Answers to Your Personal Injury, Workers Compensation, and Medical Malpractice Legal Questions
At KCAIA we know that it is essential for every brain or spine injury victim to get good information about how to pursue their accident claim. That’s why we’ve collected some of the most frequently asked questions we hear from concerned clients. Learn everything you may need to know about how Kansas & Missouri state laws apply to your injury claim here!
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How much does it cost for long-term care of a spinal cord injury?
One of the most devastating outcomes of a serious car or truck accident is a spinal cord injury (SCI) that leaves a victim paralyzed. This kind of catastrophic injury requires the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney who understands the astronomical costs of such an injury and will fight to get the maximum compensation possible from all liable parties.
Many advances have been made in the care and assistance available to those suffering from an SCI, but they all come at a cost. Learn more about what you or your loved one will need to live your best life following an SCI caused by a car or truck accident.
Caring for an SCI Survivor
Every year, an estimated 17,000 people survive a spinal cord injury and require treatment and care. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, the majority of these injuries—about 38 percent—are the result of motor vehicle accidents. While the treatment and follow-up care needed varies according to the severity of the injury, medical expenses can easily exceed $500,000 in the first year alone.
Victims and their families can expect to incur the following expenses:
- Emergency services. The medical care needed immediately after the accident may include an air ambulance, use of a specialized trauma center, and life-saving surgical procedures.
- Spinal surgery. Additional surgeries may be required for spinal stabilization, spinal fusion, and respiratory care.
- Rehabilitation. Most SCI victims require a period of rehabilitation to regain some function or to learn to use assistive devices.
- Long-term care. Severe cases may require moving to an assisted living facility or bringing in home healthcare workers.
- Medical equipment. Wheelchairs, respirators, and other assistive devices will be necessary for almost all SCI victims.
- Medications. Antibiotics to fight infection and painkillers will be required by many patients as they recover or for the rest of their lives.
An attorney experienced with catastrophic injuries such as an SCI knows that the cost of the initial medical interventions is only a small part of what will be needed to make the victim “whole.” That is why an attorney may wait until the prognosis is clear. Only at that point can he know what kind of a settlement he needs to try to negotiate.
Estimated Lifetime Costs of an SCI
According to the Christopher & Dana Reed Foundation, the average costs associated with an SCI vary greatly depending on the particular injury. Nearly half of all new SCI cases each year result in incomplete tetraplegia, an injury which affects all four limbs, but the ability of the spinal cord to convey messages to or from the brain is not completely lost and some sensation and movement is possible below the level of injury. Twenty percent of SCIs result in incomplete paraplegia, meaning functioning below the waist is affected.
The foundation estimates the following costs for each type of injury:
- Tetraplegia originating in the upper spine: $1,064,716 for the first year, $184,891 a year for each subsequent year.
- Tetraplegia originating below the neck: $769,351 for the first year, $113,423 a year for each subsequent year.
- Paraplegia: $518,904 for the first year, $68,739 a year for each subsequent year.
The lifetime expenses for a 25-year-old who suffers a high-level spinal cord injury can reach nearly $5 million. A 25-year-old whose SCI results in paraplegia can expect lifetime expenses exceeding $2 million. These figures don't account for the victim’s loss of ability to earn a living due to his or her injuries. These losses average an additional $72,000 per year.
A Catastrophic Injury Attorney Can Make Sure Your Needs Are Met
When you or a loved one suffers a spinal cord injury in a car or truck crash that was not the victim’s fault, you need an attorney who knows what your family requres to live the best possible life with partial or total paralysis. These negotiations can take time, but given the costs victims face, it'll be worth the wait. Contact us at Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys to learn more about spinal cord injury claims.
How can I help my loved one accept his spinal cord injury diagnosis?
You thought the hardest part was hearing the news of the crash that left your loved one seriously injured. Once you learned that he had survived, you believed it could only get better. After a diagnosis of partial paralysis due to a spinal cord injury, however, both of your lives got much harder. After finding out all you can about the injury from his medical team, finding ways to help your loved one come to terms with his injury can make life a little easier for both of you.
Accepting the Diagnosis
As with any loss or traumatic experience, a debilitating injury requires the victim to work through the stages of loss and grief. It is important that you support your loved one as he progresses through the following stages:
- Denial. Victims of paralysis often refuse to believe the doctors when they are first told of their prognosis. This reaction is a very common defense mechanism that is actually serving to protect the victim from the initial shock.
- Anger. Once the victim begins to accept his or her new reality, the next response is often anger. The anger may be directed at the doctor or it may come down on family and caregivers.
- Bargaining. In an effort to regain control, the victim may go through a stage in which he or she attempts to make deals with family members, doctors, or even God to undo the damage that has been done.
- Depression. It is easy for a victim of traumatic injury to get stuck in this stage of grief. Feelings of hopelessness and frustration can be overwhelming. A great deal of support and professional help will be needed to move through this stage.
- Acceptance. Hopefully, the victim is eventually able to accept his or her situation and can begin to move forward in his or her rehabilitation and recovery.
There is no standard timeline for an accident victim to come to terms with his condition, so it is important that you are patient with him and seek outside help whenever you feel that progress is not being made.
Once a spinal cord injury victim has accepted his prognosis, you can offer support in the following ways:
- Empower him and yourself by gathering as much information about your specific injury and prognosis as possible.
- Check out local and national support groups such as the National Spinal Cord Injury Association and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.
- Avoid random Internet surfing for information. You will come across a lot of misinformation that could be discouraging and delay progress.
Let Us Help With the Rest
You will have enough on your plate helping your loved one accept his injury and make a plan for recovery. Let the attorneys at Kansas City Accident Injury take care of seeking the justice and monetary award he deserves from the negligent driver who caused the crash and his spinal cord injury. Our experienced car crash attorneys are here to help you.
How can a car crash result in a spinal cord injury?
When you or a loved one suffers a spinal cord injury in a car crash, it probably doesn’t matter a great deal to you how it happened. You are focused on recovery and facing a future of permanent impairment. However, when it’s time to look into seeking a recovery for an accident that was not your fault, how the injury occurred could become very important.
Your Spinal Cord Is Vulnerable in a Crash
While it may seem obvious that traumatic injuries are a likely outcome of high-speed, violent crashes, spinal cord damage can also be caused by less dramatic accidents. The following are examples of accidents and failures that could lead to a spinal cord injury:
- Rollovers. Most common in SUVs with a high center of gravity, rollovers are the likeliest cause of spinal cord injury in car accident victims. If the roof collapses, it can come in contact with the occupants’ head, neck, and spine even if they are wearing their seatbelts.
- Seatbelt failures. Faulty seatbelt design can lead to seatbelts that rip apart, don’t fit tightly enough, or unlatch during impact. If this happens, the occupant can be thrown about the car, or even out of the vehicle, where the impact can damage the spine.
- Power windows. Power windows do not retract when they come in contact with an object. As a result, young children suffer serious neck injuries every year by being caught in a closing window.
- Seat back collapse. A faulty seat back can collapse on impact, either causing the occupant to be thrown from the vehicle or crushing the occupant’s back as it collapses.
- Suspension defects. Suspension defects can affect the steering, causing the driver to lose control and crash.
- Tire tread separation. When tire treads separate unexpectedly, the driver can lose control of the car. looking at legal action against a negligent driver or against a manufacturer for a defective product. Either way, the attorneys at Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys can help you. Call today for a free consultation.
Why do EMTs use coma ratings after a crash even when a person is awake?
It may seem strange to assign someone a coma rating when they are sitting up and talking. However, if you are in an ambulance on your way to Truman Medical Center, the answers to these questions can prove useful to the doctors that are about to treat you—especially if your condition worsens during the ride.
How Coma Ratings Indicate Brain Injury After a Crash
There are a number of ways EMTs and doctors will try to measure the extent of a brain injury, including:
- Loss of consciousness. Doctors will often use the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) to evaluate eye function, body movements, and verbal response to judge how well a person’s brain is functioning after a crash. A patient who is fully conscious may be rated at 15 (the highest score), while a score of 9 indicates that the person has emerged from a coma but is not yet fully awake.
- Changes in ratings. Emergency personnel may also use the changes in a patient’s answers and responses to evaluate how his condition is progressing. This is why a victim’s first GCS score is often done at the accident site or in an ambulance by emergency responders, taken again upon arrival at the hospital, tested after surgery, and continually evaluated as a person recovers under hospital supervision.
- Post-traumatic amnesia. Another factor doctors use to assess the severity of a brain injury is post-traumatic amnesia. Patients often cannot remember names, the date, or other important information after a severe blow to the head, or may repeat things throughout a conversation. The longer this period of amnesia lasts, the more likely it is that the patient has suffered severe brain damage.
Remember: there are many ways to examine the extent of a brain injury, but every patient will recover at a different rate. To learn how to make your loved one’s next few months as comfortable and relaxed as possible, click the link on this page to read through our free report, Brain Injury Survivor’s Guide.
Can adjusting the driver’s seat prevent a serious back injury?
You may have heard stories about drivers who suffered head-on collisions and walked away, or low-speed crash victims who never walked again. Is it possible that the position of the driver’s head rest could make the difference between whiplash and a spinal cord injury?
Minor Adjustments to the Driver’s Seat Can Prevent a Major Back Injury
While you can’t stop a car from rear-ending you in the Northland Corners parking lot, you could be able to lessen the damage the other driver does to your car—and your body. Studies have shown that the placement of the seat, steering wheel, and head rest can all make a significant difference in the level of injury a driver suffers in a crash.
Here are a few tips from AAA on how to correctly position the driver’s seat before taking off:
- Tilt angle. Your seat should be as upright as possible, so that you are comfortable and sitting squarely behind the steering wheel.
- Head restraint. Your head restraint should be within 3 inches of the back of your head, with the top of the restraint hitting a point slightly above your ears.
- Steering wheel. Sitting too close to the steering wheel can increases fatigue and stress, and also makes it more difficult to steer. You are also more likely to suffer a broken ribs if the airbag deploys. There should be between 10 and 12 inches from the center of the steering wheel to your breastbone.
- Seat location. Your seat should be locked in a position where you can easily switch between the gas and brake pedals without lifting your heel off the floor. Drivers shorter than 5 feet 4 inches may also adjust the height of the pedals (or use pedal extensions).
- Check windows. If you are properly positioned in the driver’s seat, you should be able to see up to two car widths to the right side, and one car width to the left side. You should also be able to see the ground at least 12 feet in front of you.
Remember: taking small precautions every day can help you avoid lifelong injury. Feel free to share this link on Facebook to help all the drivers in your family stay safe behind the wheel!
Can nausea and concentration problems be symptoms of severe brain injury?
Yes. While headaches are often the most common symptom of brain injury, trauma to the head and neck can cause damage throughout the brain and nervous system. For example, if you were struck at the intersection of Front Street and I-435, and hit the left side of your head, you may have trouble moving the arm and leg on the right side of your body. This "cross-over effect" is a result of brain damage on the opposite side of the brain.
Other common symptoms of traumatic brain injury that crash victims should look out for include:
- Loss of consciousness.
- Prolonged pupil dilation or unequal pupil size.
- Vision problems, such as blurry vision, seeing double, sensitivity to bright light, or sudden blindness.
- Dizziness or loss of balance.
- Difficulty hearing or a noticeable ringing in the ears.
- Trouble breathing (especially with increased blood pressure).
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Fatigue (especially an inability to wake up and stay awake easily).
- Body weakness, numbness, coordination problems, or paralysis.
- Confusion or difficulty thinking (includes memory problems, lost attention span, or affected processing speed).
- Emotional outbursts or inappropriate responses (such as sudden crying or laughing).
- Mood changes (such as irritability, frustration, or sudden risk-taking).
- Slurred speech or other difficulty with speaking.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Clear liquid (spinal fluid) running from the ears or nose.
- Loss of bowel and bladder control.
Traumatic brain injury can have a wide range of symptoms, so it is important that you seek medical attention after any trauma to the head. Even if you feel fine after the crash, you may have suffered a significant injury than can only be seen with an imaging scan. If caught early, you may be able to avoid a stroke or potential brain damage. For more information on common brain injury problems, read through our free e-book, Brain Injury Survivor's Guide.
My friend is talking about suicide after suffering a brain injury. What can I do?
Unfortunately, it is common for brain injury victims to become depressed, and even consider suicide as a result of their conditions. According to a recent study, people who suffer a traumatic brain injury have a much higher risk of dying prematurely. The leading causes of death include assault, additional brain trauma, and suicide.
The study also identified which patients are most at risk of premature death after a brain injury:
- Drug users – Over half of all premature deaths after a brain injury were linked to drug or alcohol abuse. Some as a result of an addiction before the trauma and some developed after the accident.
- Thrill seekers – Many athletes who suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) will return to the dangerous activities that injured them in the first place, making it likely that they will suffer additional injury. Victims who suffer behavioral effects from a TBI are more likely to become impulsive and indulge in risky behavior, increasing the chances of further head trauma.
- Soldiers – A disproportionate number of soldiers and veterans are at risk of suicide after a brain injury, possibly because they are more likely to be affected by psychiatric illness.
- Isolated patients – Many patients who do not go to their regular follow-up appointments, or deny that they need help coping with the strain of their condition, may be unable to conquer the biological and social changes that are happening inside them. A strong support network is the best prevention for a depression cycle that can lead to self-harm.
The best thing you can do for your friend is to be supportive and available. If he is mobile, try to get him out of his home and help get him into a treatment program as soon as possible. For more ideas on helping a brain injury victim recover, read through our free e-book, Brain Injury Survivor's Guide.
How can a support group for brain injury victims help me recover from a TBI?
They told you that there was nothing you could have done to prevent the car accident that caused your brain injury. But you just can’t shake this feeling of anger and regret. Maybe you should have taken Blue Ridge Boulevard instead of I-49, or called in sick instead of making the long drive in the rain. You can’t seem to turn your brain off, and the more you think, the angrier you become. You can’t even enjoy your daily activities because your brain is working so much slower than usual.
It’s not uncommon for victims to feel agitated or depressed after a brain injury. In fact, you may be able to take some small comfort in the fact that anger is a normal phase of brain injury recovery. In time, you will learn to adapt to the way your mind works, creating new ways of coping so that you can continue living a normal life.
There are many ways you can help this process along. For example, many recovering victims can find the help they need through brain injury support groups. Here, patients are able to:
- Share information. Victims often feel that their families are unable to help them because they don’t understand what the injury is like. People who have faced the same difficulties you are facing may have practical ideas and suggestions that you can apply to your own life.
- Talk about their frustrations. In addition to solving your problems, those who have been through the healing process understand that you need to “vent” your frustration. This can help you make sense of your life after injury, and help you get ready to plan for the future.
- Tend to their relationships. Both group members and therapists can help you understand your new role in your family, as well as bring family members together to discuss problems during recovery.
It is important that you stay calm as new complications arise, and give yourself as much time as you need to recover. Get more information on brain injury recovery in our free e-book, Brain Injury Survivor's Guide.
How can I help someone with their brain injury recovery?
Many brain injury victims have lived through the most terrifying experience of their lives, only to endure something even more frightening: not knowing who they are. It can be a harrowing experience to visit someone in your family who is working through a serious TBI at Truman Medical Center, trying to make them feel comfortable when they are frustrated, depressed, or even unresponsive.
How Can We Prepare for a Loved One’s Brain Injury?
There are many things a family can do to help a victim during the different stages of their brain injury recovery. The first step is to give the patient plenty of rest and allow the initial injury to heal. Once the patient has become medically stable, his doctor will explain the full extent of his injury to you and let you know what can reasonably be expected in his recovery. In most cases, the victim will be referred into a brain injury treatment program where specialists can help improve his or her sensory responses and coach family members on how to successfully interact with their family member.
Brain injury specialists will evaluate the victim and work with the family to develop a treatment plan. This second stage of recovery focuses on orienting the victim back into his or her life. This usually includes telling him where he or she is, why he or she is there, and answering questions to reduce confusion and make the patient more comfortable.
Once the patient has acclimated to his or her surroundings, the treatment may shift to improving cognitive abilities. Cognitive therapists can help find ways to improve a patient’s memory, lengthening his attention span, developing a plan for solving daily problems, and practicing organizational skills. Therapists may also encourage patients to seek out small gatherings to improve social skills and evaluate the patient’s level of self-care.
The last stage of treatment involves getting the patient ready for life outside of the treatment facility. Independence relies on both the ability to take care of daily needs and the ability to communicate. This is why a speech-language pathologist may be called upon to help the victim improve speech and language skills.
Vocational rehabilitation specialists may also be asked to devise a plan to transition the patient back into work or school.
For more ways you can help a brain injury victim in your family, click the link on this page to download our FREE e-book, Brain Injury Survivor's Guide.
How can I prove that my car accident is responsible for a traumatic brain injury?
The brain is a delicate organ, and any injury to it can have both physical and emotional effects. Unfortunately, a judge and jury are going to be wary of any injury they cannot see. If your head injury has caused you to have behavioral or mental difficulties, you have the added burden of proving that your suffering is real.
How Can I Prove That the Accident Caused My Brain Injury?
You may think that providing your medical records as evidence would be sufficient enough to win your case. However, many diagnostic tests used to detect and grade brain injuries may be inconclusive. Similarly, any paperwork that shows you were unable to go to your job due to a head injury will prove that you were out of work, but not that it was your injury that kept you out. Lastly, the most common symptom among injury victims—pain—is a subjective term and hard to show to a judge without a broken bone or similar root cause to identify with.
What you must remember is that no two brain injuries are the same. This is both good news and bad news for your case, as the opposing attorney may attempt to show that you are not as badly injured as you claim. The opposing attorney may ask questions intended to downplay your injury, such as asking whether you lost consciousness or if your head made contact with another object. He may also point to a lack of objective evidence, such as test results, that “confirm” the minor nature of your injury.
On the other hand, your own attorney will have to convince the jury that brain injuries go well beyond symptoms experienced by other victims. One way your attorney may help your case is to use an expert medical witness to provide testimony that supports your case based on other injuries he has witnessed. The medical witness may be able to explain that many drivers have sustained traumatic brain injuries in car accidents even though their heads did not strike an object—merely from the forward and backward motion of the brain within the skull.
For more help on winning your brain injury case, click the link on this page to contact our offices today or download our FREE e-book, Brain Injury Survivor's Guide.