Duluth Spinal Cord Injury Attorney
Spinal cord injuries are devastating injuries that can change an individual’s life and their family’s future. While each spinal cord injury differs in severity and impacts, even a minor spinal cord injury is likely to cause intense pain and stress and to bring about astronomical medical expenses.
If you have suffered a spinal cord injury in Duluth because of another person’s intentional, reckless, or negligent actions, you should not have to deal with the burdensome repercussions on your own. At the Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers, we our Duluth spinal cord injury lawyers are here for spinal cord injury victims, ready to provide experienced legal representation to get them the justice and damages they deserve.
Table of Contents
- Duluth Spinal Cord Injury Attorney
- Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers-About Us
- What Is A Spinal Cord Injury?
- Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
- Different Levels of Spinal Cord Injuries
- Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
- Duluth Spinal Cord Injury Lawsuit-What You Need to Prove
- Damages Available After a Duluth Spinal Cord Injury Accident
- Actions to Take Following a Duluth Spinal Cord Injury Accident
- Duluth Spinal Cord Injury FAQs
- Get the Legal Help You Need Following a Duluth Spinal Cord Injury Accident From Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers
Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers-About Us
Your spinal cord injury may have come about any number of ways—an auto accident in Downtown Duluth, a fall at the Duluth Target store, or a workplace injury at the University of Minnesota-Duluth or St. Luke’s Hospital. Whatever caused your spinal cord injury, reach out to Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers to talk about how we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Since 2007, our personal injury attorneys and legal team have helped thousands of clients in cities across Wisconsin and Minnesota after horrific accidents that rendered them severely injured or disabled. Our firm is passionate about protecting our community, and we have done so by helping those who are in their most vulnerable state seize back their lives by obtaining the compensation they need to recover and move on with their lives the best they can.
Our clients can trust us to deliver the high-level legal services they need. Our results speak for themselves—we have helped over 3,000 clients collect over $40 million in settlement and court awards for compensation. Even though we cannot guarantee these types of results for every case we take on, you can rest assured when you work with the Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers, our legal team can fight hard to go after every last dollar your injury has cost you. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
What Is A Spinal Cord Injury?
Spinal cord injuries can result from many different kinds of impacts. However, the most common cause is external trauma. This may be from any kind of impact, from falling to being thrown against a hard surface in an auto accident.
External trauma can cause damage to the spinal cord, leading to a loss of feeling, mobility, or function.
Spinal cord injuries often occur because of a sudden blow or cut to the spine and generally result in one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
- A loss of movement
- A loss of bladder or bowel control
- Exaggerated spasms or reflex activities
- Changes in sexual function, sensitivity, and fertility
- An altered sensation, including the ability to feel heat, cold, and touch
- Pain caused by damages to the nerve fibers in the spinal cord
- Difficulty coughing, breathing, or clearing secretions from the lungs.
Unfortunately, depending on the severity of these spinal cord injuries, the effects can fundamentally change a person’s life. Victims often do not know right away just how much their lives will change due to their spinal cord injury. Spinal cord injury patients normally require the following services after their injury:
- Injection treatments
- Rehabilitation therapy
- Diaphragm pacing
- Special medical devices
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
Generally, spinal cord injuries are divided into two types—complete and incomplete.
- Complete Spinal Cord Injury: This spinal cord injury results in permanent damage to the area of the spinal cord that is affected. Complete spinal cord injuries are likely to result in paraplegia and tetraplegia. About half of all spinal cord injuries are complete.
- Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury: Incomplete spinal cord injuries refer to partial damage to the spinal cord, which can impact one’s ability to move and feel depending on the area of the spinal cord that was injured and the severity of that injury.
Different Levels of Spinal Cord Injuries
A spinal cord consists of four sections, including the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral sections. Each of these sections protects a unique group of nerves that control the body. For these reasons, the effects of a spinal cord injury depend on which section is harmed.
- Cervical Injuries affect the head and neck region above the shoulders, and this type of spinal cord injury is often considered the most severe.
- Thoracic Injuries impact the mid-back, upper chest, and abdominal muscles. Usually, with this type of spinal cord injury, the hand and arm functions remain normal.
- Lumbar Injuries affect the hips and the legs. Victims that have suffered this type of spinal cord injury often need a wheelchair or leg braces.
- Sacral Injuries affect the buttocks, pelvic organs, hips, and the back of the thighs. However, victims with this type of spinal cord injury are often able to walk.
Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can occur in almost any situation, but more commonly result from the following types of accidents:
- Motor vehicle crashes
- Trucking accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- ATV accidents
- Snowmobile accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Dangerous property conditions
If you suffered a spinal cord injury in any of these kinds of accidents, due to no fault of your own, reach out to an experienced spinal cord injury lawyer at Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers, as soon as possible. Our lawyers can evaluate your case and advise on the viability of your claim. If we proceed to represent you, we can quickly investigate your accident to determine what happened and who all may have been responsible, and pursue maximum damages to account for your injuries and expenses.
Duluth Spinal Cord Injury Lawsuit-What You Need to Prove
In a spinal cord injury case, you will need to prove a party was at fault for the accident leading to your spinal cord injury. To prove fault, you must show that another person engaged in an intentional, reckless, or negligent, or negligent manner, leading to your injury.
In most spinal cord injury cases, the at-fault party engaged in negligent behavior—i.e. they failed to exercise a reasonable amount of care in their conduct in a given situation. To prove negligence as a matter of law, you need to demonstrate that a party owed you a duty of care. In any given situation, everyone has a duty of care to one another. You also must show that the party violated this duty of care, and that it directly led to your spinal cord injury and the damages (compensation) you are seeking.
Some common situations that can constitute a negligent act in spinal cord injury cases include:
- A truck colliding with a car, motorcycle, or pedestrian because the truck driver was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or was distracted and not paying attention to the road
- A property owner failed to fix or to warn their guest of a dangerous condition on the premises, and a guest subsequently stumbled upon the condition, leading to injury
Damages Available After a Duluth Spinal Cord Injury Accident
If you can prove spinal cord injury was due to another person’s wrongful or negligent actions, filing a lawsuit could help you get the much-needed financial compensation to address the immense expenses these injuries tend to result in, from medical bills to the increased costs of living with a spinal cord injury disability, such as requiring home modifications and paying for services you can no longer do yourself. The law refers to compensation for these expenses and impacts as “damages.”
Following a spinal cord injury accident, you may be entitled to the following types of damages:
Economic Damages: These damages refer to verifiable expenses resulting from an accident.
- Medical expenses, including past, current, and future medical bills, such as emergency medical services, ambulance rides, hospital stay, surgeries, doctor visits, and prescription medications
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Personal property damages
- Rehabilitation costs
- At-home nursing care
- Replacement services.
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
Non-Economic Damages: These damages refer to the more subjective losses that result from the accident, and that are not as easy to quantify.
- Pain and Suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life and activities
- Loss of reputation
- Loss of a limb
Punitive Damages: Unlike the aforementioned damages, which compensate a victim for their expenses and losses “make them whole,” punitive damages punish a defendant for egregious wrongdoings and deter them and others from committing such acts. However, courts only award these damages if the victim can produce evidence showing that the defendant acted maliciously or with an intentional disregard to a victim’s rights.
Actions to Take Following a Duluth Spinal Cord Injury Accident
Following a spinal cord injury accident, a spinal cord injury victim's health and legal rights may depend on a loved one to:
After a spinal cord injury accident, you should call 911 immediately. This is the fastest way to notify emergency medical services that you need medical assistance and get your accident on record. If you are unable to move, ask someone in your car or nearby to call 911. Once the police arrive, they can investigate your accident and write down their findings in the police report. If you decide to pursue legal action, this report can provide you with valuable information regarding what happened and who was at fault.
Although it is not always possible following a spinal cord injury accident, if you are able, collect evidence at the scene of the accident, such as pictures and videos. Again, if you are too injured to do so, request that someone nearby assist you. Your photos may include your visible injuries, the scene of the accident, the weather conditions at the time of the accident, and any other evidence that can help show what happened.
Obtain Witness Statements
If there were people at the scene who saw what happened, try to get their names and contact information. Even if they do not provide a statement at the scene, these individuals might later be willing to provide you with a statement of what they saw. Witness statements can provide information about how the accident occurred and help back up your claim. However, if witnesses do not want to give you their details, do not press them. Once you retain an experienced spinal cord injury lawyer, your attorney can find a way to obtain witness testimony by other means.
Get Checked Out By Your Doctor
Even if you believe you do not require emergency medical care following the accident, you should still get checked over by a doctor as soon as possible. Spinal cord injuries are not always immediately apparent, and they can take days to weeks to manifest. Yet, the longer you wait to get medical treatment, the more serious the injury can become. For this reason alone, it is important to have a doctor examine you promptly after your accident.
In addition, getting prompt medical treatment can be important to your legal claim. Generally, the responsible party will pay for your claim through insurance. In turn, insurance companies are looking for any reason to deny your claim. By not getting immediate treatment following a spinal cord injury accident, the insurance company will argue that your injury is not as serious as you say or that its severity was a result of a subsequent event, and thus not their insured’s fault.
When you get checked over by your doctor right after an accident, a medical professional can document your physical state, providing evidence to directly link your spinal cord injury to the accident.
Duluth Spinal Cord Injury FAQs
What are the different categories of spinal cord injuries?
People often confuse injuries to the spinal cord with injuries to the spine. The spine is part of the skeletal system. It protects the spinal cord, the head, and back. The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system, which controls the body’s movement and sensation. Doctors refer to an SCI by a letter and a number. The letter represents the spinal column level where the injury occurred. The number represents the vertebrae involved.
Healthcare providers commonly refer to spinal cord injuries as either complete or incomplete. In an incomplete injury, some messages are still getting through to the brain. However, different nerves will be sending messages, so the injured person’s function and sensation will be different in each case.
However, a complete injury blocks the messages back and forth to the brain, so the injured person loses their motor function below the point of injury and is paralyzed. According to the American Spinal Injury Association, the location of the injury marks the level of mobility and sensation.
How do spinal cord injuries happen?
We don’t often think about our spinal cord, but it is truly amazing. Essentially, it is a column of nerve tissue running down the back. Vertebrae make up the spinal column. If the column of vertebrae presses down on the spinal cord, it can damage it.
The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system and carries information between the body and the brain. It works with your brain to control motor, sensory, and autonomic functions, such as blood pressure and digestion. This causes swelling or bruising of your spinal cord. In addition, damage to your spinal column, disease, or infection can cause an injury to your spinal cord.
Unfortunately, if the spinal cord is damaged in an accident, the sections of the body below the injury will be cut off from the system of messages to and from your brain. Therefore, the nerves and body parts linked to the damaged areas of the spinal cord will stop functioning because they are disconnected from your brain.
The spinal cord can be damaged in all kinds of ways, but trauma causes most spinal cord injuries. According to the National Spinal Cord Injuries Facts and Figures, 2020, some of the primary causes of spinal cord damage include:
- Vehicular accidents. Motor vehicle accidents, such as those involving cars, trucks, and motorcycles, are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, causing 38.6 percent of all new spinal cord injuries.
- Falls. Falls can happen anywhere and to anyone, but they are especially a risk for those ages 65 and older. They cause 32.2 percent of spinal cord injuries.
What symptoms do those with spinal cord injuries experience?
Spinal cord symptoms vary widely, depending on the location of the injury and how badly the person is injured. After suffering a spinal cord injury, people often hear the medical term “spinal shock.” This term refers to the temporary reduction or loss of reflexes following a spinal cord injury.
There are four stages to spinal shock. In the first day or two, the injured individual may experience an “anesthetized feeling” of the body below the injury. However, in the early stages of treatment, doctors may administer actual anesthesia, so it is hard to tell if the person is feeling spinal shock. One to three days after the injury, the injured person may experience the return of some reflexes.
One to four weeks after the injury, the individual may experience strong reflexes due to new nerve synapse growth. This condition is usually temporary. One to twelve months after the injury, the person may develop spasticity and other neurological changes.
Typically, injuries that are higher on the spinal cord have more severe consequences. Sometimes symptoms do not show up right away. This delay may cause delays in treatment, which may lead to further deterioration.
Spinal cord injuries produce a wide range of symptoms.
Someone who has experienced trauma should seek medical care for:
- Partial or complete loss of control over any part of the body
- Inability to move the limbs
- Extreme pain or pressure in the neck, head, or back
- A tingling feeling or lack of sensation in the arms or legs
- Passing out or remaining unconscious
- General weakness
- Problems with bladder or bowel control
- Difficulty breathing
- Unusual lumps on the head or spine
- Problems with walking or balance
- Altered sense of heat and cold, especially in the arms, legs, fingers, and toes
- Stiffness or pain in the neck
What treatments do doctors typically recommend for spinal cord injuries?
After spinal cord injury survivors and their families understand the injury, they usually want to know if their condition will be permanent. Injuries to the spinal cord are extremely complicated, and typically the highly specialized cells are unable to repair or regenerate. Therefore, unlike other body parts, the spinal cord can’t heal itself.
With spinal cord injuries, there may potentially be further damage after the initial injury. Therefore, quick treatment is essential. The University of Minnesota Medical School recently received funding for a spinal cord injury Center for Excellence. The grant hopes to “provide a multidisciplinary continuum of clinical care for people with spinal cord injuries (SCI), which will also be used to base and expand research on SCI.” They will work to expand care SCI in Minnesota, western Wisconsin, northern Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
Although scientists have not yet found a cure, researchers continue to develop new treatments to improve nerve function. Immediately after a spinal cord injury, treatments may include immobilization with a neck brace and backboard.
Emergency room doctors assess the spine’s stability. Doctors may perform surgery to remove bone fragments or remove pressure on the injured spine. Later, the individual continues treatment at a rehabilitation facility to improve their physical condition or learn to use any necessary adaptive equipment.
Further rehabilitation may take place at the victim’s own home or an outpatient facility. The purpose of rehabilitative therapy is to provide an individual with an SCI as much function and independence as possible, so many people continue to undergo therapy for the rest of their lives.
In addition, dedicated therapists and other professionals provide guidance and equipment to help a patient develop skills such as:
- Self-care, which includes tasks such as feeding, grooming, bathing, and dressing.
- Mobility. Depending on the circumstances, the individual may use braces, crutches, walkers, scooters, carts, or wheelchairs.
- Respiratory support. People may use various breathing techniques to strengthen lung function or use a ventilator.
- Communication skills. These may be regained through speech-language therapy and occupational therapy for writing skills.
- Support and education for the family. When someone suffers a spinal cord injury, it affects the lives of their loved ones. Counselors experienced in this type of trauma can provide support to help the whole family prepare for their post-injury life.
What are the ongoing consequences of a spinal cord injury?
Living with a spinal cord injury can be a long and challenging road. It starts with educating yourself about your condition and coming to terms with your current circumstances. Even the experts cannot predict precisely the length or degree of your recovery.
Approximately thirty percent of SCI patients return to the hospital at some point following the initial injury. Respiratory, digestive, circulatory, and musculoskeletal diseases often cause readmission. On average, the patient stays in the hospital for 18 days. The leading cause of death from a spinal cord injury is pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, and septicemia.
As time passes, long term complications may develop, such as:
- Back pain
- Bladder and bowel dysfunction
- Sexual dysfunction
- Syringomyelia, which is the development of a fluid-filled cyst in the spinal cord
- Various infections
- Cardiovascular and respiratory problems
- Involuntary contraction of muscles
- Weight gain
What is the economic impact of spinal cord injuries?
The cost of medical treatment for spinal cord injuries can be overwhelming. The amount varies widely depending on circumstances, such as the severity of the injury. However, the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center reports that initially, the average hospital stay is 15 days. On average, rehabilitation lasts for one or two months. Throughout their life, expenses for a spinal cord injury victim may cost $5 million or more.
Data from NSCISC shows that only 18 percent of people could work one year after their accident, rising to 24 percent after 10 years and 32 percent after 40 years. Additionally, your living costs will rise due to medical expenses and the need for help to go about your daily life.
Spinal injuries also significantly reduce life expectancy and leave you susceptible to a host of secondary medical complications such as pressure sores and respiratory infections.
Who may be at fault for a spinal cord injury?
Many spinal cord injuries arise from negligence, “a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” To establish negligence, you must prove the elements. These are a duty of care, a breach of duty, that the victim was injured and that the breach of duty caused the injury.
These must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, which means that the evidence presented is more probable than not. To do this, it is essential to keep records of all medical care and losses related to the injury.
Every case is unique, but possible at-fault parties may include:
- Anyone responsible for a motor vehicle accident. The obvious person is the driver, but it may also include other drivers, those responsible for the road, or manufacturers of a defective car or component.
- Construction companies. Construction workers who fall from scaffolding or high buildings often suffer an SCI.
- A property owner. If you fell or suffered a spinal cord injury on someone else’s property, you might be eligible for compensation under the legal theory of premises liability.
What are the potential damages in a spinal cord injury case?
When someone suffers a spinal cord injury, the financial losses are enormous. There are endless medical bills, lost wages, and meanwhile, regular bills like the mortgage or utilities continue to mount up.
Damages may include:
- Medical expenses: These bills start with the ambulance and the emergency room treatment. They continue with hospital stays, surgery, medication, ongoing therapy, and any necessary durable medical equipment.
- Lost wages: Recovery from an SCI is typically long and slow. During that time, the injured person usually cannot work and as a result, they lose some or all of their income. About one-third of people living with a spinal cord injury eventually return to work. However, in many cases, the injured person is never able to return to their job or even continue in the same line of work as previously.
- Home care and renovations: Most of us are responsible for many everyday tasks, such as cleaning, shopping and meal preparation, childcare, pet care, and more. After a spinal cord injury, you may need assistance with all of these jobs. You may need a wheelchair ramp, chair lift, a remodeled bathroom or a wheelchair-accessible van, or someone to drive you.
- Pain, suffering, and emotional distress: Even if the physical pain is under control, a person living with SCI often suffers from emotional trauma, depression, or anxiety.
- Loss of consortium: The court or jury may award compensation for a loss of the injured person’s close personal relationships.
- Punitive damages: The court may award punitive damages when there is “clear and convincing evidence that the at-fault party’s actions showed intentional disregard for the safety or rights of others.”
What evidence helps prove your claim?
To build your case, you should start early to collect as much evidence relating to your injury as possible. Over time, witnesses and documents may be increasingly difficult to locate. Such documentation as medical records, pictures, videos, helps establish what caused your injury.
Regular journal entries can show the progress of your recovery as well as the psychological impact of your injury. However, it is generally best to avoid commenting about your accident or injury on social media sites as this may affect your lawsuit.
Spinal cord injuries are among the most catastrophic and life-altering injuries anyone can experience. If you have suffered a spinal cord injury, an experienced attorney can help.
Get the Legal Help You Need Following a Duluth Spinal Cord Injury Accident From Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers
To bring a successful case following a spinal cord injury accident, you need strong evidence and sound legal arguments showing what happened, who was at fault, and what the impacts have been on your life. When you work with an experienced spinal cord injury lawyer at Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers, you do not have to take on the burden of establishing these things yourself.
Our firm can:
- Go over your case in detail, advise you of your legal options, and help you decide the best way to move forward given your situation
- Answer any questions you have about your claim
- Investigate your spinal cord injury accident and gather the necessary evidence to prove fault and damages
- Obtain experts, as necessary, such as accident reconstructionists, engineers, and doctors to substantiate your claims
- Handle negotiations with the responsible party and their insurer to fight for a fair settlement, sufficient to cover your expenses and impacts
- Take your case to trial if the other side refuses to settle for a fair amount, and secure a court award of damages to ensure you recover compensation
If you or a loved one suffered a spinal cord injury because of another’s wrongdoing, do not wait any longer to get legal help. Reach out to Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers today for your free case consultation, and let our Duluth spinal cord injury lawyers help you fight for your legal rights.
306 West Superior Street, Suite 606
Duluth, MN 55802