California Quadriplegic Injury Lawyer
It is believed there are 229,000 to 306,000 people living with spinal cord
injuries any given year. Paralysis is among one of the most serious results in an accident. Not only is a person’s mobility and enjoyment of life affected, but the financial toll can be devastating as well.
The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation estimates the first-year cost of quadriplegia to be anywhere from $769,351 for low-level tetraplegia, to over $1 million for severe tetraplegia. Every year after that costs patients $113,000 – $184,891. Over the course of a lifetime, a Californian suffering injury to all four limbs can anticipate lifetime medical bills exceeding $2-$4 million.
These estimates do not include the loss of income, benefits, or productivity – which averaged an additional $71,961 per year in 2014. A year after injury, 11% of quadriplegics are back at work in some capacity. Twenty years later, a third of quadriplegics are at a similar level of employment as they were prior to the accident.
Spinal cord injury is the leading cause of quadriplegia – also known as tetraplegia – in the country. A traumatic injury or blow to the head, neck, or back can lead to paralysis of the torso and four limbs, leaving victims virtually completely immobile.
The physical ability of a patient following a spinal cord injury depends on the location of the damage to the spinal cord and nerves. When any of the first eight cervical vertebrae (C1-C8) are injured, this results in loss of function of the limbs.
Understanding quadriplegia injuries
Those with a C4 or C5 injury usually maintain some mobility in the neck, head, or shoulders, while damage to the first three cervical vertebrae is the most devastating. In this type of quadriplegia, the sympathetic nervous system is comprised, meaning patients will need full-time help with the simplest of tasks, ranging from dressing and bathing to eating. In addition, their diaphragm muscles are paralyzed, requiring ventilator assistance.
Unsurprisingly, quadriplegia exacts a heavy financial, emotional and physical toll on the victim and their loved ones. Ellis Law provides aggressive, results-focused advocacy to victims and families of catastrophic injury in Los Angeles.
When negligence is to blame, the law affords remedies for pursuing money damages for medical treatment, in-home nursing care, loss of future earnings, disability, rehabilitation, pain and suffering, and other losses sustained. Reach out to discuss your options for filing a quadriplegia lawsuit.
Table of Contents
What causes quadriplegic injury?
Any injury high in the spinal cord can affect multiple regions in the brain and lead to paralysis of the limbs.
Top causes of spinal cord and quadriplegia injury include:
- Car accidents (37%)
- Falls from height (30%)
- Gun-shot wounds (14%)
- Other violent acts (14%)
- Sports and recreation (9%)
- Medical mistakes and surgical accidents (4%)
In rare cases, untreated spinal cord infections, lesions, brain tumors, and congenital defects can cause quadriplegia.
Quadriplegia: causes and grounds for litigation
Becoming paralyzed from the neck down is devastating in its own right. But imagine if the injury was entirely preventable – caused by the reckless actions or carelessness of another party. Certain infections and medical conditions can cause paralysis of the limbs, but spinal cord injuries are responsible for the majority of quadriplegia injuries.
Nearly 40 percent of spinal cord injuries happen in motor vehicle accidents. The rest are attributed to falls, violence, recreational sports, and incidents of medical malpractice. When quadriplegia is caused by the negligence or wrongdoing of an individual, business or entity, victims have grounds to seek legal recourse.
Improve your chances of a successful legal recovery by working with an experienced catastrophic injury attorney at Ellis Law.
What is a quadriplegic, versus a paraplegic or tetraplegic?
A quadriplegic is a person suffering from quadriplegia. The quadriplegia definition differs from paraplegia based on the location of a spinal cord injury and the number of limbs affected. With paraplegia, the first thoracic spinal levels are affected, causing disability in the legs. Some may only suffer from decreased sensation or tingling in the legs, while others are completely paralyzed from the waist down.
Quadriplegia, sometimes called tetraplegia, refers to a spinal cord injury above the first thoracic vertebra or within the cervical sections C1-C8, resulting in paralysis in the arms and the legs. Again, the degree of paralysis varies depending on the nature of the injury and the success of rehabilitative therapy.
The effects of quadriplegia can result in severe pain, loss of bladder and bowel function, muscle spasms, sexual dysfunction and loss of fertility. In the worse cases, quadriplegics are left with what is called “locked-in syndrome,” where they are aware of what’s going on around them, but cannot communicate with anyone. Despite advances in medical care and technology, many quadriplegics still face shortened lifespans. A 2012 study found that 8.2% of tetraplegics die within 12 months of injury. Among first-year survivors, the 40-year survival rate is roughly 47%.
Complications associated with quadriplegia
Quadriplegics who are wheelchair-bound are more susceptible to a number of medical conditions and health complications, including:
- Respiratory problems
- Bladder and bowel incontinence
- Pressure sores
- Urinary tract infections
- Susceptibility to infection and pneumonia
- Neuropathic pain
- Impaired digestion
While filing a quadriplegia case cannot restore a victim’s health to its original state, a settlement or verdict can ease financial burdens and allow the family to address the immense medical costs. According to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, a 50-year old person with severe quadriplegia can expect to pay over $2,500,000 in healthcare and living costs over their lifetime.
Quadriplegia from car accident
The most common lawsuits we see involving quadriplegia are a result of car accidents. Motor vehicle accidents that most commonly result in spinal cord injury include:
- Head on collision
- Side impact collision
- Truck-on-car accident
- Pedestrian-car accidents
- Car-bicycle accidents
Neck injury from car accident
Neck and back injuries are common in many kinds of car accidents. Spine and neck injuries associated with rear end collisions, for instance, include:
- Disc herniation
- Spinal fracture
A compression fracture of the middle and lower parts of the spine is a common injury sustained in a car accident. As impact occurs, the upper body can be propelled forward at the same time that the lower body is secured in place due to a seatbelt or other obstruction. As a result, the vertebrae can be broken and/or pulled apart.
When are quadriplegia injuries eligible for lawsuit claims?
Legally, a person can sue when another party’s negligence is a contributing factor to the cause of the accident that resulted in quadriplegia. You may be eligible to file a lawsuit if the causes of your injury can be traced back to unsafe practices, recklessness, inattentiveness, or negligence. Employers, medical practitioners, coworkers, aggressors, or sports leagues can all potentially be sued for damages.
What is a quadriplegia lawsuit worth?
Past trial verdicts and settlements for quadriplegic cases in California indicate a pattern of high damage awards – some reaching more than $10 million. A lawsuit can recover compensation for both economic and non-economic damages and will account for things like:
- past and future medical expenses
- long-term rehabilitation
- home modifications
- assistive devices like wheelchairs
- in-home nursing care
- pain and suffering
- Lost earning capacity
- loss of enjoyment of life
- loss of spousal consortium
Quadriplegia settlements and verdicts
There are many stories of quadriplegics in California who won large settlements or jury awards for their injuries:
- $8,000: Disneyland was ordered to pay a quadriplegic man thousands of dollars after he was left sitting on the broken-down “It’s A Small World Ride” for 30 minutes. The man suffered from panic attacks, high blood pressure, and the frequent need to urinate as a result of his disability. It took three hours to stabilize his condition following the incident. He sued for violation of disability law and received additional funds for pain and suffering.
- $5.7 Million: In 2012, Robert Contreras was awarded a large sum of money after he was shot by an LAPD officer who mistook his cellphone for a gun. The police appealed the decision, arguing that the man was fleeing at the time, but the award was subsequently upheld in court.
- $7.9 Million: The plaintiff was rendered a quadriplegic after suffering an allergic reaction from bilateral C1-C2 joint injections and bilateral C2 selective nerve root blocks performed by the defendants.
- $15 Million: The City of Los Angeles agreed to pay a settlement to family after the death of a 12-year-old and a 10-year-old’s quadriplegia injury when they were struck in a North Hollywood crosswalk. City officials allegedly ignored known dangers that the busy street “had long been in need of more safety measures.”
- $18.6 Million: Aspiring lawyer and athlete Harold Leon Bostick became a quadriplegic when weightlifting equipment malfunctioned at a Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach. The final verdict came after 8 years of court battles.
- $18.4 Million: In 2009, a California school district paid a 15-year-old a settlement when he was dropped to the ground headfirst during horseplay at high school track practice. A substitute coach was found partially liable for ignoring what was happening on the field and failing to intervene appropriately.
- $55 Million: In 2007, a mother was awarded $55 Million after a Mother’s Day car wreck in Costa Mesa that left her five-year-old daughter a quadriplegic. The girl required 24 surgeries, including a tracheotomy and a bone graft, and was given a life expectancy of 35 years.
- $56 Million: In 2017, a Humboldt County jury ordered Caltrans to pay a construction worker the largest sum in state history for creating a dangerous condition resulting in quadriplegia. According to the lawsuit, Caltrans denied a request for a lane closure on the Broadway construction project, removed a backhoe that functioned as a barrier to traffic, and adjusted a work light tower to a blinding position. Kyle Anderson had been sitting in a hole dug across the west curb of Broadway updating signal light wiring when a 28-year-old woman accidentally hit him with her car.
Catastrophic injury lawyers helping you
At Ellis Law, our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers understand the long-term costs of spinal cord injury that can overwhelm a family. If a loved one was rendered quadriplegic in an accident, and you need a tough legal team with a proven record of winning results, call our office for a free consultation.
With over $350 million in settlements secured for our clients, we’re prepared to seek justice on your behalf. There are no upfront legal fees, and you never pay a dime unless we recover compensation in your claim.