The spinal cord consists of nerves that control the motor and sensory functions of many areas of the body. The brain and the body exchange messages through these nerves, which are shielded by the spinal column. Unfortunately, the devastating impact in a truck accident can damage the spinal cord. Some injuries may compress the cord, while other injuries may sever the cord. This prevents the brain from properly sending and receiving messages.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
Paraplegia: loss of sensation and movement in the legs
Triplegia: loss of sensation and movement in the legs and one arm
Quadriplegia: loss of sensation and movement in the legs and arms, sometimes in addition to breathing complications
The location and severity of a spinal cord injury will determine its effects. An injury to the upper part of the spinal cord near the neck may disrupt respiratory functions. An injury to the lower part of the spinal cord may disrupt bladder, bowel, and sexual functions. The majority of spinal cord injuries are incomplete, which means that the victim retains some sensation and movement below the injury site. However, other spinal cord injuries are complete, which means that the victim loses sensation and movement below the injury site entirely.
Treatment for Spinal Cord Injuries
Any spinal cord injury demands prompt and careful medical attention. A victim should refrain from moving their back to the extent possible. Immediate treatment may involve a brace to stabilize the neck and back, as well as addressing any problems with blood loss or oxygen deprivation. Long-term care may involve surgery and physical and occupational therapy, as well as injections and medications to control pain and inflammation. A victim may need to undergo vocational rehabilitation to help them go back to work, or they may need to train for a new job if they cannot return to their former job. Some victims who suffer serious injuries may need wheelchairs and other assistive devices while they recover or indefinitely.
Claims Based on Spinal Cord Injuries in Truck Accidents
The costs of treating a spinal cord injury can quickly pile up, putting financial pressure on a victim and their family. This is especially true if the victim misses substantial time at work or needs to find a new job to accommodate any ongoing or permanent conditions. A victim may pursue compensation from any person or entity that was at fault for the truck accident that resulted in the spinal cord injury. This usually involves proving the elements of a negligence claim:
The defendant had a duty to use reasonable care under the circumstances
The defendant failed to use reasonable care
The accident was a direct and foreseeable result of the defendant’s careless actions
The victim incurred quantifiable damages
Sometimes a victim was partly at fault for an accident. For example, a trucker might have been texting behind the wheel, while the driver of a passenger car was speeding. In this case, a victim who was less than 50 percent at fault still could receive damages in most states. Their compensation would be reduced in proportion to their percentage of fault. Some states allow a victim to recover damages reduced by their percentage of fault, regardless of how high this is. Many other states bar a victim from recovering damages if they were at least 50 or 51 percent at fault. A small handful of states continue to use the contributory negligence rule, which prevents a victim from recovering damages if they were at fault to any degree.
Damages for spinal cord injuries may account for both the financial costs and the intangible harm caused by these severe conditions. A victim can recover compensation for the costs of surgeries, therapies, assistive devices, and other medical needs. Compensation also covers lost income caused by time missed from work, as well as any reduction in future earning capacity. Non-economic damages account for subjective pain and suffering, which may be severe and persistent in these cases. Sometimes a spinal cord injury limits the activities in which a victim can engage, and they may receive damages for loss of enjoyment of life as a result.