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Recent Injury Law Blog Posts

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Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys

Spinal Cord Injury

Mr. Perez is now a quadriplegic due to his fall working in unsafe conditions.

SKW offers experienced spinal cord injury attorney services. Throughout Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue and beyond, our lawyers have seen countless spinal cord injuries as the result of trauma from car/truck/motorcycle/bicycle crashes, falls, diving accidents, medical malpractice, construction accidents and various other causes. With one tragic event, a client's life changes forever in these cases. Skilled spinal cord injury lawyer's services are critical to obtain justice/full compensation for a lifetime of care and missed/lost wages.

Spinal cord injuries cause myelopathy or damage to white matter or myelinated fiber tracts that carry signals to and from the brain. They also damage gray matter in the central part of the spine, causing segmental losses of interneurons and motorneurons.

The exact effects of spinal cord injuries varies according to the type and level of injury, and can be organized into two types:

1. Complete Injuries. A person would be classified as having a complete spinal cord injury when there is no motor or sensory function preserved in the sacral segments, S4-S5. Any function below the neurological level is lost.

2. Incomplete injuries. A person with an incomplete injury retains some sensation or movement below the level of the injury. If a person is able to contract the anal sphincter voluntarily or is able to feel a peri-anal pinprick or touch, both of which test the lowest spinal segment, the injury is said to be incomplete.

In addition to the loss of sensation and motor function below the point of injury, spinal cord injuries are replete with a host of other complications, including:

  • Bowel and bladder function. Because bowel and bladder function is controlled by the sacral region of the spine, it is common to experience dysfunction of the bowel and bladder, including susceptibility to infections of the bladder and incontinence.
  • Sexual function. Sexual function is also associated with the sacral region, and is often affected.
  • Breathing control. A loss of breathing capabilities requiring ventilators or phrenic nerve pacing are attributable to injuries of the C-1 and C-2.
  • Regulatory function. The inability to regulate heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, and therefore body temperature.
  • Spasticity caused by increased reflexes and stiffness of the limbs
  • Neuropathic pain, which is caused by damage or dysfunction of the nervous system
  • Autonomic dysreflexia, which is a reaction of the autonomic nervous system to overstimulation
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Gallbladder and renal stones
  • Osteoperosis and bone degeneration
  • Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome

Traumatic spinal cord injury is classified into five types by the American Spinal Injury Association and the International Spinal Cord Injury Classification System:

  • A indicates a "complete" spinal cord injury where no motor or sensory function is preserved in the lower, sacral segments S4-5.
  • B indicates an incomplete spinal cord injury where sensory, but not motor function, is preserved below the neurological legel and includes the sacral segments S4-5. This is typically a transient phase.
  • C indicates an incomplete spinal cord injury where motor function is preserved below the neurological level and more than half of key muscles below the neurological level have a muscle grade of less than 3.
  • D indicates an incomplete spinal cord injury where motor function is preserved below the neurological level and at least half of the key muscles below the neurological level have a muscle grade of 3 or more.

Location of the Injury

Cervical Injuries:
Cervical, also known as neck injuries, often result in full or partial tetraplegia (quadriplegia). Depending on the location of the injury, a person suffering from a cervical injury may retain some level of function, or may be completely paralyzed.

Thoracic Injuries:
Injuries at the chest or below often result in paraplegia, in which case the hands, arms, head, and breathing are usually not affected.

Lumbar and Sacral Injuries:
Injuries to this lower region of the spine result in decreased control of the legs and hips, sexual functioning, urinary system, and anus.

The attorneys at SKW have wide ranging experience with spinal cord injuries, and understand the complex medical and legal issues that frequently accompany these cases. Our knowledge and reputation in litigating spinal cord injury claims will help you through the long and difficult process of medical and legal recovery.

Helpful Links

SKW cases involving spinal cord injuries

Traumatic spinal cord injuries

The following example involves a diving accident resulting in permanent paralysis from the neck down.  The spinal MRI shows a completely transected spinal cord at the level of the 4th and 5th vertebra (red arrow).  The accompanying x-ray shows the surgical hardware required to stabilize the fractured and dislocated vertebrae (blue arrow).

Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal Cord Injury

The next example involves a spinal cord injury as a result of an aircraft accident resulting in a burst fracture of the first lumbar vertebrae (red arrow). The accompanying x-ray shows the surgical titanium rods and cortical bone screws used to stabilize the fractured vertebrae (blue arrow).

Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal Cord Injury

The next example shows preexisting arthritis of the spine, which was aggravated by a high-speed motor vehicle accident. The spinal MRI on the left shows typical arthritic changes such as loss of disc height (red arrows), and areas of spinal cord impingement (blue arrows). The accompanying x-ray shows the surgical hardware used to stabilize the spine (yellow arrow).

Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal Cord Injury

A young female client sustained a spinal fracture while riding in the back seat. This occurred when a tanker truck crossed the center line and collided head-on with the family vehicle. The following series of medical illustrations were used to demonstrate the progressive steps used to surgically stabilize the spinal fracture.

Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal Cord Injury

The following is a medical illustration of the above client showing the global injuries she sustained in the head on collision.

Spinal Cord Injury

These are just some examples of the methods used by the law firm of SKW to successfully litigate devastating cases of spinal cord injuries. It is also important to know that these cases typically take many months to years to resolve. So, it’s good to know that the lawyers at SKW will be with you throughout this long and difficult process of medical and legal recovery.

Representative cases

A $7 million (policy limits) for quadriplegia resulting from an unsafe construction site. No safety protection or training was given to laborers. The client fell backwards off of a cliff.

A $3.225 million result in Washington State for a small single engine plane crash caused by failure to maintain a carburetor resulting in spinal cord injuries.

Pattison v. City of Chelan - M.R. Pattison dove into Lake Chelan in a city park and hit his head on submerged rocks. No warnings of the danger were posted. $4.5 million in March 2008 for a spinal cord injury that resulted in the client being left a quadriplegic. 

Hicks v. City of Aberdeen and State of Washington - Lacey Hicks was an innocent driver on Dec. 2006, when a rusted light pole on the Chehalis River Bridge hit her car. Jaws of life were required to extract her from the crushed car. The bridge pole had hit with such force that it broke her cervical spine, leaving her at risk of paralysis.

A $2.2 million result for spinal injuries suffered from a fall at a construction project resulting in paralyzation from the chest down.

A $2.75 million settlement for paralyzing injuries sustained in a collision at an intersection lacking adequate traffic control devices.

An $8.1 million verdict in June 2002 for a defective seat back and failure of occupant restraint system.  After an appeal, a new judgment for a discovery sanction was entered in the amount of $10,399,907. The sanction order has been appealed by the Defendant.

A $1.66 million (policy limits) result in May 2001 plus additional contingent payments for a 23-year-old T-4 paraplegic injured in a vehicle rollover.

$1.05 million (policy limits) in 1999 for paraplegia from a vehicle crash.

$2.525 million for spinal cord injury victim in 1997 for the loss of an arm and temporary paralysis of legs in a vehicle rollover.

A verdict for $2,517,030.69 in Grays Harbor County Superior Court, 1996.  Product liability case on behalf of a 37-year-old worker who herniated a disc in his back resulting in a failed back syndrome.

A $2.55 million settlement in 1995 for paraplegia of a young woman from a vehicle collision plus an additional undisclosed amount from Toyota for a seat belt design failure.

A $1.25 million settlement in 1990 for paraplegia from a vehicle collision after mini-mart sold beer to minors.

A $1.5 million settlement in 1990 for paraplegia from fraternity rush function diving event. 

A jury verdict for $10 million in Grays Harbor County Superior Court, 1983.  For 11 years it stood as the largest personal injury verdict in the state and still stands as on of the largest personal injury jury awards in Washington State court history.  Product liability case for failure to provide a kill switch.  Fifteen-year-old plaintiff rendered a spastic quadriplegic.