What is a Spinal Cord Injury?

Damage to a person’s spinal cord can be catastrophic, impacting nearly every aspect of their life. Spinal cord injuries are rarely mild and can cause permanent changes to a person’s mobility. In the most severe form, a spinal cord injury can cause complete paralysis.

As noted by the Mayo Clinic, traumatic spinal cord injuries are caused by a “sudden, traumatic blow to your spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes, or compresses one or more of your vertebrae.” These injuries, whether involving permanent paralysis or not, are often caused by the fault of others, whether by surgical error, automobile accidents and motorcycle collisions, construction site mishaps, slip and fall accidents, and defective products or machinery failures.  Symptoms of a spinal cord injury may include: the loss of feeling in the arms, chest, or legs; loss of movement; spasms and grossly exaggerated reflexes; muscle weakness; complete loss of function; loss or disruption of sexual function; or consistent burning pain due to nerve damage.  

In the immediate aftermath of a severe accident, we understand it can be difficult to know where to turn. When you call our firm, you will always speak directly to an attorney who is well-versed in handling spinal injury cases. Our firm was able to obtain a landmark $135 million jury verdict on behalf of one of our clients paralyzed from the neck down after being hit by drunk driver. You can also read about the landmark $125 million settlement that we obtained for a woman who was crushed by a utility pole and suffered paralysis. This is believed to be the largest personal injury settlement in New Jersey history. 

How Does a Spinal Cord Injury Affect the Body?

The location of the trauma on the spinal cord determines which part of the body is affected by the injury. As a general rule, the higher the injury to the spinal cord, the more severe the symptoms will be. Injuries to the neck and higher vertebrae in the spine affect the respiratory muscles and the ability to breathe, while injuries to lower parts of the spine may affect bladder control, legs and sexual function. Severe spinal cord injuries have the potential to cause paralysis.  Quadriplegia is a form of paralysis where all of the victim’s limbs are impacted.  Paraplegia is a form of paralysis that affects the lower limbs.  

A spinal cord injury usually involves swelling of the spinal cord, which consequently affects the whole body. When the swelling decreases, the patient may regain function months or years after the injury, but regaining complete functioning is rare. Treatment usually involves stabilizing any broken vertebrae, preventing movement to the injured area, and reducing swelling. Although stem cell research has shown some promising signs for the future, there is still no cure for spinal cord injuries.

If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, contact our firm for a free consultation to see if we can provide legal representation. We have significant experience handling and litigating these types of cases.  For example, just recently, our firm was able to obtain a $10 million settlement for a Camden resident who was rendering a quadriplegic after police officers stepped on his neck, causing severe spinal cord injuries.  This is believed to be the largest police brutality settlement in New Jersey and one of the largest in the country.  

What Level of Spinal Cord Injury Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

A spinal cord injury can have profound effects on a person’s quality of life including fertility and sexual function. Sexuality is an important part of a person’s identity as it relates to self-image and interpersonal relationships. The majority of men with a spinal cord injury experience changes in fertility and sexual function due to physical function, sensation, and/or response to stimulation.

Men have two types of erections, psychogenic and reflex. Psychogenic erections occur with auditory, mental, or visual stimulation. Upon stimulation, the brain sends a message to the nerves of the spinal cord at the T10-L2 level causing the penis to become erect. Men with an incomplete injury at a low level are more likely to have psychogenic erections than men with high-level, incomplete injuries. Men with complete spinal cord injuries are less likely to experience psychogenic erections.

A reflex erection is an involuntary response that occurs with physical contact to the penis or other erotic areas. It does not require psychological stimulation like a psychogenic erection. The nerves that are necessary to have a reflex erection are located in the sacral area of the spinal cord at the level of S2-S4. Most men with a spinal cord injury are still able to have a reflex erection with physical stimulation unless the S2-S4 pathway is damaged.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of paralysis, paraplegia, quadriplegia or other spinal injuries due to a car accident, bus accident, truck accident, automobile or other motor vehicle accident in New Jersey, please contact the aggressive spinal cord injury lawyers at the New Jersey law firm of Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman and we will contact you as soon as possible to discuss your case.

How Do I Prove a Back Injury at Work?

Back injuries can be quite painful and debilitating, even if the injury is relatively minor. Even a minor injury to your back can affect you for quite a while and make it difficult to work in the same capacity you did before the injury occurred. As soon as you feel pain, you should seek treatment from a health care professional.  Do not wait to see if the problem goes away and you start to feel better. Waiting to feel better could cause the injury to worsen. Another problem with delaying treatment is that the workers’ compensation insurer can use this against you. Any delay in seeking medical treatment can be misconstrued, and the insurance company may try to claim that your back injury did not take place while you were working – they may say you were injured somewhere else, such as when you were outside of work playing sports or doing work around the house. 

There are various types of evidence that can be used to prove your back injury was caused by your employment. Evidence that may be helpful includes:

  • Signed doctors’ notes stating your diagnosis and that the back injury is work-related.
  • Medical records showing the dates and duration of your treatment, such as prescribed physical therapy.
  • Testimonials from coworkers and other witnesses who saw the accident occur. Talk to anyone who was there when you suffered your injury and ask for a detailed statement about what they saw.
  • Security footage from your workplace that shows the accident taking place. Ask your employer to provide you with a copy of CCTV footage that was recorded on the date of your accident.
  • Prescriptions given by your treating physician, detailing what the medications are for and why you need them.

We understand the physical, financial, emotional, and mental burden you may suffer after a spinal cord injury. Contact our firm as soon as possible so that we can help guide you or a loved one through the process.  Our firm is comprised of an aggressive team of personal injury lawyers that take on the toughest cases to the very end. For example, we obtained a $1.9 million jury verdict for our client in a defective product case involving a chair which broke, causing severe back injuries.  We then were able to successfully defend an appeal.  

What Do I Do If I Hurt My Back at Work?

Given the extraordinary costs of suffering a spinal cord injury, accident victims who suffer back injuries at work need to take appropriate legal action. If someone else is to blame for your injury, you may be entitled to full compensation, and an experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to help you recover.

In order to protect your legal rights, if you have suffered a back injury at work, you should:

  • Report the Accident – It is imperative that you report the accident to a supervisor or other representative. Typically, a supervisor or other representative will prepare an accident report or complete other documentation that might be necessary to vindicate your legal rights. 
  • Collect Your Medical Records – You do not have to worry about collecting everything, but take the time to make a file with all of the medical records you have that pertain to your injuries. 
  • Take Notes – Write down as many details as you can remember about the accident and record any pertinent details related to the day-to-day effects of your injury. Prepare a list of questions you want to ask your personal injury lawyer as well.
  • Consult with a Personal Injury Lawyer – In order to determine if you have a claim for financial compensation, you will need to speak with a personal injury lawyer. You should contact a local attorney who has specific experience handling spinal cord injury claims.
  • Avoid Speaking with Insurance Adjusters Directly – At this point, you should avoid speaking with any insurance adjusters. If any adjusters try to contact you, take down their contact information, tell them that you are seeking legal counsel, and let them know that your lawyer will be in touch shortly.
  • Not Wait Any Longer Than Necessary – We know that it can be difficult to face reality, but you need to seek help, and you need to do so as soon as possible.

Contact our firm as soon as possible, we have an extensive track record at handling complex cases involving spinal cord and back injuries.  For example, we obtained a $6 million settlement for our client who was run over by a school bus. As a result of the bus accident, our client suffered severe spinal injuries. The bus driver claimed that our client ran in front of the bus. Through our efforts, we were able to get the bus driver to admit that she lied to the police and that she caused the accident. 

How Much Compensation Can I Get for a Back Injury?

The total amount of compensation available in these situations will vary depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding each particular spinal cord injury case. Spinal cord injuries often result in significant medical bills and long-term disabilities for victims. If a person sustained a spinal cord injury as a result of the negligent or intentional actions of another party, they should be able to recover compensation for their losses. 

Awards are largely comprised of two distinct categories of “damages.” The most overwhelming cost associated with spinal cord injuries relate to medical care. Statistics from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) indicates that the first year of medical care alone can range anywhere from approximately $380,000 to more than $1 million, depending on the level of severity (i.e. quadriplegia, paraplegia, partial paralysis). However, these are certainly not the only economic costs spinal cord injury victims and their families should expect. Individuals who sustain these injuries may not be able to work again, or they may have to take jobs that offer lesser pay. These lost wages can significantly impact a person’s finances. 

The other category of damages are non-economic damages. These are the losses that do not come with direct bills or receipts and are more immeasurable, but are nonetheless critically important. Non-economic damages refer to pain and suffering of the victim, emotional and psychological trauma, loss of quality of life, and loss of consortium for a spouse.   

In order to properly assess and evaluate you or a loved one’s potential case, call our law firm for a free consultation.  In 2011, we obtained a $5 million settlement for our client who was hit by a tractor trailer.  As a result of this accident, our client suffered severe spinal injuries, was rendered disabled, and was unable to work.  We were able to win summary judgment on the liability portion of the case and ultimately settled this truck accident lawsuit.

Injure Your Back at Work? Contact Mazie Slater

More than a million Americans suffer back injuries at work every year. In fact, back injuries account for one of every five workplace injuries or illnesses. Further, one-fourth of all compensation indemnity claims involve back injuries, costing industry billions of dollars on top of the pain and suffering borne by employees.

The term work injury generally refers to an injury – which can include an acute illness, repetitive stress injuries, and accident injuries – sustained at or due to work. When is an injury work-related? What about a work injury off the clock? The precise answers to these questions depend on the factors at play in your individual situation. Often, work injury compensation insurance must cover injuries sustained during any work-related tasks, whether you were actually clocked into work at the time. In certain instances, you may qualify for benefits even if you were traveling in the course of your work or on an employer’s property outside of your scheduled work times. How insurers, defense lawyers, and other entities are likely to apply these factors to your work injury claim is a question only an experienced lawyer who is familiar with your situation can answer.

If you think that you may have a case involving a work injury due to the negligence of a third party, you need professional legal representation. The potential overlap between workers’ compensation claims for benefits through your own employer and the compensation you are seeking through this third-party lawsuit makes situations like this highly complex. Contact our firm for a free consultation at (973) 228-9898.  We have significant experience handling work-related and non-work-related personal injury claims.