Medical Malpractice and Spinal Cord Injuries
One of the most devastating consequences of medical malpractice is a spinal cord injury. Spinal cord injuries can change the patient’s quality of life, family dynamics, and job abilities. In many cases, these catastrophic injuries can be avoided, but the case to prove negligence can become complicated. An experienced hospital negligence lawyer can help you build your case and gather evidence to prove that your injury could have been prevented.
In some cases, a spinal injury can occur during birth, leading to paralysis and complications for the lifespan of a newborn baby. If you or your child have been the victim of medical malpractice resulting in spinal cord injuries, you are entitled to damages and may be eligible to receive important Social Security benefits.
What Is the Spinal Cord?
The spinal cord is an intricate system of nerves that runs from the brain into the lumbar area of the lower back. It is surrounded by vertebrae, bones, tissue, blood vessels, and a protective membrane called meninges. The spinal cord carries messages from the brain to every inch of the human body, sending signals of pain, instructions to move, and controlling non-conscious bodily functions such as breathing and digestion.
When the spinal cord is injured or becomes infected, it can damage the nerves running through it, causing permanent disruptions in those signals to various areas of the body. In addition to the risk of paralysis, injuries to the spinal cord can interfere with bodily functions causing issues such as incontinence, high blood pressure, extreme anxiety, reflex impairment, sexual dysfunction, problems with swallowing, and other complications.
In extreme cases, some patients are left needing a ventilator to breathe because their breathing muscles and mechanisms have been affected. While auto accidents account for most of the annual number of spinal cord injuries, they can also happen in medical settings through negligence.
Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries in Medical Settings
There are a variety of reasons why spinal cord injuries can happen as a result of medical malpractice or negligence. Some of these reasons include:
- Injury during surgical procedures
- Improper administration of spinal anesthetics or blocks
- Failure to diagnose spinal tumors, infections, or abscesses
- Birth injuries
- Falls in hospitals or medical facilities caused by improper fall prevention measures
- Improper movement of a car accident victim in the emergency room, resulting in serious spinal cord injuries
- Improper diagnosis of a back injury
- Anesthesia errors, leading to a spinal hematoma
Prevalence of Medical Malpractice Spinal Cord Injuries
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, or NSCISC, medical and surgical incidents account for 4.6% of spinal cord injuries each year. Because of the devastating nature of spinal cord injuries, many patients win their malpractice cases in court, and the damages awarded are much higher when compared with other medical malpractice cases.
In Michigan, the medical malpractice cap on noneconomic damages is significantly higher for patients who have been left paralyzed, unable to care for themselves, or cognitively impaired due to a spinal cord injury. Currently, patients in Michigan and their medical attorney can sue for a maximum of $832,000.
In contrast, patients who did not suffer a catastrophic spinal or brain injury, or whose reproductive organs were not permanently damaged, can sue for a maximum of $465,900. Each year, the amount is adjusted by 2.4% to account for inflation.
Sometimes birth can be a traumatic experience, both for the infant and the mother. Infant spinal injuries account for 5% of spinal cord damage cases in the United States. It can be caused by stress and pressure put onto the baby’s neck and upper back while moving through the birth canal. The use of forceps can also cause damage if applied improperly.
Most of the injuries to an infant’s spinal cord occur in the neck and upper back. While bruises or contusions can heal with time, some injuries are so severe that the baby is left with severe medical issues and will need lifetime care.
Some spinal cord injuries during birth also involve a period where the brain isn’t receiving enough oxygen. This comorbidity of issues can lead to intellectual disabilities, along with physical challenges for the child.
Another spinal cord complication for children is undiagnosed spina bifida. If spina bifida is undiagnosed, unintentional damage can occur to the exposed nerves of the spinal column during labor. Spina bifida is usually diagnosed in utero, and it is one of a range of standard tests that should be performed before the baby is born. If your child sustained a spinal cord injury because of undiagnosed spina bifida, experienced hospital negligence lawyers could help you build a case so that your child will receive proper care for their injuries.
Social Security Benefits
While many will note that it can be challenging to receive Social Security disability benefits after a medical injury, spinal cord injuries are usually easier to prove. You must be prepared to submit all relevant medical evidence and show the severity of your disability. If you have become paralyzed as a result of your spinal cord injury, your ability to work will most likely be affected. You need to show that you are no longer able to work in the same capacity you worked previously.
Social Security disability benefits are important for people who can no longer work due to their injury. While you can sue for medical malpractice, that money will only go so far, and you may not receive the total maximum cap of noneconomic damages.
Many doctors want to settle outside of court, so it’s crucial to hire malpractice lawyers at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. who will fight hard to ensure you receive the maximum amount of damages you are entitled to.
Social Security disability will grant a monthly income for patients who have sustained spinal cord injuries, which will be necessary for paying monthly bills. Social Security disability lawyers at our law firm know how to navigate the complexities of the disability application process and can help prepare all of the necessary evidence and documents to show that you are no longer able to work due to your spinal cord injury.
Navigating Medical Malpractice Claims in Michigan
In Michigan, you have two years from the date of your injury to file a medical malpractice claim. There is an exception to this statute of limitations for people who cannot pinpoint the source of their symptoms, but spinal cord injuries are usually noticeable immediately after they occur. In the case of a delayed diagnosis, many judges will allow up to six years for a claim to be filed if the cause of the symptoms cannot be determined within the first two years of the initial injury.
When you realize you or your child is the victim of medical negligence, you need to contact an experienced medical attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. immediately to help you navigate the complexities of the legal system. Your attorney will begin to gather evidence, including medical records, bills for care and services, and other documents to prove that your symptoms are a direct result of medical negligence. Your lawyer is looking to prove the actual cause of your injury, and then the proximate, or legal, cause that will be required by the courts to hold the doctor or medical facility liable for your injury.
All medical malpractice claims in Michigan are required to first be reviewed by a panel of doctors and lawyers to ascertain whether or not there are grounds for a medical negligence lawsuit. Your lawyer will know how to compile the details of your case so that your claim is clearly linked to the injury caused by medical malpractice.
Once your claim is approved by the panel, you can move forward and begin to pursue economic and noneconomic damages. In Michigan, there is currently no cap on economic damages sustained from a medical malpractice incident. Economic damages include medical bills, costs of care, and lost wages due to the injury. This claim can also include future care, especially if you need lifetime assistance due to your spinal cord injury.
Noneconomic damages are the damages that cannot be quantified, including pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. These have a cap of $832,000 in Michigan.
If you lose your case, you can appeal it; likewise, the plaintiff can also appeal the case if the court decides against them. Legal processes can quickly become very drawn out, but they are more likely to go quickly and stand up against an appeal with significant and proper evidence.
Your medical attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. will also likely employ the help of an expert witness, usually a doctor who can interpret the evidence in your case. The expert witness will be able to show a direct correlation between your spinal cord injury and the actions of the plaintiff. They will also be able to show that it meets the basic criteria of medical negligence. These criteria include:
- Your injury was a direct result of a violation of the standards of care you are supposed to receive under state law.
- Your injury was sustained due to an act of negligence.
- Your injury has had economic and noneconomic consequences, which can be verified and traced to the date of the injury.
It’s important to hire a lawyer experienced in medical malpractice cases as soon as you discover you or your child has suffered a spinal cord injury due to medical negligence. The sooner you hire an attorney, the sooner they can begin gathering important evidence for your case. Waiting too long can also run the risk of missing the two-year statute of limitations. At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, we evaluate your case for free, and will only receive payment if and when we win. This means that we are highly motivated to ensure that your case is as strong as possible, and we will want you to receive as much compensation as you are entitled to for your injury.
Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month
September is designated as Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month according to the 2014 Senate Resolution 533. This is a month where many nonprofit organizations, including the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, bring spinal cord injuries to the forefront of the public’s mind to encourage donations to research for cures for spinal cord injuries. The Miami Project also works to provide education to help prevent spinal cord injuries from occurring in the first place. A spinal cord injury occurs every 48 minutes, and there are around 12,000 new cases each year.
The hope of many spinal cord injury nonprofits is to help develop ways to improve the outlook of spinal cord injuries for many people, and perhaps even find a cure. They also advocate for better therapies for spinal cord injury patients, which may improve their prognosis significantly, especially if interventions occur in the early days of the injury.
While spinal cord injuries can be significantly life-altering, you are not alone. If you are the victim of a medical malpractice spinal cord injury, you have options to pursue your case and receive proper damages for your pain, suffering, and medical bills. There is also lots of support for those with spinal cord injuries, and plenty of therapies to help improve your prognosis and give you more independence.
At Cochran, Kroll, and Associates, P.C., Eileen E. Kroll is uniquely qualified to handle your medical malpractice case as a registered nurse and experienced medical attorney. She will review your case, gather evidence, and guide you through the claims process. She can assess the critical pieces of evidence which will support your claim and highlight the proximate causation of your spinal cord injury. If your life or your child’s life has been affected by a spinal cord injury caused by medical negligence, Eileen E. Kroll can help you get the justice you deserve.
Contact our office today for a no obligation case evaluation at 1-866-MICH-LAW (1-866-642-4529) and let us help you get started on your medical malpractice case.