Fort Myers Spinal Cord Injury Attorney

Fort Myers Spinal Cord Injury Attorney

anatomical representation of damaged spine

Injuries to your spinal cord can range from minor to severe and can cause you immense pain. You may lose the ability to do the things you love, which can be devastating. In addition to this emotional pain, you may be struggling to pay the medical bills associated with your injury.

If you acquired a spinal cord injury due to an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you may qualify for compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. An experienced spinal cord injury lawyer in Fort Myers from Viles & Beckman can help you understand your legal options.

What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?

A spinal cord injury (SCI) involves damage to any part of the spinal cord—including the vertebrae, ligaments, or disks—or nerves at the end of the spinal canal. The spinal cord is about 18 inches long, extending from the base of the head to near the waist. 

The spinal cord is divided into four groups, including:

  • Cervical vertebrae, located in the neck
  • Thoracic vertebrae in the upper back
  • Lumbar vertebrae in the lower back
  • Sacral vertebrae in the pelvis

Wherever the pain is in your body, our Fort Myers spinal cord injury lawyers are ready to help you recover financially so that you can focus on your physical recovery. When you choose our firm, you have years of experience behind you, fighting for the maximum settlement.

What Are the Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury?

After sustaining an SCI, it’s important to know what to look for to determine if you need immediate medical assistance. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Extreme pain or pressure in the head, neck, or back
  • Loss of sensation in the hands, fingers, feet, or toes or altered sensation, such as the inability to feel items that are hot or cold to the touch
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Partial or complete loss of function in a body part
  • Urinary or bowel incontinence
  • Exaggerated reflexes or spasms
  • Difficulty with walking or balance
  • Unusual lumps on the head or spine or an oddly positioned neck or back

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, we recommend that you visit your doctor. After you’ve been diagnosed, our Fort Myers spinal cord injury attorneys can help you build your case and fight for compensation. 

How Do Doctors Diagnose Spinal Cord Injuries?

There are many ways doctors care for patients with spinal cord injuries. One way includes evaluating people using diagnostic tests. The tests used to diagnose SCIs include radiologic evaluations as well as standardized testing tools. 

SCIs are then rated as to the type of damage that has been done based on the lowest normally performing area of the spine and the ability of the limbs to function. There are two types of SCI:

  • Complete: All feeling and ability to control function below the damaged area of the spine.
  • Incomplete: Some sensation and/or motor function exists below the site of the injury.

Paralysis is the loss of sensation and motor function. This can be categorized as either:

  • Tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia, which features loss of sensation and motor function in the arms, legs, torso, and pelvic region of the body, or
  • Paraplegia, which is a loss of sensation and motor function in the torso, pelvis, and legs.

What Is Involved in the Treatment of SCIs?

The treatment of SCIs usually begins before the patient even reaches the hospital, when the emergency medical responders immobilize the spine at the scene of the accident. 

This early treatment then proceeds to the emergency room with further stabilization as well as diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans, and addressing immediate, life-threatening complications of the injury. 

Afterward, treatment may include:

  • Traction to bring the spine into proper alignment and improve blood flow to affected organs and limbs.
  • Surgery to relieve compression of a herniated disk, blood clots, or other lesions on the spinal cord.
  • Maintenance of regular blood pressure.
  • Monitoring of cardiovascular function.
  • Adequate ventilation and lung function.
  • Preventing and addressing infection and other complications from the injury.

Most of a patient’s ability to recover will take place within the first six months after injury, though some people experience small improvements for as long as a year or two. However, every injury is different, so your healing time may be shorter or longer than these time frames.

How Do You Prove Negligence in a Spinal Cord Injury Case in Fort Myers?

To obtain compensation from an at-fault party in a personal injury lawsuit, a plaintiff must be able to prove that the at-fault party’s actions were negligent. Negligence is established by proving the following:

  • The defendant (at-fault party) owed the plaintiff (claimant) a duty of care. This duty of care depends on what was happening when the accident occurred. For example, the duty of care in a car accident case would be the duty to obey traffic laws and drive the vehicle safely.
  • There was a breach in this duty of care that resulted in an accident.
  • The accident was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries and financial damages.

Our Fort Myers spinal cord injury lawyers at Viles & Beckman are ready to help you hold the negligent party responsible for their actions. We’ll walk you through the process of filing a claim so that you can rest knowing that we’re fighting for your interests.

How Much Time Do I Have to File an SCI Claim in Fort Myers?

According to Fla. Stat. § 95.11, you have four years to file a claim for your spinal cord injury. We recommend that you do not wait to file. If you can file soon after your injury occurs, it will be to your advantage because you have a higher chance of getting the maximum amount of settlement.

Even though Florida’s statute of limitations is four years, the time you have to file may differ depending on your specific case. A spinal cord injury attorney in Fort Myers can tell you exactly how much time you have to file.

How Does Florida Law Protect Those Suffering From SCI?

A spinal cord injury is a significant injury. To protect people who have a spinal cord injury, Florida’s personal injury law allows for victims to seek compensation for SCIs caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness. 

Florida is a no-fault insurance state. If your injury occurred as a result of a car accident, your PIP insurance may limit you from claiming pain and suffering and other non-economic damages. However, Florida has a serious injury threshold exception that allows you to claim those damages. 

According to Fla. Stat. § 627.737, the injury must meet one of the following requirements to qualify:

  • Cause significant and permanent loss of an important body function
  • Are permanent, within a reasonable degree of medical probability
  • Cause significant or permanent scarring or disfigurement
  • Lead to the claimant’s or the claimant’s loved one’s death

What Damages Can I Recover From an SCI Case in Fort Myers?

A spinal cord injury attorney in Fort Myers can help you identify the damages your case qualifies for. A personal injury lawsuit may result in compensation for the following expenses:

  • Past, current, and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages from work, including time spent traveling to and from appointments
  • Permanent disability
  • The cost of hiring someone to complete household chores that you can no longer do
  • Emotional distress, including anxiety or depression
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium, which means the injury has interfered with your familial relationships
  • Any property that was damaged in the accident
  • Punitive damages if the negligent party was grossly negligent
  • Other expenses that were a direct result of your injury including the cost of wheelchairs and adaptive features on your car or in your home

Even if you were partially responsible for the accident that caused your injuries, you may still qualify for compensation through Florida’s comparative negligence standard. This standard means that you may file a personal injury lawsuit, but a court will reduce your damages award by the amount of responsibility you bear. 

How Much Compensation Can I Get for My Spinal Cord Injury?

The amount of your settlement for your SCI case will depend on various factors, such as the degree to which the negligent party was at fault, the severity of your injuries, and if you were partially at fault. So, a spinal cord injury settlement could range from $50,000 to well over $1,000,000, depending on the details of your case.

If the party responsible for your injury was grossly negligent, you may be awarded punitive damages. These damages are awarded to discourage the defendant from repeating their actions. Punitive damages may be up to three times your total damages or a value of $500,000. 

If you have a spinal cord injury and you would like to get an estimation of your damages, our spinal cord injury attorneys in Fort Myers provide a free case review. We’ll review your case, and we can give you an estimation of the settlement you may receive. 

Fort Myers Spinal Cord Injury FAQ

According to a spinal cord injury facts and figures sheet from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, there are about 299,000 people in the U.S. living with a spinal cord injury.  Around 47% can not feel their arms, legs, or torso. 

Many people who suffer a spinal cord injury become unemployed after the injury takes place, while the lifetime costs of treating the injury often fall in the range of $5 million. Each year, there are around 18,000 new spinal cord injuries in the United States.

What Happens to the Spinal Cord When an Injury Occurs?

The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves housed within the bony protection of the spinal canal, which extends from the base of the skull to the tailbone. The spinal cord, along with the brain, makes up the body’s central nervous system that controls the movement of the limbs and other body functions.

Contrary to popular belief, spinal cord injuries do not always involve a severed cord. In fact, the majority of spinal cord injuries leave the cord intact. A typical injury to the spinal cord instead involves damage to the nerves that results in loss of function and sensation below the site of the injury, which is known as paralysis. 

Injuries to the spinal cord may be described as complete, meaning a total loss of function below the injury site, or incomplete, meaning that the injured person has retained some sensation or function below the site of the injury. The severity of the impacts of a spinal cord injury often depends on the area of the spine that the injury affects. 

The spine is divided into four regions:

The cervical region: The segments of the cervical spine are located in the neck. These segments are referred to as C1-C8, and they control the signals to the arms, hands, and diaphragm. Because this is the highest portion of the spine, an injury in the cervical region may result in tetraplegia, which is the loss of sensation and function to all limbs, torso, and pelvis. 

Those suffering injuries to C1-C3 may lose the ability to breathe on their own and require a ventilator. Injuries to C5-C8 often allow for some movement in the shoulders, biceps, wrists, and hands. This movement may be enough to allow the individual to eat and complete personal grooming tasks independently.

The thoracic region: The thoracic region of the spine is located in the upper back and is made up of 12 segments, known as T1-T12. This region relays signals to the torso and some parts of the arms. Individuals with injuries to this region may experience paraplegia, which is the loss of function and sensation of the legs. 

If the injury takes place higher up in the thoracic area, the injured person may have lost function of the torso, resulting in abdominal muscle loss. Those suffering an injury in T8-T12 generally maintain movement of the torso and retain abdominal muscle control.

The lumbar region: The lumbar region is located in the mid-back. It comprises five segments, which are referred to as L1-L5. This region of the spine controls movement to the hips and legs. Those with injuries to L4-L5 may often extend their knees.

The sacral region: The sacral region is located below the lumbar region and controls signals to the groin, toes, and some parts of the legs. This area is made up of five segments, known as S1-S5.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Fort Myers Spinal Cord Injuries?

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, resulting in almost half of all new spinal cord injuries each year. Other common causes of this type of injury include:

  • Falls: Falls are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in individuals over the age of 65, and account for around 31% of all new spinal cord injuries.
  • Acts of violence: Violence, including assault or even gunshot wounds, results in about 13 percent of all new spinal cord injuries in the U.S.
  • Sports and recreation: Around 10% of all new spinal cord injuries are the result of sports and recreational activities. The most common culprits in this category include diving, surfing, and high impact sports, such as football.

Alcohol use is a factor in around one-quarter of all new spinal cord injuries. This type of injury most commonly affects males, who account for 80% of all new spinal cord injuries. 

More than half of all spinal cord injuries take place in the cervical area, and a third occur in the thoracic area. The rest mostly involve the lumbar region of the spine. The average age at the time of injury is 43 years old.

What Complications and Expenses Can a Spinal Cord Injury Survivor Expect to Face?

The spinal cord has a limited ability to heal itself. Currently, few options can increase function in affected areas after an injury. A spinal cord injury thus results in health complications, many of which require expensive, long-term medical treatment.

Some of the most common complications experienced by victims of spinal cord injuries include:

  • Loss of bladder control, which may result in urinary tract infections.
  • Loss of bowel control, which can cause complications, such as a bowel obstruction.
  • Loss of skin sensation, which can make the injured person prone to bedsores. Bedsores are a leading cause of infection in people suffering from spinal cord injuries.
  • Circulatory issues, which may result in low blood pressure, high blood pressure, or swelling. These issues increase the risk of blood clots in the legs, known as deep vein thrombosis, which can result in a fatal condition called a pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolisms are caused when the blood clot travels from the legs to the lungs.
  • Respiratory issues. The most common cause of premature death in individuals who have suffered a spinal cord injury is pneumonia, which can result from the body’s inability to use the diaphragm and abdominal muscles to cough up secretions in the lungs.
  • Spasticity or flaccidity, which involves an involuntary tightening of muscles and a lack of muscle tone. Each of these conditions can result in a need for medical intervention. Spasticity may result in chronic pain, while flaccidity may cause issues with respiration.
  • Sexual dysfunction in both men and women.
  • Nerve pain, which is more common in those suffering an incomplete injury.
  • Depression. About 20 to 30% of all individuals experiencing a spinal cord injury will show significant signs of depression.

Associated Expenses

Those suffering high tetraplegia as a result of their injuries can expect to incur more than a million dollars in medical expenses in the first year of injury treatment alone. Subsequent years of their lives will come with a medical price tag of around $184,000 for the treatment of complications. 

Those who experience low tetraplegia can expect more than $700,000 in first-year medical expenses, and around $113,000 in medical expenses during the following years. Individuals who suffer paraplegia can expect a first year of treatment to cost around $518,000, and subsequent expenses of around $69,000 each additional year.

Associated Therapy

Spinal cord injury patients should expect to stay in acute care at the hospital for anywhere from 10 to 21 days after their accidents. Once released from acute care, injured individuals generally require up to two months of rehabilitation; 87% are then discharged to return home, and many require modifications to their homes to accommodate their injuries. 

Some home modifications that are necessary include: 

  • Wheelchair ramps
  • Widened doors
  • Lifts
  • Lowered countertops
  • Automatic door openers
  • Roll-in showers 

Depending on the severity of the injury, the individual may also need a hand-controlled vehicle or a handicapped-accessible van for transport.

In spite of being two to five times more likely to die prematurely than the general population, 81% of individuals who survive their initial spinal cord injuries are still alive ten years later. 

However, 30% of individuals living with spinal cord injuries can expect to be re-hospitalized for treatment of complications of the injury in any given year. The average length of the hospital stay for this treatment is 19 days.

The expenses involved in treating spinal cord injuries don’t just fall upon the injured. Because those suffering spinal cord injuries often cannot work or afford health insurance, the treatment of spinal cord injuries costs the U.S. healthcare system an estimated $40.5 billion each year.

Is There Any Cure?

There is currently no cure for the damage caused by a spinal cord injury. However, research projects and medical trials involving nerve cell transplantation, nerve regeneration, and drug therapy could prevent the progression of an injury and enable increased function.

How Can a Fort Myers Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Help Me?

If you’ve suffered a spinal cord injury, you likely have serious questions as to how you’re going to pay for the high costs associated with this type of injury. If someone else’s negligent actions caused your injuries, a personal injury lawsuit may provide you with the financial compensation that you need to pay for treatment.

If you sustained your injuries in an automobile accident, your spinal cord injury will likely meet the serious injury threshold in Florida, as it is a permanent injury causing loss of function. What this means is that you may qualify to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit, despite Florida’s no-fault auto insurance laws.

Let us help you understand your legal options for pursuing compensation after suffering a spinal cord injury. For a case evaluation in Fort Myers, contact us now.

Call Viles & Beckman’s Fort Myers Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers Today

Viles and Beckman Lawyers

Spinal cord injuries cause lasting and expensive damage, but we can help you recover compensation to access the care and services you need. As advocates for the injured since 1995, our attorneys provide an experienced representation of spinal cord injuries and the people who have suffered them in Fort Myers and beyond. 

We believe that your rights and your recovery are our responsibility. Contact Viles & Beckman online or call us today for a free case review. Our dedicated spinal cord injury lawyers in Fort Myers are ready to fight for the compensation you deserve.

Viles & Beckman, LLC
6350 Presidential Court
Fort Myers, FL 33919
T: (239) 334-3933 

Why Hire Us

Over 40 Years of Experience

Over 40 Years of Experience

We have championed injury victims' best interests since 1995, and we wouldn't use or legal abilities any other way.

Board Certified by the Florida Bar

Board Certified by the Florida Bar

Florida recognizes Attorney Marcus W. Viles's reputation for legal excellence. As a result, he upholds this prestigious title.

Free & Confidential Case Reviews

Free & Confidential Case Reviews

A successful case outcome starts with preparation. We sit with every client to grasp the personal injury matters they are dealing with.

You Pay Nothing Unless We Win

You Pay Nothing Unless We Win

Because of the fact that our firm works on a contingency fee basis, our clients don't owe us a dime until we win their case.

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Helping those Injured in Accidents Across Florida

While we are proud to call Fort Myers home, we are also more than happy to help injured people living anywhere in the Sunshine State. In fact, we’ve even been known to travel all around the country just to meet our clients’ needs.

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