Spine and Back Injuries
Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is defined as any damage to the spinal cord resulting in loss of function or mobility. Such injuries can result in temporary or permanent loss of sensation, movement (paralysis), or control of bodily functions. The primary causes of a spinal cord injury are vehicle crashes, violence, falls, and sports.
There are two types of spinal cord damage - complete and incomplete. A complete injury prevents sensation or voluntary motor movement on either side of the body below the location of injury. If some feeling or partial movement is retained, this is an incomplete spinal cord injury.
Other categories beyond that refer to specific areas of the spine. For example, the neck area contains the cervical vertebrae, so impairment to those nerves at the fifth cervical vertebra would be referred to as a C-5 injury. The thoracic vertebrae are located below the neck, so injuries there are called T-1, T-2, and so on. Below those are the lumbar and sacral vertebrae, and injuries in those areas are named in a similar manner.
In general, neck injuries lead to paralysis of all limbs (quadriplegia) while thoracic injuries cause paralysis to only the lower limbs (paraplegia). Injuries to both regions can result in varying amounts of dysfunction, depending on the severity of the injury. For example, incomplete cervical damage can leave a patient with some hand movement, while complete damage at C-4 may require a patient to be on a ventilator. Thoracic injuries can leave the arms functional but interfere with walking, and abdominal organ functions (bowels, bladder, etc).
In addition to the intense pain and suffering a spinal cord injury can create, a spinal cord injury can also cause significant financial burdens: costly medical bills, and, in many cases, the need for long-term care. A spinal cord injury causing paraplegia allows just forty percent of patients to return to their jobs. If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord damage caused by someone else’s negligence, you should seek the counsel of an attorney experienced with spinal cord injuries, as you may be entitled to compensation.
If you believe you may have a spine or back injury case, contact us today for more information.
A traumatic brain injury is defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. Of the more than 1.4 million people who sustain a traumatic brain injury each year in the United States:
- 50,000 die;
- 235,000 are hospitalized; and
- 1.1 million are treated and released from an emergency department.*
Severe brain injuries can result from what appear to be minor incidents. The leading causes of traumatic brain injury are:
- Falls (28%);
- Motor vehicle-traffic crashes (20%);
- Struck by/against (19%); and
- Assaults (11%).*
In general there are two types of brain injuries, open and closed. When a person suffers an open head injury it means there is a fracture and the skull is out of place or displaced. A closed head injury does not involve the fracturing of the skull. However it is very important to understand that a closed brain injury can in fact be more serious due to the risk of brain swelling or blood clots forming inside the skull. Brain injuries resulting from a closed or open head injury, can result in coma, physical, cognitive, and/or behavioral impairments and even death. Symptoms that may indicate a brain injury include:
- Sleep disturbance;
- Sensitivity to noise or light;
- Balance problems;
- Decreased concentration and attention span;
- Decreased speed of thinking;
- Memory problems;
- Depression and anxiety and;
- Emotional mood swings.
If you or someone you know has any of the described symptoms, medical attention should be sought immediately.
* Langlois JA, Rutland-Brown W, Thomas KE. Traumatic brain injury in the United States: emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2004.
Wrongful death is a civil action rather than a criminal action; the distinction being that a civil case resolves a dispute between two parties, while a criminal case involves the enforcement of law. When an individual dies as a result of actions or inactions of another, the deceased's family or representatives of their estate may file a wrongful death suit to compensate for mental and/or emotional suffering, lost wages or benefits, or loss of companionship.
A defendant can be held liable for wrongful death only if their conduct can be proven to have been the cause of the death. With such proof, the span of time between the defendant's action or inaction and the death of the deceased is not a factor. Mitigating factors include the possibility that the deceased was partially responsible for his or her death (comparative or contributory negligence), or the failure of the deceased to seek proper and timely medical care.
If fault is found, civil cases are resolved with monetary damages. These can be awarded based on actual expenditures such as medical bills and loss of future earnings, or on less easily quantified factors such as loss of companionship. Punitive damages may also result, but can typically only be awarded where the action or inaction of the defendant was grossly negligent or even intentional.
If you believe you may have a wrongful death case, contact us today for more information.
Burns and Electrocutions
A burn is a type of trauma to the skin and interior tissues of the body due to heat, electricity, radiation, or certain chemicals. Each year, approximately two million people in the United States suffer burn injuries, resulting in some 300,000 serious injuries and 6,000 deaths.
The three main types of burns are: thermal, electrical, and chemical.
Thermal burn injuries are the most common, occurring as a result of residential fires, automobile accidents, matches, gasoline, heaters or electrical devices. Some sources of thermal burns include: open flames, hot liquids (such as coffee, grease, or boiling water), and explosions.
Electrical burns occur when an electrical current runs through the body at very high temperatures. An electrical current can cause injury at its points of entry and exit, as well as the muscles, tissues and organs through which it passes. Damage to nerves, bones, and blood vessels can also occur. If an electrical current passes through the center of the body, there exists the potential for a fatal heart attack.
The conversion of chemical energy to thermal energy causes chemical burns. Strong acids such as phosphorus or mustard gas are examples of chemicals that cause burns. The severity of a chemical burn depends upon the duration of the chemical’s contact with tissue; flushing the skin with water is essential to preventing long-term tissue damage.
Each type of burn can further be described as a first-degree, second-degree or third-degree burn. First-degree burns affect only the epidermis, or outer layer of skin. Generally these are superficial injuries that usually cause temporary redness, swelling and pain.
Second-degree burns can cause damage to multiple layers of skin, going beyond the epidermis to the dermis itself. These burns are classified as either “superficial” or “deep.” Superficial burns only affect the outer portion of the dermis, while deep burns extend to the deeper layers. Deep burns appear as dry, white patches that are painful to the touch. Second-degree burns don't usually require surgery, although scarring is frequently a result.
The most serious of burn injuries is the third-degree burn. Every layers of skin is affected, as well as underlying tissue and/or organs, producing a black or brown leathery appearance. Nerve endings are often destroyed, so third-degree burns usually are not painful after the fact, but they can require surgical skin grafting or transplants.
If you believe you may have a burn or electrocution case, contact us today for more information.