Scottsdale Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer
Have you suffered a spinal cord injury in Scottsdale?
If you or a family member has sustained traumatic damage to the spinal
cord as the result of another person's careless, reckless or intentional
conduct, we urge you to contact us. Our firm is not a "quick settlement"
or "discount" law firm, nor is it a firm that drags its feet
and takes forever to accomplish important tasks. Rather, we take all the
time needed to ensure each one of our clients who has suffered catastrophic
injuries receives the individualized, personal care and attention needed
to ensure the best possible attorney-client relationship and obtain the
best possible outcome for their specific personal injury claim. Depending
on the unique aspects of your injury, your medical diagnosis and prognosis,
and your specific life circumstances and challenges, we will outline and
pursue a legal strategy suited to you, your particular claim, and your
future life needs and goals.
As spinal cord injury attorneys, we will retain the medical and financial
experts needed to develop a life care plan tailored to your case, one
that anticipates your need for any future surgeries, physical therapy,
medical equipment, living accommodations and other health care needs.
We will also, of course, seek the monetary damages you deserve for all
of your past and future medical expenses, the loss of earnings and earning
potential, physical pain, mental and emotional suffering, loss of the
enjoyment of life, and other economic damages you have suffered because
of the negligent and wrongful acts or omissions that caused your injuries.
The Seriousness of a Spinal Cord Injury
A spinal cord injury (SCI) is an injury caused by a sudden event –
trauma to the spinal column and spinal cord – not by disease or
degeneration. The severity of any traumatic spinal cord injury is often
categorized as either "complete" or "incomplete,"
generally referring to level of function, if any, remaining "below"
the damaged spinal cord and nerve roots. A
complete spinal cord injury means the spinal cord is unable to receive and send messages to the brain
past the level of injury on the spine. An
incomplete spinal cord injury means the spine is able to receive and send messages from the brain past
the level of injury, at least to some degree. Incomplete SCIs manifest
in ranges from little or no loss of function or paralysis to virtually
no function below the damaged area; and the particular "function"
can be either mobility (ability to move) or sensory (ability to feel sensation).
Thus, a person with a complete SCI retains no function below the level
of injury, on either side of his body, and cannot move or feel anything
below this level.
Although traumatic spinal cord injuries can result from truly "accidental"
and innocent events such as missing the chair when sitting down, slipping
in the shower, fun horseplay, falling while cycling, skating or skiing,
and engaging in "contact sports;" we are focusing here on those
other categories of traumatic spinal cord injuries – the ones caused
by the wrongful or negligent conduct of another person. Our focus is on
those injuries that were preventable; injuries that could and should never
have happened; injuries such as those caused in the same types of incidents
our law practice emphasizes, including:
Any of the above types of incidents can cause a person's spine to bend,
dislocate, rotate, overload, hyper-flex, hyper-extend or break, resulting
in damage to the cord and the nerves. With 31 vertebrae between the skull
and the tailbone, there are plenty of places for a traumatic event to
More about Traumatic Spinal Cord Injuries - Monoplegia, Paraplegia, Quadriplegia
Not surprisingly, men account for the vast majority (80%) of patients who
have sustained SCIs; automobile crashes and collisions are the leading
cause of SCIs (46%); and alcohol plays a major role in about one-fourth
of the spinal cord injuries suffered each year. Other common causes of
spinal cord injuries include:
- Falls (22%)
- Deliberate acts of violence (16%)
- Sports-related accidents (diving, skiing, contact sports) (12%)
Depending on whether the SCI is complete or incomplete, the exact location
of the spinal cord injury will dictate the practical level of impairment.
The spinal cord is surrounded by bone called the vertebrae that protect
the fragile cord from injury. The spinal cord is part of the central nervous
system and delivers signals between the brain and the rest of the body.
The cord is made up of many types of nerve fibers and cells. The spinal
cord and vertebra make up the spinal column, and the spinal column is
divided into five distinct segments from top to bottom:
- Cervical vertebrae (neck) -- controls back of the head, neck, shoulders,
arms, hands, diaphragm
- Thoracic vertebrae (upper back) -- controls chest muscles, some back muscles,
parts of the abdomen
- Lumbar vertebrae (middle back) -- controls lower abdomen, lower back, buttocks,
some parts of the legs, some parts of the external genital organs
- Sacral vertebrae (hips) -- controls thighs, lower parts of legs, feet,
most of the external genital organs, area around the anus
- Coccygeal vertebrae (tailbone) -- controls sensation from the skin on the
Level of Injury
The level of injury refers to the segment damaged by the injury, below
which function has been lost. The higher up the level of injury on the
spinal column, the more function will be lost. For example, a car accident
victim who suffers a C5 injury will have lost more function than a person
in a similar accident with an L4 injury.
Emergency Treatment of Suspected SCIs
A traumatic spinal cord injury dislocates or fractures the vertebra protecting
the spinal cord, which can cause hemorrhage and swelling of the spinal
cord, which can tear the cord or disrupt the spinal nerves. Therefore,
immediately after a suspected spinal cord injury, the spine must be stabilized
to prevent or minimize swelling and the secondary injuries that can exacerbate
the damage to the spinal cord.
This stabilization process involves:
- Assessing structural problems with the spine that need to be surgically repaired
- Isolating any compression on the spine that needs to be surgically relieved
- Minimizing the damage to the nerve cells with the use of steroids (methylprednisolone)
- Stabilizing and reducing swelling around the vertebrae
- Immobilizing the patient
Long-Term Treatment of Spinal Cord Injuries
Unfortunately, at this time, the treatment options for spinal cord injuries
are limited. If the injury resulted in a fracture to the vertebrae protecting
the cord, surgery may be performed to correct the fracture and relieve
the compression on the spine. After surgery, some function may be recovered;
however, there is no current surgical option that will return all function
lost due to SCI.
Rehabilitation is still the primary treatment available to victims of SCI;
and usually, all it can do is help the patient
retain and utilize as much remaining function as possible. Rehab treatment may
include working with physical therapists, occupational therapists, social
workers, nutritionists, neurologists, psychologists and others. Rehab
addresses a range of issues, from preventing muscle atrophy to providing
Pursuing a Personal Injury Lawsuit for Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are without question one of the most devastating injuries
a person can suffer. Not only must victims often deal with paralysis,
their spinal cord injury might also impair other bodily functions and
cause other very serious complications. They make require respiratory
assistance and intubation, experience permanent bowel and bladder problems,
blood pressure and heart dysfunction, spasms, loss of reproductive and
sexual function, increased risk of blood clots, bed sores, pneumonia,
depression and anxiety, and usually have a shorter life expectancy.
Depending upon exactly how a spinal cord injury was caused, and assuming
it was caused by another person's negligence, recklessness, or intentional
act, the injured person should consider taking legal action against the
responsible party to recover damages. Such a legal claim might involve filing:
- Personal injury lawsuit: if the injury resulted from an individual's
negligence, like a car accident
- Medical malpractice lawsuit: if the injury resulted from a surgical mistake
- Products liability lawsuit: if the injury resulted from a defective product,
like a seatbelt
- Premises liability lawsuit: if the injury occurred on another person or
Compensation for Spinal Cord Injuries
The nature and extent of monetary compensation will depend on the individual
circumstances of your case and your state's laws. In Arizona you are
entitled to seek damages for:
- Medical Expenses: Costs incurred by you for health care, including ambulance
bills, hospital bills, and charges for surgical, medical or chiropractic care.
- Future Medical Expenses: The cost of future medical care for injuries or
disabilities, including costs for rehabilitation, bioengineering equipment
(wheelchairs, electrical equipment to assist breathing and eating) transportation,
- Lost earnings (past and future)
- Lost earning capacity: The sum of money that will compensate you for the
earnings you would have made in the future if you had not sustained the injury
- Damages for pain and suffering: The pain, suffering, disfigurement, disability
and loss of life's pleasures you have experienced from your spinal
- Damages for loss of consortium with spouse and family members
- Reimbursement for any damaged or destroyed personal property
Keep in mind that in Arizona, the doctrine of
comparative negligence provides that your compensation may be reduced in proportion to your own
percentage of fault in causing or contributing to your injuries. For example,
if a jury determines that your total damages are $1 million, but also
finds you were 20% at fault, then your net recovery will be reduced by
20%, leaving you with an award of $800,000.
More Information About Treatment & Surgical Options for Spinal Cord Injuries
The cost of treating and caring for people with spinal cord injuries (SCI)
in the US tops over $4 billion ever year. For the thousands of Americans
living with spinal cord injuries, current treatment options focus on helping
them learn to live with their disabilities and become as independent as
their injuries allow.
The surgical options immediately following a spinal cord injury are limited
and performed for two principal reasons: if the spinal column needs to
be stabilized by the use of pins and/or plates; or if a fracture, break,
bone fragment or other object is compressing the spinal cord and the pressure
needs to be decompressed. While it is not uncommon for some function to
be regained after surgery to stabilize or decompress the spine, all lost
function cannot be restored by either surgery. Surgery also may be performed
to transfer nerves and tendons to help activate muscles and restore function.
These surgeries are normally employed to improve hand/arm functions, such
as bending and straightening the elbow and wrist and gripping with the
fingers and hand.
Rehabilitation focuses on helping people with spinal cord injuries retain
maximum function and live as independently as possible. Rehab uses massage,
passive movements, exercises and other approaches to invigorate muscle
groups and prevent atrophy. Rehab also can help people who require wheelchairs
and prostheses become more comfortable with the equipment and learn how
to use it. Besides focusing on physical health, rehab also may include
the services of vocational therapists, psychologists, nutritionists, social
workers and other professionals to help people adjust to living with their
disabilities. People with severe injuries may be unable to live independently
and require long-term care from a live-in nurse, nursing home or other
Researchers are working hard to find a "cure" and ways to return
function following spinal cord injuries. Current research focuses on regeneration
of damaged spinal cord tissues to restore some, and ultimately all, of
the lost function from the injury. Some of the treatments researchers
are developing to meet this goal include:
- Transplantation - transplant tissues into or near the damaged portions
of the spinal cord to facilitate growth of new nerve cells and supply
a source of nerve cells to help repair the ones damaged by the injury.
- Stimulation - the adult spinal cord does not provide a positive environment
for growth of new nerve cells. Researchers are trying to discover a way
to "turn off" the proteins that inhibit growth and "turn
on" or stimulate the proteins that encourage growth.
Spinal cord injuries are serious and it may not be obvious that someone
has a spinal cord injury. The treatment given to a person immediately
after he or she has suffered one of these injuries is critical to limiting
the amounting of harm done and preventing secondary injuries from occurring.
Contact an attorney in your area today if you or a loved one has suffered
a spinal cord injury. You may be eligible for compensation for your injury.
The Watkin Law Office, PC Can Help You
Spinal cord injuries are devastating and have life-long consequences.
Contact us at
(480) 281-3838 to arrange a consultation.
When results matter, choose The Watkin Law Office, PC.
The Watkin Law Office, PC is a Scottsdale injury and wrongful death law
firm that represents serious personal injury and
wrongful death clients throughout Arizona, including Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler,
Gilbert, Glendale, Peoria, Cave Creek, Carefree, Fountain Hills and Paradise Valley.
Contact us today for a free confidential consultation.
REMEMBER: If the other side's claims adjuster calls to "interview"
you or "take your statement," politely decline -- at least until
after you have spoken with an experienced spinal cord injury and wrongful
death attorney. Despite what the insurance adjuster might tell you, he
or she is NOT "just trying to help."