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Philadelphia Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer

An estimated 12,500 spinal cord injuries occur in the United States every year. Injuries range in severity from temporary bruising to complete paralysis or even death. When you or a loved one suffer harm due to negligence, the Philadelphia spinal cord injury lawyers at Youman & Caputo can help.

Philadelphia Spinal Cord Injury Resources

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Spinal Cord Anatomy
Spinal Cord Injury Categorization
What Are Common Types of Spinal Cord Injuries?
Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury
Potential Lasting Effects of a Serious Injury
How Long Does it Take for a Spinal Cord Injury to Heal?
Paraplegia or Quadriplegia Caused by a Spinal Cord Injury
Lifelong Costs of an Injury to the Spine
How Do These Accidents Occur?
When Should You Seek Legal Advice?
Time is of the Essence in Catastrophic Injury Cases
Litigating a Spinal Cord Injury Case
How a Philadelphia Spinal Cord Injury Attorney Can Help
What Damages Can You Potentially Recover?
How Much is Your Lawsuit Worth?
What Should I Do if I Sustain a Spinal Cord Injury?
Finding the Right Attorney for Your Case
Spinal Cord Injury FAQs
Speak to a Lawyer Today

Spinal Cord Anatomy

The spinal cord is a column of nerves stretching from the base of your brain down to your tailbone. It is protected by both a sheath of myelin and your spinal column, which consists of 31 vertebrae.

The spinal cord is separated into four distinct regions:

  • The cervical spinal cord (brain and neck area)
  • Thoracic spinal cord (upper back)
  • Lumbar spinal cord (lower back)
  • Sacral spinal cord (tailbone area)

Spinal Cord Injury Categorization

Injury to the spinal cord is generally categorized as either complete or incomplete. A complete injury means the spine is fully severed or compromised, eliminating function entirely below the level of injury, whereas an incomplete injury means the spine is partially severed or compromised, retaining some function below the injury level.

Forty percent of spinal cord injuries are complete, while the remaining sixty percent are incomplete.

Often, the difference between a complete injury (or incomplete injury with permanent loss of function) and an incomplete injury (with full return of function) is how quickly the cause of spinal cord compromise is diagnosed and treated.

philadelphia spinal cord injury lawyer

What Are Common Types of Spinal Cord Injuries?

The most common types of spinal cord injury are tetraplegia or quadriplegia (affecting all limbs), paraplegia (affecting function below the waist) and triplegia (affecting one arm and both legs). Damage can be to the front of the spinal cord (anterior cord syndrome), the center of the spinal cord (central cord syndrome) or to one side of the spinal cord (Brown-Sequard syndrome).

There are additional variations of injury and spinal cord injury syndromes, including the often misdiagnosed cauda equina syndrome, which usually presents as severe back and/or leg pain combined with urinary or bowel dysfunction.

Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury

A victim who suffers a spinal cord injury can experience different symptoms depending on the location and severity of the injury. Symptoms of a spine injury may be acute or chronic. Acute symptoms are noticed immediately after the accident occurs while chronic symptoms can last much longer. Both types of spinal cord injuries may result in permanent disability. Any potential signs of a spinal cord injury mean that a victim should seek emergency medical care.

Spinal cord injury victims may experience the following types of symptoms:

  • Reduced ability to move
  • Problems with balance or walking
  • Loss of feeling or function anywhere in the body (paralysis)
  • Numbness in the extremities or digits
  • Loss of sensation
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Muscle spasms or stiffness
  • Severe headache
  • Respiratory problems or trouble breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Unnatural positioning of the head or neck
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Chronic pain
  • Loss of consciousness

The specific symptoms can vary widely based on the location of the injury (the sacral, lumbar, thoracic or cervical spine), whether the injury is complete or incomplete, and many other factors. If a victim suspects he or she may have a back, neck or spinal cord injury after an accident in Philadelphia, he or she should seek immediate medical attention. Early medical intervention and treatment can significantly impact the victim’s health outcome and ability to recover.

Potential Lasting Effects of a Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury is a catastrophic injury due to its long-term and often permanent effects. While not all spinal cord injuries result in irreversible paralysis, severe and complete spine injuries often do. Although every patient is unique, many spinal cord injury survivors share similar experiences post-injury. Damage to the spinal cord in any degree can come with a risk of serious and life-changing effects, such as:

  • Chronic pain
  • Nerve damage
  • Thermoregulation problems
  • Low blood pressure
  • Respiratory complications
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Urinary and bowel issues
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Pressure ulcers (bedsores)
  • Infections
  • Osteoporosis
  • Bone fractures
  • Emotional and psychological effects
  • Higher morbidity rate

Most spinal cord injury victims have to deal with years of special therapies, rehabilitation and medications. Many are never able to live independently again. Others can regain some strength, mobility and independence with medical assistance, depending on the severity of the injury. Either way, overcoming and coping with all of the physical and mental changes that accompany a spinal cord injury can take a lifetime.

How Long Does it Take for a Spinal Injury to Heal?

When a spinal cord injury first occurs, the area around the spinal cord typically swells. This swelling can impact the rest of the body, but generally only lasts a few days or weeks. As the swelling subsides, some patients will regain mobility and experience relief from other symptoms. However, a complete or permanent spinal cord injury can mean that a victim never fully regains mobility or heals from other damage caused by the injury.

Most victims who suffer spinal cord injuries have to stay in the hospital for the first several days or weeks. During this time, the spinal cord will be stabilized as much as possible and emergency surgeries may be used to try to minimize the damage. The patient’s injury will be diagnosed and he or she will begin any recommended treatments. The first six months of treatment are the most important, as this is the time of maximum recovery for a spinal cord injury victim.

A patient will continue undergoing treatments, typically involving steroids, medications and rehabilitative therapies, for as long as is necessary. This may be months or years. After one year, any residual effects from the spinal cord injury are typically viewed as permanent. Some amount of recovery may still be possible depending on the patient, the severity of the injury and the location of the damage. Unfortunately, it is often not possible to make a complete recovery from a spinal cord injury.

Paraplegia or Quadriplegia Caused by a Spinal Cord Injury

Paralysis is a permanent form of spinal cord damage that involves the loss of the ability to feel sensations and move the body below the point of injury. Paralysis is often irreversible, although some patients may be able to regain a level of feeling or function with treatments such as physical therapy. Two main types of paralysis are caused by spinal cord injuries: paraplegia and quadriplegia.

Paraplegia affects a victim from the waist down. Paraplegia is characterized by a loss of motor function and feeling in the lower half of the body, including both legs. Paraplegia often results from an injury to the middle or lower sections of the spinal cord. Quadriplegia, also known as tetraplegia, affects both arms and both legs, as well as the trunk of the body. Individuals with quadriplegia may also have limited functionality in their respiratory systems and ability to communicate.

A spinal cord injury victim can find it extremely difficult to adjust to the physical changes inflicted on the body due to paraplegia or quadriplegia. These conditions impact virtually every aspect of a victim’s life. Paralysis can make it impossible for the victim to return to work as he or she did before the accident, for example, and may lead to a loss of independence. Many spine injury victims experience mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Furthermore, a victim’s family may suffer from caregiver burnout and loss of consortium.

What Are the Lifelong Costs of a Spinal Injury?

Spinal cord injuries result in extremely significant economic harm to the victim and his or her family, including enormous medical expenses and lost earnings. Victims with spine injuries often require ongoing medical care for many years or the rest of their lives. The costs of this care can add up quickly, especially for someone who is younger at the time of injury. 

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, the estimated lifetime costs directly attributable to spine injuries range from about $1.2 million for someone who suffers motor function disability of any level at age 50 to $5.2 million for someone with high tetraplegia at age 25. Note that these are only the estimates for health care and living expenses. They do not include lost wages, productivity or fringe benefits.

The list of lifelong costs associated with a spinal cord injury includes:

  • Emergency medical intervention
  • Surgeries
  • Ongoing medical care
  • Visits to a specialist
  • Rehabilitative therapies
  • Medical devices
  • Medications
  • Disability accommodations
  • Live-in assistance
  • Transportation and travel costs
  • Lost income
  • Diminished capacity to earn
  • Loss of services

The economic cost of a spinal cord injury can add up quickly for many reasons. The injury itself may require many expensive ongoing treatments. Health complications are also common, such as infections, blood clots and respiratory issues. These can require additional medical care. If a victim has been paralyzed due to a spine injury, he or she may need many different assistive devices, such as special beds, showers and vehicles. Those with the most severe spine injuries may require around-the-clock care.

How Do Spinal Cord Injuries Occur?

The most common causes of spinal cord injury are motor vehicle accidents, falls, acts of violence, sports and recreation injuries and disease processes such as cancer, infection, inflammation, etc. Medical malpractice (such as delay in diagnosis of a spinal epidural abscess or disc herniation) can also result in serious, permanent spinal cord injuries.  Whether you need a medical malpractice lawyer, a motor vehicle accident lawyer or motorcycle accident attorney in Philadelphia, we’re ready to help.

Because the spinal cord exists in a fairly closed environment, it is susceptible to mechanical compression injuries from such causes as herniated disks, cord swelling, blood collection (hematoma) or fluid collection (abscess). Lack of blood flow to the spinal cord (cord ischemia) is another potential cause of spinal cord injury.

A partial list of spinal cord injury symptoms includes:

  • Radiating back pain
  • Sensory changes like numbness, tingling or loss of sensation/function in the extremities or genital area
  • Clumsiness or lack of coordination or fine motor control
  • Varying degrees of paralysis
  • Problems with or changes in bowel and bladder function
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing

Philadelphia Spinal Cord Injury Attorney

It is important for your future to speak to an attorney about your spinal cord injury as soon as possible after an accident. Most insurance companies search for ways to limit their liability, especially for high-value claims like those involving permanent disabilities. They do this by assigning claims adjusters to the case, who may then attempt to take advantage of the claimant. 

A claims adjuster may try to get you to give a recorded statement or accept a fast settlement early on in your case – before you fully understand your injury and how much it will cost. It is important not to fall for insurance company tactics and not to sign anything given to you by the insurer. Instead, take your case to an attorney in Philadelphia immediately to ensure that you are fairly compensated for your spinal cord injury with high-quality legal representation.

Time is Essential When Dealing With a Spinal Injury

Early detection and treatment – often surgery – can mean the difference between the full return of normal function and loss of function.

Definitive diagnosis of spinal cord injuries requires radiology studies such as CT or MRI. In the case of traumatic injury, prompt diagnosis and treatment are likewise critical to ensuring the best possible outcome.

Spinal cord injuries can affect not only the use of the patient’s extremities but also the patient’s ability to control bowel and bladder. Spinal cord injuries are devastating not only for the patient but also for family members. The costs of treating such injuries and their consequences can be overwhelming. The Philadelphia catastrophic injury attorneys at Youman & Caputo are here to help you fight for compensation and justice.

Litigating a Spinal Cord Injury Case

Other types of cases include affirmative injury to the spinal cord due to accidents, falls, surgical mishap, product defects or other causes.

Litigating these cases requires significant time, relentless effort and conscientious attention to detail.  Proving the malpractice or other liability requires a careful review of all of the evidence (including often many thousands of pages of documents), forensic examination of electronic data, taking the depositions of key witnesses, and retaining experts who are leaders in their field.  Proving damages requires multiple independent medical examinations conducted by physicians and nurses with expertise in assessing a spinal cord injury victim’s deficits and needs and developing a life care plan to determine how much money is needed to pay for the medical care and other expenses (like home modifications) required for the remainder of the injured party’s life.

How a Philadelphia Spinal Cord Injury Attorney Can Help

Hiring a spinal cord injury attorney from the very beginning of your case can help you protect your legal rights as a victim of negligence. The at-fault party’s insurance company will take many measures to try to limit its liability and reduce your payout. A lawyer can help you defend yourself during the insurance process – or a personal injury lawsuit – to maximize your financial recovery. 

A spinal cord injury attorney in Philadelphia can help you with many critical tasks associated with your claim, such as investigating the accident, gathering evidence and records, hiring qualified experts to build your case, handling insurance companies, understanding and navigating Pennsylvania’s related laws, and taking your case to a jury trial if the defendant’s insurance company does not offer fair compensation to settle the case. A lawyer will handle the legal process; you can focus on healing while your attorney takes care of your case for you.

What Damages Can You Recover After a Spinal Cord Injury?

The damages, or financial compensation, that you can recover for a spinal cord injury can be immense. You may qualify to recover the costs of all of your associated medical treatments and ongoing care far into the future, as well as pay for the other losses that you suffered because of the injury. Compensable losses may include:

  • Health care costs (past and future)
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Mental and psychological counseling
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Wheelchairs and other medical equipment
  • Personal care costs
  • Lost income and employment benefits
  • Lost capacity to earn a living in the future
  • Diminished enjoyment or quality of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress and mental anguish
  • Loss of consortium
  • Wrongful death damages, in some cases
  • Punitive damages

At Youman & Caputo, our attorneys will aggressively work up your case to seek damages for all of the harm that you have suffered, both economic and non-economic. Then, we will aggressively negotiate with the defendant and its insurance company to ensure that you are fully and fairly compensated for all of the economic and noneconomic damages associated with your spinal cord injury.

How Much Is a Philadelphia Spinal Cord Injury Lawsuit Worth?

Just as the losses connected to a spine injury are substantial, so too can the values of these claims if there is good evidence of negligence and adequate insurance coverage. A spinal cord injury claim settlement could easily enter the millions for a catastrophic or permanent injury. Among its many victories, Youman & Caputo has achieved a $12.5 million settlement for one client and $8 million for another – both for spinal cord injury cases.

Every case is unique. Case values are based on many factors, including the severity of the plaintiff’s injury, how much it impacts his or her life, and the costs associated with the injury. Working with an attorney is the most effective way to optimize your case’s financial outcome. Our lawyers have the power to take cases to court in Philadelphia, if necessary, to achieve optimal results.

What Should I Do if I Sustain a Spinal Cord Injury?

If you feel pain, numbness or tingling in your back or limbs after an accident, call 9-1-1 if possible, stay where you are and remain as still as possible, and wait for paramedics to arrive. Medical professionals will immediately take steps to immobilize your spine and reduce the risk of further injury, such as putting you in a brace. Then, you will receive further medical attention at a hospital in Philadelphia to minimize the effects of the injury.

When you’re able (or with the help of a loved one), call a lawyer as soon possible. Once you hire an attorney, you can focus on your physical and emotional recoveries while your attorney handles the investigation of a potential legal claim.

Finding the Right Attorney for Your Case

Not all attorneys are equal. It is critically important to find the right lawyer to represent you in seeking compensation for any life-altering injury like a spinal cord injury. The best lawyer for you is someone with experience in the catastrophic injury practice area who has a track record of success in and out of the courtroom. Look for a local attorney who has spent years successfully representing clients with back and spine injuries, including cases involving paraplegia or quadriplegia.

Ask the following questions during a free case consultation with an attorney to find the right fit for your personal injury claim:

  • How long have you been practicing personal injury law?
  • Do you have experience specifically with spinal cord injury claims?
  • What are some examples of your past case results?
  • Do you have the staff, time and resources to take on my case?
  • Are you able to try my case in court, if necessary?
  • Do you have any specialized certifications or memberships to professional organizations?
  • How often can I communicate with my attorney during my case?
  • How much are your attorney’s fees?

It is essential to not only choose a lawyer who has the correct experience and track record to take your case but also someone who makes you feel heard, respected and comfortable. A good attorney-client relationship is critical for a successful case outcome as well as a positive overall legal experience as an injured accident victim in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Spinal Cord Injury Lawsuit

Spinal Cord Injury FAQs

It is normal for a spinal cord injury victim to have questions about their condition, future and legal options. The best way to get accurate answers is by consulting with an attorney about your case as quickly as possible. Youman & Caputo offers free consultations so that accident victims in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas can speak directly to an attorney at no cost or risk. Youman & Caputo also handles all cases on a contingent fee basis, which means you never owe any money unless and until there is a recovery in your case.

In the meantime, use these frequently asked questions for general information:

  • Are spinal cord injuries permanent? 

Some spinal cord injuries, such as those that result in paralysis, are permanent. However, some victims make partial and even full recoveries from spine injuries. Recovery rates depend on the severity and location of the damage on the spine.

  • What are the signs of a spine injury?

Common symptoms of a spinal cord injury include pain or pressure in the back, tingling or numbness anywhere in the body, loss of sensation or mobility, trouble breathing, muscle spasms, and headache.

  • What causes spinal cord injuries?

Spine injuries can be caused by preventable accidents, including car crashes, falls, medical malpractice, sports incidents, swimming pool or diving accidents, acts of violence, and workplace accidents.

  • Do I have grounds for filing a personal injury case?

If there is evidence that one or more parties reasonably should have prevented your spinal cord injury, you may have grounds to file a civil lawsuit against that party to pursue financial compensation for harm caused by the injury.

  • Do I need to hire a lawyer for my spine injury case?

Yes. You should hire a lawyer to represent you if you have sustained a spinal cord injury. These cases are generally complex, both legally and factually, and you and your family have your future on the line. Protect that future as much as possible by hiring the right lawyer to assist you.

To learn more about your individual spinal cord injury claim and discuss a specific legal matter with a knowledgeable attorney, contact us to schedule a free case review. We can answer all of your spinal cord injury questions in detail.

Contact a Philadelphia Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer

At Youman & Caputo, we have extensive experience litigating and securing large verdicts and settlements in spinal cord injury cases of all types, including medical malpractice, product liability, accidents, surgical injuries, and other cases. If you or a loved one have suffered a spinal cord injury caused by the negligence of another, then call now for a free consultation.