Classifying Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can affect your ability to control your limbs. The amount of control rests on two factors: (1) where the injury occurred on your spinal cord, and (2) the severity of the injury.
The neurological level of your injury refers to the lowest part of your spinal cord that remains undamaged, while the severity of the injury is referred to as “the completeness” and is classified as follows:
- Complete. Your injury is called “complete” if all feeling and all ability to control movement are lost below the spinal cord injury, and
- Incomplete. Your injury is called incomplete if you have some motor or sensory function in varying degrees below the affected area.
After your injury, your doctor and medical staff will perform a battery of tests to determine the neurological level of your injury and its completeness.
Spinal cord injuries can cause one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
- Problems breathing.
- Problems coughing or clearing secretions from your lungs.
- Loss of movement.
- Exaggerated reflex activities or spasms.
- Lost changes in sensation, including the ability to feel touch, and the ability to feel heat and cold.
- Pain or a severe stinging sensation.
- Loss of bowel or bladder control.
- Changes in sexual sensitivity, sexual function, and fertility.
Is Spinal Cord Damage Repairable?
After an accident, in the emergency room, a doctor may be able to rule out a spinal cord injury by examination, asking questions, and testing for sensory function and movement. But if the patient complains of neck pain or has obvious signs of neurological injury, emergency diagnostic tests may be needed, including:
- X-rays. X-rays can show spinal column problems, fractures, or degenerative changes in the spine.
- CT scan. A CT scan can provide a clearer image of any abnormalities found on the X-ray, using computers to create a series of cross-sectional images that can define spinal cord issues.
- MRI. An MRI uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce computer-generated images and is helpful for identifying spinal cord injuries, herniated disks, blood clots, or other masses that might be compressing the spinal cord.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), spinal cord and back injuries are subject to intense research. Current research on Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) is focused on advancing our understanding of the key principles of spinal cord repair and states: “Basic spinal cord function research studies how the normal spinal cord develops, processes sensory information, controls movement, and generates rhythmic patterns (like walking and breathing). Research on injury mechanisms focuses on what causes immediate harm and on the cascade of helpful and harmful bodily reactions that protect from or contribute to damage in the hours and days following a spinal cord injury. Neural engineering strategies also offer ways to restore communication and independence.”
These types of researchers and scientists are optimistic about finding cures in small steps and breakthroughs.
Do Spinal Cord Injuries Meet Florida’s Serious Injury Threshold?
If you’re filing a personal injury claim in Florida, you might hear the term “serious injury threshold.” This is an important concern that may affect your rights when seeking compensation against the defendant.
Florida’s Statute 627.737 gives specific factors for serious injuries in meeting the serious injury threshold:
- Substantial and permanent loss of a bodily function
- Permanent injury, with a reasonable degree of medical certainty
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
If your injury meets this threshold, an accident victim can seek compensation outside of the state’s no-fault insurance system. It is the injured party’s burden of proof to establish the meeting of the threshold, and the threshold may vary from case to case, as the language is somewhat vague, leaving room for argument.
Plaintiffs should be prepared for this argument by collecting evidence of an injury’s seriousness, using evidence such as:
- Test results
- X-rays and scans
- Medical records
- Medical expert testimony
- Photographs and videos
- Physicians’ letters
- Treatment plans
Still, when it comes to spinal cord injuries, the smart money is on meeting the threshold, if the plaintiff comes in prepared with evidence. A Boca Raton back injury attorney at The Grife Law Firm is highly experienced at collecting evidence and will know exactly what evidence is needed.
As to the statutory factors, certainly, a serious spinal cord or back injury should satisfy the “Substantial and permanent loss of a bodily function” and the “Permanent injury, with a reasonable degree of medical certainty” factors.
The Impact of a Spinal Cord Injury on Quality of Your Life
While every injury has the potential to impact your quality of life, or at least your life the way you knew it before your accident, spinal cord injuries are particularly devastating to your daily habits, needs, and comforts.
Some factors that we consider when looking at how your injuries do and will continue to impact your life include:
- The need for a full-time caregiver – A serious spinal cord or back injury means that you will likely lose some mobility of your arms, legs, or both, which may make it necessary for you to have part or full-time help meeting your basic everyday needs.
- Increased vulnerability to health conditions – A spinal cord injury increases your vulnerability to certain health conditions like skin infections, pneumonia and obesity.
- Necessary home remodeling – If your back injury has resulted in your permanent use of a wheelchair then you may have to consider changing certain aspects of your home to ensure the front door, bedroom, sink, stove, shower, and other common areas are accessible.
- The purchase of wheelchair accessible vehicle(s) – When you plan to drive or need transportation as a passenger you and your loved ones will need to plan for the purchase of a wheelchair accessible vehicle.
- A change in profession – Depending on what your career was prior to your accident, you may no longer be able to work, which impacts your mental health and your family finances.
A personal injury lawsuit stemming from a back injury at The Grife Law Firm considers all of these factors above and more. We look at the whole picture of your life to evaluate how the accident has permanently changed your lifestyle.
Turn To A Boca Raton Spinal Cord Injury Attorney At The Grife Law Firm
No Fees Unless You Win
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, contact our experienced Boca Raton spinal cord injury attorney at The Grife Law Firm. We will be by your side to fight for the compensation you and your family deserve. We assist injured individuals throughout Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, including in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami. Call us at 855-998-0770 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.
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