New York Quadriplegia (Tetraplegia)
Quadriplegia, also known as tetraplegia, is so termed as it affects all four limbs as well as the torso of the victim. Most people who are quadriplegic have significant paralysis below the neck. Some victims may even become completely immobile. This form of paralysis is primarily the result of damage to the spinal cord. The injury in such cases occurs high in the spinal cord, usually in the cervical spine between the C1 and C7 vertebrae. The higher the injury is, the more extensive the damage is likely to be. In fact, injuries that occur very high in the spinal cord tend to be fatal.
Quadriplegia is often caused by traumatic events such as auto accidents, slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall incidents, etc. If the injury occurred due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing then victims may be able to seek compensation for their significant damages and losses. An experienced New York personal injury lawyer will be able to guide victims and their families through what can become a complex legal process and help them receive maximum compensation so they can maintain their dignity and quality of life.
What is Quadriplegia?
It’s a common misconception that quadriplegics suffer damage/injuries to their arms and legs. But, the fact is, most quadriplegics have perfectly healthy limbs. The problem begins in the spinal cord and sometimes, also in the brain. The spinal column is made up of thousands of nerves that send signals to and from the brain. When a spinal cord injury prevents these signals from being transmitted to the brain or blocks the reception of signals to the spinal cord from the brain, then a person’s ability to move his or her arms or legs or feel sensation in the limbs or torso can get affected.
A major spinal cord injury may interfere with breathing as well as the ability to move the limbs. A patient with complete quadriplegia has no ability to move any body part below the neck. In some cases, individuals may not even be able to move the neck. Some people with quadriplegia are able to move their arms. However, they may have little or no control over their hand movements. For example, they cannot perform certain actions such as grasping or holding that would allow them to live independently.
What Causes Quadriplegia?
Any injury high in the spinal cord or one that affects multiple regions in the brain can lead to paralysis in all four limbs. Spinal cord injuries account for the majority of quadriplegia cases, with the leading causes of spinal cord injuries as follows:
- Auto accidents (37 percent)
- Slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall accidents (30 percent)
- Acts of violence (gun shot or stabbing wounds – 14 percent)
- Sports and recreational activities (9 percent)
- Incidents involving medical negligence (4 percent)
Approximately 250,000 people in the U.S. live with spinal cord injuries with about 12,500 new cases each year.
Complications of Quadriplegia
Quadriplegia causes a number of complications, which will require treatment, care, rehabilitation and therapy. Here are just some of the issues with which quadriplegics often grapple:
- Loss of bladder and bowel control: The nerves of the spinal cord often control bowel and bladder function. People with quadriplegia may lose control of these vital body functions. Victims need to be carefully monitored for urinary tract infections, constipation and other related issues.
- Pressure sores: Those with quadriplegia face a heightened risk of developing pressure sores and bedsores caused by the weight of their body and due to their lack of mobility. It is critical that caregivers or nurses move patients at regular intervals so such pressure sores can be prevented. These types of sores may even prove fatal if they become infected.
- Blood clots: Since quadriplegics cannot move on their own, their blood circulation slows down significantly. This puts them at a risk for blood clots. These dangerous clots may develop deep within the muscles and veins. These clots may also travel to different parts of the body. It may become fatal if it travels to the lungs and blocks an artery. Those with poor blood circulation may require blood thinners to improve circulation.
- Respiratory issues: A spinal cord injury usually weakens nerve signals to the chest or the diaphragm making breathing difficult. If, for example, the individual’s diaphragm is paralyzed as the result of a spinal cord injury, he or she may need to be placed on a ventilator. People with quadriplegia are also at an increased risk for pneumonia and other types of respiratory infections. They may be prescribed certain medications and breathing exercises to prevent these types of respiratory problems, especially when mobility is an issue.
- Muscle spasms: When a spinal cord injury prevents the transmission of nerve signals to the brain, individuals may experience muscle spasms that cause the arms and legs to jerk. This is not actually movement, but just muscles that begin to spasm because of weakness and lack of function.
- Pain: Quadriplegics often don’t feel much sensation, but they may still feel pain in the arms, legs, back and other areas. In such cases, medications may be prescribed to alleviate the pain.
- Risk of injury: Since a victim with quadriplegia may lack sensation in most parts of his or her body, he or she may suffer other injuries such as cuts or burns and not realize it. Caregivers must be wary of the objects that are in the patient’s room in order to eliminate any injury risks.
- Autonomic dysreflexia: This is a term that refers to irritation or pain below the site of the injury. This may send a signal that will not reach the brain, but may cause a nerve signal that disrupts vital body functions. It may cause the heart rate to drop and the blood pressure to shoot up, putting the patient at risk for a stroke. Even something as minor as irritating clothes or a full bladder may trigger this reflex. This is something caregivers should be aware of when they are in charge of quadriplegics.
- Impaired sexual function: Regardless of gender, quadriplegics experience changes in sexual desire, difficulties with orgasm, decrease in fertility and even complete loss of sexual function.
- Changes in weight: Since quadriplegics are not able to move, they must reduce calorie consumption or pursue some form of physical therapy in order to keep their weight in check. Significant weight gain due to immobility and inactivity can put the patient at risk for serious health complications.
- Psychological issues: There is no denying that such a traumatic event can cause significant stress and psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. These issues must be properly managed by getting the patient psychological counseling and therapy.
The Cost of Quadriplegia
Quadriplegics face a range of health issues and complications. As a result, they not only require treatment and care immediately after their injury, but also continuing treatment and care, potentially for the rest of their lives. Immediately after suffering a spinal cord injury, patients must be immobilized to prevent further injuries. Their vitals including heart rate and blood pressure must be stabilized. They may need assistance to breathe. They may need a variety of tests to determine the nature and extent of injuries. Patients may also need multiple surgeries to relieve pressure or swelling on the spine.
The process of rehabilitation for those with quadriplegia consists of training and learning how to live and cope with their new disabilities and limitations. Patients often require physical therapy to increase blood circulation and prevent muscles from atrophying. There are also a number of new, experimental therapies that are offering quadriplegics hope for a better quality of life. Patients may opt to participate in one of many clinical trials that are ongoing.
The costs of medical treatment, surgeries, hospitalization and rehabilitative care can add up very quickly. The average annual costs and the estimated lifetime costs for those living with quadriplegia can vary significantly based on education, neurological impairment and employment history prior to the injury. A person who has been rendered quadriplegic is looking at more than $1 million in expenses just during the first year and close to $200,000 for every subsequent year after that, according to estimates by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
Determining the Value of a Quadriplegia Case
The value of a quadriplegia or spinal cord injury case would in part depend on the severity of the injury and the losses that the plaintiff (the injured person) has sustained as a result of the injury. These types of cases can be challenging and complex because the plaintiff may not even become fully aware of the extent of injury until he or she has been thoroughly examined and evaluated by a battery of experts. Here are some of the factors that often determine what a quadriplegia case is worth.
Life Care Costs
A majority of individuals with quadriplegia will require round-the-clock care or in-home care and assistance because they are unable to care for themselves. Such expenses may include nursing, home care, transportation costs and in-home rehabilitation and therapy. Since spinal cord injuries such as quadriplegia are catastrophic, the patient is looking at facing these expenses for the rest of his or her life. Over a person’s lifetime, these expenses may add up to millions of dollars.
This is an important factor when it comes to determining the value of a spinal cord injury claim. For example, if a teenager suffered serious injury, the value of the claim will be much more than if an elderly person suffered the injury. This is because a young person who is rendered quadriplegic has suffered a life-changing injury, which will have a longer-lasting impact. These individuals may also need resources for a longer period of time because they may simply live longer.
Medical and Rehabilitation Expenses
These are usually quantifiable damages that may be sought by the plaintiff. It is important to save all receipts and invoices related to medical and rehabilitation expenses. An experienced attorney will be able to review all of your medical records, and bills and determine an amount that can be sought as damages. In addition to medical bills, cost of various therapists (occupational, speech, physical, psychological) should also be taken into consideration. With quadriplegics, it’s not about one doctor or a singular type of treatment. It takes an entire team of professionals to treat and care for a quadriplegic and the cost of such treatment and care may add up very quickly.
Loss of Income
This is a significant element of a spinal cord injury claim. Plaintiffs in such cases who were earning a living before the injury will most likely be unable to return to work or earn a livelihood. In addition to income lost soon after the injury, they can also claim compensation for lost future income and benefits as a result of becoming disabled and being unable to work.
Past and Future Pain and Suffering
This will take into consideration how the injury has changed you. How has your life become different as the result of this accident? What were the things you used to do that you are unable to do after the injury? It analyzes the non-economic damages you have suffered in terms of enjoying a certain quality of life.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been rendered quadriplegic as the result of a traumatic incident such as an auto accident or a slip-and-fall accident, etc., you need the expertise of injury lawyers who have successfully handled similar cases. The experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you.
Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.
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