According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Center (NSCIC), each year in the United States 17,700 people sustain a spinal cord injury (SCI). There are approximately 288,000 individuals with SCI currently living in the U.S. The major causes of these injuries include automobile crashes (38 percent), falls (32 percent), violent actions (14 percent), sports activities (8 percent), and medical/surgeries (5 percent).
If you have suffered a spinal injury, you are highly familiar with the turmoil and pain that is involved. Due to the debilitating and painful nature of SCI, victims are compelled to absorb exorbitant medical costs that can produce an unbearable financial burden. Beyond the skyrocketing medical expenses involved, spinal cord injuries can lead to loss of employment and income, intense emotional distress, and recurring, chronic, and life altering physical pain. For those who have sustained a spinal cord injury or complete paralysis as a result of another party’s negligence, a legal path to financial compensation does exist.
Economic damages from SCI
Before taking your case for compensation into a court of law, it is important to accumulate as much information and documentation as possible concerning your economic losses. These losses include those stemming from your injury such as lost income, medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and other less transparent expenses, in addition to the forecasted long-term costs in these categories.
Various factors will determine the exact quantity of medical expenses, including the nature of the injury and its severity, the type of medical care and treatment you need, and the number of different medical services you require. Common medical expenses include those for:
- Trauma care
- Spinal surgery
- Medical equipment (i.e. wheelchair) and medication
- In-home aides
The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation has provided estimated total medical expenses for various spinal cord injury conditions. (Individuals’ costs may vary, of course, but these might give you a ballpark figure.) With a high tetraplegia condition, your medical expenses for year one are $1,064,716. With low tetraplegia, year one costs amount to $769,351. With paraplegia, the medical expenses reach $518,904 in the first year. Individuals with incomplete motor function are responsible for $347,484 in the first year. These are the short-term medical costs. Long-term medical costs include annual payments, too, ranging from $42,206 every year for incomplete motor function, to $184,891 every year for high tetraplegia.
The estimated costs over a lifetime for those suffering a particular form of spinal cord injury are truly staggering. A 25-year-old with any level of incomplete motor function can spend as much as $1.5 million on medical costs alone, whereas a 25-year-old with high tetraplegia is looking at more than $4.7 million.
Remember, those averages are only on medical costs: on average, one year after the incident, fewer than 12 percent of spinal cord injury victims are employed, with only about 35 percent employed two decades after the injury. The potential income loss for an individual working consistently between the ages of 25 and 65 and earning a median wage of $25,000 per year, could equate to about $1 million. The losses are higher for those with higher income potential.
Additional economic losses include smaller expenses such as travel to and from rehabilitation centers, meals to and from the hospital, parking expenses at facilities providing treatment, among others.
All of this is calculated on the current numbers. In 10 years, the cost of living will be higher, as will the costs have associated with medical care (one assumes). Therefore, the average costs of living with SCI will rise.
Non-economic damages of SCI
There are additional intangible losses that result from SCI beyond the concrete financial losses mentioned above. These can include emotional distress, persistent pain, sterility, loss of enjoyment, among other immaterial losses. Family members may also experience non-economic damages as they suffer the impact of their loved one’s injury.
It is important to document the impact of the injury upon your life and the lives of your loved ones in order to substantiate noneconomic losses. This may include retaining records from a doctor of the persistent recurrence of pain resulting from the injury.
At Gainsberg Law, our Chicago personal injury attorneys understand the tremendous impact a spinal cord injury can have on an individual and his or her family. If you have suffered a spinal cord injury due to the negligence of another party, we can help you sort through the necessary records, review and organize your case, and fight on your behalf to secure the compensation you deserve for your losses. To arrange a free consultation about your case, call our law office today at 312.313.1621 or complete our contact form.