Philadelphia Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer
Spinal cord injury is an umbrella term that can apply to a wide variety of injuries that affect the spine and usually damage the nervous system. An injury to the spine is not necessarily an injury to the spinal cord. The attorneys at the PA law firm of The Levin Firm understand that persons who have suffered a spinal cord injury will usually experience a loss of mobility, a loss of the ability to feel, or both. Our lawyers know that some spinal cord injuries will result in almost complete recovery, while others will result in complete paralysis. Spinal cord injuries have been classified into five categories by the American Spinal Injury Association:
- no motor or sensory function is preserved in the sacral segments
- sensory function, but not motor function, is preserved below the neurological level and includes the sacral segments
- sensory function and motor function are preserved below the neurological level; more than half of key muscles below the neurological level have a muscle grade of less than 3
- sensory function and motor function are preserved below the neurological level; at least half of the key muscles below the neurological level have a muscle grade of 3 or more
- motor and sensory scores are normal
Category A injuries are referred to as “complete” injuries, and are usually permanent in nature. Category B-D injuries are “incomplete” injuries, which may be permanent or temporary. Category E injuries are the least severe, as they do not affect mobility or sensory perception at all. The severity of your injury will determine what kind of medical care you need, and also how much you will be able to recover in your case.
We understand that spinal cord injuries, which may be caused by car and motorcycle accidents, or as the result of a disease or disorder, or from many other causes, dramatically change our clients’ lives. Our lawyers understand the different diagnoses – including myositis, myofascitis, fasciitis, neuropathy, soft tissue injury, spondylosis, arthritis, stenosis, spondylolisthesis , scoliosis, pinched nerve, radiculopathy and parasthesia – of spinal cord injuries.
What Should I Do If I Sustain A Spinal Cord Injury?
Spinal cord injuries can change a person’s behavior, and destroy a person’s ability to walk, talk, feel or perform the types of functions we all take for granted. Spinal cord injuries often require long-term care and rehabilitation, and may involve extraordinary medical expenses. At The Levin Firm, we understand the severity of these traumatic spinal cord injuries, and work with our clients, their friends and family, as well as their doctors, psychologists, long-term care planners, and others, to assure that our clients receive not only the finest legal representation, but also the finest support and medical care.
What Should I Do If I Sustain A Spinal Cord Injury?
Spinal cord injuries can result from a wide variety of accidents, and can result in serious long term medical complications. According to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions, about 11,000 Americans sustain spinal cord injuries each year. Among the most common causes of spinal cord injuries include motor vehicle accidents, falls, sports injuries, and violent assaults. When spinal cord accidents are negligently caused, victims may be able to recover by filing a Pennsylvania personal injury lawsuit. The best way to determine whether you have a spinal cord injury claim is to consult with an experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident.
Because spinal injuries can have such serious consequences, it is important for victims to take appropriate measures to ensure that their rights are protected. These include the following:
- Seek medical attention immediately – Spinal injuries are an extremely serious matter, and can result in paralysis and may even be fatal. Anyone who suspects that an accident has resulted in a spinal injury should seek immediate medical attention. In addition to making sure you are properly treated, seeking medical care will also officially document your injuries. This can make it significantly easier to establish legal liability in the event of a lawsuit.
- Gather information – It is important to gather as much information as possible about the circumstances of your accident. This can include facts like the place it occurred, the names of other people who were involved, any conditions that may have contributed to your accident, and contact information for any witnesses to the accident.
- Retain legal counsel – After an accident, insurance companies or other parties may try and pressure you into admitting fault or accepting an unreasonably low settlement offer. Hiring a personal injury lawyer can help ensure that you are treated fairly and you receive the compensation you deserve.
Representing clients with traumatic spinal cord injuries requires a team of aggressive investigators and lawyers all devoting their maximum effort to their clients. At The Levin Firm, our Pennsylvania and New Jersey personal injury attorneys work together with a team of investigators and support staff to investigate every claim so that we may aggressively and zealously represent our clients and obtain the best possible results.
Philadelphia Spinal Cord Injury FAQ
Spinal cord injuries can change your life in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, they happen all too often. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, approximately 17,000 new spinal cord injuries happen every year. The majority of these injuries are the result of preventable accidents.
Dealing with a new and unexpected injury can feel confusing. It’s natural to have questions. The best way to protect yourself after an injury is to know your rights. A personal injury lawsuit may enable you to recover damages related to your injury. Below are some of the most common questions regarding the legal rights of victims of preventable spinal cord injuries.
What is a spinal cord injury?
There’s a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to spinal cord injuries. Unless you have a medical degree, you might think of the back and the spinal cord as one and the same, and that a spinal cord injury is just another way to say back injury. However, while the spinal cord constitutes part of the back in a broad sense, a spinal cord injury differs significantly from any other injury to the back.
The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that runs from the base of the head to the bottom of the back. It is surrounded by the vertebral column, which protects it from most injuries. The cord transmits signals to and from the brain. As such, injury to the spinal cord can cause serious and catastrophic damage by interrupting the transmission of those signals. There are two basic types of spinal cord injury; complete and incomplete.
Complete spinal cord injuries result in total paralysis below the point of the injury. The person retains no feeling or function on either side of the body. With incomplete injuries, the injured person may retain some function on one side of the body. In almost all cases, spinal cord injuries are permanent.
How do spinal cord injuries happen?
Because spinal cord injuries are so serious, it’s important to understand how they happen. Knowing the primary causes of spinal cord injuries may prevent serious injury. Common causes of spinal cord injuries include:
Motor vehicle accidents. Serious motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the United States. There is a common misconception that paralysis only happens when an injury severs the spinal cord. In fact, that rarely happens. The majority of spinal cord injuries result from swelling and non-penetrating injuries. In a motor vehicle accident, the force of a collision can be so severe that it slams a vehicle occupant’s body against the interior of the car or throws the passenger out of the car entirely. This force can be enough to cause a spinal cord injury.
Pedestrian accidents. Penn Live Patriot-News recently released shocking statistics regarding pedestrian accidents. According to the report, the Keystone State has seen a sharp jump in motor vehicle accidents recently, which has in turn contributed to an increase in pedestrian deaths on Pennsylvania roads. In just one year, the number of pedestrians killed in a motor vehicle accident jumped 34 percent.
Pedestrians face an extreme risk of serious injuries when struck by motor vehicles. The force of impact can send a pedestrian flying or tumbling, causing significant damage to the spinal column upon impact.
Sports injuries. People are starting to get a better understanding of some of the inherent dangers of recreational sports. High-impact sports can cause life-altering injuries. It’s important to recognize this risk when you participate in these activities.
While any sports activity involves risk, sports that statistically carry a higher risk of spinal cord injury include:
- Combat sports
- Horseback riding
Falls. Falls are one of the leading causes of spinal cord injuries and the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in adults 65 and older. The good news is, most of these falls are preventable. Always use protective gear if you are climbing above the ground. If you are unstable, use support rails to prevent a fall.
Workplace accidents. Workplace accidents can cause serious injuries. The majority of workplace spinal cord injuries are the result of a fall on the job. However, these injuries can also happen during a motor vehicle accident, or as the result of a crush injury or fallen object.
Medical malpractice. Sometimes spinal cord injuries are not the result of a violent injury. Sometimes they are the result of a negligent doctor or medical mistake. The Shepherd Center reports that approximately 5 percent of spinal cord injuries happen as the result of medical or surgical complications. While this may not seem like a lot, considering there are over 17,000 new spinal cord injuries each year, this number is quite substantial. When a doctor makes a mistake that results in a permanent disability, you deserve fair and appropriate compensation.
What are the symptoms of a spinal cord injury?
Recognizing the common signs of spinal cord injuries is one of the most important things you can do to prevent serious injury. As we mentioned earlier, except in the case of gunshot wounds, these injuries rarely result from a penetrating injury. Most spinal cord injuries happen because of swelling or bruising on the cord. Because of this, symptoms may not be immediately apparent. If you can recognize the symptoms and seek medical care at the onset of these symptoms, you may prevent serious injury. The following list is not all-inclusive. For a complete list, click here.
Common symptoms include:
- Numbness and tingling
- Extreme back pain
- Difficulty walking
- Unusual bulging of neck or back
- Muscle spasms
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
How can I prevent a spinal cord injury?
If you have questions about your health, it is always a good idea to talk to your doctor. While we are not healthcare professionals, here are some tips that we can give you to reduce your chances of serious injury. Some ways to reduce your risk of sustaining a spinal cord injury include:
- Buckle up. Driving without a seatbelt substantially increases your risk of spinal cord injury in a motor vehicle accident.
- Drive smart. Don’t drive intoxicated. Don’t use your phone while driving. And avoid speeding.
- Play smart. Never dive into shallow water. Follow any instructions from coaches or healthcare professionals and wear protective gear.
- Climb safe. Use required safety gear while climbing and at work.
What type of compensation is available?
Pennsylvania law allows victims of a spinal cord injury to take legal action for damages after an accident caused by someone else’s wrongful actions. The amount of damages a person can collect in a personal injury action relating to a spinal cord injury depends upon the specific facts and circumstances of the case.
However, common categories of damages that a spinal cord injury victim may recover include:
- Medical costs: Spinal cord injuries can require extensive medical treatment, immediately after the injury and long term. This care is expensive and often surpasses $1 million in the first year alone. This is not a cost that you should have to bear alone. A personal injury claim can help you recover costs including doctor visits, mental health care, surgeries, medication, medical devices, and physical therapy.
- Lost wages: A spinal cord injury virtually always causes victims to miss time from work. This can quickly affect their finances. When this happens, they should be compensated for this loss.
- Future lost wages: A spinal cord injury also frequently impairs a person’s ability to return to work, or to work in the person’s previous job capacity. A personal injury lawsuit can seek to recover these lost future wages as damages.
- Home modifications: Wheelchairs or other adaptive devices can help you get around. But they can make simple tasks like getting in and out of your own house difficult. In most cases, home modifications are necessary. This may include wheelchair ramps, widened doorways, or lowered counters; the costs of which may be sought as damages in a personal injury lawsuit.
- Occupational retraining: While you may not return to your old job, this does not mean you cannot go back to work. If you need to return to work but lack the necessary skills to do another line of work, worker retraining or college courses can help prepare you for a new position.
- Pain and suffering: Pain and suffering is a legal term that covers the invisible costs of an injury. These are the costs that you can’t see or really put a price on. Pain and suffering covers actual physical pain, as well as mental distress.
- Loss of enjoyment: A major injury like a spinal cord injury can make it difficult to take part in activities you enjoyed before your injury. When this happens, it is not just something you have to deal with. Losing activities that you love can affect your quality of life and mental health. Loss of enjoyment considers the effect your injuries have on your ability to enjoy your life.
What if my doctor says my injury is permanent?
One of the scariest things to hear is that your doctor does not expect your condition to improve. Sadly, this is often the case with spinal cord injuries. While there are options to help make your life more comfortable, currently, there is no cure for paralysis.
In most cases, a diagnosis of permanent injury will have a substantial impact on a personal injury case, because it requires an attorney to estimate a client’s future financial needs for the remainder of the client’s life. This requires a careful analysis of the client’s lifetime medical needs, costs of essential services, and—perhaps most importantly—an assessment of the impact on the client’s quality of life. This is rarely a straightforward calculation, which is why it is important to retain the services of an experienced Philadelphia spinal cord injury attorney to represent you in a spinal cord injury case.
Do I need an attorney for my spinal cord injury case?
Yes, you do. Although the law does not require you to have an attorney to file a personal injury suit or to negotiate a settlement with someone’s liability insurance company, practically speaking it is impossible to recover the compensation you deserve after suffering a spinal cord injury without retaining the services of a knowledgeable, experienced attorney.
This is the case for several reasons.
- First, to state the obvious, a person who has sustained a spinal cord injury must suddenly adapt to a radical and unpleasant life change. That is no time to try to figure out how to navigate a complicated legal process.
- Second, spinal cord injury cases require familiarity with both the medical aspects of the injury, and the often complex aspects of legal liability that accompany an accident. A Philadelphia spinal cord injury attorney has that knowledge-base.
- Finally, the practical reality is that a person’s legal claims do not get taken seriously unless they are asserted by an experienced legal professional.
In a real sense, having a lawyer with a strong reputation in spinal cord injury cases adds significant value to the claim.
How should I handle paying my medical bills after a spinal cord injury?
Medical bills associated with spinal cord injuries can run into the millions of dollars in the first year of treatment alone. If someone else’s careless, reckless, or intentionally-harmful actions caused your spinal cord injury, then you may have rights under Pennsylvania law to take legal action seeking compensation for those bills (among other damages). Speak with an experienced Philadelphia spinal cord injury lawyer right away to learn more.
The prospect of filing a lawsuit, however, does not necessarily meet your pressing financial needs right now.
Until you have your legal rights sorted out (and, again, the sooner you get started, the better), you may have the ability to resort to these sources of payment to keep medical bills paid:
- Your personal injury protection insurance. If you sustained your spinal cord injury in a motor vehicle accident, then your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance may cover your initial medical expenses. PIP is a form of insurance that all Pennsylvania drivers must carry that covers their own (and, frequently, their passengers’) injuries in a crash, regardless of who caused the accident. PIP also covers the people who carry it against traffic accident-related injuries they sustain as cyclists or pedestrians. If you are not sure whether a PIP policy covers your medical expenses for a Philadelphia spinal cord injury, speak with a skilled lawyer right away.
- Your medical insurance. Your own medical insurance, assuming you have it, can also provide coverage for your spinal cord injury-related medical expenses, subject to co-payments, deductibles, and coverage limits.
- Your long-term disability insurance. Similarly, if you carry long-term disability insurance (sometimes employers provide it as an employment benefit, for example), then it may also pay benefits to you after suffering a Philadelphia spinal cord injury.
- Workers’ compensation insurance. If you sustained your spinal cord injury while working, then workers’ comp likely covers your medical costs (as well as providing other potentially crucial benefits).
Keep track of all your medical bills, and make note of any payments you make following your accident. You may need to produce those records to claim compensation for your medical expenses. Your spinal cord injury lawyer may help you with these tasks.
Who do I need to notify about an accident that resulted in a spinal cord injury?
Every situation differs, but commonly, Philadelphia spinal cord injury victims may need to contact:
- An auto insurance company. Most Pennsylvania auto insurance policies contain some notification requirements for the person covered to receive benefits. If a Philadelphia auto accident caused your spinal cord injury, then you may need to alert your auto insurer right away, particularly because you may need to access PIP coverage benefits immediately (see above).
- Your medical or long-term disability insurance company. Typically, medical providers bill your insurance company directly for the care they provide. However, you may yet need to inform your insurers about the accident, particularly if seeking long-term disability benefits. Speak with an attorney to determine the best course of action for your individual circumstance.
- Your employer. Tell your employer about your accident and injuries right away. If you sustained your injury on-the-job, you must give this notice to your employer to receive the full workers’ compensation insurance benefits you deserve. Even if you sustained your injury elsewhere, you will likely still need to alert your employer, because a spinal cord injury can inflict massive disabilities and keep a person out of work for months or more. Alerting your employer to your condition protects your own legal rights under federal and state employment and disability laws. It also serves as an important opportunity to answer any questions you might have about insurance coverage you receive through work that might pay benefits to you.
- An experienced Philadelphia spinal cord injury attorney. Speak with a skilled spinal cord injury lawyer as soon as possible after you get hurt. The sooner you have an attorney on your side working to protect your legal interests, the better your chances of recovering the compensation and insurance benefits you deserve for your injuries. Do not gamble with your physical, emotional, and financial well being by thinking you can wait to speak to an attorney. Get started on protecting yourself as soon as possible.
Who owes me damages for my spinal cord injury?
It depends entirely on the facts and circumstances of how your Philadelphia spinal cord injury happened. As a general matter, anyone whose poor decision or unsafe actions caused you harm may have a legal liability to you for damages under Pennsylvania law. A lawyer’s job is to identify all such individuals or entities, to give you the best possible chance of getting the money you need to adapt to life with a spinal cord injury.
In our law practice, some of the parties who our clients end up collecting damages from include:
- Drivers who cause injuries in motor vehicle accidents;
- Property owners who fail to fix unsafe property conditions that lead to injuries;
- Individuals whose acts of violence lead to injury; and
- Medical providers who fail to treat conditions that lead to spinal cord injuries.
These are just some examples. Connect with an experienced Philadelphia spinal cord injury lawyer today to learn about who may have a legal liability to you for your injuries.
How much time do I have to file a personal injury claim for my spinal cord injury?
Generally speaking, under Pennsylvania law you have two years from the date of an injury to take legal action against anyone who did you harm. Experienced lawyers know that is not a lot of time. In fact, do not have a moment to lose to protect your legal rights to compensation.
Preparing a solid case for damages after a Philadelphia spinal cord injury can depend, in part, on the injured person’s prognosis for recovery and future medical and other needs. Estimating those outcomes and requirements does not happen overnight. Doctors may need time to evaluate how a person with a spinal cord injury responds to treatment. The full scope of special needs might only come into focus after weeks or months.
Similarly, a lawyer may need time to evaluate the facts to determine who may have legal liability for a client’s spinal cord injuries. Gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and absorbing medical records takes time and effort.
In short, the outside time limit for taking legal action for a Philadelphia spinal cord injury is at most two years in the majority of cases. A skilled attorney—and the client’s interests—benefit from having every minute of that time possible. So, contact an attorney right away.
How much money should I expect to receive for a spinal cord injury?
It depends on a variety of factors, including:
- The severity of your spinal cord injury. Some spinal cord injuries are worse than others, in the sense that their outcomes vary. Some spinal cord injuries may inflict only temporary, and relatively minor, symptoms, such as weakness or numbness that resolves over time. Other spinal cord injuries result in permanent disruption of signals between the brain and the body, causing significant, lifelong paralysis. As a general matter, the more severe an injury, the greater the amount of money a person might hope to recover for it.
- The impact of the injury on your life. Similarly, the greater the impact of a spinal cord injury on a person’s life, the higher the damages a person might reasonably claim for it. Thus, for example, a young, previously-healthy and active person who suffers a spinal cord injury may command a greater amount of damages than a senior citizen who already struggled with limited mobility before the injury.
- The out-of-pocket costs associated with the injury. All spinal cord injuries tend to consume significant financial resources for medical costs. However, some victims of these injuries may require greater financial support than others, based entirely on subjective factors like their living situation, the availability of care in their area, and their day-to-day existence. The more money it costs to treat a Philadelphia spinal cord injury, and to restore the victim to a life of maximum independence and health, the higher the amount of money that person might recover via a lawsuit.
- Who has legal liability. Finally, the amount of money you might hope to recover from a Philadelphia spinal cord injury depends, as a practical matter, on who has a legal liability to you. A spinal cord injury inflicted because of the actions of a single individual who carries the minimum liability insurance and has few personal assets may lead to a lower-dollar recovery than an identical spinal cord injury inflicted by the careless actions of several individuals and businesses who, combined, carry millions in liability coverage and have lots of assets.
Speak with an experienced Philadelphia spinal cord injury attorney right away to determine how these factors may affect your right to compensation.
How long will it take me to receive compensation for my spinal cord injuries?
The answer to this question, too, depends on a variety of factors that differ from case-to-case. As lawyers for Philadelphians who suffered spinal cord injuries, we have resolved some cases in a matter of months, whereas others have taken years.
Factors that affect the timeline for a Philadelphia spinal cord injury case may include:
- The amount of money at stake. As a general rule, the more money involved in a spinal cord injury case (or any case, really), the more time it may take to resolve. However, this is not always the case. For example, if a party concedes legal liability for causing the injury and the damages involved far exceed that party’s insurance coverage, then the insurance company may cut a check quickly (figuring there is no point in fighting).
- The number of parties involved. A lawsuit with multiple parties can feel that way: lots of complications, lots of difficulty coordinating, and longer timeframes across-the-board. Again, this is not necessarily a hard-and-fast rule, but as a practical matter lawyers almost always have an easier time resolving a two-party Philadelphia spinal cord injury case as compared to, say, a ten-party case.
- The willingness of parties to negotiate. Most Philadelphia spinal cord injury cases reach a resolution through some sort of negotiated settlement. That is just the nature of these types of matters. The more willingness the parties have to come to the negotiating table to hammer out a fair and reasonable payment by the legally liable parties to the injured party, the sooner a case will typically end, usually. But not always. Some parties have every intention of working out a solution but need time to prepare, evaluate, and reach an acceptable middle ground.
- The need for a trial. Sometimes, of course, even the best efforts at negotiating a fair settlement come up empty. In those cases, Philadelphia lawyers for spinal cord injury victims, after consulting with their clients, may decide that taking a case to trial in Pennsylvania courts constitutes the best course of action for achieving just results and adequate compensation. Going all the way to trial can extend the timeframe for a case by months or more. Oftentimes, however, settlement negotiations and trial preparation happen in parallel. That is why many cases settle on the steps of the courthouse.
If you live or work in Philadelphia and recently suffered a spinal cord injury, contact the Levin Firm’s experienced, skilled spinal cord injury lawyers today for a free evaluation of your legal rights to compensation.
Get the Help That You Deserve
Spinal cord injuries can change your life. At a time when you are trying to figure out your new way of living, you need a legal professional by your side to guide you through the often-complicated process of recovering every penny of compensation you need and deserve. Money cannot change the fact that you must alter your life to adjust to a spinal cord injury. But it can make that adjustment smoother and eliminate the financial strain that might otherwise make your new normal doubly difficult.
Do not wait to seek the legal advice you need. Victims of personal injury in Pennsylvania have only two years from the date of their injuries in most cases to take legal action against those who caused them harm. Seek the counsel of our experienced Philadelphia spinal cord injury attorneys as soon as possible to get started protecting your rights and ensuring you receive the financial support to which the law entitles you.
When you need a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or New Jersey personal injury attorney to represent you, a family member or friend who has suffered a spinal cord injury, contact The Levin Firm, who represent every client zealously in order to obtain the best results possible in each case.