Our Virginia, Maryland, And D.C. Spinal Cord Injury Attorney Explains What you Should Know about a Spinal Injury
Spinal cord injuries often result from a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that causes fractured or dislocated vertebrae. Sometimes, this can lead to permanent paralysis. These injuries often occur as a result of car accidents, diving accidents, gunshot wounds, premises liability incidents, sports accidents or other catastrophic events. Living with a spinal cord injury can be difficult because you are dealing not only with the medical injury itself but also with the frustration of immobility and the uncertainty of whether you will be able to regain any of your lost motor functions or sensation.
If you or a loved one has been permanently disabled in an accident caused by someone else, a spinal cord injury lawyer from Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP may be able to help. In the past, we have been able to help clients secure millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for spinal cord injuries.
What is a Spinal Cord Injury in D.C.?
A spinal cord injury is an injury that results in a fracture or dislocation of your vertebrae. The majority of spinal cord injuries do not completely sever your spinal cord – rather, they either tear or put pressure on the nerves that carry signals from your brain to the rest of your body. In a complete spinal cord injury, the cord cannot relay messages to any part of the body below the injury and, as a result, the victim is paralyzed below that point. In an incomplete spinal cord injury, you may have some movement and sensation below the point of injury.
What Causes A Spinal Cord Injury in D.C.?
Spinal cord injuries can be painful and hard to recover from. If you have suffered from a spinal cord injury, it is important to understand what caused your injury so that you can seek money from the person responsible for your injury. It is also important to understand the safety measures to take so that you avoid spinal cord injury.
Injury to the Spinal Cord
The central nervous system is made up of the brain and the spinal cord. Together, these two body parts control most of the body’s functions. The spinal cord runs from the base of your brain to your waist. It is made up of many long nerve fibers that carry messages to the brain. These nerve fibers run into nerve roots that are located between the vertebrae of your backbone. From these nerve roots, other nerves send messages to the rest of the body. Whenever the nerve fibers in the spinal cord are damaged, the brain is unable to send the right messages to other parts of the body. This is what causes paralysis and other difficulties in moving around.
Spinal cord damage can be caused by one of the following injuries:
- Concussion of the spinal cord
- Spinal contusion
- Spinal compression
- Tearing of the spinal cord
Concussion of the Spinal Cord
A concussion of the spinal cord occurs when a sudden jolt injures the tissue surrounding the spinal cord. Concussions are generally the least harmful of the different types of spinal cord injuries. A concussion of the spinal cord usually lasts a few hours.
A spinal contusion is a bruise on the spinal cord that causes bleeding inside the spinal column. This bruise can put pressure of the spinal cord, making it difficult to function properly.
Spinal compression occurs when a tumor or other object puts pressure on the spinal cord, making it difficult to move properly.
If the spinal cord is torn due to a sports injury, car accident, or another injury, the neurons inside the spinal cord are damaged. The worst damage is when the spinal cord is completely cut.
Complete Spinal Cord Injuries
A complete spinal cord injury is characterized by a total loss of feeling and function below the site of the injury. This does not necessarily mean that there are no intact nerves remaining where the injury is, only that the nerves were damaged to such an extent that they no longer function properly. Following a serious injury, the spinal cord goes into shock. Significant swelling and an abundance of fluid in the area make it difficult for medical imaging equipment to effectively show doctors the full extent of the injury. It is frequently necessary to wait as long as six to eight weeks after the injury before it can be fully diagnosed and treated.
Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries
When doctors diagnose an incomplete spinal cord injury, it means that some feeling and ability of movement remains below the level of the injury. The spinal cord has not been damaged to the point that it is no longer able to communicate with the brain. These types of spinal cord injuries are far more common and can be broken down into five sub-categories:
- Anterior Cord Syndrome involves damage to the front part of the spinal cord. This causes diminished sensation below the point of injury.
- Central Cord Syndrome involves damage to the center of the spinal cord. This causes loss of arm function, while leg movement is limited.
- Posterior Cord Syndrome involves damage to the back of the spinal cord. Muscle power and sensation remain, while coordination is diminished.
- Brown-Sequard Syndrome involves damage to one side of the spinal cord. This causes diminished movement without loss of sensation on one side of the body and diminished sensation without loss of movement on the opposite side.
- Cauda Equina Lesion involves damage to nerves between the first and second lumbar region, causing loss of sensation that may be partial or complete. These nerves have regrown, in some cases, allowing recovery of function.
The most common causes of spinal cord injury in the United States are car accidents, falls, acts of violence, sports-related accidents and diseases.
Car accidents are the most common cause of spinal cord injuries. About fifty percent of all spinal cord injuries are the result of a car accident.
About twenty percent of spinal cord injuries are the result of a fall. Falls are also the leading cause for individuals older than age 65.
Acts of Violence
Violent acts, such as gunshot and knife wounds, cause about fifteen percent of spinal cord injuries.
About ten percent of spinal cord injuries result from recreational and sports-related accidents. Such accidents include high impact sports and diving in shallow water.
Diseases and Other Causes
Most other spinal cord injuries are caused by diseases such as cancer, cysts on the spinal cord, infections, inflammation of the spinal cord, multiple sclerosis, cervical spondylosis, and arthritis. Some spinal cord injuries are also related to drug and alcohol abuse.
Common Symptoms of D.C. Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord injury symptoms you experience depend on both the location and severity of the injury. Higher spinal cord injuries cause more paralysis because the body is affected below the point of injury. Paralysis that affects the lower half of the body, including both legs, is known as paraplegia. Paralysis from the neck down, including both arms and both legs, is known as quadriplegia or tetraplegia.
The different types of spinal cord injury you can experience will also affect your symptoms. Whether you have suffered from a complete or incomplete spinal cord injury determines whether you have suffered an entire or partial loss of motor function in the affected areas. Spinal cord injury symptoms may include the following:
- Loss of sensation, such as inability to feel cold or heat
- Pain or an intense tingling sensation
- Loss of movement
- Inability to control bowel or bladder functions
- Difficulty breathing or coughing
- Uncontrollable spasm or increased reflex functions
- Spasms or exaggerated reflexes
If you have experienced any of these symptoms, you should consult a medical professional about your condition as soon as possible. Additionally, if you begin to lose consciousness, experience numbness in your extremities (hands, feet, toes and fingers), suffer from impaired breathing or feel extreme pressure in your neck, head or back, you should immediately seek the aid of a doctor.
Some spinal cord injuries are unavoidable. Taking certain safety precautions, however, can help you reduce your risk of suffering a spinal cord injury. Read these tips from a spinal cord injury attorney on what actions you can take to help prevent spinal injuries in accidents, on the job and more.
Immediate Treatment by Emergency Response Personnel
Usually, an emergency response team will arrive and treat any spinal cord injuries. Emergency personnel should focus on:
- Making sure the victim can breathe
- Immobilizing the neck to prevent any further damage to the spinal cord
- Making sure that the victim does not go into shock
Because the most common cause of death following a spinal cord injury is the inability to breathe, making sure that the victim is able to breathe is the first priority when responding to an emergency spinal cord injury situation.
The second goal of rescuing a person with a spinal cord injury is preventing any long-term damage by immobilizing the spine. To do this, emergency personnel typically use a rigid neck collar and carrying board to transport the patient to the hospital. This allows the victim to be moved without jolting the spinal cord, head, or neck.
Emergency Treatment in the Emergency Room and Intensive Care Unit of the Hospital
Once the victim is admitted to the hospital, medical personnel will continue to immobilize the spinal column while any life-threatening problems are addressed. During this time, physicians will focus on making sure the victim can breathe and monitoring blood pressure, while identifying any other problems. The victim will usually be sedated so that he does not move or cause any other damage. If emergency surgery is required, the spine will continue to be immobilized during the operation.
If a doctor determines that the victim has a spinal cord injury, he will be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) of the hospital for treatment. While in the ICU, doctors and nurses will make sure that the patient maintains a stable blood pressure, adequate breathing, and proper heart function. Doctors will also continue to prevent any other complications, including infection, blood clotting, and further spinal cord damage.
Are Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injury Always Immediate?
It is possible to have sustained a spinal cord injury in an accident without realizing it right away. Depending on the severity of the accident and your other injuries, the symptoms of a spinal cord injury could remain hidden until your body starts to recover from shock. If you start to notice any symptoms after you were involved in an accident, it is important to seek medical attention right away. Bleeding and swelling around the spinal cord can happen gradually in some cases, meaning that symptoms will appear slowly and progressively. Having your injury diagnosed and treated as soon as possible after it occurs can be critical in limiting the extent of the complications you will face later.
What to Do Following a Spinal Cord Injury
Maintaining your health following a catastrophic accident can be an expensive endeavor. You may be able to qualify for economic and medical assistance programs in your community. Additionally, if your accident was the result of someone else’s negligence, you may be able to recover medical expenses and lost wages as well as pain and suffering damages from the person who caused your injury.
If you would like to pursue an action against the person responsible for your injuries, it is important that you contact a spinal cord injury law firm in Washington, D.C., Virginia, or Maryland to assist you. You should seek legal advice promptly because your right to obtain monetary relief may be lost if you wait too long.
Learn More in a Free Case Review With a D.C. Spinal Cord Injury Attorney
If you have any questions about the effects of a spinal cord injury, or any potential actions you may be able to take, the Washington, D.C. personal injury attorneys at Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP are available to assist you during this difficult time at no financial risk to you. We take many spinal cord injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you will not owe any money upfront for us to pursue justice on your behalf if we decide to take your case. You will only pay legal fees if we are successful.
Contact us online or call one of our office locations in Washington, D.C., Virginia, or Maryland to set up a free consultation with a spinal cord injury lawyer. Our highly respected Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Lawyers are here to help you.
Koonz McKenney Johnson & Depaolis serve residents of Washington DC including those living in Capitol Hill, Columbia Heights, Downtown District of Columbia, Foggy Bottom, Georgetown, and Mount Vernon.