Paraplegia involves a spinal cord injury resulting in the paralysis of the body below the level of the neck. “Vertebrae” are the bony structures that make up the spine, and which protect the spinal cord—which runs down the center of the vertebrae—from injury. There are seven cervical vertebrae at the top of the spine that, if injured, can result in quadriplegia. Below the cervical vertebrae, the spine is made up of twelve “thoracic” vertebrae (“T-1” through “T-12,” in descending order). Below the thoracic vertebrae and making up the lower back are the five “lumbar” vertebrae (“L-1” through “L-5”).
Next to quadriplegia, paraplegia is the most serious of all the spinal cord injuries and one of the most devastating injuries a person can sustain. Paraplegia results from the fracture, dislocation, or compression of one or more of the thoracic or lumbar vertebrae that make up the majority of the spine, causing severance of, compression of, or tears to the spinal cord itself. It is not necessary to suffer a fracture to become a paraplegic, just as a fracture to a thoracic or lumbar vertebra does not automatically mean you will be paralyzed.
Unlike quadriplegics, who often must have around-the-clock caregivers to assist him or her and are unable to return to work, paraplegics are often able to return to a relatively independent and productive life through intensive (and expensive) rehabilitation and retraining. In many cases, the person who has been rendered paraplegic due to another’s careless conduct (“negligence”) will be able to return to work, if not at his or her old job, then, with proper education and training, to a new job that can accommodate their physical condition and all that goes with it.
The damages in terms of financial costs for treating a paraplegic are high, running into the millions of dollars. There are tremendous “economic damages,” including medical expenses, intensive physical therapy and rehabilitation, the costs of a caregiver, lost wages while the victim was off work or due to the inability to return to a career or job, the loss of earning potential, educational expenses to be trained for a new career, the costs of making modifications to the house to accommodate a wheelchair, the purchase of a specially-equipped van or other vehicle to transport the paraplegic or so that the paraplegic is able to drive himself or herself with special features. Damages for so-called “non-economic damages” such as pain and suffering and “loss of enjoyment of life” are substantial in cases involving victims who have been rendered paraplegic.
The life span of a person who has been rendered paraplegic is often shortened due to an impaired immunity system that leaves the quadriplegic victim more susceptible to infections and diseases. For instance, pneumonia is a leading cause of death among paraplegic persons. Infections from bedsores (“decubitus ulcers”) are common in paraplegics, and are caused by sitting or lying in one position too long. This is why it is crucial that a paraplegic change his or her position regularly to prevent the development of bedsores. Untreated bedsores can result in deadly infections.
Besides the serious physical injuries, a person who suddenly and unexpectedly gets into an accident that causes him or her to become a paraplegic, the mental and emotional side of the injury must also be considered. The victim may go into despair and grieve for the loss of use of his or her lower limbs. The victim may become depressed, withdrawn, hopeless, even suicidal. The mental health aspects of becoming a paraplegic can be serious and require appropriate psychotherapy and even psychoactive medications.
The Torkzadeh Law Firm has the experience necessary in representing clients who have been rendered paraplegic due to the careless conduct (“negligence”) of another person, a company, or a defective product. We understand the physical, financial, and emotional toll paraplegia takes on the injured victim and his or her family. We will work hard on your behalf to get you the maximum recovery possible to help you to adjust to your new living requirements. Call now and talk to a lawyer free – 888.845.9696.