There are few types of injuries more catastrophic and debilitating than severe spinal cord injuries. Damage to the spinal column often results in permanent, irreversible physical impairments, not to mention the emotional and psychological symptoms that come with this level of sudden-onset disability.
Spinal cord injury survivors in New Mexico have legal options. If your accident was caused by the negligent actions of another party, the Albuquerque spinal cord injury lawyers from Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm are ready to defend your rights.
We assist clients with spinal cord injury claims in Albuquerque and throughout the state of New Mexico. Contact us today for a free consultation.
How a Spinal Cord Injury Attorney Helps Injured Victims
A severe spinal cord injury is a life-changing event. We’ve handled numerous complex spinal cord injury cases in Bernalillo County—enough to know how important the outcome of a personal injury claim is to the spinal cord injury survivor.
When you work with a spinal cord injury attorney to file a civil lawsuit against the at-fault party, you are requesting that the person (or other entity) who caused your accident repay you for the damages you suffered because of their negligence. It is typically the insurance company of the at-fault party that will provide you with financial compensation.
This financial award goes to cover losses like medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, and more. A spinal cord injury claim not only ensures the liable party takes financial responsibility for the damages. It also holds the negligent party legally accountable under New Mexico law, and can prevent future instances of similar harm from occurring.
A spinal cord injury lawyer helps clients through this legal process of seeking justice.
Why Choose Our Albuquerque Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys To Advocate for You?
Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm is honored that so many of our Albuquerque community members have entrusted us with something as important as a personal injury lawsuit.
Over two decades of experience in personal injury law has taught us much about the most effective ways to secure fair compensation for our clients. When we take on important cases like spinal cord injury cases, we take our duty as advocates for spinal cord injury survivors seriously.
If you partner with a spinal cord injury attorney from Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm, you have a professional, caring, and diligent legal representative who will:
- Handle all investigations into the cause of your accident to determine liability
- Calculate the maximum compensation you are entitled to for future medical bills
- Negotiate with the insurance company to obtain the full amount of financial compensation you deserve
- Take care of all matters with expertise and consideration, so you never have to worry about deadlines, legal procedures, or complex insurance policies
If you were hurt in a preventable incident, a spinal injury lawyer from Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm can help you file a spinal cord injury claim to recover compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering damages, and more.
We provide superior advocacy, support, and legal counsel to individuals and families in Albuquerque, NM and throughout Bernalillo County. Contact us for a free case evaluation.
What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?
This type of injury refers to traumatic damage to the spinal cord, vertebrae, discs, or nerves. A severe spinal cord injury is often unrepairable, leaving the accident victim with permanent damage. A more moderate to minor back injury can still result in debilitating pain and temporary impairment.
Serious injury to the spinal cord can be seen in all types of personal injury lawsuits, including car accidents, construction site falls, and medical malpractice.
What Are the Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries?
A neck or back injury damaging the spinal column can result from these most common causes of spinal cord injuries, among other causes:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Falls from heights
- Slip and fall accidents
- Physical violence
- Gunshot wounds
- Sports and recreational injuries
- Industrial and construction accidents
- Workplace injuries
- Dangerous defective products
If you sustained spinal cord injuries in an accident, one of the first questions you and your Albuquerque spinal cord injury lawyer will need to discuss is whether negligence was a factor.
You only have grounds for a spinal cord injury lawsuit if your spinal injuries were the result of another party’s careless, neglectful, or wrongful actions. Your personal injury attorney will examine the circumstances of your spine injury closely to determine if one or more parties are liable. If so, a spinal injury lawyer can discuss with you the steps to filing a spinal cord injury claim in New Mexico.
How Negligence Causes Spinal Cord Injuries
There are four basic elements to proving negligence:
- The other party owed you a duty of care.
- The other party did not uphold that duty.
- You suffered injuries.
- Your injuries were a result of the other party’s breach of duty.
Looking at the way your accident happened, your spinal cord injury attorney can explain to you how negligence was or was not involved.
Here, we can examine a few common examples of negligence in spinal cord injury cases to better understand how this legal concept applies.
- A drunk driver fails in their duty to keep others safe from harm by driving sober, causing a car accident that leaves the other motorist with a serious spinal cord injury.
- A property owner neglects to fix a known hazard on the premises, leaving visitors vulnerable to a broken stair, loose handrail, unsafe flooring, or other condition that could result in a fall and spinal injuries.
- A hotel in an area known for high crime rates fails to hire security guards or put up gates, allowing guests to sustain injuries from gunshot wounds or other physical violence from assailants.
The circumstances of your spinal cord injury case may be different, but the same concept of negligence must be present. Your Albuquerque spinal cord injury attorney from Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm will examine evidence such as photos and videos, police reports, eyewitness statements, and more to determine how the actions of the at-fault party caused your spine injury.
Medical Negligence and Spinal Cord Injuries
There are a number of medical errors that can cause severe spinal cord injuries in a patient. If a physician, surgeon, or other health care practitioner acts negligently, lacks the proper training, or dismisses a patient without proper testing and examination, a serious spinal cord injury can result. A personal injury lawyer can help spinal cord injury victims take legal action against the medical malpractice that caused them harm.
Surgery Errors. Even a minor mistake in the operating room can render a patient paralyzed for life. If an error is made during a nerve ablation or spinal fusion procedure, a minor back injury can turn into a complete spinal cord injury. The improper administration of spinal anesthesia can also lead to spinal cord damage, paralysis, and loss of motor control.
Emergency Room Errors. If an emergency room patient enters the ER with a back injury, doctors, nurses, and technicians need to exercise extreme caution when transferring, rotating, or examining the patient. If the symptoms of a spinal cord injury are not noted as they should be, there is a risk that the patient will be improperly handled, and their injury will be worsened.
A medical malpractice claim may be the only way a spinal cord injury survivor can afford the medical costs associated with their injuries and future care. After a spine injury caused by medical negligence, accident victims have the legal right to work with a personal injury lawyer to seek fair compensation for their losses.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
When classifying a spinal cord injury, the terms complete injury and incomplete injury are often used.
- A complete spinal cord injury means the brain and spinal cord cannot send signals past the injury site. There is usually a lack of motor function and feeling.
- An incomplete spinal cord injury means there is still some communication, such as some remaining sensory function.
Before looking further at how a complete or incomplete spinal cord injury affects the victim, we’ll look at the sections of the spine and the function of the associated nerves. The extent and symptoms of the spinal cord injury will depend on which area of the spinal cord was damaged.
Cervical Spine Injuries (CI to C8)
The cervical nerves are responsible for controlling signals to the back of the head, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, and diaphragm. The higher the site of damage, the more severe the injuries. Cervical spine injuries, therefore, are usually considered the most serious. Injuries to high cervical vertebrae (C1-C4) are typically the most acute of all spinal cord injuries.
Thoracic Spine Injuries (T1 to T12)
Located in the upper mid-back, thoracic nerves cover signals to the chest muscles, some back muscles, organ systems, and parts of the abdomen. Injuries to the thoracic vertebrae often impact feeling and function in the legs and lower body. Injured victims may suffer a loss of bowel and bladder control and sexual dysfunction.
Lumbar Spine Injuries (L1 to L5)
The lumbar spinal nerves deal with the lower abdomen, back, parts of the leg, buttocks, and genital organs. Lumbar spinal injuries are less likely to be life-threatening than injuries sustained higher on the spinal cord.
Sacral Spine Injuries (S1 to S5)
As the lowest area of the spinal column, the sacral vertebrae are located just above the tailbone area. The nerves in this region control signals to the thighs, legs, feet, and genital organs. Sacral spinal cord injury survivors are often able to achieve a high level of independence with the proper medical equipment and treatment.
Tetraplegia vs. Paraplegia
Two kinds of spinal cord injuries that can occur are tetraplegia and paraplegia.
Tetraplegia may occur between the C1 and T1 vertebrae. Injury victims often lose motor function and feeling from the injury site down. If the injury is high, there could be a loss of function of the head and neck down to the legs. There are many variations of this kind of injury as it depends on the injury site and its severity.
Paraplegia occurs when the injury is between the T2 and S5 vertebrae. Feeling and function from the chest down to the feet could be diminished or lost completely.
Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury
If you or someone you know was involved in an accident and is exhibiting any of the following symptoms, calling 911 is critical. Do not try to move anyone who may have suffered a spinal cord injury. Only allow the accident victim to be touched by emergency medical personnel who can transport the victim to the hospital for further testing and treatment.
Common symptoms of a spinal cord injury include:
- Partial or full paralysis
- Difficulty taking breaths
- Numbness in the hands or feet
- Immobility or trouble walking
- Head and neck pain
- Lack of balance and coordination
- Loss of feeling or motor control in parts of the body
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Sexual dysfunction
How Does a Spinal Cord Injury Affect the Human Body?
Spinal cord injuries affect the body in a myriad of ways. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a spinal cord injury survivor can anticipate that the following long-term complications may impact their life:
If the site of traumatic injury is high enough, the nerves and muscles of the chest and neck required for respiration may have sustained damage. If this is the case, a spinal cord injury survivor may need to use a ventilator to aid with breathing.
Heart rhythm and blood pressure are often affected by a spinal cord injury. If these issues persist, they could result in blood clots and a slow or irregular heartbeat.
Muscles that aren’t used regularly can atrophy. At the same time, muscle spasms may become problematic as the brain lacks the ability to control reflexes. Although medical treatment may be required if the spasms are severe, they can also be helpful in maintaining some level of muscle tone.
Burning or stinging pains are common among those who suffered spinal damage. Additionally, individuals using a wheelchair, crutches, or other mobility aids may find that intense shoulder or arm pain becomes difficult to bear.
Bladder and Bowel Function
If nerves in the thoracic, lumbar, or sacral sections of the spinal cord are injured, a person may have difficulty controlling bladder and bowel function.
Ventilator-associated pneumonia is sometimes found to develop in spinal cord injury survivors who use a respirator machine. Immediate antibiotic treatment is required to treat the condition promptly. These kinds of complications are the leading cause of death for those with a spinal injury.
Adjusting to these health complications can be difficult. Learning the day-to-day in terms of completing necessary tasks and following continued treatment plans takes time and effort.
An Albuquerque spinal injury attorney is here to help lift some of the burden off your shoulders. The compensation obtained through your spinal cord injury case can make a big difference in helping you establish your new normal.
Diagnosing Spinal Cord Injuries
The diagnosing of most spinal cord injuries begins in the emergency room. By asking questions, observing symptoms, and conducting simple tests to assess mobility, pain, and function, emergency room personnel can usually determine if a spinal cord injury is possible and further testing is needed.
Physicians typically utilize diagnostic tools like X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs when diagnosing spinal cord damage. These tools are also necessary when a patient is unconscious or unable to answer questions about their condition.
Once a spinal cord injury has been revealed through medical imaging tests, a doctor will usually require that the patient undergo a series of tests to evaluate the level and completeness of physical damage. These more comprehensive evaluations help health care providers gain a better understanding of the patient’s cognitive abilities, sensitivity to touch, muscle strength, and other factors that will inform the treatment plan going forward.
Treatments for Spinal Cord Injuries
Most damage to the spinal cord is irreversible. But with targeted treatments like medication and physical therapy, those who suffered spinal cord injuries can still lead full, healthy, and productive lives. Modern technology in the form of prostheses and assistive devices allow spinal cord injury survivors to have more independence and control than ever before in the past.
While there is still much research to be done, there are many treatments that enhance the health and wellbeing of spine injury patients. Your treatment team will be able to take a big-picture look at your condition and determine the treatment plan that works best for you. This may include treatments including:
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Wheelchairs and other mobility equipment
- Computer adaptations and electronic aids
- Mental health care
- Specialized diet
Your Albuquerque spinal injury lawyer from Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm will work to make sure your personal injury claim lists each and every expense your injury has incurred. In this way, you don’t need to worry about your ability to afford the medical costs associated with maintaining your health and a high quality of life.
Recoverable Damages After a Spinal Cord Injury in New Mexico
In personal injury cases involving spinal cord injuries, victims may be entitled to financial compensation. Spinal cord injuries typically result in various economic and noneconomic damages that your spinal cord injury lawyer will work to calculate for your injury claim.
These are the measurable, financial losses of your injury, often including:
- Ambulance and hospitalization fees
- Emergency medical interventions
- Cost of continued treatment
- Appointments with specialists, physical therapists, dieticians, and other medical providers
- Prescription medications
- Medical devices and equipment
- Adaptations to your home and vehicle
- Moving to a new home, if necessary
- Lost wages and benefits like health insurance and life insurance
- Loss of future income and earning capacity
Not all losses associated with spinal cord injuries come with a bill. Part of your attorney’s job is to ascribe a number to the non-financial losses you’ve suffered. As you may imagine, this is not an easy task. Your spinal cord injury lawyer will need to appropriately value your:
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent disability
- Diminished quality of life
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Psychological trauma and emotional anguish
- Other non-economic losses
The damages listed above are described by the legal term “compensatory damages”—those damages that compensate the plaintiff. Punitive damages are different, as they only serve to punish the defendant.
If the defendant’s actions were deemed to be particularly reckless or intentional, your spinal cord injury lawyer may advise that punitive damages are justified. A New Mexico court will only apply punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages that have been awarded to the plaintiff.
Who Can Be Held Liable in an Albuquerque Spinal Cord Injury Claim?
When spinal cord injuries could have—and should have—been prevented, the law allows the means for the injured victim to achieve justice. If you suffered a spinal cord injury in Albuquerque, NM, you may be able to take civil legal action against:
- A negligent motorist
- A doctor or other health care professional who committed medical negligence
- The perpetrator of a violent crime
- An employer who put you in a dangerous work environment
- A property owner who did not keep visitors safe from hazards
- The manufacturer of a defective product
- A sports coach or athletic director who allowed a player to sustain a preventable injury
- Another party liable for the accident that caused your injuries
Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm Has the Expertise You Need
Personal injury cases involving spinal cord injuries are notably complex. A lawyer must possess a highly specialized set of knowledge and resources in order to successfully handle spinal cord claims.
The legal team at Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm has the unique combination you need—the skill and experience to litigate the most difficult cases, and the local reputation to have made a name and connections in the courthouses, hospitals, and legal communities of Albuquerque and throughout New Mexico.
Give Buckingham Barrera Law Firm a call today so we can discuss your legal options.