Tetraplegia – A Legal Overview
Tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia, is a result of a spinal cord injury. Today, it is believed there are nearly ten thousand people who suffer with this condition in the United States. (Statistic courtesy of U.S. Centers for Disease Control).
There are many different outcomes that can result from a spinal cord injury. One of these outcomes is that a person will lose all function and control of all four limbs, as well as the body’s torso, referred to as tetraplegia. When this occurs, it does not mean that the spinal cord was necessarily separated; it can mean that the vertebrae that surround the fibrous extensions of the nerve cells, have crushed and damaged these thin cells. Once this has happened, and the axons are damaged, the patient will experience a loss of control over certain functions and movements.
Tetraplegia is indicative of an injury at the top of the spine, typically between the C1 and T1 areas of the vertebrae. As previously stated, a loss of movement to all four limbs will occur, along with a loss of feeling. Tetraplegia can be further categorized as spastic tetraplegia, which means that the muscles in the affected limbs become very tight and stiff. When this occurs, all movement and reflexes no longer function properly. Patients experiencing spastic tetraplegia may have other side effects including mental impairments, vision problems, and a loss of hearing. The most common reason for this form of tetraplegia is due to a traumatic accident, usually as a result of a motor vehicle accident, sports accident, or violent act.
Other health complications can arise over the course of time in patients that suffer with tetraplegia. Breathing problems, a loss of bladder control, pain, numbness, and overall weakness can occur. These problems can cause a patient to remain dependant on medical staff and loved ones for the remainder of their lives, leading to extremely high medical bills.
Accidents are not the only reason that tetraplegia can occur. Medical negligence, medical malpractice, complications at the time of birth, and diseases can also contribute to the condition.
In addition to the above mentioned symptoms, tetraplegia can have the following indications:
• A lack of function in the torso of the body;
• An inability to move the head;
• Digestive issues;
• A loss of sexual function;
• Burning, numbness, and tingling
Depending on the severity of the original injury, certain patients may benefit from physical therapy treatments, and may regain use of some of their limb functions. In some circumstances, patients may even be able to once again gain arm movement, yet they will not be able to move their hands. Certain patients may also experience results on only one side of the body, while the other side may remain unchanged.
As hard as it may be to consider, accidents resulting in tetraplegia can happen in the workplace. When this does happen, employers are often quick to have the injured employee complete a worker’s compensation claim, which could be detrimental to any further legal action. Especially in the event that the injury was due to improper training, a unsafe work environment, someone else’s negligence, or improper maintenance, a legal claim may be the best course of action and a personal injury attorney should be consulted prior to completing any type of insurance paperwork.
If the diagnosis of tetraplegia, and the initial injury, was not devastating on their own, some patients may find others discriminate against them when they try to move forward with their lives. This type of discrimination is a direct violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and an attorney can help you seek justice in these matters as well.
If you, or a loved one, have been diagnosed with tetraplegia as a result of an injury, medical malpractice, or other type of negligence, you should most definitely seek the advice of a personal injury attorney. These professionals will be able to help you determine how much money you are entitled to in order to cover your medical expenses, physical damages, pain and suffering, lost wages, as well as to provide for your future medical care.
A personal injury attorney often becomes a lifeline for patients with tetraplegia, and is quite skilled at obtaining the compensation that is needed. He or she will be able to compile all of the details of your case, and will gather all information pertinent to the case from witnesses, medical staff, and rehabilitation specialists. Your attorney will also make the decision on whether you should seek a judgment from a jury trial, or agree to an insurance settlement.
You should never put yourself in the situation of being at the mercy of the insurance company, especially after suffering an injury as serious as one that results in tetraplegia. Insurance companies work as hard as possible to reduce their payouts, and have attorneys working hard to protect their interests. Personal injury attorneys who specialize in these cases are well versed on how insurance companies work, and how to get the results you need to protect your future. Because almost all personal injury attorneys do not require any upfront payment, there is no out of pocket expense to you, and very little to risk. However, taking this action could just help you tremendously.
You should never wait to seek the advice of a qualified personal injury attorney. Time is critical to these cases, and the faster you seek assistance, the greater your chances will be for a positive outcome. The longer your attorney has to properly prepare the case, the stronger the case will become. These attorneys will do all of the legwork on your behalf, and will start the process of evidence gathering and proceedings right away. You should not have to suffer alone, and you should not let the worry of a legal battle take away from your, or your loved one’s, recovery. By hiring a personal injury attorney to handle this part of your injury, you will be able to focus completely on repairing the pieces of your life.