A spinal cord injury occurs when the spinal cord or a nerve attached to it is damaged. This type of injury can be the result of trauma, disease, or a degenerative disorder. The spinal cord is essentially a bundle of nerves that transmits signals between the brain and the rest of the body. The spinal column protects these nerves. There are 31 pairs of spinal nerves that extend out from the spinal cord and reach various parts of the body, controlling movement and other functions.
According to the United Spinal Association, about 17,700 Americans suffer a spinal cord injury every year. Surgical mistakes cause 4.3% of these injuries. These mistakes can be life-changing. If you or someone you know sustained a spinal injury during surgery, medical malpractice compensation might be available. A spinal cord injury medical malpractice lawyer can review your case and provide legal guidance.
How Spinal Cord Injuries Are Defined
Not all spinal cord injuries are the same. The term used to describe your injury is based on its location and severity. The type of injury you’ve suffered will influence how much compensation you are entitled to. Some of the most common types of spinal injuries are explained below.
Complete injury of the spinal cord
A complete spinal cord injury means the victim has paralysis below the location of the injury. This can occur because the spinal nerves are severed or so badly bruised that they do not function properly. Blood flow can also be compromised in either of these situations.
Incomplete injury of the spinal cord
In some cases, a victim may retain some movement or feeling below the injury site. An incomplete spinal cord injury means the spinal cord was not totally damaged or disrupted, but there is a loss of function below the injury. For example, the victim may lose all function of their right leg, but the left leg functions normally.
A spinal cord contusion occurs when the spinal cord itself is bruised, often causing inflammation and bleeding from the delicate blood vessels in and around the cord. These symptoms generally last a few days, and feeling does return to the affected area. However, tingling and jolts can be felt long after the inflammation and bleeding have subsided.
Inflammation across the spinal cord can damage or destroy myelin, which is the fatty insulating substance that covers nerve cell fibers. This type of inflammation results in a neurologic condition called transverse myelitis. This condition can create scars on the nervous system that interrupt communications between the spine, nerves, and the rest of the body. It may be manageable with early diagnosis and treatment.
A spinal cord transection is a tear within the spinal cord that results in a significant traumatic injury. The severity of injury or paralysis corresponds with the severity of cord transection. Most spinal cord injuries do not include transection of the cord.
Medical Malpractice for Spinal Injury
The key to winning any medical malpractice case is being able to prove negligence. There are four elements you must establish to show that a healthcare provider or healthcare institution was negligent. After evaluating your claim, your attorney will help you establish the following:
- The negligent party had a duty to provide a certain level of care;
- The negligent party breached that duty through their action or inaction;
- That breach of duty caused your injury; and
- You suffered damages you can be compensated for.
In a medical malpractice for spinal injury case, you must prove that the provider’s conduct was not in line with how a similar medical professional would act in the same circumstances. An experienced spinal cord medical malpractice attorney can help you gather evidence to establish that the provider who injured you did not meet the applicable standard of care.
Common Reasons for Spinal Cord Injury Caused by Medical Malpractice
There are a number of ways a spinal cord injury can occur while you are receiving medical services or treatment. Some of the most common situations in which the action or inaction of a medical professional can lead to spinal cord injuries include the following:
- Failure to properly diagnose a medical condition impacting the spine;
- Failure to detect a spinal tumor;
- Spinal injury during surgery constituting medical malpractice;
- Delaying a spinal surgical procedure;
- Failure to provide follow-up treatment for spinal cord injuries;
- Errors in administering proper anesthetic during spinal surgery; and
- Mistakes in diagnostic procedures that caused incorrect results.
Spinal accessory nerve injury is a common med malpractice claim that often involves injury after head and neck surgery. Whether you suffered a complete or incomplete spinal injury due to medical malpractice, you can seek compensation for your damages.
Compensation for Spinal Cord Injury
If you were injured because of someone else’s negligence, you should not have to be financially responsible for the damage. Compensation for direct financial losses your injury caused is called economic damages. You might be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, such as surgery, medication, and ongoing care costs. It is very likely that a spinal cord injury will result in the inability to work, either temporarily or permanently. You can seek recovery of your lost wages.
Your quality of life should also be taken into consideration. Noneconomic damages compensate you for the mental and emotional harm caused by your injury. A spinal cord injury can damage multiple bodily functions, including respiratory function, bladder control, body temperature regulation, sexual function, and more. This could have major effects on your quality of life and can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental, physical, and emotional hardships. A spinal cord injury medical malpractice lawyer can help you identify, calculate, and prove all of your damages.
Choosing a Spinal Cord Injury Medical Malpractice Attorney
At O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble, our award-winning team knows what it takes to succeed at the negotiation table and in the courtroom. We have years of experience helping patients hold the medical providers who injured them accountable and have obtained millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for our clients. Contact us today to schedule your free, no-obligation medical malpractice case consultation.