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 cause damage.

More about Traumatic Spinal Cord Injuries - Monoplegia, Paraplegia, Quadriplegia - Tetraplegia

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 lower back

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 job training.

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 or misdiagnosis
  • 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 entity's property

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, attendant care
  • 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 cord injury
  • 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 care facility.

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."