Spinal Cord Injury And Workers Compensation
Spinal Cord Injury Due to a Workplace Accident
Spinal cord injuries are among the most debilitating and painful injuries that workers can face. They can leave a person with overwhelming medical bills and long-term treatment needs, as well as the inability to continue to work for living.
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury on the job, you need to learn about your options for seeking compensation through workers’ compensation benefits.
At the Kenton Koszdin Law Office, our dedicated legal team has been fighting for injured and disabled workers for more than a decade. We know the ins and outs of the complicated California workers’ compensation system, and we can help you file a solid claim for benefits as well as fight through appeals if your initial claim for benefits was denied. Schedule a free consultation with our team today.
Common Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves encased by the spine, with 33 vertebrae from neck to pelvis. There are seven cervical (neck) vertebrae, 12 thoracic (upper back), five lumbar (lower back), five sacral (pelvic area), and four coccygeal vertebrae (tailbone or coccyx).
Spinal cord injuries are separated into two categories:
- Complete injuries, which result in total loss of feeling and movement below the injured section of the spine
- Incomplete injuries, which result in partial loss of function below the injured area, sometimes with one side of the body affected more than the other
The most common injury sites are cervical and thoracic, in that order. Thoracic spinal cord injuries are less common because of the protection afforded by the ribcage. Injury location dictates the effects on the body. Here’s a look at spinal cord injury sites and related effects:
- Cervical injuries, which can cause partial or full paralysis or weakness in the arms and legs
- Thoracic injuries, which can cause partial or full paralysis or weakness in the legs
- Lumbar injuries, which can cause partial or full paralysis or weakness in the legs
- Sacral injuries, which primarily cause bowel, bladder, and/or sexual dysfunction, but with a risk of weakness/paralysis of the hips and legs
No matter what type of spinal cord injury you are coping with, you are likely facing a long recovery period and the possibility of never being able to return to the job you once did. However, workers’ compensation and Social Security disability benefits are designed to help people who find themselves in this type of situation.
Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injury
Signs of a spinal cord injury can be immediately noticeable and severe. Symptoms include any or all of the following:
- Severe back pain or pressure in the head, neck, and/or back
- Any weakness, diminished coordination, or paralysis
- Any numbness or tingling
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Problems with walking or balance
- Difficulty breathing
- Unnatural positioning of the neck or back
In the course of recovery and sometimes for the remainder of the victim’s life, problems that must be dealt with may include:
- Full or partial paralysis
- Difficulty breathing, including reliance on a respirator
- Bladder and bowel dysfunction
- Infections, bedsores, pneumonia spurred by paralysis
- Chronic pain, including headaches
- Swings in mood or personality
- Sexual dysfunction, infertility, and loss of sexual desire
If the injury results in paralysis, the victim may experience either:
- Tetraplegia or quadriplegia, which is full paralysis of the arms, legs, and pelvic organs
- Paraplegia, which is paralysis of all or part of the trunk, legs, and pelvic organs
Whether the injury occurred abruptly or the spinal cord was damaged over time, the recovery process can be lengthy. A spinal cord injury patient may face months of rigorous medical care and years of expensive therapy.
Treatment for Spinal Cord Injuries
Damage to the spinal cord is irreversible. An injury’s severity dictates the complexity, length, and results of treatment, which can include:
- Emergency treatment: A patient may need immobilization, surgery (or multiple surgeries), and an array of medications to stabilize after a spinal cord injury. In extreme cases, a patient may be transferred to a spine injury center after initial care.
- Ongoing care: After the patient is stable, care shifts to preventing secondary problems such as deconditioning, muscle contractures, pressure ulcers, bowel and bladder issues, respiratory infections, and blood clots. Then, a patient will likely begin various types of therapies and perhaps be transferred to a rehabilitation facility.
- Rehabilitation: Care teams in the early stage often include physical therapists, occupational therapists, rehabilitation nurses and psychologists, social workers, dietitians, recreation therapists, and doctors specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation. A patient will also receive education about the injury, what to expect, and how to improve quality of life.
The degree and length of recovery is unique to each patient. Even people with mild to moderate spinal cord damage can face a long and arduous path to whatever their new normal will be.
There is no guarantee that returning to work will be an option, but there is little doubt that medical bills will pile up. So it is important to learn about your options for filing for workers’ compensation benefits as soon as possible after an injury.
Our Workers’ Compensation Attorney Is Here for You
If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury on the job, our knowledgeable legal team can help you file for the benefits you need. The Kenton Koszdin Law Office is dedicated to serving disabled and injured people who are battling for workers’ compensation and/or Social Security disability payments that they desperately need to support themselves.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation. We recognize the special needs many of our clients have, so our team is also available for a free in-home consultation. Our goal is to take as much of the burden off you as possible.