The spinal cord is the main conduit for all information the brain needs to relay to the rest of the body. Since it controls the body’s movements and sensation, an injury to the spine and spinal cord could result in the total or partial loss of motor control, sensation, or paralysis of one or several limbs. There is no cure for these injuries, and a victim’s life could be forever altered in an instant.
If you or someone you love suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury in an accident caused by the reckless or careless actions of another person, the stress and grief can be compounded. You did nothing to cause this accident, and now you are forced to deal with treatment, mounting medical bills, and significant changes to your life and lifestyle.
You may be wondering how you’ll pay for the expenses associated with the accident, as well as how you’ll support yourself and those you love if you are no longer able to work.
South Carolina law allows victims of negligence to seek compensation for the harm they’ve suffered. With an experienced spinal cord injury attorney on your side, you could hold the party responsible for the accident accountable for their actions and get the compensation you need to move on with your life.
There is a reason why so many people in Columbia and across the state of South Carolina have turned to the lawyers at Joye Law Firm in their time of need. Our record of success includes a $2.2 million verdict for the victim of a rear-end crash who sustained serious spinal injuries.
How Can a Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Help Me?
An attorney will be able to help you with your spinal cord injury by conducting an independent investigation of the incident. This will help determine the cause of your injuries, allow the lawyer to collect important evidence, and identify all liable parties.
Your attorney can also work closely with your physician to determine your prognosis and expected future medical costs. Many spinal cord injury victims will accumulate hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions of dollars in medical expenses.
Some insurance companies for negligent parties in these cases will attempt to contact victims soon after their accidents and try to take advantage of them in their most desperate moments. You should always avoid speaking to any insurance agent or representative until you have legal representation.
If you are offered a lump sum settlement by an insurance company, know that it is probably far less than what you are entitled to and it likely will not be enough to cover all of the costs of your future care. You can avoid being locked into a bad agreement by contacting an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.
Common Issues With Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord is protected by three layers of membranes called meninges, which line the skull, vertebral canal, and vertebrae.
A spinal cord injury could involve a contusion or bruising of the spinal cord, although nerve fibers could be torn or severed in some cases and a compression injury involves excess pressure being placed on the spinal cord.
The severity of an injury is often determined by the vertebrae affected by the injury, and human beings have 33 vertebrae. The vertebrae are divided into five regions, and most severe spinal cord injuries involve damage to the vertebrae in one of the three following regions:
- Cervical Vertebrae (C1-C7) — One of the most serious kinds of spinal cord injuries involves damage to the high-cervical nerves (C1-C4) in the neck, which can cause paralysis in the arms, hands, or legs, impaired or reduced ability to speak, and difficulty breathing and controlling bowel or bladder movements. C1-C4 injuries often require full-time around-the-clock assistance for victims. C5-C7 injuries may affect a person’s ability to control arms and hands, and C6 or C7 injuries can affect bowel or bladder movements.
- Thoracic Vertebrae (T1-T12) — Injuries to the vertebrae in the upper back (T1-T5) generally carry more consequences than injuries to the vertebrae in the middle of the back (T6-T12). T1-T5 injuries affect the victim’s legs and trunk (the central part of their body), usually requiring a wheelchair. While T6-T12 injuries also affect the trunk, many victims can walk again with braces.
- Lumbar Vertebrae (L1-L5) — Injuries to the lumbar nerves in the lower back can cause loss of bowel and bladder control. Victims will have their hips and legs affected. Wheelchairs may be required in some cases while others can walk with braces.
The other two regions of the spinal cord include the sacral vertebrae (S1-S5) and the coccyx. The S1-S5 vertebrae are located around the pelvis, and damage to these vertebrae can cause loss of bowel and bladder control in some cases, but victims are usually able to walk again.
The coccyx is more commonly known as the tailbone. While coccyx injuries are certainly possible, they usually involve pain but do not involve the same consequences involving the rest of a person’s body which might be involved with other spinal cord injuries.
The most common causes of spinal cord injuries are:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Falls (including workplace accidents like falls from elevated heights)
- Sports or recreational accidents
- Violence (including assaults and attacks involving dangerous weapons)
- Defective machinery and equipment
- Surgical errors
As mentioned above, a spinal cord injury could have a significant and lasting impact on a person’s life and livelihood.
The impact of a spinal cord injury could include:
- Total or partial paralysis (e.g., paraplegia, quadriplegia)
- Loss of bladder control
- Digestive, circulatory, or respiratory distress
- Urinary tract infections
Can I File a Lawsuit for Spinal Cord Injury in Columbia?
You could file a lawsuit against the negligent party responsible for your spinal cord injury, but many cases are ultimately resolved through settlements. In the end, most insurance companies will decide it is better to settle a case than take it to trial and risk a jury award.
When an insurer refuses to make a fair and equitable offer to compensate you for the harm you’ve suffered and the impact the injury has had on your life, you may be forced to file a lawsuit. A lawsuit will typically begin with you filing a complaint that is then served to the defendant, often triggering another round of negotiations.
Many cases are settled before trial. Before a case goes to trial, the court may require the parties to engage in mandatory mediation. If your case ultimately does go to trial, your attorney will demonstrate how the other party’s negligence directly caused your spinal cord injury and will show how that injury has negatively impacted your life.
Do I Have Legal Rights to a Spinal Cord Injury Compensation?
If you have suffered a severe spinal cord injury due to the negligence of another person or party, have the right to seek compensation under South Carolina law. Damages that could be available to you include:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Lost wages and loss of future earnings (if disabled)
- Costs of ongoing care
- Home modifications
- Specialized medical devices and mobility devices
- Travel companions and assistance with needs while traveling
- Pain, suffering, and emotional anguish
Your attorney will seek a settlement or verdict that accounts for all of these direct and hidden costs, as well as the physical and emotional hardship you are forced to endure.
You only have three years from the date of the spinal cord injury to file a lawsuit. South Carolina is considered a modified comparative fault state, which means that a plaintiff cannot recover damages for an accident in which their negligence exceeded that of the defendant’s.
Even when your own negligence does not bar you from filing a lawsuit, it can still result in your jury award being reduced.
For example, a person who is awarded $100,000 in a spinal cord injury lawsuit for which they are determined to have been 25 percent at fault will have their award reduced by $25,000 and ultimately receive $75,000.
South Carolina places limits (often referred to as “caps”) on specific damages. For example, noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases specifically are limited to $350,000 per defendant, and $1.05 million overall (regardless of the number of defendants).
Punitive damages, which are relatively rare and awarded more to punish defendants for flagrant or egregious conduct, are limited to the greater of three times the actual damages or $500,000.
Why Choose Joye Law Firm?
Since our founding in 1968, Joye Law Firm has sought to give back to the community we serve. Our firm launched “Joye in the Community,” a program encompassing all of the firm’s community and service efforts to support local education and aid organizations committed to improving the well-being of others.
We have participated in fundraising initiatives benefitting such organizations as the American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity, and The Dee Norton Lowcountry Children’s Center. For our 50th anniversary in 2019, we have sponsored a different charity each month.
If you or your loved one sustained a spinal cord injury as the result of another party’s negligence in Columbia or a surrounding area of South Carolina, do not wait to get the compassionate and experienced legal assistance that you deserve. We understand what you and your family are going through, and we are here to stand up and fight for what you are owed.
Our consultations are free, and you won’t pay us anything unless we recover compensation for you. Call (877) 941-1019 or contact us online to receive a free consultation with a knowledgeable Columbia spinal cord injury lawyer today.