Chicago Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer

A spinal cord injury can devastate your life, potentially causing paralysis, chronic pain, weakness, and numbness. You could require substantial economic support after a spinal cord injury caused by someone else’s recklessness or negligence. The Chicago personal injury lawyers at Levin & Perconti can help you assess whether an injury claim can provide the resources you need to assist in your healing.

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What Is a Spinal Injury?

The spine provides structure and flexibility to the back and protects the spinal cord. The spinal cord carries the nerves that connect your brain to your body. Every muscle, internal organ, and sensory organ below your neck connects to the spinal cord.

Anatomy of the Spine

The bones that compose the spine are called vertebrae. Each vertebra has a cylindrical body and wing-shaped processes. The gap between the body and processes forms the spinal canal.

Fibrous discs sit between the vertebrae and provide cushioning between each vertebra. They also give your spine its flexibility.

Ligaments attach to the spinous processes. Tension in the ligaments holds your vertebrae and discs in alignment.

Effects of a Spine Injury

Spine injuries can sever or compress the spinal cord. A fractured vertebra or damaged disc can protrude into the spinal canal and sever or press on the spinal cord.

As the spinal cord passes through the spine, nerve roots branch off of it. A spinal cord injury affects the nerve roots below the injury.

A spinal cord injury in your lower back will only affect your lower limbs. A spinal cord injury in your neck could affect your entire body, including your internal organs and the muscles that control breathing and swallowing.

Types of Spinal Injuries

The degree of damage to the spinal cord will determine its ability to carry nerve signals after the injury.

Complete Injuries

In a complete spinal cord injury, the spinal cord gets severed. This causes total paralysis below the injury. Complete injuries include quadriplegia — paralysis from the neck down — and paraplegia — paralysis from the waist down.

Incomplete Injuries

Incomplete spinal cord injuries sever some, but not all, of the nerves. This causes partial paralysis. For example, an incomplete injury could weaken your legs without paralyzing them.

Spinal Cord Compression

Vertebrae or discs can compress nerves without severing them. This pressure inflames the nerves, causing them to misfire.

Symptoms of spinal cord compression include:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Loss of dexterity
  • Weakness

Spinal cord compression can also cause sexual dysfunction and a loss of bowel and bladder control.

Common Causes of Spinal Injuries in Chicago

Spinal cord injuries usually result from an impact to your back or rapid deceleration. Examples of accidents that involve these forces include:

Traffic Accidents

In 2020, traffic accidents caused 2,319 incapacitating injuries in Chicago. Car and truck accidents whip your body back and forth. The hyperextension and compression of your spine can fracture vertebrae and crush discs.

Motorcycle Accidents, Bicycle Accidents, and Pedestrian Accidents

Motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians lack the protection of a passenger compartment. You can injure your spinal cord in a primary collision with a vehicle or a secondary collision with the ground.

Construction Accidents and Workplace Accidents

Workplace accidents, particularly at construction sites, can cause spine injuries. Potential causes of injuries at these locations include falling objects, construction vehicle accidents, and falls.

Elevated Falls and Slip and Falls

Unintentional falls are Chicago’s leading cause of injury to both older people and young children. Falls involve an impact on the ground and hyperextension of your spine, which can lead to spinal cord injuries.

Treatment and Recovery for Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries require extensive treatment and support.

Doctors cannot cure complete spinal cord injuries. As a result, you may need costly lifelong medical care and support.

Intense therapy for incomplete spinal cord injuries can help your brain remap its connections so you can recover some use of the paralyzed body parts.

Doctors can treat spinal cord compression. Anti-inflammatory injections can temporarily relieve symptoms. Surgery can be used to remove discs or bone fragments compressing the spinal cord. However, it can also stress healthy vertebrae and discs, causing spine degeneration.

Man with Spinal Cord Injury in Wheelchair

How Much Compensation Can I Receive for a Spinal Injury?

You could recover damages if someone else’s negligence caused your injury. Illinois doesn’t cap damages, except in lawsuits against the State of Illinois. Damages for a spinal cord injury might include:

Economic Damages

Economic damages cover the financial cost of your injury, such as:

  • Past and future medical costs for treatment, therapy, and drugs
  • Lost income from missed work
  • Reduction in earning capacity if you’re forced to change jobs or quit working

Attorneys prove economic damages with financial records, like bills and pay stubs.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages compensate you for a diminished quality of life including:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Inconvenience
  • Disfigurement
  • Inability to perform tasks, like driving

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are rarely awarded, but you can seek them if the entity that caused your injury acted with wanton disregard for your safety. A lawyer can determine if punitive damages are relevant in your specific situation.

Determining Liability for an Accident Causing a Spinal Cord Injury

The parties who caused your injury and bear liability for it can include:

  • Drivers
  • Trucking companies
  • Manufacturers of defective equipment
  • Owners and occupiers of premises

Negligence requires proof of four elements:

Duty

You must fall within the group of people protected. For example, landlords must protect tenants but don’t need to protect trespassers.

Breach

The person or business must have acted unreasonably. Violating a traffic law or failing to repair a broken staircase might constitute a breach. Eyewitnesses can testify to the events that led up to your accident.

Causation

The breach must fall in the sequence of events that resulted in your injury. Eyewitness testimony and medical records can help prove that an accident directly caused your injury.

Damages

Expenses related to your injuries and a diminishment in your enjoyment of life qualify as damages.

A judge or claim adjuster can reduce your damages in proportion to your responsibility for your injuries. In Illinois, you cannot recover any damages if you bear more than 50% of the fault for your accident. Regardless, it’s recommended that you always consult with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney to evaluate the facts of your case and determine your options before deciding whether or not to pursue compensation for your injury and other losses.

What if My Loved One Died From a Spinal Cord Injury After a Chicago Accident?

Illinois law allows the personal representative of the accident victim to bring a wrongful death action within two years of the death. Damages will cover:

  • The victim’s financial contributions
  • The family’s grief, sorrow, and mental suffering

Damages are awarded to the surviving spouse or next of kin.

How Long Do I Have to Sue for a Spinal Cord Injury in Illinois?

You have two years after the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit for a spinal cord injury. Beware that this time can pass quickly when you suffer a severe injury. You should act as soon as possible to preserve your right to pursue compensation.

There are several factors that can impact the statute of limitations for injuries in Illinois, but a good rule of thumb is to assume you have no more than two years, and to call an attorney immediately. If the statute of limitations passes before your case is filed, you’ll be barred from pursuing legal action altogether.

How Can Levin & Perconti Help if You or a Loved One Suffered a Spinal Injury Due to Someone Else’s Negligence?

If you experienced a spinal cord injury due to a preventable accident, a lawyer from Levin & Perconti can evaluate the legal merits of your claim and estimate the damages you can recover.

Since its founding in 1992, Levin & Perconti has recovered over one billion dollars in compensation for its clients. Our firm’s lawyers have over 200 years of combined experience in all types of injury cases that cause spinal cord injuries.

Contact the personal injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti today for a free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries can occur and manifest in many ways. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers.

Accidents resulting in spinal cord injuries are often preventable when they’re caused by someone else’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing. Additionally, equipment like safety harnesses and seat belts can reduce the severity of accidental injuries. But there is no way to prevent all spinal cord injuries.

It’s important to speak with a lawyer soon after your injury to determine liability and whether you’re eligible to recover compensation for your damages.

Symptoms of spinal cord injuries, like paralysis, often happen immediately. Over time, some symptoms may disappear as swelling subsides. You may recover functions for up to 18 months after your accident, depending on the severity of the injury.

The spinal cord carries all nerve signals below the neck. This includes autonomous signals that control breathing, temperature regulation, and heart rate. It also includes essential voluntary signals that control swallowing and urinating.

No. They can impair motor and sensory functions without causing total paralysis. However, it’s important to receive proper treatment to prevent or mitigate further or progressive harm.

Sometimes. Your brain can remap intact nerves to recover some function after an incomplete injury. Surgeons can also relieve spinal cord compression. However, some impairments may be permanent, which is why it’s important to speak with a personal injury lawyer about your chances of securing compensation to assist in your past and ongoing medical care.

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