Paralysis is an injury in which the victim loses muscle function in part or the entirety of his or her body. Initially, it can be very frightening to the person suffering from it. It can be partial or complete, and it may occur on one side of the body or both. In some cases, the paralysis is temporary, while in others it is a permanent disability. If it is experienced in the lower half of somebody’s body, paralysis is considered paraplegia, whereas paralysis of arms and legs is quadriplegia. Generally, paralysis is the result of something going awry with the messages that are passed between the brain and muscles so that the muscles move.
One of the most common causes of paralysis is trauma to the spine. Spinal cord injuries can be the result of blunt force that bruises or crushes the cord. However, it also can be damaged when oxygen is cut off or when it is penetrated. Damage can be mediated by neurotransmitters coming from damaged cells or an inflammatory immune response.
In some cases, paralysis is temporary. Physical traumas, such as a heavy blow, diabetic neuropathy, strokes, or pinched nerves, can cause temporary paralysis. However, any temporary paralysis should be evaluated by a doctor who can determine whether it is likely to turn into a permanent injury.
Liability for Paralysis Injuries After an Accident
Paralysis can arise out of a spinal cord injury, a broken neck, a stroke, or nerve diseases. The most common reason for paralysis is a motor vehicle accident in which blunt force is applied to the victim’s neck or spine. After suffering paralysis in a motor vehicle accident, the victim may need ongoing medical care, personal assistance and household services, out-of-pocket costs, and rehabilitation therapies. If paralysis arose out of a motor vehicle accident caused by someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional conduct, the responsible party may be liable for all tangible costs that flow from the injuries, as well as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment.
Another cause of paralysis is medical malpractice. In some cases, infants suffer birth injuries like paralysis due to the inappropriate use of forceps or the failure to do a C-section in time for a baby who is deprived of oxygen. People can also suffer paralysis due to a stroke. In some cases, a mini-stroke occurs before the primary stroke. When a patient goes to see a doctor about the mini-stroke, the doctor has time to treat the mini-stroke and prevent the primary stroke. If a stroke could have been caught and stopped by medical professionals before doing damage, but the patient’s complaints were instead dismissed or misdiagnosed, the medical professional may be held liable for all the injuries that result, including those associated with paralysis.
Another common cause of paralysis is sports accidents. In most cases, sports accidents are not actionable. If they happen to a professional athlete, workers’ compensation is likely to be the only remedy. However, in a non-professional context, there are certain instances in which someone may be held liable for an athlete’s paralysis. For example, a player’s illegal hit on an athlete in a football game can result in paralysis. If the player who performed the hit knew or should have known that paralysis was possible, he or she may be liable. Similarly, a school district may be held responsible if it fails to provide adequate equipment to protect players. If a helmet is defective and does not offer appropriate protection against blunt trauma, the manufacturer may be sued for product liability.