Paraplegia describes paralysis of the legs and lower body. Paraplegics are
unable to walk or feel sensation in their legs and lower parts of their bodies. While this condition can be caused by a congenital condition or degenerative disease — we, as Los Angeles accident lawyers, are most interested in paralysis caused by negligent, reckless, or malicious catastrophic injury. Our plaintiffs have become paralyzed following a motor vehicle accident, a slip/trip/fall on another person’s property, or a workplace incident. When another person or entity contributes to the cause of a life-impacting injury, a paraplegia lawsuit may be necessary to right the scales of justice.
Paraplegic injury causes
Paraplegic injury is almost always caused by injury to the spinal cord. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center notes that the four most common causes of spinal cord injuries (and the percentage of such injuries they cause) are:
- Car accidents (42.1%)
- Falls (26.7%)
- Violent acts, like gunshot wounds (15.1%)
- Recreational sports accidents (7.6%)
Some paraplegic injuries can also occur in medical procedures that affect the back or neck, such as surgery. If this occurs, the affected party might have cause to bring a medical malpractice claim.
What is paraplegia?
Paraplegia often results from an injury to the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a group of nerves that are within he spinal column, commonly called the backbone. Paraplegia causes paralysis. Paraplegics lose motor control and the ability to feel the lower half of their bodies.
The spinal cord not only affects movement, control, and sensation, it affects multiple body functions. The bladder, breathing, body heat and cold, and sexual feeling can all be affected by spinal cord injuries. As a result, patients with paraplegia may no longer be able to perform bodily functions on their own. They may experience breathing difficulties. They may have difficulty regulating their temperatures.
Paraplegic patients may require regular medical care and multiple forms of assistance with the activities of daily life. This care and assistance can be long-term or permanent.
Unfortunately, breathing difficulties and infections associated with being confined to bed and requiring assistance with bodily functions can sometimes shorten the life expectancy of paraplegic patients.
Negligence in paraplegic injury
If you or a loved one has suffered a paraplegic injury due to an accident or other trauma caused by another party, you may be able to file for damages based on negligence.
Negligence means that the party who caused your accident was at fault. If you were in a car accident caused by another driver, for example, such as failure to stop at a stop sign or driving over the speed limit, a jury might find the driver at fault. If you slipped and fell on stairs that had needed repair for many months, landlords might be found at fault for not repairing their property in a reasonable period of time.
Negligence can also be claimed against a company that manufactured, sold, or designed products that caused an accident causing paraplegic injury.
If the opposing party can argue that you contributed to the circumstances causing the injury, the defense may claim contributory or comparative negligence.
Contributory means that you contributed to the accident. Engaging in parasailing, for example, is an activity with some risk. If a paraplegic injury was caused by a parasailing accident, the defense may argue contributory negligence, especially if proper safety precautions were not taken.
Comparative negligence means that the injured party bears some responsibility for the accident that caused the injury. If it can be shown that the injured party did not use seat belts, for example, a jury may decide to reduce any damages by a certain percentage.
Should you file A paraplegia lawsuit?
Paraplegia cases are among our Los Angeles law firm’s largest recoveries. You may be eligible to file if:
- Another person was responsible for creating a hazardous situation.
- This hazardous situation directly caused you to become paralyzed.
- Your paralysis can be verified by a treating physician and diagnostic imaging.
- You have lost money in medical expenses and lost wages due to your injury.
Paraplegia cases related to minors or incapacitated victims may require caregivers to file on behalf of the injured. Damages in these cases include compensation for past, present, and future medical expenses and lost wages. The largest portion of the settlement or jury award typically relates to an estimated amount of “pain and suffering,” which encompasses everything from depression, anxiety, and emotional suffering, to the loss of hobbies, physical pain of disability, and the burdensome reliance on caregivers.
Types of paraplegia injuries
Paraplegia injury typically affects both legs, the hips, and pelvis. It can be a substantial-but-temporary impairment in functioning and movement, or it can be a total and permanent condition. The reality of paraplegia varies from person to person. Some cannot feel their legs or walk. They may not be able to use the bathroom without assistance or perform sexual acts. In every case, paraplegics must undergo physical therapy to retrain the brain and spinal cord to work around limitations, strengthen muscles, and bolster nerve connections.
What expenses arise if you’re paralyzed?
Nearly 1 in 50 people are living with paralysis. That means some 760,000 people are paralyzed in the State of California. Sudden paralysis caused by spinal cord injury can cost $5 million or more over the course of a lifetime, according to Huffington Post. The first year alone can exceed $518,000 in medical expenses, according to the Dana and Christopher Reeve Foundation.
Paraplegics often require spinal surgery, the use of a ventilator, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, mental health counseling, long-term home aides, assistive technology like wheelchairs, and painkillers. Spinal cord injury patients may need to travel out of town or even out of state to receive top-of-the-line care, resulting in hidden incidentals like transportation, accommodations, food, and other travel expenses.
One year after injury, just 11.7% of people with paraplegia are employed. At 20 years, this figure increases modestly to just over a third. Loss of wages and lost earning potential is one of the most significant expenses for paraplegia injury survivors. The median wage in America is around $40,000. If we assume the injury occurs at age 25 and the survivor would have otherwise worked until 65, the loss in earning potential is valued at $1.6 million, not including advancements, sick pay, vacation time, medical insurance, retirement contributions, and other benefits gained through employment.
How much are paraplegia settlements worth?
People who are paraplegic as a result of injury may be entitled to compensation for medical treatment, physical therapy, medications, equipment such as medical beds and motorized wheelchairs, and other bills related to treatment.
An outcome cannot be guaranteed, but generally speaking, paraplegia settlements can be quite large ranging from the hundreds of thousands into the millions per plaintiff. The precise amount you receive depends upon the duration and severity of the injury, the amount of loss suffered, and the clarity of liability. Ultimately, much of the compensation rests upon the quality of the experts hired to make hypothetical assessments about future lost wages, medical expenses, and suffering. Aggressive litigators may pursue punitive damages in cases where the defendant was grossly negligent, reckless, or acting with true malice; this type of damage can bring a claim well into the millions of dollars. A paraplegia injury lawyer can pursue maximum damages, while you focus on your own personal recovery and mental health at this challenging time.
If the injury has necessitated changes or modifications to their living areas, such as those related to wheelchair access, wheelchair size, and ease of mobility, they may be compensated for the financial cost of those changes and modifications.
If the person is no longer able to work at their former career, they can bring a claim for compensation for retraining of disability. If the injury has necessitated time off work, the injured party can file a legal claim for lost wages, lost benefits, and lost opportunities, if relevant.
Paraplegic patients may also be eligible to bring damages for pain and suffering.
Finally, people with paraplegic injury and their spouses may claim damages related to emotional issues, such as loss of quality of life or loss of consortium.
Determining the value for claims related to a paraplegic injury is complex. Those affected should consulted experienced attorneys to discuss their case.
Working with the right legal team makes a big impact on how much you can recover. The Los Angeles accident lawyers at Ellis Injury Law have secured more than $350 million for our personal injury clients. Contact us, risk-free, for your free case review. As a thriving, contingency-based L.A. firm, we cover all the upfront costs of the lawsuit, charging clients only if and when we are successful.