Spinal cord injuries can be very traumatic and oftentimes survivors of such injuries are entitled to compensation. Injuries to the spinal cord usually begin with a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that causes dislocation or fractures to the vertebrae. When an impact occurs, damage to the spinal cord happens almost immediately. The result is bruising or tears in the spinal cord nerve tissue. Axons, which are nerve cell extensions that transmit signals between the brain and body, can be damaged. Injuries to the spinal cord may damage a few, many or almost all of the axons. Depending upon the extent of damage, some injuries will allow for an almost complete recovery and others can result in a lifetime of paralysis.
Spinal cord injuries may result from falls, motor vehicle and work-related accidents, defective products and other trauma to the spine. Even minor injuries can result in spinal cord damage if there is pre-existing weakness of the spine from conditions such as arthritis or degeneration. Aggressive medical treatment and rehabilitation can minimize damage to the nervous system and, in some cases, restore limited abilities.
Medical treatment and rehabilitation programs are very costly for those who suffer from spinal cord injury, and receiving compensation from entities that contributed to the injury can have a significant impact on future quality of life. To be successfully awarded compensation, it is necessary to prove one or more legal theories. The theory of negligence proves that the defendant is at fault, which can also be the case if the defendant is a company that produced a defective item that subsequently caused a spinal cord injury to the consumer. Examples of defective products that have caused this type of injury are faulty seatbelts or airbags.
If a spinal cord injury survivor does pursue legal remedy, it is helpful to know that there are some common defenses used in court in an attempt to disprove or minimize fault. These are contributory or comparative negligence, and assumption of the risk. Contributory negligence means that the injured party was partially at fault for causing the injury to occur, and comparative negligence is the argument that the plaintiff and the defendant are equally at fault in the situation. Assumption of the risk is the belief that a reasonable person would be aware of any risks involved in a specific activity, such as skiing, sky diving, or bungee jumping, and therefore the companies behind these operations will not assume any responsibility for bodily injury.