Spine Injury Solicitors - Compensation Claim Lawyers - Australia

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A spine injury usually occurs as a result of a blow, fall or penetrating injury that dislocates the vertebra or does damage to the vertebra resulting in damage to the spinal cord. The spinal cord is the part of the nervous system that allows nerves to travel from the brain to the peripheral tissues and allows nerves from the peripheral tissues to pass up to the brain for processing. If there is a complete spinal cord injury, there is paralysis and loss of sensation below the level of the injury. If there is an incomplete spinal cord injury, there may be limited movement and/or sensation below the level of the injury. In the event that the accident that caused the injury is due to the negligence of a third party it may be possible for spine injury solicitors to make a compensation claim to the court for a damages award to cover personal injury and loss.

Spine Injury Solicitors

Our spine injury solicitors offer advice at no cost with no obligation. Solicitors claims are dealt with using the no win no fee scheme and win or lose there is no charge. Compensation is paid in full with no deductions. If you would like free advice from our spine injury solicitors on our totally risk free accident compensation claim service just call the solicitors helpline, email our lawyers offices or complete the contact form.

Emergency Management of a Spinal Cord Injury

If there is a suspected spine injury, the neck should be immobilized and the patient should be handled carefully so as to avoid further damage to the spinal cord. This is considered a medical emergency. The patient is taken to the operating theatre and steps are taken to take any pressure off the spinal cord. If the spinal cord is severed, it cannot be sewn back together but if there is just pressure from displaced vertebrae on the spinal cord, this can be repaired and some of the function of the spinal cord might be reversed.

Medications are also used to help reduce the swelling of the spinal cord. This includes intravenous methylpredisolone, which shrinks swelling and reduces cellular damage. Methylprednisolone is a steroid medication that has been shown to help reduce damage in cases of spinal injuries. It reduces excitatory amino acid neurotoxicity, prevents lipid peroxidation and increases the blood flow to the spinal cord. It suppresses the immunological cells that do damage to nerve fibres that otherwise would not have had a chance to live. Methylprednisolone must be given before eight hours have past following the injury for it to be effective.

Hypoxia must also be treated. The patient must be given 100 percent oxygen as soon as a spinal cord injury has been suspected. Shock is treated with IV fluids and other injuries must be treated while keeping in mind the spinal cord injury.

It may be that any emergency treatment is inadequate due to errors on the part of a medical practitioner and that being the case, our for spine injury solicitors may be able to make a compensation claim for a damages award for pain and suffering and any financial losses on the basis of medical negligence.

Specific Spinal Cord Injury Syndromes

The spinal cord can be damaged by being cut or by having excess pressure put on it. In a shotgun-type injury, there can be direct damage to the spinal cord or bleeding in the spinal cord space that causes a haematoma or excess pressure on the spinal cord. There are other specific spinal cord injuries. In a spinal cord infarction, there is a stroke in the spinal cord or in the arteries leading to it, which can be traumatic. The symptoms occur within a few minutes to an hour after the injury and there can be pain along with the paralytic and loss of sensory symptoms.

Central cord syndrome involves an incomplete type of spinal cord injury that impairs the arms over the legs. The central portion of the spinal cord is damaged. There can be paralysis or loss of fine motor control in the arms and hands, with an increase in abilities in the legs and feet. Loss of bladder control is possible as is the loss of sensation below the injury. All of this can be due to spinal trauma.

Levels of Functioning

The loss of functioning incurred in a spine injury depends on the level of the injury in the spinal cord. The higher the spinal cord trauma, the greater is the degree of neurological loss.

There are three basic levels in the spinal cord: the cervical level, the thoracic level and the lumbar level. The most serious damage is due to an injury to the spinal cord, which is particularly vulnerable to injury due to its location in the body and a relative lack of supporting structures associated with it.

Motor Loss is defined as losing everything below the level described below:

  • C2: Breathing on one’s own
  • C5: Everything below the wrist extension
  • C7: Everything below elbow extension
  • C: Everything below finger flexion
  • T1: Everything below little finger abduction
  • L2: Hip flexion
  • L3: Knee Extension
  • L4: Ankle dorsiflexion
  • L5: Extension of the great toe
  • S1: Ankle plantar flexion

This means a person with a spinal injury to the cervical area is generally considered to be a quadriplegic, having lost function of much of all extremities. A person with a thoracic or lumbar injury is known as a paraplegic, having lost the function of the lower extremities.

Damages awarded in a spine injury compensation claim depend on the extent of the injury, the time taken for recovery and any long term consequences and disabilities. Our spine injury solicitors will make detailed enquiries with the assistance of expert medical specialists into levels of functioning in a spine injury case prior to making an application to the court for a damages award to cover personal injury and loss.

Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries

The cause of a spinal cord injury can be penetrating, such as a bullet wound or a stab wound. It can be caused by direct trauma to the head, neck, chest, face, or back in an injury similar to a car or motorcycle accident. A diving accident can lead to a spinal cord injury. An electric shock can cause spinal trauma and extreme twisting of the mid-portion of the body can result in a spinal injury. Landing directly on your head in a sports or recreational incident can result in head or spine trauma. A fall from a great height can lead to spinal injuries on several parts of the spine.

In the event that the accident that caused the spine injury was due to negligence by a third party such as in a road traffic accident, it may be possible for a spine injury solicitor to make an application to the court for a damages award to cover personal injury and loss.

Symptoms of Spinal Injury

As mentioned, the exact symptoms one ends up with depend on the level of the injury. In the initial stages of a spinal cord injury, however, some symptoms are independent of the level of the injury. The head can be held in an unusual position. There can be numbness or tingling spreading down the legs or the arms. There can be generalized or focal weakness. Walking can be difficult to impossible to do or there can be complete paralysis of the arms or legs (or both). One can lose bowel or bladder control at the time of the injury and afterwards. The person is likely in shock, with pale or clammy skin, a blue discolouration around the lips and fingernails and a feeling of being dazed. A lowered level of consciousness can happen or complete loss of consciousness is possible. There can be pain or stiffness of the neck or even a headache.

Examination for Spinal Cord Injury

A complete neurological exam including motor and sensory function is done. Reflexes are assessed and are increased if there is a paralytic situation going on. Before surgery is attempted, an x-ray of the spine is done to see if there is a broken or displaced vertebrae. A special x-ray test called a myelogram is done that assesses the outline of the spinal cord itself. Dye is put into the space around the spinal cord and areas of spinal cord breakage or pressure on the spinal cord are easily visible with this test. It means that doctors can know where to go when doing surgery if necessary. A well done MRI of the spine can eliminate the need for a myelogram. An MRI uses electromagnetic energy to see fine changes in the vertebrae and in the spinal cord.

Surgery for Spinal Cord Injury

Surgery is not always performed in a spine injury case but, when it is, it is often done to take the pressure off the spinal cord and to stabilize the spine. Plates can be inserted that stabilize the vertebrae and keep the pressure off the spinal cord. If there are bony fragments, such as with a penetrating injury, these are cleaned out so the spinal cord has the best chance of recovery. Other times, a halo is used to support the cervical spine in order to give time for the vertebrae to heal themselves and allow the individual to eventually have a stable, albeit damaged, spine.

Surgery is not always successful and in the event that failure was due to an error by a healthcare practitioner it may be possible for spine injury solicitors to obtain damages for pain and suffering and any financial losses on the basis of medical negligence.

Rehabilitation for Spinal Cord Injuries

There are several objectives to keep in mind when treating someone with a spinal cord injury. For example, you need to deal with whatever medical issues they may have developed as a result of their spinal cord injury. You must deal with functional concerns and you must deal with psychosocial issues that come up when a person’s spinal cord is injured. Rehabilitation must begin as soon as the acute medical issues are addressed in order to maximize outcome and reduce secondary complications.

Various therapists must play a role in recovery. It must be an interdisciplinary team. It must include a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, a recreational therapist and a vocational therapist. A psychologist is helpful in this situation as is a social worker and a case manager that keeps track of all the therapists and their duties. A physiatrist is a physician that specializes in physical therapy and works with spine-injured patients.

Functional outcomes can vary, depending on the individual. It depends on things like the level of the injury and the completeness of the injury at that level. There can be associated complications of the traumatic spine injury, including spasticity, pain, contractures, musculoskeletal disease and cardiac disease. There can be open sores on the back, heels and buttocks due to injury to unnecessary pressure on the bones that have had a loss of muscle overlying it. These can become infected and can be deadly if left untreated.

Doctors use orthotics like splints, which can be hard or soft, and assistive devices that help the individual function better. Some advances in functional electrical stimulation can be used to maximize the function of the individual. Ongoing physical therapy, with or without such devices, can keep the muscles as strong as possible. Occupational therapy helps the client learn to use assistive devices that help them eat by themselves, dress themselves and do other tasks of daily living.

The Prognosis and Living with Spinal Cord Trauma

The actual prognosis for spinal cord trauma varies with the individual. Most people start out the worst they’re going to be in the beginning of their illness and recover some neurological function. The degree to which they recover function depends on how much therapy they’ve had and whether or not their treatment was prompt and helpful. In many cases, there is a partial resolution of function with residual areas of neurological damage than cannot be recovered, even with physical and occupational therapy. Recovery tends to be better in those under age fifty when compared to older patients.

Over 10,000 individuals in Australia have a spinal cord injury, the vast majority of them coming from a traumatic event. Some paralysis of the upper or lower extremities is usually the residual finding in most of them. A few recover completely. Many people go on to have productive lives in spite of their illness and some even have jobs and families, despite having a traumatic spinal injury. Things like occupational therapy do wonders to improve the lives of these people and to get them doing things they could not otherwise do. It helps if friends and family members become involved in the rehabilitation of the spinally injured patient. Before long, the spine injured person can be a productive part of the community.

Whilst an award of damages can never make up for the trauma and consequences of a spine injury it can help to make life comfortable for the future. Our spine injury solicitors offer free advice with no obligation and will make an application to the court for a damages award to cover personal injury and loss on a no win no fee basis.

Prevention of Spinal Cord Injury

Most spinal cord injuries are related to motor vehicle accidents. You should always wear a seatbelt when riding in a motor vehicle. Children should be secured in a proper safety restraint appropriate to their age. You should never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You shouldn't ever ride with a person who is driving under the influence and stop those who might be impaired with drugs or alcohol from driving.

For people over the age of 65, falls are a cause of a spinal cord injury. You need to secure all handrails and banisters in the home. A stepstool with a grab bar should be used to reach objects high up on the shelves. There should be non-slip mats on the bathtub and shower floor. You should exercise regularly to keep your muscles and bones strong. Medications that can impair the ability to walk straight should be taken with care. Sturdy, non-slip shoes should be worn. You should perform a home safety check to get rid of rugs or other things that can contribute to falls. Window guards should be placed on all windows above the first floor.

Sports and recreational activities account for 18 percent of all spinal injuries. You need to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, motorcycle, scooter or skateboard. Sports like football, ice hockey and batting a ball should be associated with the wearing of helmets. If you dive, you should dive in water that is 9 feet or more and you should always wear the proper safety gear when participating in high risk recreational activities.

LAWYER HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 090