Catastrophic Injuries

Some personal injuries are so severe that lives are dramatically changed. Spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injury are often catastrophic for the accident victim.

What is a spinal cord injury?

The spinal cord is the main pathway for information from the peripheral nervous system to the brain. A spinal cord injury consists of damage to the spinal cord that results in losing function, such as mobility or feeling. The spinal cord need not be severed for losing function to occur. The spinal cord is soft tissue filled with nerves protected by your spinal column. It extends down the middle of your back from the base of your brain to your waist. The spinal cord has three major functions: sending motor information traveling down the spinal cord, transmitting sensory information in the reverse direction to the brain, and as a center for coordinating certain reflexes.

A spinal cord injury results from trauma to the neck or back. Many occur from simple falls. Spinal cord injuries can be divided into two types of injury – complete and incomplete. A complete injury means there is no function below the level of the injury: no sensation and no voluntary movement. Both sides of the body are equally affected. But most injuries do not result in a complete sever of the spinal cord.

Instead, injury results when pieces of vertebrae tear into cord tissue or press down on the nerve parts that carry signals. An incomplete injury means there is some functioning below the primary level of the injury. A person with an incomplete injury may move one limb more than another, may feel parts of the body that cannot be moved, or may have more functioning on one side of the body than the other. With the advances in acute treatment of spinal cord injury, incomplete injuries are becoming more common. About 200,000 people in the United States have a spinal cord injury with about 12,000-20,000 new spinal cord injury cases occurring each year. Almost half of all new spinal cord injuries result from a motor vehicle accident, followed by falls causing about 22% of the new injuries. Alcohol has been found to play a major factor in 25% of spinal cord injuries.

What makes a spinal cord injury case unique?

The critical functions of the spinal cord make injury a potentially devastating event. Traumatic injury to the spinal cord poses a significant risk of neurologic impairments, including musculoskeletal (resulting in incomplete or complete paralysis), respiratory, urinary, or gastrointestinal defects. Long-term complications from a spinal cord injury include any psychological side effects, such as depression and anxiety. Coping with the challenges of a spinal cord injury requires significant resources. According to the Center for Disease Control, the average annual medical cost for a spinal cord injury victim is $15,000–$30,000.

The estimated lifetime cost ranges from $500,000 to more than $3 million, depending on injury severity. The physical and psychological impairments resulting from a spinal cord injury make this type of case one of the most serious. The medical costs are overwhelming for most households, with added expense for required accommodations and adaptations.

If the spinal cord injury resulted from another's negligence, that person or entity may be liable for the resulting expenses. Overall, 85% of spinal cord injury patients who survive the first 24 hours are still alive 10 years later. This typically means expensive accommodations are needed over a long-term period. Other expenses which arise include future medical expenses, often coupled with losing income if the victim was employed.

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What is a traumatic brain injury?

Every year in America, 2.2 million people suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI), resulting in over 50,000 fatalities and 280,000 hospitalizations. About half of those hospitalized have long-term impairment that affects their ability to perform everyday activities. Any sudden trauma may cause damage to the brain. TBI can result when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object penetrates the skull and destroys brain tissue.  Traveling at a high rate of speed or striking a hard object are unnecessary elements to a traumatic brain injury. Serious brain injuries can result from falls, car accidents, sports activities and work-related accidents.

Trauma to the head can cause the brain to bruise, bleed, tear or swell. There are two general types of head injuries: open and closed. An open injury results when the skull has been fractured, and usually results when the head comes in direct contact with a hard surface or object. A closed head injury does not involve a fracture but can be more serious than an open injury due to the possibility of brain swelling and the formation of dangerous blood clots inside the skull. Whether a brain injury is open or closed, the most serious injuries can cause brain damage, paralysis, loss of consciousness or even death.

What makes a traumatic brain injury case unique?

Brain injuries typically results in significant lifestyle changes for the injured victim and family. Physical, cognitive, social and vocational changes are common. Recovery can be a lifelong process of adjustments and accommodations. Moderately to severely injured patients receive rehabilitation that involves individually tailored treatment programs in the areas of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, physiatry (physical medicine), psychology/psychiatry, and social support.

Appropriate treatment of a brain injury may be complicated and expensive, involving diagnostic testing, drugs, surgery and rehabilitation. Full treatment, including rehabilitation, may involve a team of medical caregivers, including a neurologist, neurosurgeon, physiatrist, neuropsychiatrist, vocational expert, life-care planner, neuropsychologist, and physical, occupational and speech therapists. Securing proper medical care alone can be a full-time pursuit for an injured individual or family members.

What to expect from a traumatic brain injury lawsuit?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 5.3 million Americans have a long-term or lifelong need for help to perform activities of daily living because of a traumatic brain injury. According to one study, about 40% of those hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury had at least one unmet need for services one year after their injury. Families of a TBI victim constantly shoulder the burden of providing adequate care and resources for the injured person.

If the traumatic brain injury resulted from another's negligence, that person or entity may be liable for the resulting expenses. Typically, a TBI requires expensive accommodations over a long-term period. Other expenses which arise include future medical expenses, often coupled with losing income if the victim was employed. Read more about Damages.

Help for People with Catastrophic Injuries

We are a Denver-based law firm practicing throughout the State of Colorado. We have a boutique litigation practice. Partners of the firm, not legal staff, provide each client a great deal of individual time, attention and care.

When you call our office, you will talk directly with one of our experienced catastrophic injury attorneys. During business hours, our lawyers are available for immediate consultation when needed. Outside of business hours, we try to return your call or message quickly, often within a few hours (and always within the next business day).

To learn more about your rights and options, we invite you to schedule a free case review with our team of lawyers.

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