Being injured and diagnosed with a spinal cord injury is a defining moment. Suddenly, your entire future seems much more uncertain, as one of the essential aspects of a good life—your own body—may no longer support the hopes and dreams you once had. A whole new set of needs may dominate your lifestyle and, with it, the course of your life.
A lot can happen after a single, blink-of-an-eye injury caused by another’s wanton negligence, and you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to pursue maximum damages from the liable party. A dedicated personal injury law firm is essential to recovering the true cost of your spinal cord injuries while you focus on your medical care. Reach out to a spinal cord injury lawyer.
There’s a lot to do, from compiling evidence of the accident and proving fault to communicating with the insurance company and accounting for the total costs associated with your injury. You don’t have to go it alone; the right allies can reduce the burden and improve the outcome for you and your family. Of course, one of the defining factors in pursuing compensation for your spinal cord injury is determining how much your losses are worth.
How a Spinal Cord Injury Lawsuit Is Calculated
Numerous factors impact the value of a spinal cord injury case. Because such injuries have an extensive range of causes and unpredictable recoveries, it takes time to calculate how much impact they will have on your life.
The severity and permanency of the spinal cord trauma, and its effects on bodily functions, play a major role in almost every factor of the valuation process, including:
- The liability of the at-fault party and the quality of evidence against them
- How much insurance coverage they have
- Immediate and future medical costs
- Your future earning capacity
- Property modifications to improve quality of life
- Possible non-economic damages, such as loss of companionship or other meaningful activities
Proving non-economic damages is difficult, and it’s important to first lay a strong foundation of proven economic damages. This includes easily quantified factors, such as exact hospital and physical rehabilitation bills. Both economic and non-economic costs might require some estimation.
Calculating Future Earnings and Loss of Enjoyment
Estimated damages are where an injury’s severity most significantly affects the value of a spinal cord injury case. For instance, lost future earnings are much higher for those with permanent or even partial losses that limit one’s ability to perform their trade.
Those with a good recovery prognosis may be limited to lost earnings during the time it takes to recover. The more thoroughly you can prove a spinal cord injury interferes with your specific work, the more effective your claim will be.
If going beyond economic damages, each jurisdiction may have a preferred method for calculating non-economic damages, along with different burdens of proof. In any case, the court (if it gets to that point) must see significant evidence that the object of enjoyment played a central role in the victim’s life.
A concert guitarist, for instance, would have an easier time backing a claim for loss of enjoyment than a hobbyist who sustained a similar loss of function. Other forms of loss, such as loss of sexual function, might be easier to pursue because they’re common to everyone.
Medical Costs Associated With Spinal Cord Injuries
The medical industry broadly divides spinal cord industries into complete (permanent) or incomplete (partial) injuries. From a legal perspective, both types can leave the victim facing immense lifestyle and other challenges. Depending on the severity, victims of any spinal cord injury often face an arduous process to either recover whatever lost function they can or endure extensive, life-altering limitations.
A spinal cord injury’s full value thus depends on the medical costs surrounding primary injuries, sustained at the time of the accident, and secondary injuries that progress with time. Your claim must also accommodate more than medical care by including all associated lifestyle modifications due to the injuries (modifications made to vehicles or homes, for example).
Throughout the healing process, your spinal cord injury lawyer will obtain rigorous documentation from medical institutions, laying the groundwork to prove your injuries and their worth.
Your lawyer will also gather information related to:
- The negligent party’s contact and insurance information
- Any witnesses, especially those who can attest to the negligence of whoever caused the accident
- Circumstances—including the time, place, and events—surrounding the accident
- Conditions that may have contributed to the injuries (such as if the negligent party had used drugs or alcohol, was somehow distracted, or violated safe workplace conditions)
Gathering evidence may require enlisting the help of your loved ones, who, at your lawyer’s direction, can help compile the necessary information. It often requires a diligent team effort, that only a firm experienced in investigation and personal injury law could provide. A spinal cord injury claim could be relatively easy or difficult to pursue, depending on how much effort it takes to establish the facts surrounding the case.
The only way to find out is to consult a spinal cord injury lawyer. They can explain what your case might be worth based on the most recent case law in your jurisdiction, along with the steps needed to present the strongest claim. In most cases, personal injury claims settle, and only 4 to 5 percent go to trial—but the highest settlements happen after building your case in full preparation for trial.
Patience Is Essential During Insurance Negotiations
During pre-trial negotiations, you and your lawyer are up against an insurance company. They’re no strangers to legal competitions and have extremely deep pockets for their legal teams. The insurance adjusters are thoroughly coached on how to build a record of their own and look for the slightest, even if questionable, tactics to claim a victim’s negligence or liability.
Don’t feel intimidated. While you must act quickly to document the accident and your injuries, you shouldn’t let the insurance adjuster rush you into a settlement according to their timeframe.
Spinal cord injuries take time to establish depending on:
- the level of severity
- how much function is lost
- which functions might be recovered
- the total medical and lifestyle modification costs
The time frames involved in filing your claim differ widely in each state. Even if you file within the timeframe, the courts could determine any delay was needless and prejudiced the opposing side (if, for example, the delay allowed key evidence to go missing). Yet when discussing a settlement with the insurance company, the timing is more up to you than them.
Regardless of when your lawyer decides to negotiate a final settlement, they must acquire documented proof of the injury, the accident that caused it, and the negligence of the party at fault as soon as reasonably possible. The strength of your case depends on it.
When an insurance company contact you, remember that no matter what they say, you don’t need to engage with them when you aren’t prepared (or at all, if you have a lawyer). Keep your responses short and do not provide too much information. Always work with an attorney to ensure you engage insurance companies in a way that will benefit your claim.
Insurance companies can be extremely difficult to work with, and to avoid any costly missteps, your personal injury lawyer can field all communications with them. This is important to ensure the client doesn’t inadvertently admit to some legal liability of their own. Insurance adjusters are skilled at spinning innocuous statements into admissions of guilt that are hard to walk back.
Ultimately, they may try to rush you to sign something in exchange for a faster payout, which is unlikely to be a fair amount. Any legal document they place before you could hold major ramifications, so your personal injury lawyer will want to review any insurance company documents before you sign.
Wantonly signed insurance company documents could be waivers of certain rights.
Three of the most common insurance forms you need a spinal cord injury lawyer to review are:
- Medical authorization release. The insurance company may try to use your medical history to allege that your spinal cord injury was the result of pre existing conditions. There’s nothing to gain by giving them unrestricted permission to see your medical history. They should only see the medical information you and your lawyer deem fit to send.
- Property damage release. Especially common in car accidents, the insurer wants you to agree that they’ve satisfied their obligations to you for any property damage related to the accident.
- Release of all liabilities and claims. This is the most sensitive aspect of any spinal cord injury claim because it’s crucial and difficult to know the full extent of (A) secondary injuries and (B) lifestyle changes. If the insurance company has signed documents from you stating that the insurer satisfied all their obligations to you, it’s almost impossible to take them to court. It’s still worth consulting with a personal injury lawyer to see if it’s possible to contest those signatures’ validity or pursue compensation in another way.
A spinal cord injury claim is worth as much as you can acquire in a settlement or court judgment. Especially when the insurance company’s client is at fault, the insurer’s need for signed release forms is one of your ultimate bargaining chips.
You mustn’t give it away without extracting maximum value on your spinal cord injury claim. Being cautious of any insurance company communications is also important to protect your legal rights because once you forego them, they’re nearly impossible to get back.
Legal Considerations During Medical Treatment
Consider what a medical malpractice lawyer would say about it. If you’ve already sustained a serious injury—or even an optimistic prognosis—you should contact a personal injury lawyer earlier, not later. With a spinal cord injury, it’s best if they’re highly experienced in personal injury law and medical malpractice to protect your legal interests at every step.
All the same, you must obtain prompt, effective treatment. Any injury or other spine or central nervous system damage should be treated as a potential spinal cord injury until your doctor rules it out.
The sooner you involve a lawyer, the more confident you’ll be that your decisions carry the most powerful legal weight, that you don’t unknowingly waive rights, and that you receive proper medical care. A lawyer can also simplify the documentation and evidence-gathering process, an extra burden that could detract from your medical process.
As for a spinal cord injury’s value in a lawsuit or insurance claim, it takes time for medical specialists to determine the full extent of the injuries. Secondary injuries may arise weeks or months later. Sensations could come and go, and determining which symptoms are or aren’t permanent isn’t always black and white. When the full impact of a spinal cord injury on your life is unknown, don’t chance it. Hire a qualified personal injury lawyer soon or risk accepting low compensation compared to unforeseen lifelong struggles.
What About Suspected Spinal Cord Injuries?
Because spinal cord injuries are not necessarily spine (vertebral) injuries, it’s always better to exercise diligence if you’re experiencing neurological issues possibly related to spinal nerves. Legally, this requires documenting the causes of any injuries, including neurotoxins or disease, not just physical trauma.
The symptoms of spinal cord injuries can be deceptively broad and don’t always appear as paralysis or numbness. Leave the door open for a potential spinal nerve injury lawsuit if you experience any of the other symptoms of spinal cord injuries after an accident or exposure to nerve toxins.
Symptoms may include:
- Muscle weakness
- Breathing difficulties
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Pain or pressure at or below the site of injury
- Abnormal sensations, or sensations that come and go
- Balance and coordination difficulties
Receiving the Compensation You Deserve
After the immediate trauma of learning you have a spinal cord injury subsides—at least, as much as it can—your chances of recovery hinge on obtaining effective legal counsel (and the earlier, the better). Not only will your lawyer fight to maximize your compensation, but they’ll also ensure the foundations of your claim are thoroughly and properly laid while you focus on your health.
If you or a loved one sustained a spinal cord injury due to a careless driver, employer, medical professional, property owner, or anyone, an experienced personal injury lawyer could help you. They’ll take the time to get to know you and learn the exact circumstances surrounding your injuries. You’ll then receive an initial assessment of how much they think your spinal cord injury is worth and how to pursue it.
Don’t delay; contact a personal injury lawyer before your case becomes harder to prove. By working diligently with a lawyer experienced in your state’s personal injury laws, you’ll stand the greatest chance of obtaining the full compensation you deserve. It may not restore you to the condition you once enjoyed, but it can help you and your family focus on what matters most.