Spinal Cord Injury FAQ

Q. What is meant by spinal cord injury?

A: Spinal cord injury is the general term used to describe damage to the spinal cord. Typically, the injury is caused by broken bones in the neck or back pressing on the spinal cord.

Q. What causes spinal cord injury?

A: Spinal cord injury is most often the result of some sort of trauma, most commonly car accidents, falls, violence or sports injuries. However, it can also result from infection of the spinal cord and certain medical conditions.

Q. What are the consequences of spinal cord injury?

A: The consequences of spinal cord injury depend on the extent of damage and on the position of the injury. If the injury occurs high up in the spine, the effects are likely to be more severe than if it occurs towards the bottom of the spine. A complete spinal cord injury results in a complete and usually permanent loss of voluntary movement or sensation below the site of injury. If the injury is incomplete, however, some sensation is likely to remain below the site of injury.

In addition to loss of movement and sensation, people with a spinal cord injury may experience breathing difficulties, pain, loss of control of body temperature, and bladder and bowel problems.

Q. Is spinal cord injury permanent?

A: Although many spinal cord injuries are permanent, it is often possible through rehabilitation to help a person with a spinal cord injury live as full and active a life as possible.

Q. Who can sue for a spinal cord injury?

A. Anybody, child or adult, whose spinal cord injury was caused by someone else's fault.

Q. Who can be held responsible for a spinal cord injury?

A. Any person whose negligent or intentional misconduct caused the injury can be held responsible to the injured person. This would include a large list of potential defendants from vehicle drivers, product manufacturers, construction site operators, owners of dangerous private or public property and others.

Q. What if I was also at fault for the accident which caused my spinal cord injury?

A. Louisiana is a comparative fault state. A person can sue for serious personal injury even if they are partially at fault. As long as they can prove that one or more other parties are also at fault. However, the amount of a plaintiff's recovery will be reduced by the amount of their fault. Therefore, if someone is awarded $1 million dollars in a personal injury case, but are found to be fifty percent (50%) at fault, the recovery will be limited to $500,000 dollars.

Q. Is it important to quickly investigate an accident which results in a spinal cord injury?

A. Absolutely. Due to the seriousness of the injury, you must investigate the accident quickly and thoroughly. A thorough investigation should include an examination of the scene, the vehicles or jobsite involved in the accident, interviews with witnesses and the collection of reports from investigating agencies.

Further, if at all possible, the evidence should be kept as it was at the time of the accident. For example, the defective vehicle should not be repaired, malfunctioning machines should be maintained and not repaired. These items must be placed in a safe place to preserve the evidence for later use.

Q. What damages am I entitled to recover in my spinal cord injury case?

A. Under Louisiana law a plaintiff who has suffered a spinal cord injury is entitled to recover all of his or her past and future medical and attendant care expenses; past and future loss of income, impairment of future earning capacity, past and future pain, suffering and emotional distress.

Q. How soon after my accident must I bring a case?

A. You generally will have one year from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. This time period may be extended if you did not discover your injury or the cause of your injury until a later date. These situations are rare and it is always best to file suit within one year of your accident. If your case is against a government entity, a claim must be brought within six months of the date of the accident.

Q. Will my spinal cord injury case settle out of court?

A. Many cases settle out of court. Whether your case will settle depends on many factors, including the facts of the accident, the degree of your injury and the willingness of the parties to reach a resolution.

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