Spinal Cord Injuries: Get Access to the New Treatments that You Deserve

Your spinal cord is not a single body part, but a combination of many different types of body parts including bones, called vertebrae, as well as discs, nerves and a sheath of myelin.

Your spinal cord is typically considered to be divided into three different sections.

The cervical spinal cord begins at the top of your neck, where the brain connects to the spinal cord and the neck connects to the skull and back. There are eight vertebrae which are enumerated C1-C8, with C1 being the vertebrae at the top of your neck.

The thoracic spinal cord connects the neck portion of your spine to the lower portion of
vertebrae here, T1-T12.

The lumbar spinal cord comprises the lower part of the cord in your back, running from the middle section to the top of your buttocks. There are five lumbar vertebrae, L1-L5. The cord then enters a different region, the Sacral area, where there is a single vertebrae S1.

Spinal cord injuries can have disastrous effects on the body. The location of the spinal cord injury determines what body parts will be affected.

Common causes of spinal cord injuries are motor vehicle accidents, falls, assaults and injuries associated with participation in sporting and recreational activities.

When someone suffers what is deemed a complete spinal cord injury, this means that all functions below the injured area are lost. Other injuries to a spinal cord that do not result in complete disruption of motor or sensory functions are deemed “incomplete” injuries.

While a severing of the spinal cord will result in a complete injury, the cord can also be injured by being crushed, bruised or even stretched. These types of harm will usually result in an incomplete spinal cord injury, but can sometimes have the same results as if the cord had been severed, namely a complete loss of function.

Spinal cord injuries are typically serious because the nerves within the cord are those that transmit messages between the body – including the arms and legs – to the brain.

Symptoms of a spinal cord injury can include the following:

  • Pain from the affected area
  • Pain in an extremity (a leg or arm, hand or foot)
  • Numbness in either the affected area or an extremity
  • Paresthesia – a tingling or burning sensation
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle weakness
  • Possible paralysis

The level of the vertebrae in the spine that is injured will determine the distant body part that is affected.

Injuries to the vertebrae in the lumbar region can affect the legs and hips. Lumbosacral spinal injuries can have debilitating effects on bladder and bowel control and sexual functioning.

Injuries to the vertebrae in the thoracic region can have debilitating effects on the muscles in the trunk and abdomen and can result in paraplegia (loss of ability to use the legs).

Injuries to the vertebrae in the cervical region are complex and can result in the most serious problems, as follows:

C1-C4: Full paralysis of the limbs
C5 – C6: Paralysis of the wrists, hands and triceps
C7-C8: Hand weakness, difficulty with grasping and holding

Medical terminology for the most commonly seen types of spinal cord injuries are:

Central cord syndrome: This type of injury damages the nerves that carry signals through the cord to the brain and body causing symptoms like paralysis of the arms or less functionality of the arms and hands.

Anterior cord syndrome: This injury is to the front portion of the cord and causes dysfunction in the ability to move, usually with decreased sensation as well.

Brown-Sequard syndrome: This is the label provided to injuries that occur on one side of the spinal cord. These injuries are usually more pronounced on one side of the body.

Diagnosis of spinal cord injuries is done through examination and diagnostic imaging tests, usually an MRI.

Do I Have a Legal Claim for My Spinal Cord Injury?

If you or your loved one has suffered a spinal injury as a result of someone else’s failure to exercise reasonable care, then you may have legal rights to bring a claim for compensation.

Not all situations where one person’s actions or inactions were negligent result in a legal claim. There are three main questions that need to be answered in order to have a legal claim for wrongful death.

First, did the person who caused the injury breach a legal duty to the person who then suffered a spinal injury? This means that the person had to have acted in a negligent manner, but in the context of having a legal duty. Sometimes people can act negligently, but because they have no duty under the law, there is no ability to compensate the injured party.

For example, the United States Supreme Court has held that you cannot sue the police department if they fail to protect you even under circumstances that would reasonably be called negligent failure to act. This stems from a 2005 case where a woman had obtained a protective order against her former husband. The husband kidnapped her three children and she reported it to the police. Despite making several requests for the police to find her husband and children, they took no steps to do so. After the husband killed all three children, the mother sued the police department for their failure to take action. However, the Court deemed her to have no right to do so because a police department doesn’t have a duty under the law to protect citizens upon request and must be given discretion in their decision making along these lines.

The second question is whether or not the person who had a legal duty acted in an unreasonable manner. This question is at the heart of many personal injury and wrongful death cases. A clear example of a breach of a duty is when a driver fails to stop at a red light and causes a collision with another car. There are statutes governing how we are required to act when driving, including stopping at red lights. When someone makes a mistake and fails to do so, they will be deemed negligent. Negligence is a more difficult question in other contexts. For example, in order to find a doctor negligent, a jury must determine whether or not the doctor acted in a manner that was below the expectations of a reasonable doctor in the same specialty, acting under the same circumstances. This is described as the ‘standard of care’. This is a much more subjective standard and subject to much more debate than someone who fails to drive their car consistent with traffic laws.

The third question is whether or not the negligent actor caused the spinal injury in the particular case. This is not typically a contested element of a serious spinal injury case, but it is always possible that the injured person could have had an underlying injury prior to the event for which they are attributing the spinal injury. This question is always one that is unique to the facts of each individual case.

Fortunately, attorneys in this field offer free consultations on such matters. At Wiener & Lambka, PS, we also offer a free consultation and spend a lot of time reviewing matters for potential clients without charge, even though we end up taking on representation in only a small percentage of the cases we review.

If we do not accept your case, we can explain why and offer other options for you to continue forward. We can also have another attorney provide a second opinion.

Types of Spinal Injury cases

If an activity or event can cause an injury, then it has the potential to cause a serious spinal injury. We accept spinal injury cases in all of our practice areas:

What should you do if you believe you have a spinal injury case?

The most important thing to do is contact an attorney.

There is no reason why you would be expected to suddenly understand all that needs to be learned about insurance, the legal system, and the medicine that is involved with your injury. In fact, many personal injury attorneys don’t fully understand each of these areas of law. Your case will be unique, no matter how commonplace a component of the case might be. For example, you might have a straight-forward automobile accident where someone struck you or your loved one from behind. While this part of the case may well be simple, there are always unique facts that need to be analyzed and handled properly. The earlier you contact an attorney, the earlier you can learn how to properly handle your case. Even if you learn nothing special, you will at least be reassured then of how to do things the right way and not have regrets later.

Otherwise, depending upon the area of law your wrongful death case involves, you can find our basic advice on what to do for the following situations here.

What is the Statute of Limitations for a spinal injury case?

Most spinal injury cases in Washington have a three year statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a date by which you must either resolve or properly file and serve your lawsuit against the negligent party. Failure to do so will result in the loss of your legal rights to compensation. Other statutes can also apply to spinal injury cases. Assault, for example, has a two year statute of limitations. Consult an attorney immediately if you think that you have a case.

Because the statute of limitations is a statute that can cut off your legal rights, it is important to take action before the deadline. Moreover, lawsuits can be complicated. Finding the right party to sue can sometimes be difficult. We have even had clients come to us who did not obtain the name of the driver who negligently caused a collision with them. Without basic facts, it is impossible to preserve your legal rights. Even with them, the insurance companies defending the cases will take every opportunity to try to have a case dismissed if not properly field and served.

While the statute of limitations provides three years to take action, we advise doing so much earlier. This is especially true in matters of great importance like spinal injury claims. Moreover, this should not be considered a deadline as much as it is something to be aware of. Contacting an attorney immediately when you have a personal injury matter is the most important thing you can do.

How to find and hire a spinal injury lawyer?

It is important that you find an attorney that you trust. At the end of your case you will either settle the matter or go to court and have a jury or judge give an award. Either way, you will depend to some degree on your attorney for advice. We tell all of our clients that it is our job to provide them with important information and risk analysis so they can make a good decision about their case. We do not make big decisions for our clients. How much to accept, whether or not to sue, and whether or not to settle or go to trial, are all questions resolved by the client.

Most personal injury attorneys will talk with you for free about your case and provide advice on how to best proceed. Each case is unique and presents issues that must be individually analyzed and then re-analyzed as each part relates to the whole of the case. The more important your case is to you, the more important it is that you promptly find legal advice on how to best handle it.

When looking for an attorney, there are now many different resources to help you evaluate whom it is you hire. While not all ratings are equal, looking at all of the different pieces of information is still valuable. At Wiener & Lambka, PS, for example, we are very proud that almost all former clients endorse us and many have taken the time to do so online. You can find these reviews on Yelp, Google, Avvo (Bruce Wiener), and Avvo (James Lambka):

The most important thing about hiring an attorney is finding someone you trust. Look for experience, interpersonal communications skills, a commitment to professionalism, and advocacy for their clients. The attorney-client relationship is one wherein the attorney has a fiduciary duty to his client. This means that the attorney must put the client’s interest above their own. If you have an attorney who doesn’t promptly respond to your communications or acts with indifference to your case, you should probably find someone with whom you can work better. At the end of your case there will only be one settlement or award and you won’t ever get a chance to come back later for another bite at the apple. If your attorney isn’t clearly doing a good job and isn’t responsive to your questions and concerns, you should consider seeking out counsel that will be.

What does a spinal injury settlement look like?

Most settlements are made as a compromise between the parties. This means that seldom does either side get exactly what they want when settling their case. Settlements, on both sides, are a product of risk reduction.

The insurance company will typically only offer smaller amounts of money early on in negotiations. They want to see if the injured party will accept the smaller amount before becoming more reasonable. Once past this stage, insurance companies will often make offers that are designed to have a value to them that parts with money now in an effort to eliminate the possibility of paying more later. This is a subjective determination on some level regarding the evaluation of a case’s value. Value is often very hard to determine because each case is unique. In the end, both sides must try to accurately determine what is the amount that they would be willing to accept or pay in exchange for giving up the opportunity of getting more, or eliminate the opportunity of the other side doing better.

Potential forms of damages in a spinal injury case include:

  • Loss of companionship to immediate family
  • Pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life
  • Wage loss, both past and future
  • Damage to property which includes not only vehicles but also clothing, glasses, or any tangible item of value that had to be repaired or replaced
  • Medical bills both past and in the future

In cases of serious spinal injury, we take care to obtain an expertly researched and written life care plan so that all aspects of future needs for someone who is suffering with the difficulties of a serious spinal injury are considered and addressed in the lawsuit.

How long does it take to settle a spinal injury case?

Every case is unique and some will resolve more quickly than others.

In spinal injury cases, the damages being sought are often of great monetary value. The loss of mobility and its effects upon a person’s immediate family can be devastating. The more devastating the loss, the more likely there will be disagreement with the party responsible for paying compensation for that loss. Because the negligent party has such high monetary exposure, they have a corresponding incentive to fight to try to reduce that exposure. The more there is to fight over, the more likely that a lawsuit will be involved. Lawsuits are not fast-moving entities. In King County, a lawsuit typically takes about a year and a half to reach a trial date. In other counties this time frame can be much longer.

Setting up your free consultation

At Wiener & Lambka, PS, we are happy to provide a free consultation to potential clients.
This can be done via email or telephone. Either way, we’re happy to take some time and talk with you about whether or not your case warrants an attorney getting involved. Many cases do not, and we’re also happy to reassure potential clients in these circumstances.

If we both agree that legal representation is something that will benefit you, then we will come to you to meet in person and talk in more detail so that you are fully informed about your case and what representation entails. While you are more than welcome to come to our offices, we believe that families who have suffered a loss of a loved one have enough to worry about without also traveling to meet their attorney. We usually seek to meet at a mutually convenient place nearby your home or place of employment – whatever works for our clients also works for us.

“Wiener & Lambka helped me through the process, always discussing all of the available options. In particular, I was happy about the ease with which I was able to access my attorneys.”- B. Froton
“I was satisfied by the timely manner with which my case was handled. I would definitely recommend Wiener & Lambka to a friend in the future.” - D. Yusuf
“Everyone was great. The staff at Wiener and Lambka make a good thing out of a bad situation, and for that, I am very thankful.” - D. Grami
“In my moment of Crisis Wiener & Lambka lent me a helping hand. Their dedication to my case was outstanding. They stuck by my side and fought for my rights. Thank you!” - K. Tuazon
“Wiener and Lambka did a good job of keeping me up to date on my case, and I’d definitely suggest their services to someone looking for an attorney.” - L. Lafond
"Wiener & Lambka always kept me up to date with my case. I'd certainly suggest them to a friend." - J. Trujillo
“You minimized my stress levels on a process foreign and scary to me. Very professional, caring, and patient with me.” - A. Maas
“A job well done! The staff at Wiener and Lambka made a point of explaining everything to me and if necessary I’d work with them again in a heartbeat.” - O. Yusuf
“Wiener & Lambka get the job done. I appreciated their concern and interest in my case, and would definitely recommend them to a friend.” - Y. Martin
“Everything was great. It was the best legal experience I have ever had!” - T. Hoskins
“Calls were returned in a timely manner, and the office staff is friendly. I’d recommend Wiener and Lambka to a friend in the future.” - T. Their
“The Staff at Wiener and Lambka are friendly and understand customer needs. They reduced their fee on my case and didn’t even take any on my son’s.” - M. Ngo
“Wiener & Lambka took care of the leg work for me and even managed to get a larger settlement than expected.” - J. Hanson
"It was a stress free experience. I particularly enjoyed when, on my initial call, they sent someone out to my house to speak with me in person. I would certainly use or recommend Wiener & Lambka in the future." - M. Randall
“The service and the staff were great. I was happy with everything, and would refer Wiener and Lambka to someone else in the future.” - I. Aleman

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