Getting Help for Your Montana Spinal Cord Injury
How a personal injury lawsuit can help you recover costs from your spinal cord injury
A lifetime of care is expensive. If you’re injured or caring for a loved one, costs add up fast. You want to access the best possible medical care, have the right equipment, and ensure that daily needs are met for someone with a spinal cord injury. Sometimes, a personal injury lawsuit is the best and only way to recover the money you deserve.
A spinal cord injury (SCI) can be very serious and result in life-long disability. As a result, a personal injury lawsuit can be an effective way to recover costs associated with your injury.
If you're considering a spinal cord injury lawsuit, it's important to find a lawyer who understands your condition, has experience litigating cases involving severe injuries, and has a firm grasp of what related medical costs you're likely to have for the rest of your life.
What you're going through is scary — there are a lot of unknowns, and you're likely dealing with physical, emotional, and financial issues that you're not yet sure how to handle. Your lawyer will do more than just litigate your case; they'll be your guide through the process, preparing you for what's next.
Types of damages in a spinal cord injury case
In Montana, you can recover damages for medical costs, ongoing therapies and treatments, caregivers, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other items. “Damages” is the term used for money recovered in a lawsuit.
Your lawyer will rely on medical experts, actuaries, and other finance professionals to assess the costs you're likely to incur.
Here are some damages you can expect to recover in a spinal injury lawsuit:
- Loss of earning capacity. An SCI might leave you unable to work. Or perhaps you will be able to eventually return after a lengthy recovery period. It's also possible that you're able to use your upper body to perform job-related functions, but you're unable to work in the profession you had prior to the injury. The type of profession you had, nature of your injury, and prognosis for future physical recovery will determine how much your earning capacity is affected.
- Medical costs. Whether your SCI is the result of a car crash, slip and fall, or another kind of accident, your medical costs can include emergency care, ambulance transportation, surgery, hospital costs, prescription medication, rehabilitative therapy, doctor visits, diagnostic tests, rehabilitative and adaptive equipment (like a wheelchair or home modifications), and other items and services related to your injury.
- Life care. Most people who experience a SCI will need assistance with daily living. That might mean a hired caregiver or aide to manage your medical condition and personal care, or it could be a housekeeper who handles your cleaning and cooking — or some combination. Many people in this situation require 24-hour care, and that might be more than one person can handle. If you have a family member taking care of you, there would have to be compensation for the earnings they give up if caring for you is their full-time job. Round the clock care for years—or a lifetime—is costly, and the legal system takes that into consideration.
- Pain and suffering. An SCI comes with plenty of physical pain, but you might also experience emotional suffering like depression, anxiety, insomnia, inconvenience, and the loss of enjoyment of life. The court will evaluate whether the injury changed your daily lifestyle, how it affects your relationships, and how your general wellness is affected. It will use this information to determine how your pain and suffering can be calculated.
Legal options for a traumatic spinal cord injury
If your spinal cord injury is the result of an accident like a car crash or a slip and fall, you might have legal remedies available.
At the heart of any civil lawsuit is whether your injury was caused by someone else's negligence. Negligence is when someone has a duty to take reasonable care to avoid harming another person and fails to do so. That could include the driver involved in a car crash, the owner of the property where you fell, your employer if you were injured at work, or any other scenario where another person was responsible for your injury.
If that's the situation, you want to contact a Montana personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer will evaluate the case, determine what you require in damages, and attempt to reach a settlement with the defendant.
If fault or negligence is clear, the responsible party will often come to a settlement agreement, which means your lawyer and the other side's lawyer will negotiate to come to an amount that's agreeable by both sides—and it means that you don't have to go to court.
If the parties can't agree, you might need to continue with a lawsuit.
Read more for information about what to expect
in a Montana personal injury lawsuit.
Causes of spinal cord injuries
Nearly half of all spinal cord injuries are from car accidents. Other incidents that result in spinal cord injuries include:
- Violence (like gunshot wounds or stabbings)
- Sports-related injuries
- Alcohol use (that leads to risky behavior)
- Diseases including cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis and inflammation of the spinal cord
A spinal cord injury could happen to anyone, but there are specific risk factors:
- Male. 80% of traumatic spinal cord injuries happen to men.
- Age 16-30, or older than 65.
- Risky behavior. This includes diving into too-shallow water, playing sports without the correct protective equipment, or driving unsafely.
- Bone or joint disorders. Arthritis, osteoporosis, and other disorders can aggravate a minor injury and result in a SCI.
Facing factsCar accidents are the cause of nearly 1/2 of all spinal cord injuries, and many are from risky behavior. Be careful out there!
Effects of a spinal cord injury
Your spinal cord is part of the central nervous system. It's made of soft tissue and is surrounded by bones, and it extends from the base of your brain to your waist.
From there, nerve tracts connect to the rest of your body. These nerve tracts carry messages from your brain to the rest of your body to control muscle movement. They also carry messages from your body parts to your brain when your body experiences sensations like heat, cold, pressure, and pain.
When the spinal cord becomes injured, it impairs the ability of your body parts and your brain to work together and usually impacts the functioning of your body anywhere lower than the injury.
If you've suffered an SCI, you might be affected by these conditions:
- Bladder control. If your brain has trouble communicating with your bladder through the spinal cord, you might need to learn alternative techniques for emptying your bladder. These changes can cause kidney infections and kidney or bladder stones.
- Bowel control. Similarly, your bowels might function differently than before and you might need a high-fiber diet or other methods for regulating bowels.
- Skin sensations. Rehabilitation can help you learn to change body positioning frequently to reduce the risk of skin sores, which sometimes happen when you don't have skin sensation after a SCI.
- Circulation problems. Your SCI could cause low blood pressure, swelling of the extremities, blood clots, or high blood pressure.
- Respiratory system issues. It might become difficult to breathe or cough, or you could be at risk for pneumonia or lung problems. However, many of these issues are treatable with medication.
- Muscle tone. Since a spinal cord injury can result in loss of muscle control, some people experience spasms (uncontrolled tightening or motion in the muscles) or flaccidity, which is soft or limp muscles.
- Sexual health. A SCI can affect sexual function for both men and women. A urology or fertility specialist can often treat these issues.
In addition to these specific conditions associated with a spinal cord injury, there are more general repercussions. Most people with a spinal cord injury will experience chronic pain from overuse of some muscle groups, nerve pain, and other discomforts. The physical changes, lifestyle changes, and necessary adaptations can result in depression.
What to do if you've suffered a spinal cord injury
It's important to note that some spinal cord injuries don't appear immediately. If you believe that your spinal cord was injured, head to your physician or the nearest emergency department.
If you're ever in a situation where you believe someone else has suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident, it's crucial that they not move. If you're at the scene of an accident, call 911. While you're waiting for an emergency response team, place heavy towels on either side of the injured person's neck to keep it still. If you need to perform basic first aid, you can do so, but don't allow the injured person's body to move.
Here's a list of resources that can help if you've suffered a spinal cord injury or if you're a caregiver to a loved one who's in that situation:
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- What would you want others to know? Tell us what happened in your accident, and how life has changed for you.