What Qualifies for a Spinal Cord Injury Lawsuit?

Car accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injury in the U.S., reports the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC). If you or a loved one suffered a spinal cord injury in a Knoxville car accident, the results can be devastating. A traumatic spinal injury can result in long-term injury, disability, or even paralysis, preventing you from working, engaging in your daily activities, or caring for yourself or your family.

You might be eligible to recover compensation for your injury-related costs; however, to determine what qualifies for a spinal cord injury lawsuit, you must consider the circumstances under which the accident occurred. For help in Knoxville, call the Law Offices of Ogle, Elrod & Baril, PLLC: 865-546-1111.

What criteria must I meet to file a spinal cord injury lawsuit?

For a successful spinal injury lawsuit — as with most personal injury matters — you and your attorney will need to satisfy four elements to have a valid case.

The four elements that must be present to demonstrate fault are as follows:

  • Duty of care: Drivers owe a duty of care to others on the road, including other motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, etc. This means, for example, obeying traffic laws, not driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and not texting while driving.
  • Breach of duty: If someone fails to conduct herself in a way that protects others from harm, she has breached her duty. For example, if a driver fails to yield legal right-of-way, exceeds posted speed limits, or drives while distracted, she has breached her duty to drive safely.
  • Causation: You must demonstrate that someone’s breach of duty was directly responsible for your injuries. For example, if a driver runs a stop sign because she was texting or talking on her cell phone, hits your car, resulting in a spinal cord injury, that can constitute causation. 
  • Damages: You suffered damages (e.g., medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish) from the injuries you sustained when the other driver breached her duty to drive safely.

What can I recover?

The extent of these injuries is typically significant and the prognosis for recovery can be grim. More than half of spinal injury victims suffer significant damage, ranging from partial paraplegia to full paralysis, or tetraplegia. Both the damage and prognosis can lead to significant losses. You can recover compensation for any of the following:

Economic Damages

Financially, the cost of a spinal cord injury is immense. Costs for medical care alone for the first year can exceed $1 million for the most severe spinal cord injuries, reports a 2011 article in Topics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation. And the costs depend on the age at which the victim suffered the injury. A 25-year-old victim has almost double the costs as a 50-year-old victim.

Aside from the care required in the hospital, from doctors and nurses and rehabilitation specialists, you may also require the services of a live-in caretaker or accommodations at a residential care facility.

Any injury-related care is compensable. This can include any medical expenses and other related costs such as modifying your home or vehicle to accommodate your disability or even parking fees at your doctor’s appointments.

If you need to take time off work to recover, are unable to return to your old job, or obtain any type of gainful employment, you can include your lost wages and lost earning capacity as a cost of your injury. We can work with a vocational expert to determine the value of your lost earning capacity.

Noneconomic Damages

Finally, your lawyer will also consider your noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering and loss of life enjoyment. Noneconomic damages can be much higher than economic damages; however, it is important to note that Tennessee law places a cap on noneconomic damages. Per TN Code § 29-39-102, victims of catastrophic injuries may recover up to $1 million for noneconomic damages.

Punitive Damages

You may be able to recover punitive damages if you can prove that the driver acted maliciously, intentionally, or recklessly. Punitive damages, awarded to punish the at-fault party, are capped at $500,000 or twice the amount of compensatory damages.

Do I need a lawyer for my spinal cord injury lawsuit?

The damages available in Tennessee spinal cord injury lawsuits can top a million dollars easily. As such, the at-fault party will do its best to poke holes in your case and devalue your claim.

A lawyer can defend you against any accusations of fault or claims that you are exaggerating your injuries.

In addition to defending you from the other party, a lawyer will also launch a full investigation and plan out your case, which are vital to proving liability and getting a full value of your damages.

A spinal injury lawsuit also requires building a robust case to prove negligence. It is also imperative to move quickly to gather and preserve critical evidence. Spinal cord injury lawyers know the evidence you will need to gather and just how to get it, allowing you to focus on recovering or taking care of your loved one rather than chasing down evidence.

Call a Knoxville car accident lawyer today.

Although no monetary sum can compensate you for the devastation and losses you have suffered, obtaining an appropriate settlement for your injuries can ensure a more comfortable future. Contact a Knoxville car accident lawyer from the Law Offices of Ogle, Elrod & Baril, PLLC today to discuss your case and the potential for filing a lawsuit to recover damages: 865-546-1111.