Spinal cord injuries are among the most costly of all injuries that a person can sustain in an auto accident. A spinal cord injury typically involves permanent damage that can cause paralysis. As a major part of the body’s central nervous systems, even the most minor cuts or nicks can pose danger, and unlike other cells in the body, spinal cord cells don’t regenerate.
The financial burden for spinal cord victims and their families is often unimaginable. Victims cannot work while hospitalized and, in some cases, may never work again. This is often the case when a spinal cord injury leads to paraplegia or tetraplegia, which is paralysis from the neck down. Hospital stays are long, so victims rack up medical bills for doctor visits, nursing care, medication, diagnostic scans, surgery, and other costs associated with hospitalization. If you’ve suffered a spinal cord injury in an auto accident, compensation cannot undo the negligent party’s actions, but it can help you get the treatment you need and deserve for your injury.
If you, your child, or another loved one has experienced a spinal cord injury in an Orlando car accident, Florida law entitles you to sue for damages in civil court to recover economic and non-economic losses related to the accident and your injury. The Orlando spinal cord injury lawyers at Michael T. Gibson, P.A., can help you during this challenging transition in your life. Contact us today at 407-422-4529 for a free consultation to discuss your auto accident and your spinal cord injury, and to determine the best course of action to hold the party who harmed you accountable.
Our Results in Auto Accident Cases
The skilled legal team at Michael T. Gibson, P.A., has represented auto accident victims for almost two decades, gaining experience in the settlement, negotiation, and litigation of auto accident claims, including those that involve spinal cord injuries. The firm’s continued commitment to justice, advocacy, and client service have resulted in millions of dollars in settlements and awards for injured clients. Additionally, Michael T. Gibson has received several accolades from his peers through organizations such as Martindale-Hubbell, Avvo.com, and SuperLawyers. Recent examples of completed cases include settlements and awards that range from $100,000 to more than $3,000,000 for clients. These case results are only examples and do not guarantee a specific financial outcome in your spinal cord injury claim. Each accident and injury has specific facts and circumstances that can increase or decrease the value of a claim. The spinal cord injury lawyers of Michael T. Gibson, P.A., have the resources to build a strong case against those who caused your spinal cord injury, so you can get the compensation you need to avoid financial ruin.
Traffic Crashes Cause the Most Spinal Cord Injuries
According to The Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine, more than 250,000 people in the United States live with a disability caused by a spinal cord injury. Additionally, each year over 11,000 people suffer spinal cord injuries that require hospitalization.
Someone can sustain a spinal cord injury in several different ways. If you suffered a spinal cord injury, however, it’s most likely that it occurred as a result of a traffic crash.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than 90 percent of spinal cord injuries occur for the following four reasons:
- Traffic accidents. The NIH reports that traffic crashes cause more than 40 percent of all spinal cord injuries, making traffic accidents the leading cause of spinal cord injuries for those under the age of 65. Car accidents that occur at high speeds have massive force during impact, causing a wide array of dangerous and potentially deadly injuries. Spinal cord injuries occurring during a high-speed traffic accident are more likely to cause permanent paralysis in some or all of the body.
- Unintentional falls. Approximately 28 percent of spinal cord injuries occur because of unintentional falls. Elders are especially vulnerable to spinal cord injuries, as they are at a higher risk for falls. In fact, falls are the number one cause of spinal cord injuries in those over the age of 65. Others can fall at home, at the workplace, or at many other locations throughout Orlando.
- Violence. According to the NIH, about 15 percent of spinal cord injuries come from violence, mostly gun violence. In addition to gunshot wounds, knife violence can also cause spinal cord injuries.
- Playing sports. Although less common, about 8 percent of spinal cord injuries come from full-contact sports, like football, hockey, and martial arts. Children and teens are especially at risk, likely because they play more sports. Participating in extreme sports like skydiving, bungee jumping, skiing, and snowboarding can also lead to spinal cord injuries.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
Instead of one single nerve, the spinal cord is actually a bundle of nerves that starts at the brain and extends to the lower back. The best example of something similar is an electrical cord for your computer or television. These cords, like a spinal cord, have a collection of smaller wires twisted together on the inside of a larger cord or cable.
The spinal cord, the brain, and more than 30 branches of nerves constitute the central nervous system. The brain sends signals to nerves throughout the body by routing them through the spinal cord. A spinal cord injury can block these messages or disrupt their flow. Each type of injury results in a different type and level of loss for the victim. Some people assume that a spinal cord injury means the cord was completely cut in half. This, however, is extremely rare. Most spinal cord injuries occur as a result of a back injury, specifically damage to the spinal column. An auto accident causes fractured vertebrae or discs. If pieces break away, they can get lodged into the spinal cord, causing a potentially catastrophic injury.
Some specific types of injuries that can cause spinal cord damage include:
- Compression fractures of the vertebrae that make up the spine
- Herniated discs or those that rupture or collapse
- Spinal nerve damage
- Cuts, bruises, and nicks on the spinal cord
- Partially severed spinal cord
A Spinal Cord Injury Is a Traumatic Life Event
Those who suffer a spinal cord injury in a traffic accident face varying degrees of long-term effects. Doctors categorize spinal injuries into two main types: (1) incomplete and (2) complete injuries. Incomplete injuries include those in which a spinal cord injury victim has muscle control or feeling in their anus. Victims who suffer incomplete spinal cord injuries have a fighting chance to make a partial or full recovery from their injuries. Complete injuries refer to injuries that cause victims to have no feeling in their anal area, which typically serves as an indication that full recovery isn’t likely.
Medical professionals also divide spinal cord injuries based on the region of the spine where the injury occurred. Different areas of the spinal cord control different bodily functions. Spinal cord injuries occurring closer to the brain typically result in more severe loss than those that occur in the lower back. The potential long-term consequences of a spinal injury in each of the main regions of the spine are as follows:
Cervical Region of the Spine
Each person has eight vertebrae that protect the cervical region of the spine in their neck, which regulates signals between the brain and the diaphragm, arms, and other upper extremities. These are the most dangerous of all spinal cord injuries and are often catastrophic in nature. Many accident victims who suffer a cervical spinal cord injury face full paralysis from the neck down, known as tetraplegia. Accident victims with cervical spinal cord injuries can also lose all movement in their limbs, struggle with using their hands, and in the worst-case scenario, might need to be hooked to a ventilator to breathe.
Thoracic Region of the Spine
The thoracic region of the spinal column includes the 12 vertebrae that protect the spinal cord in the middle of a person’s back. This area of the spinal cord regulates messages between the brain and the core of the body, as well as certain areas of the arms. Accident victims who suffer thoracic spinal cord injuries often face limited movement in their trunks. Victims can also struggle with control of their stomach muscles, depending on the exact location of the injury within the thoracic region.
Lumbar and Sacral Region of the Spine
The five lumbar and five sacral vertebrae lie along the lower back and stop at the tailbone. Accident victims who suffer a lumbar or sacral spinal cord injury often do not have to worry about a catastrophic injury. However, they still may face permanent damage from the injury. Lumbar or sacral spinal cord injuries can cause a loss of function or reduced function from the waist down. In severe cases, paraplegia, which is paralysis from the waist down, can occur if the injury occurred in the upper part of the lumbar region of the spine. Injuries closest to the tailbone cause the least amount of damage and typically don’t lead to paralysis.
Getting Compensation for a Spinal Cord Injury
As mentioned above, spinal cord injuries are among the most expensive of all injuries. Accident victims have indefinite and ongoing medical treatment and cannot work, all while their bills continue to pile up. In some cases, individuals who suffer spinal cord injuries won’t ever be able to return to their former jobs.
The economic stress that a spinal cord injects into a household often includes bankruptcy, foreclosure on a home, vehicle repossession, and coping with the daily struggle of meeting basic needs. Some accident victims and their families also amass credit card debt to pay monthly bills and purchase the things they need to survive. If you take legal action against the party who caused your spinal cord injury, you may receive compensation if your attorney negotiates an agreeable settlement or if the court rules in your favor.
Some of the things for which you can receive compensation include:
- Medical expenses, such as ambulance service, emergency room visit, hospitalization, doctor visits, nursing care, surgery, aftercare, x-rays, and prescription medication
- Future medical costs, which include continued treatment for permanent spinal cord damage and the cost of a long-term nursing care facility if the accident victim needs care 24 hours per day
- Rehabilitation expenses, including regular physical therapy to help spinal injury patients regain lost functions and avoid muscle atrophy, as well as occupational therapy to help a victim learn how to navigate his or her daily routine with a disability
- Mental health costs for spinal cord injury victims to work through the emotional trauma of their injury with a counselor or psychologist
- Costs for assistive devices, including wheelchairs, canes, walkers, and other technology to help with pain, communication, and other struggles
- Lost wages for missing work due to the accident, injury, hospitalization, and treatment
- Lost future wages when a spinal cord injury prevents a victim from working
- Home modification expenses, including building one or more wheelchair ramps, installing grab bars, and any other changes that make a spinal cord injury victim’s home more accessible
- Physical pain and suffering from the spinal cord injury
- Mental anguish associated with the injury
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of consortium with a spouse
- Punitive damages in rare cases of gross negligence or intentional harm
Orlando Spinal Cord Injury FAQ
Orlando has long been a place that has attracted adventure enthusiasts from across the world who want to visit or even live here. For all of its adventure though, many features of Orlando’s daily life can lead to serious injuries, not the least of which are several major roadways that criss-cross the city.
Among the most serious injuries a person can incur is a spinal cord injury. The spinal cord, along with the brain, makes up the body’s central nervous system that controls the body’s ability to feel sensation and move. Despite this importance, the spinal cord has only a limited ability to heal itself. This means that the deficits caused by an injury are usually permanent.
If you have suffered a spinal cord injury in Orlando, you likely have a lot of questions about the legal process of recovering compensation for your expenses and the extraordinary impacts the injury has on your life. Listed below are the answers to questions our Orlando spinal cord injury clients most frequently ask.
How does the law treat catastrophic injuries like spinal cord injuries differently than other cases in Orlando?
A catastrophic injury is injury results in a significant and permanent loss of function, which generally leads to:
- The inability to return to work.
- The need for personal care assistance and special accommodations.
- The need for medications and assistive devices.
Why this designation is important: The court understands that catastrophic injuries—most commonly involving the brain or spinal cord—will require a higher level of compensation due to the profound impacts they have not only on a person’s physical health, but also on his or her ability to have normalcy in all facets of life, including home and work.
How do I recover damages for my spinal cord injury?
If your spinal cord injury was the result of someone else’s careless, reckless, or intentional actions, you can pursue the recovery of damages against the at-fault party through a spinal cord injury lawsuit. This legal claim filed in civil court seeks repayment for expenses incurred and impacts that the injury has on the claimant’s life by proving that the at-fault party was liable for the injury.
How do I prove that someone else was liable for causing my spinal cord injury?
You prove liability by establishing these elements:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. The duty of care that was owed depends on the type of accident you experienced and the at-fault party’s role in it. For example, if your spinal cord was the result of an automobile accident that was caused by another driver’s actions, the duty of care that driver owed to you would have been to operate his or her motor vehicle safely and legally.
- There was a breach in the duty of care. The breach refers to the behavior or action that the at-fault party took that was contrary to the duty of care that was owed. Using the car accident scenario, the breach might be distracted driving, alcohol impaired driving, or any other behavior that was contrary to operating a motor vehicle safely and legally.
- This breach caused the accident, which resulted in your injury and subsequent expenses and impacts on your life.
My spinal cord injury was the result of a car accident. Will my PIP policy cover my damages?
Your personal injury protection (PIP) policy that you were required to purchase when you registered your car in Florida will provide some coverage of your expenses. The required amount of insurance that drivers must purchase is a $10,000 policy. From this policy, you can obtain 80 percent of your medical costs, up to the limit of your policy, as well as 60 percent of your lost wages, regardless of who was at fault for the accident.
While this policy may help—particularly in the early days of your treatment—the amount provided will likely not be enough to cover all—or even a large portion—of the expenses you face.
Because spinal cord injuries pass the serious injury threshold in Florida’s laws, claimants can generally bypass the PIP claims process and file a spinal cord injury lawsuit to obtain a higher level of compensation.
How long do I have to file an Orlando spinal cord injury lawsuit?
In Florida, claimants have up to four years after the date on which the injury occurred to file their lawsuit in court. In some cases, an exception to this time limit can be granted, such as cases involving an individual who was a minor at the time the injury occurred or cases in which the injury was not discovered for a considerable length of time after it was incurred. Your experienced spinal cord injury lawyer will inform you if there is an exception in your case.
What damages are available for recovery after an Orlando spinal cord injury?
Florida allows for the recovery of both economic and non-economic damages through a spinal cord injury lawsuit.
Economic damages refer to the out-of-pocket expenses you experienced as a result of your injury, such as:
- Medical expenses, including emergency treatment at the scene or in the emergency department, transport to the hospital by ambulance or air, diagnostic testing, physician and surgical services, hospitalization, prescription medication, physical therapy and rehabilitation, and the provision of assistive devices such as a wheelchair or crutches.
- Lost wages resulting from being too injured to work or missing work to attend injury-related medical appointments.
- Loss of future earning capacity if your injury results in a permanent disability that prevents you from ever returning to work or requires you to accept a job that is lower paying than what you could formerly earn.
- The cost of repairing or replacing property that the accident damaged, such as a car that was damaged in an automobile accident that caused your injury.
My spinal cord injury was the result of a workplace accident. Can I still recover damages?
Injuries resulting from a workplace accident in Florida are generally covered by the state’s workers’ compensation program. This program establishes the requirement that most businesses carry a workers’ compensation insurance policy for their employees, with coverage beginning on day one of employment and lasting until the worker leaves his or her employment at the business. This no-fault insurance provides medical and wage loss benefits to individuals who have been injured at the workplace.
In exchange for the coverage provided by this policy, most workplace injuries are not eligible for the recovery of damages through a spinal cord injury lawsuit. However, there are some exceptions, including circumstances where the employer failed to provide the required workers’ compensation policy for his or her employees or where the injury was the result of an accident caused by a third party. An example of this situation would be an injury to a delivery driver who was in an accident during his or her normal work duties that an at-fault driver who was neither a coworker nor his or her employer caused.
Do spinal cord injury lawsuits always wind up in court in Orlando?
No. In fact, the majority of spinal cord injury lawsuits settle before litigation ever begins. That said, it is important to hire a spinal cord injury lawyer who is comfortable and confident with obtaining compensation on your behalf through either settlement negotiations or litigation in court.
What is the average settlement in an Orlando spinal cord injury case?
Settlement offers are as unique as the cases they resolve, and are based on the specific damages that were incurred. Because of this, there is no “average” settlement in a spinal cord injury case. There are, however, several factors that can impact the value of your case, either negatively or positively.
Some of those factors include:
- The amount of insurance the at-fault party has. Insurance is a crucial factor in determining the damages you can claim because insurance pays most spinal cord injury settlements and awards. While it is possible to file a spinal cord injury lawsuit against an uninsured person, and even to obtain a judgment on your behalf, collecting your award will be extremely difficult as most people do not have the money to pay for someone else’s medical expenses out-of-pocket.
- Your age and overall health at the time of the accident. Age impacts several damage categories—including lost wages and loss of future earning capacity—as it relates to where a person is in his or her career at the time of the accident. A person in the middle of a career will likely command more in those damage categories than a young person who is not working yet or has just started his or her career and has not yet moved up the payscale, as well as a retired person who is no longer earning an income. Your overall health at the time of the injury matters because pre-existing conditions potentially offer the at-fault party an excuse that perhaps the pain and complications you are experiencing result from old injuries rather than the injury you incurred in the accident.
- The severity of your injury. The more severe the injury, the more damages you will likely incur, including more expenses for medical treatment, more time away from work, a higher likelihood of disabilities that will render you disabled, and the more profound the impacts on your life will be.
- Your patience. Insurance companies dislike paying out claims for serious injuries caused by their insured. However, they also dislike paying the high price of litigation with the outcome of the case left in the hands of judges or jurors. Generally, the highest settlement offer an insurance company will make will occur either just before the case goes to court or even after the trial has begun but before a judgment has been reached. If you can’t wait for this higher offer, it generally results in a lower-value resolution.
Is my spinal cord injury settlement or award taxable in Orlando?
According to the Internal Revenue Service, personal injury settlements or awards are not considered income and are, therefore, not taxable. However, if you deduct some of your medical expenses from your injury in a previous year’s return, you must include the portion of the deducted medical expenses as income in the taxes filed for the year you received the award.
Additionally, the court awarded punitive damages—which are damages unrelated to your expenses, and are awarded to punish a defendant for extremely egregious behavior—this portion of your award is taxable.
Speak with a tax professional to ensure you don’t run afoul of any tax laws.
My injuries are obvious. Why do I need an attorney to recover damages?
Spinal cord injuries are not only obvious but also extremely serious, generally resulting in a lifetime of complications and impacts. hire an attorney with experience in spinal cord injuries who can provide you with services that would be very difficult for you to provide.
Those services include:
- Guidance as to the legal options that are available in your case.
- A valuation of your case based not only on the expenses and impacts you are dealing with right now, but those you will likely face in the future.
- A determination of all liable parties and all insurance resources that can be accessed to compensate you.
- The timely filing of a legal claim in the proper jurisdiction.
- Skilled negotiation with the at-fault party’s insurance carrier in an attempt to garner a fair settlement offer on your behalf.
- The gathering and organization of evidence needed to prove your claim.
- Attendance and representation of your case in all pre-trial conferences and hearings.
- Litigation, including the delivery of opening and closing statements, the examination of witnesses, and the presentation of evidence.
- Assistance with collecting your award or settlement.
- Further representation if the at-fault party appeals the judgment in your case.
Let experienced Orlando spinal cord injury lawyer, Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney, help you understand the legal options that are available to you. For a free case evaluation, contact us.
Contact Our Orlando Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys for a Free Consultation
If you suffered spinal cord injuries in an Orlando auto accident or any other event, contact the empathetic and skilled spinal cord injury attorneys at Michael T. Gibson, P.A., online or at 407-422-4529 for help with your injury claim. One of our experienced team members can evaluate your case and help you understand your options going forward.
Suffering a spinal cord injury is a traumatic life event. We can guide you through this challenging time and advocate for you throughout the entire legal process, while you focus on learning how to live with your spinal cord injury.
Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Orlando, FL 32814
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
“I couldn’t be happier with the services provided to me by Michael T. Gibson’s team. Kathy, Jeannette and Amit did an outstanding job in representing me. Throughout the entire process they kept me updated, were easily reachable via email or telephone and always maintained kindness, patience and professionalism. I highly recommend using Michael T. Gibson’s law office as your auto justice attorneys. You will be in the best hands.” -Ash T.