A spinal cord injury is unquestionably one of the most debilitating, life-threatening injuries an accident victim can sustain. These injuries may result in partial or full paralysis, requiring a lifetime of personalized care.
Caring for a spinal cord injury comes at a high price. Some spinal cord injury victims require assistance from a nurse or aide 24 hours a day. For many, the only way they can afford this level of care is by filing a claim against responsible parties. But they can’t do it alone; Ernst Law Group leverages 60 years of experience to help victims of severe injuries collect compensation.
Talk to a spinal cord injury lawyer in San Luis Obispo during a free, no-obligation case review. Call (805) 541-0300 or contact us online to schedule your appointment now.
Accidents that lead to spinal cord injuries
Spinal cord injuries are usually caused by severe accidents. According to statistics from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), the most common incidents that lead to a spinal cord injury include the following.
Motor vehicle accidents
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the U.S. From 2015-2019, vehicle crashes accounted for 38.6% of all spinal cord injury cases.
A spinal cord injury is more likely to happen in a serious car accident or one where the two vehicles involved have dramatic weight differences. In truck accidents, events like a rollover, jackknife, or underride have a high likelihood of causing traumatic injuries.
Motorcycle accidents can also disproportionately cause spinal cord injuries. This risk increases exponentially for those struck while on a bicycle or on foot.
Falls account for 32.2% of all spinal cord injury cases between 2015 and 2019. Adults over 65 are at particularly high risk for a spinal cord injury due to a fall.
A fall can occur as a result of losing balance. However, they often happen under hazardous conditions or when a product is defective.
Slip and fall accidents are relatively common in businesses that have failed to properly protect patrons. A defective ladder or roofing harness can similarly lead to a fall and a subsequent spinal cord injury.
Many falling accidents that lead to spinal cord injuries can happen in the workplace, too. OSHA lists fall as the most pernicious of the “fatal four” workplace hazards. In 2018, falls accounted for 33.5% of all construction deaths.
Acts of violence
Acts of violence are surprisingly common causes of major injury trauma. NSCISC data shows that violent crime is the third-most-common cause of spinal cord injuries, accounting for 14% of known cases from 2015-2019.
Sports injuries include more than just everyday bruises, scrapes, and sprains. Athletes can suffer damage to the spinal cord at the neck, upper back, or lumbar area. Nerve damage can lead to numbness, pain, or tingling in the extremities. Some sports injury victims will incur cognitive symptoms or even paralysis.
According to the NSCISC, sports injuries accounted for 4.2% of spinal cord injury causes from 2015-2019. Spinal cord injuries are especially common in rough contact sports, such as football, but they can occur as a result of catastrophic injuries in baseball, soccer, basketball, or hockey.
Symptoms of spinal cord injury
Spinal cord nerve cells do not regenerate, which means the damage, including paralysis, could be permanent. Spinal cord injuries cause one or multiple symptoms, such as:
- Tingling, numbness, or change in the sensations in hands, feet, or limbs
- Immediate paralysis
- Paralysis that develops over time as bleeding or swelling at the injury site affects the spinal cord
- Pressure, and pain in your neck or back
- Inability to move part of your body, or weakness when you try to move an arm or leg
- Unnatural positioning of the head and spine
- Losing bladder or bowel control
- Difficulty walking
- Problems breathing
Some of these symptoms may not present right away, so it’s important to seek medical attention after any accident.
Steps to take after being hurt
What you do and say in the moments following an accident makes a difference in the success of your recovery and your spinal cord injury lawsuit.
1. Find a safe place away from the source of injury
Try to protect yourself as much as possible. But, if you suffered a blow to the back or an impact around your neck or spinal area, it may be safer to remain in place and wait for emergency medical responders to move you. Only move if you are in immediate danger of additional injury.
2. Perform a self-evaluation
Neck and spine injuries may be asymptomatic at first; this, plus the release of adrenaline after an accident can make you feel uninjured when you actually are. Therefore, it’s important to visually assess your injuries and try to wiggle your fingers and toes. If you cannot move them, relay this information to the 911 operator.
3. Call 911 and ask for an ambulance and the police
EMS responders are trained to determine the presence and extent of spinal cord injuries and to move accident victims safely, so as not to further injure them.
When you call 911, the responding police officer compiles an accident report that includes vital details for your case like:
The parties involved and their contact information
Names and contact information from witnesses, and witness accounts
The circumstances of the accident, like road conditions, weather, and other details
Most police departments also have an “officer narrative” where the officer writes an analysis of the cause of the accident. While inadmissible in court, it can be a weighty factor in pre-trial negotiations.
4. Take notes and photos of the scene
Take your own pictures and make notes about the events leading up to the accident. You may be able to record the crash scene, too, which your San Luis Obispo spinal cord injury lawyer can use to prove the other party caused the accident.
5. Collect contact information from witnesses
Speak with people who may have seen what happened and ask them if you and your San Luis Obispo personal injury lawyer can follow up later to get a statement.
6. Keep a written or digital record of your experience in the minutes, hours, and days after the accident
The size of your settlement depends on how your spinal cord injury affects your life. Keep a daily log of how your injury has made it difficult to complete daily activities, go to work, and care for your family.
Note your pain level, too; you’re entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, and your “pain journal” can be used as evidence when negotiating a higher settlement.
7. Visit your primary care physician or specialist
Emergency care helps get you on the right track for recovery right after the accident, but following up with your own doctor is important to heal properly. They may recommend seeing a spinal cord injury specialist or advising you to wear protective equipment, like a brace, while you heal. You may need professional rehabilitation to learn to walk again or complete other activities.
8. Speak with an attorney
If the reckless actions of another party caused your spinal cord injury, then you have a legal right to seek restitution for any expenses you incurred as a result. An experienced San Luis Obispo spinal cord injury lawyer properly values your claim so that your settlement covers emergency care and any rehabilitation you may require.
Don’t miss the deadline to file your claim
It is essential that injury victims file within the statute of limitations, or the case cannot proceed. California statutes of limitations include:
- Personal injury – two years
- Medical malpractice – for injury or death, must be filed within one year from the date of knowledge of the negligent act; the case must not be filed more than three years from the date of the injury
Exceptions do exist for filing, but you are advised to check with your attorney.
Your San Luis Obispo personal injury and wrongful death attorney with Ernst Law Group will immediately check the dates to make sure that your case falls within the allotted filing time.
Possible damages you can claim
California permits spinal cord injury plaintiffs to seek three types of damages in their claim: economic, non-economic, and punitive (which may not be assessed in every case).
Economic damages are monetary losses, such as:
- Medical bills
- Physical or occupational therapy
- Modifications to your home or vehicle
- Durable medical equipment
- Property damage
- Lost wages from time you missed at work
Non-economic damages include consideration for your non-calculable losses, like diminished quality of life, pain and suffering from your injuries, and the emotional trauma you experienced from the accident.
We’ll fight the insurance company to get you maximum compensation
Insurance companies are known to minimize or deny valid claims, or even try to pin the blame for the accident on you. Our spinal cord injury lawyers in San Luis Obispo know the tricks insurance companies pull and have the skills and tenacity to combat them.
Parties who may be liable for your injury
The defendant or defendants are the parties responsible for your injury, like:
- Another driver
- A semi-truck driver and/or their employer
- Your employer, if they permitted unsafe working conditions or didn’t provide safety gear
- A property owner that didn’t maintain safe premises for visitors
- We conduct an independent investigation to determine all liable parties to hold them accountable.
How our spinal cord attorneys prove liability
Proving liability means proving that another party caused your injury through negligence. Proving negligence in a court of law means proving a four-step argument:
- The other party owed you a duty of care
- They abandoned this duty of care
- Their actions caused your injury
- You suffered financially because of your injury
Spinal cord injury lawsuit process
The specifics of your case are unique to your accident, but most spinal cord injury cases progress like so:
1. Legal consultation
Ernst Law Group offers a free initial consultation to determine if you have a valid case. Bring all your medical records, police reports, bills for medical care or property damage, and your daily “pain journal” to the consultation.
2. Accident investigation
We have extensive resources to investigate the incident, interview witnesses, and audit property safety records or personnel files.
3. File a demand for compensation
Once we value your claim, we send a Demand Letter to the at-fault party, their lawyer, and their insurance company, which will be paying the settlement. The letter outlines their client’s liability and the extent of your injury.
If the defendant is clearly in the wrong, they may pay the settlement request on receipt of the demand letter. Usually, though, the case moves to negotiations between each party’s lawyers.
The other party may acknowledge their liability but want to negotiate a lower settlement. Trust our tenacious negotiators to argue for the highest possible settlement.
5. Take the case to trial
If the other party refuses a fair settlement, your San Luis Obispo spinal cord injury lawyer will try your case in a California civil court.
Why it’s important to visit the doctor
Professional medical care gives you the best chance of recovery after a spinal cord injury. Your medical records, including physical therapy or specialist physician visits, become part of the proof we need to argue liability on the defendant’s part. It’s also important to have medical records to properly value your economic damages.
Mistakes to avoid in a spinal injury claim
We’ve gone over the “Do’s” in a spinal cord injury case; for the best chance of a favorable outcome in your case, avoid making these common mistakes.
Posting on social media
The other party could use your posts as evidence that you’re not hurt as badly as you claim.
Speaking with the defendant’s insurance company
They’ll twist your words into an admission of fault for the accident. Refer all communications from the other party’s insurance company to your lawyer.
Waiting too long to contact an attorney
If you put off speaking with a lawyer and getting your case moving, you may miss your chance to obtain compensation. Don’t wait – you should at least learn your options.
Cost of hiring a San Luis Obispo spinal cord injury lawyer
Our attorneys work on a contingency basis, which means that you don’t pay unless we win your case. We will discuss the specifics of our fees during your initial free case review.
Why hire Ernst Law Group?
Experience matters when litigating complicated spinal cord injury cases – and that’s what our personal injury legal team delivers. We understand your frustrations and fight hard to get you the compensation you deserve.
We believe that our results speak for themselves:
$10.5 million in a recent brain and spinal injury case
$10.23 million for a young man hit while riding his bike, resulting in back and head injuries
Our San Luis Obispo spinal cord injury lawyers are here to help
You can be certain that your lawyer at Ernst Law Group will take your spinal injury case to heart and treat it with the attention, focus, and care it deserves. Your attorney understands how this injury permanently affects your life, and responsible parties should be made accountable.
Ernst Law Group consults with the best experts available, including accident reconstruction engineers, medical experts, rehabilitative long-term care experts, life planners, and more. These resources are key to getting you the compensation you deserve for your injury.
For a complimentary case evaluation with a spinal cord personal injury lawyer at Ernst Law Group, call us at (805) 541-0300 or contact us online today. There are no upfront fees or costs; if we do not win your case, you don’t owe us a dime.
What Our Clients Say About Us
“I could not be more satisfied with Ernst Law Group. Over the course of my case they were nothing but kind and friendly. When you’re in a situation where you need a lawyer it can be a very stressful time…Samantha Spelman
“Enough cannot be said for the amazing job done for us by the Ernst Law Group. Their compassion and dedication to ‘doing what is right’ makes them go above and beyond in all that they do. After spending time and money on other local attorneys, Don, Taylor and Terry were a blessing to us. They never backed down even though our case was a very unusual case. Thank you Ernst Law Group.“Mary Barrett
“Best personal injury and wrongful death attorneys available! The whole team is friendly, works very hard, is knowledgeable, and will do their best to take care of their clients. The Ernst team is the best around!“Hannah W.