Spinal Cord Injuries
At Levitt, Leichenger, & Aberle, Attorneys at Law, we deal with serious accidents involving severe injuries, such as spinal cord injuries (SCI). These tragedies result in permanent disability with life-long medical and associated costs, and our experienced California trial lawyers work to see that the victims of negligent or wrongful conduct are compensated accordingly.
Motor vehicle accidents are the single greatest cause of spinal cord injuries, accounting for 37% of all SCI. Drivers and occupants of automobiles are susceptible to SCI from high-end impacts or rear-end collisions, as well as accidents involving trucks, buses, and other large, heavy vehicles. Motorcycle and bicycle riders are especially vulnerable to SCI and other serious injuries due to their exposure and lack of external protection.
Anatomy of an Injury
The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves which travels along the spinal column, protected inside the 33 vertebrae which make up the backbone. All nerve signals communicate with the brain by traveling back and forth along the spinal cord before branching out to all parts of the body. Whenever the spinal cord is damaged, all communication is lost between the brain and all the nerves below the point of injury. This loss of communication results in a loss of feeling as well as motor function (paralysis).
The spinal column is divided into distinct regions - the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar, from neck to lower back. Below the lumbar region, the remaining vertebrae are fused together into a region known as the sacrum. Nerves in the sacral region are responsible for bowel and bladder control and sexual functioning. Given their low placement along the spine, these nerves are affected in almost every case of SCI.
Basically, any injury to the spine below the cervical region will cause paraplegia, a paralysis of the legs and the lower trunk, depending upon the precise location of the injury. An injury to the spinal cord along any of the seven cervical vertebrae will cause quadriplegia, a paralysis of both arms and legs and the entire trunk up to the neck. An injury in the upper C1-C3 sections will likely also impair the ability of the person to breathe voluntarily, requiring a respirator or ventilator to force air into and out of the lungs. Oftentimes, unless treated right away, victims of a C1-C2 injury do not live beyond the scene of the accident.
A Lifetime of Special Needs
The location and severity of the injury will determine the extent of damage, but in any event, nerve damage is permanent and cannot be repaired. An individual living with SCI will require a lifetime of care and additional expenses. Our attorneys work with physiatrists, neurologists, economists, and life care planners to develop a realistic estimate of the added expenses and care an individual will need over the course of a lifetime.
In addition to life care plans, our attorneys also help in establishing special needs trusts for victims of SCI. The special needs trust is a vehicle for providing for one's care and welfare, with the added benefit of providing financial support while at the same time preserving one's eligibility for public assistance. Regardless of how heavily a special needs trust is funded, its assets are not considered when determining eligibility for Social Security, Medi-Cal, housing, and other government benefits.
In preparation for trial, our attorneys often produce day-in-the-life films which show how the injury has affected the client with daily living challenges. These films have a dramatic visual impact and are often extremely valuable in settlement discussions or presentations to a jury.
For attorneys who understand the special needs of a person with SCI and who will fight for a full and fair recovery against the negligent driver or property owner responsible for the accident, call Levitt Leichenger & Aberle, Attorneys at Law, at (323) 655-1101, or complete the on-line form to have one of our lawyers contact you.