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man holding neck in pain

Motor vehicle accidents cause a wide range of injuries, from broken bones to whiplash, traumatic brain injury and others. Car accidents are also the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, which damage the nerves involved in carrying signals between the brain and other parts of the body. Depending on the location and extent of the spinal cord injury, an auto accident that happens in just a few seconds can cause lifelong problems with movement, bowel and bladder function, and breathing. 

Due to the potential for spinal cord injury resulting in lasting consequences, an accident victim should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. It may be possible to get a settlement that covers medical bills, home modifications and other expenses associated with treating spinal cord injuries and their lasting repercussions.

Factors Involved in Determining a Spinal Cord Injury Settlement

chiropractor assessing severity of spine injury

When you look at settlement figures, it’s important to understand that every case is unique. Several factors go into determining a spinal cord injury settlement, including the severity of the injury and the loss of future earnings potential, so there’s no “average” settlement. Here’s an overview of the factors involved in calculating a settlement for a spinal cord injury case.

Severity of the Injury

Severe spinal cord injuries have lifelong consequences. Some victims with serious injuries may lose the ability to walk, require ongoing assistance with activities of daily living or need specialized therapy. In a spinal cord injury lawsuit, the severity of the injury is one of the most important factors in determining a settlement amount.

Loss of Future Earnings Potential

In some cases, a spinal cord injury is so severe that the victim is unable to return to work. Even if you’re able to work, you may not be able to perform the same job you did before your spinal injury, leading to lost income. 

For example, a police officer who develops paraplegia as a result of a spinal cord injury won’t be able to return to a position that involves patrolling the community, arresting suspects and performing other physical tasks.

Compensation for lost wages is based on these career changes, along with the victim’s age at the time of the car accident. If all other factors are equal, someone who’s 20 at the time of a car accident is likely to receive more than someone who is 60 at the time of the accident, simply because the 60-year-old has fewer working years left.

Medical Bills

Spinal cord injuries affect everyone a little differently. Some people lose the ability to walk, while others struggle to perform tasks requiring fine motor skills. People with severe spinal cord injuries tend to have higher medical expenses than people with less severe injuries. For example, someone who spends several months in the hospital is going to have more medical bills than someone who’s discharged after just a few weeks of care.

Future Costs

The cost of caring for a spinal cord injury is likely to increase in the coming years. As a result, a spinal cord injury settlement usually accounts for the potential cost of care in the future. This includes the cost of medical care and the cost of personal care.

Fault Determination

If you sustain a spinal cord injury in a car accident, the amount of your settlement may also depend on who is at fault for the crash. The at-fault driver bears much of the responsibility, but there may be other factors at play. For example, if the driver who hit you was working for a large corporation at the time, their employer may be partially liable, increasing the amount of the settlement.

Effects of Spinal Cord Injuries

woman in wheelchair reviewing spinal cord injury claims with lawyer

Spinal cord injuries have serious consequences, so it’s important to consult a car accident lawyer immediately after your injury occurs. If you’re unable to contact a lawyer on your own, ask a family member to do it for you. One study showed that the lifetime cost of caring for a spinal cord injury in Toronto is CA $336,000 per person. That increases to CA $479,600 per person for spinal cord injuries resulting in pressure ulcers during the victim’s initial hospitalization. These are just some of the potential effects of a spinal injury:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Altered reflexes
  • Nerve pain
  • Reduced sensation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Inability to move certain parts of the body
  • Bowel and/or bladder incontinence
  • Frequent coughing

Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

The type of spinal cord injury you have makes a big difference in the outcome of your spinal cord injury claim. This type of personal injury is classified as incomplete, complete, paraplegia or tetraplegia / quadriplegia.

In an incomplete spinal cord injury, the victim retains some function below the site of the injury. If the injury occurs in the thoracic spine, for example, the victim is likely to retain function in the lower part of the body. Spinal cord injury victims with “complete” injuries lose all feeling, sensation and movement below the injury site.

Paraplegia causes paralysis of the legs, trunk and pelvic organs, while tetraplegia/quadriplegia causes complete paralysis of the legs, arms, trunk, hands and pelvic organs. Any spinal cord injury can result in long-term disability, but people with paraplegia or quadriplegia are likely to receive higher settlement offers due to the loss of function associated with these complications.

Seek Trusted Legal Advice

Wynperle Law has extensive experience handling all types of personal injury claims, including cases involving severe spinal injuries. If you or a loved one sustained a spinal cord injury due to a motor vehicle accident, contact us today to discuss your case.

By Published On: January 10th, 2023

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