Permanent paralysis, often caused by injuries to the spinal cord suffered from automobile accidents, medical malpractice or defective products, is an incurable condition. While there are forms of paralysis that are temporary, permanent paralysis not only affects a person’s ability to walk or move but affects many other parts and organs of the body as well, not to mention the detrimental effects on a person’s mental health. When someone else’s negligence behind the wheel of a car, a scalpel, at a construction site, or by a product manufacturer leads to another person’s paralysis, determining liability is one of the first things a good personal injury attorney will do first.
Another goal is to ensure that the victim receives as much compensation as they deserve. In order to do that, all aspects of how a victim’s life is negatively impacted by the injury and paralysis must be proven. That includes medical bills, current and future pain, suffering and financial loss. In trial, while the jury may see that you cannot walk or move as an able-bodied person, they cannot see how your organs, muscles, bones, and mental health have been compromised due to your paralysis. That is why it is important to have an experienced personal injury attorney that can establish the all-encompassing nature of your injury to the jury.
What are the long-term effects of paralysis?
Initially, adapting to the functional changes your body undergoes can be overwhelming. However, with the help of a rehabilitation team, they can guide you in developing strategies to address the effects of your Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) and recommend equipment and resources to enhance your quality of life and independence.
According to the Mayo Clinic, common issues include:
- Bladder control: While your bladder continues to store urine from your kidneys, the communication between your brain and bladder might be compromised due to the SCI. This can lead to an increased risk of urinary tract infections and complications like kidney or bladder stones. Your rehabilitation will encompass techniques for effective bladder emptying.
- Bowel control: While your digestive system operates similarly, control over bowel movements can be disrupted. Embracing a high-fiber diet can aid in bowel regulation, and you’ll learn strategies during rehabilitation to manage bowel control.
- Pressure injuries: Reduced or lost skin sensations below the injury area increase susceptibility to pressure sores. Regular repositioning, possibly with assistance, is vital to prevent these sores. Proper skincare practices taught during rehabilitation can further mitigate this risk.
- Circulatory challenges: An SCI may lead to circulatory issues, including orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure upon standing) and extremity swelling. These changes also elevate the risk of blood clot development, such as deep vein thrombosis. Autonomic dysreflexia, involving a dangerous spike in blood pressure, is another concern. Your rehabilitation team will instruct you on managing these concerns.
- Respiratory function: If your abdominal and chest muscles are affected, breathing and coughing might become more challenging. The specific level of your SCI dictates the type of respiratory issues you may encounter. Those with cervical and thoracic injuries face a higher risk of lung problems like pneumonia. Medications and therapies can help prevent and treat these complications.
- Bone density: Osteoporosis and the risk of fractures is increased below the injury area following an SCI.
- Muscle tone: Individuals with SCIs can experience muscle tone problems such as spasticity (uncontrolled muscle tightening) or flaccidity (soft, weak muscles lacking tone).
- Physical fitness and wellness: Weight loss and muscle atrophy can occur initially, and limited mobility may lead to a more sedentary lifestyle, increasing the risk of conditions like obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Nutrition guidance from a dietitian and tailored fitness programs from physical and occupational therapists can mitigate these risks.
- Sexual health: Men and women might observe changes in sexual functioning, from erections and lubrication issues to fertility. Urology or fertility specialists can offer options to address sexual health and fertility concerns.
- Pain: Muscle or joint pain from overused muscle groups and nerve pain, particularly in cases of incomplete injuries, can be experienced.
- Depression and deteriorating mental health: Coping with the life-altering effects of an SCI and dealing with chronic pain can lead to depression, anxiety, and mood swings for some individuals.
As we can see, the list of arduous conditions and issues arising from paralysis is long. To be paralyzed due to someone else’s negligence is to be forever changed both in body and possibly in mind. While there are treatments and therapies that can help those with paralysis to improve their quality of life, nothing will ever be how it was before the accident.
How common is paralysis?
The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation reports that the prevalence of paralysis is significantly higher than previously understood. Around 1.7 percent of the U.S. population, equivalent to 5,357,970 individuals, have reported experiencing various forms of paralysis. This definition pertains to central nervous system disorders that cause challenges or the complete inability to move the upper or lower extremities. While the primary contributor to paralysis is stroke, accounting for 33.7 percent of cases, spinal cord injuries come in second place, accounting for 27.3 percent. “The annual incidence of spinal cord injury (SCI) is approximately 54 cases per one million people in the United States, or about 18,000 new SCI cases each year.”
How we prove to a jury that you are suffering from more than immobility
As a paralysis patient, proving your hidden injuries and conditions involves a thorough and multifaceted approach that goes beyond visible physical impairments. These hidden injuries, often related to psychological, emotional, and long-term health aspects, can significantly impact your life.
To establish these hidden injuries in a legal context, we can use a combination of testimony, recorded factual data, and projected financial data.
Testimony can include:
- Psychological and emotional impact on you: We engage mental health professionals who specialize in trauma and rehabilitation psychology to assess the psychological impact of paralysis. They can provide expert opinions on the emotional challenges, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder that often accompany paralysis.
- Expert testimony: Qualified experts, such as neuropsychologists and psychiatrists, can offer testimony regarding the cognitive and emotional consequences of paralysis. They can explain how hidden injuries like depression or anxiety directly result from the physical injury and its subsequent impact on the individual’s life.
- Your personal journals and diaries: You may wish to maintain personal journals or diaries detailing your emotional struggles, thoughts, and feelings post-injury. These documents can serve as powerful evidence of the hidden injuries you are experiencing.
- Witness testimonies: Family members, friends, caregivers, and colleagues who interact with you regularly can provide insight into the changes in behavior, mood, and emotional well-being they have observed since the injury.
- Changes in your daily activities: We demonstrate how the hidden injuries impact your ability to engage in daily activities. This can include details about your decreased enjoyment in hobbies, social interactions, and overall quality of life.
- Impact on your relationships: We’ll also explore how the hidden injuries have affected relationships with family, friends, and partners. Testimonies from loved ones can provide insights into changes in communication, mood, and interactions since the injury.
Factual and projected data can include:
- Medical records and therapy reports: Records from mental health professionals and therapists who have treated you for emotional and psychological issues and physical medical treatments are key. These documents can detail the diagnosis, treatment plans, progress, and any ongoing challenges.
- Medical expert collaboration: We work with medical experts to establish a link between the physical injury and its potential psychological consequences. This collaboration can help paint a comprehensive picture of how hidden injuries manifest.
- Comparative analysis: We compare your emotional and psychological state before and after the injury. This can be done through testimony, personal accounts, and any documentation that shows a significant shift in mental well-being.
- Long-term projections: We consult experts like financial planners, life care planners, therapists, doctors, and others who can project the long-term physical, psychological, and financial impact of hidden injuries. These projections can consider factors like potential for improvement, ongoing therapy needs, your ability to work, and the overall impact on your life.
By combining medical expertise, psychological assessments, financial projections, witness testimonies, and personal documentation, you and your Atlanta attorney can effectively demonstrate the hidden injuries that a paralysis patient might be experiencing. This comprehensive approach highlights the significance of these injuries and their influence on your overall well-being, contributing to a more accurate and holistic legal representation. With the help of your attorney, obtaining these items, witnesses, and documentation can be made easier, so that you do not need to add any additional and unnecessary stress to your life.
The compassionate legal team at Harris Lowry Manton LLP are here to help you secure the just and fair compensation that you deserve. You should not have to pay for someone else’s negligence more than you already have. By looking at our verdicts and successes, you can see for yourself that we are experienced and knowledgeable when it comes to fighting for our clients every step of the way. We will handle all the legal paperwork and guide you through the complex legal system in a way that is manageable. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your options, call us in Atlanta or use our contact page. We want to help you to be able to live the best life you can.
One of the nation’s top trial attorneys, Jeff Harris is an award-winning litigator who handles high-profile, complex cases across a wide variety of practice areas. He excels at securing justice for clients who have been seriously injured or killed, holding responsible parties accountable for their actions as well as their negligence.
Read more about Jeffrey R. Harris here.