sooner, the damage would have been limited. The City of Chicago paid $350,000 and an undisclosed hospital paid $6 million.
$25 MILLION SETTLEMENT
Cook County, IL
The 43-year-old president and CEO of a company sustained cervical fractures and spinal damage that rendered him quadriplegic when he fell approximately 30 feet from the top deck of a chartered yacht to the swim deck platform below. He alleged in a product liability action 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, severing her spine and causing paralysis below the waist, severe chronic neuropathic pain, and bladder and bowel 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. The settlement was paid by AIG Aviation for the City of Chicago.
$35 MILLION AWARD
Cook County, IL
A 30-year-old motorcyclist was struck by the defendant’s vehicle as it made 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, dural laceration, and bone penetration into the spinal cord, leaving him permanently paralyzed below the waist. He underwent spinal surgery and two urological surgeries ($746,630 past medical expenses, $7.23 million future medical and caretaking expenses). The plaintiff asserted that 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 100 percent liable while rejecting liability for Allstate and Kelly.
$12.5 MILLION AWARD
Cook County, 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. The parties stipulated during litigation 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 normal life, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium for plaintiff’s spouse was reduced by 30 percent for contributory negligence.
Where can I Find More Resources About Spinal Cord Injury?
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 spinal cord injury attorneys offer no-obligation consultations at your home or hospital room. We offer a no-fee guarantee: If we cannot get a recovery for you, then our services are free. Contact our office today.