Georgia paraplegic claims and quadriplegic claims stem from spinal cord injuries caused by another’s negligence. In asking, “how much is my case worth?” plaintiffs must consider that while the overall value of any Atlanta personal injury claim depends largely on the severity of injury suffered, the true extent of damages in paraplegic claims and quadriplegic claims may not be fully apparent right away.
It’s estimated there are approximately 12,000 new cases of spinal cord injury in the U.S. each year, with between 250,000 to 400,000 people living with some form or another. The Georgia Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund Commission reports approximately 540 spinal cord injuries are treated in Georgia hospitals annually, and the primary causes are falls and motor vehicle accidents.
Atlanta injury attorneys at Apolinsky & Associates LLC know damages will first hinge on the type of spinal cord injury.
- Paraplegia is paralysis of the lower body, specifically of the legs, after a spinal injury that occurs below the neck.
- Quadriplegia, also known as tetraplegia, is paralysis of all four limbs as a result of spinal injury at the base of the skull or neck.
In either scenario, one can have either partial or total paralysis, depending on whether the spinal injury is complete or incomplete. An incomplete spinal injury means the person may retain some function and feeling because messages to-and-from the brain haven’t been lost completely. One with a complete spinal injury will sustain total lack of motor and sensory function below the site of the injury.
An attorney calculating your damages will consider the full extent of one’s tangible and intangible losses to date, as well as those sustained over the course of one’s life.
Injury Lawyers Calculating Damages Consider Long-Term, Related Expenses
The value of a paraplegia or quadriplegia case goes beyond just the medical bills for trauma care and initial hospital stay, which in and of themselves can be ongoing for a lifetime.
Costs incurred include:
- Other costs related to care. These can include wheelchairs, modified homes and vehicles, medication such as antibiotics or painkillers, around-the-clock nursing care or home aide. In many cases, individuals incur travel expenses back-and-forth to receive ongoing, specialized care. They may need to cover the cost of having loved ones to come and care for them or their home or their children for a time.
- Wage loss, job loss and loss of earning power. Although some paralysis survivors never work again, those who do are usually forced to change careers or receive some new degree of job training.
- Permanent disabilities and health issues. The loss of body function in and of itself is debilitating. Making matters worse is the fact that people with paraplegia or quadriplegia often suffer other chronic adverse health impacts, such as respiratory issues, bed sores and susceptibility to certain infections. A person who has lost the use of his or her hands and and/or legs may not be able to cook as they once did, and now must pay for someone to prepare meals, shop, launder their clothes, etc.
- Loss of life quality. That means one may not be able to engage ins the life they once enjoyed or even engage in simple, daily tasks without assistance. Everyday life becomes more difficult, and often more expensive.
- Emotional pain and suffering. Losing something as fundamental as the ability to walk can be devastating. Many people who suffer sudden paraplegia or quadriplegia, whether by traumatic accident or medical error, also suffer from depression. This may require medication and therapy to work through.
As noted by the state Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund Commission, the needs of Georgians with spinal cord injuries include training and awareness, rehabilitation and wellness, service coordination, tools for independent and integrated living, personal support/attendant services and greater accessibility.
One must also consider that these injuries are permanent. They often do not get better. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, fewer than 1 percent of those diagnosed with paraplegia or quadriplegia recovered complete neurological function by the time they were discharged from the hospital.
Estimated Losses for Quadriplegia, Paraplegia Claims, Based on Spinal Injury Severity
Research published in the Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine revealed recurring annual costs for caring for patients with chronic spinal cord injury is a large economic burden on health care systems, with analysis of costs for some 675 spinal cord injury patients revealing a total of $14.5 million in direct medical costs.
According to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the cost of living with a spine injury (and this is BEFORE wage losses, fringe benefits and productivity, which in total average $72,000 annually) breaks down like this:
- High (Complete) Quadriplegia: $1.6 million the first year, $185,000 each subsequent year
- Low (Incomplete) Quadriplegia: $770,000 the first year, $114,000 each subsequent year
- Paraplegia: $519,000 the first year, $69,000 each subsequent year
A person who suffers high quadriplegia at age 25 will incur a lifetime cost of $4.7 million. A person with the same injury at age 50 incurs a lifetime cost of about $2.6 million. A person with low quadriplegia at 25 incurs a lifetime cost of $3.5 million, while a person with that same injury at 50 sustains $2.1 million in costs. A patient diagnosed with paraplegia at age 25 will rack up about $2.3 million in costs over a lifetime, while a person at 50 with the same injury will incur about $1.5 million.
The foundation reports that one year post-accident, less than 12 percent of those with a spinal cord injury are employed. Two decades post-accident, about 35 percent are employed.
Other Factors Impacting Paraplegia Claim/Quadriplegia Claim Value
It’s important to note that when our Atlanta injury lawyers know are related to a spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury or even a broken arm, when we’re answering the question of “how much is my case worth?” we can only give these generalities. In addition to severity of injuries, other variables that can impact the actual payment one receives may include:
- The circumstances under which the injury occurred. In order to prevail with a paraplegia claim or quadriplegia claim, one must first prove negligence. That means the defendant (person or company against whom the claim is filed) owed a duty of care to plaintiff that they breached, resulting in plaintiff’s injury.
- Degree of fault by non-parties. In the State of Georgia, OCGA § 51-12-33 allows for reduction and apportionment of award or a bar to recovery, based on the percentage of fault by parties and non-parties. Let’s say an Atlanta paraplegia claim stems from a trucking accident for which plaintiff sues the truck driver, but not the trucking company. If the jury deems the trucking company 30 percent liable and the truck driver 70 percent liable, plaintiff will at most receive 70 percent of the total damages from the trucker. State statute says the court must consider the fault of all persons “regardless of whether the person or entity was, or could have been, named as a party to the suit. We say “at most” because liable parties may not always have adequate insurance or insurance willing to pay that full portion of damages.
- Comparative fault. That same statute indicates that when a plaintiff is injured in part due to his or her own negligence, they can still recover damages but the amount may be proportionately reduced. If a plaintiff is 25 percent liable, total damages will be reduced by 25 percent. Georgia law follows a modified comparative negligence standard with a 50 percent bar. In other words, plaintiffs can still collect damages so long they are not more than half or more to blame.
The Atlanta personal injury attorneys at Apolinsky & Associates can help answer your questions regarding quadriplegic and paraplegic claims.
The foregoing answers are not legal advice and are merely a general overview. You are advised to consult a lawyer to address your specific situation regarding your situation. For more information or to inquire about a free consultation, contact Stephen D. Apolinsky, an experienced Atlanta spinal cord injury attorney, at Apolinsky & Associates at (404) 377-9191 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.