Because the spinal cord cannot heal itself, spinal cord injuries are considered catastrophic. While there are promising experimental treatments being used with some success, if you have suffered a spinal cord injury you will almost certainly lose some nerve function — sensory (involving your ability to feel) and/or motor (involving your ability to move). Terrible and life-changing as it is to suffer a spinal cord injury, it can be even more awful to know that the accident was the fault of someone else’s negligence, recklessness, mistake or malice. Nagel Rice LLP, our well-known firm of personal injury attorneys serving clients throughout New Jersey, has a track record of success, has obtained millions of dollars in damages for those we serve. Our team is eager to help you navigate the complicated pathways of insurance and legal bureaucracy to get you the justice you deserve.
Defining Spinal Cord Injuries
A spinal cord injury is one in which the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal are damaged. Although many people think that a spinal cord injury always causes paralysis, this is not the case. In spite of the fact that a spinal cord injury is always serious, depending on the location and severity of the injury, it is possible for an individual to recover, at least partially, over a period of time. While in most cases, the damage is life-altering and irreparable, some promising experimental treatments are now being tried. Many technological advances, not only in medicine but in coping devices, are making it possible for those with spinal cord injuries to become more independent than ever before. Nonetheless, spinal cord injuries are always traumatic for patients and their families.
Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
The most frequent cause of spinal cord injuries in the United States is vehicular accidents. Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents account for almost half of new spinal cord injuries each year. Other common causes of spinal cord injuries are:
- Falls which account for 15 percent of spinal cord injuries, and are most common among patients over the age of 65
- Violent assaults with guns or knives which account for about 12 percent of such injuries
- Diving into shallow water, the most frequent sport-related cause of spinal cord injuries
- Active contact sports like football and hockey
- Industrial accidents
While certain diseases which cause bone loss, such as osteoporosis, arthritis, cancer, and bone and joint disorders, may put an individual at increased risk for spinal cord injury, and while it is estimated that 25 percent of individuals who suffer spinal cord injuries are intoxicated at the time of the accident, a large number of these events are attributable to the negligence, recklessness, or malice of someone other than the injured party.
Holding the Responsible Parties Accountable for Your Spinal Cord Injury
If someone else is responsible for your spinal cord injury, our attorneys are fully capable of proving it. If you have been directly assaulted (whether or not the defendant is found guilty of a crime), been in a car accident that was the fault of the other driver, or have been the victim of a slip, trip and fall in which another bears premises liability, Nagel Rice personal injury attorneys will be able bring your case to a just conclusion. Our negotiation and litigation skills are well-honed and we will work diligently to get you the compensation you need and deserve.
The Need to Take Action Promptly
Once you are receiving the urgent medical care you require, it is important that you consult with our personal injury law firm as quickly as possible. Not only is there a 2-year statute of limitations for filing your claim (dating from the time of the accident), but the sooner we take your case the more efficiently we can collect pertinent data. We have over 30 years of experience and all the necessary resources to investigate the circumstances surrounding the event. We will examine and photograph the site, record witness testimony, pore over medical records, and bring in any necessary experts to strengthen your case. The sooner we begin the process, the fresher the data, and more accurate the witness accounts.
What damages are you entitled to if we win your case?
Because of the prolonged implications, spinal cord injuries have on your life, the associated costs are enormous. If someone else is responsible for an injury that will have a massive, likely permanent, effect on your quality of life, you are entitled to two types of compensation: economic and non-economic.
Economic Damages are those that can be calculated monetarily, including:
- Medical and rehabilitative bills
- Lost wages, immediately after the accident and into the foreseeable future
- Property damage
- Necessary long-term healthcare
- Payment for household services you are no longer able to perform
Our knowledgeable attorneys are able to realistically calculate your expenses, present, and future to ensure that you and your family are supported for the rest of your life.
Non-economic damages, more difficult to quantify, are determined according to established legal standards and tables. These damages are designed to compensate you for such things as: physical pain, emotional anguish, physical impairment, disfigurement, and loss of quality of life, including loss of consortium (the inability to remain as connected to intimates as previously).
When the party who caused your injury was not just careless but demonstrated extreme negligence, recklessness, or malice, our attorneys may be obtain additional compensation for you in the form of punitive damages. Punitive damages, which are a type of non-economic damages, are awarded to punish defendants for especially abhorrent behavior and to discourage other potential offenders from taking similar actions.
Risk factors for Spinal Cord Injuries
In addition to the degenerative diseases that may put you at greater risk of spinal cord injury, age and gender are also factors. Those over the age of 65 are at increased risk of such injuries, as are males between the ages of 16 and 30. Other risk factors include substance abuse and engaging in high-risk behavior.
How Spinal Cord Injuries Can Affect the Body
Because the spinal cord is at the core of the length of the human body, damage to it can affect almost every type of bodily function. Possible effects include:
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Loss of skin sensation: perception of heat, cold, pressure
- Pins and needles sensation on the skin of affected regions
- Circulatory problems such as high blood pressure and blood clots
- Respiratory difficulties due to affected abdominal and chest muscles
- Muscle tone: either uncontrolled tightening (spasticity) or limp muscles (flaccidity)
- Sexual dysfunction: decreased lubrication, sensation and fertility in women; problems with erection and ejaculation in men
Much depends on where on the spinal cord the damage takes place. In general, the area at and below the injury is affected.
Complications of Spinal Cord Injuries
Lack of mobility, difficulty with respiration, muscle atrophy and sexual dysfunction can lead to pain, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pneumonia or other lung problems, and clinical depression. These potential future complications make it even more essential for you to engage the services of a highly skilled personal injury attorney if you have suffered a spinal cord injury. At Nagel Rice we are well aware of the long-term, unpredictable consequences of a spinal cord injury and will help you to receive damages to cover all potential future expenses.
“Modified” Comparative Negligence in New Jersey
How liability is allocated varies state to state. New Jersey has a policy of comparative fault, meaning that both parties may be assessed by the court as having some responsibility for the accident. If you are found to be 20 percent at fault, for example, and you have been awarded $1,000,000 in damages, you will receive $800,000.
New Jersey law, however, has a modification in place, stating that the injured party can receive a percentage of awarded damages as long as that person is deemed 50 percent or less responsible for the accident. If you are determined by the court to be over that limit, even bearing 51 percent of the responsibility, you will be unable to claim any damages at all. The attorneys at Nagel Rice, having handled such cases for well over 30 years, are savvy enough to negotiate so that, even if you contributed in some measure to your own injury, you will still be able to obtain fair compensation.
Contact A New Jersey Spinal Cord Injury Attorney
If you have suffered a spinal cord injury in New Jersey, our compassionate, capable, personal injury attorneys are here to help you get on with your life. We know how victimized and vulnerable you feel and we are dedicated to fighting strenuously to protect your rights and win your case so that you and your loved ones can continue to feel safe and secure, emotionally and financially. You can reach Nagel Rice attorneys by phone or by filling out a contact form on our website.