When you or a loved one in injured in an accident, time is of the essence to get medical and legal assistance. Medical help is your first priority to ensure no additional injuries occur, but next should consulting a personal injury lawyer.
Head and spinal injuries are difficult to deal with. Arm yourself with as much information as possible to hire the best attorney early in the process, especially if another person or company could be at fault.
Find an Attorney Fast
It's best to hire a personal injury attorney experienced with head and spinal injuries. He or she also needs a good understanding of medicine and rehabilitation and how your injuries could affect your quality of life.
Most personal injury attorneys take these cases on a contingency fee basis. That means the attorney doesn't get paid legal fees unless you win in trial or collect a settlement.
There's a time limit on how long you can wait to file your case against the person or business that caused your injury. The time limit is set by laws called statutes of limitations. This time limit usually starts ticking at the time of the injury, and it can be as short as six months or a year if you make a claim against the government.
When to Look for an Attorney
Start putting your legal case together right away by hiring an attorney immediately. Memories fade and evidence disappears quickly. The sooner you hire an attorney, the sooner your attorney can contact witnesses and preserve evidence about the accident that caused your injury.
Also, an attorney can often help ease your financial stress. Your lawyer may be able to have your medical bills paid. Or, your attorney may arrange for health care providers to wait for payment until your claims against insurers or other parties are resolved.
Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord is the major bundle of nerves that runs from your head down your back to carry nerve impulses to and from your brain to the rest of your body. It consists of four regions: cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral.
Usually, the further up the spinal cord the injury occurs, the more severe the injury. The type of injury will generally identify where on the spinal cord the injury occurred and what, if anything, can be done to improve function after the injury.
Auto accidents are the most common cause of spinal cord injuries. These injuries also occur as a result of sports, falls and violent acts.
Brain injuries can include:
- Tearing of the delicate brain tissue, such as from a sudden impact
- Bruising, caused by impact to the skull
- Deprivation of oxygen, called "anoxic" brain injury
Traumatic brain injury can cause:
- Concentration and memory problems
- Behavior and personality changes
- Loss of senses, such as touch or smell
- Depression and anxiety
- Impaired speech and vision
Who Is Legally Responsible?
Workers compensation should cover your medical expenses if you're injured on the job. You may also be able to sue a third party, such as a general contractor if your injury was the result of a malfunctioning machine. You and your attorney need to prove negligence for you to recover any money.
You might also file a claim against the treating hospital, your HMO or doctors if your injury was made worse by poor medical treatment.
Even if you're partly to blame for the injury, you may still be able to recover some of your expenses. Many states have comparative negligence or comparative fault laws. They allow your loss to be divided according to your amount of fault. For example, a jury might find you were 20 percent at fault and the other party was 80 percent at fault in causing your injury. The other party would have to pay for 80 percent of your loss.
In other states known as contributory negligence states, you can't recover any compensation if your own negligence substantially contributed to the injury.
Your personal injury attorney will collect evidence for use in trial or settlement negotiations with insurance companies. The evidence could include:
- Medical and rehab records
- Witness statements and observations
- Police reports and workplace incident reports
- Reports by forensic experts, such as accident reconstructionists
- Expert medical opinions about the cause and extent of your injury
As a victim of a head or spinal injury, you may be able to collect money for the following types of loss:
- Economic damages, including medical care and rehab costs, nursing home care, loss of earnings and loss of earning capacity
- Noneconomic damages, such as for your pain and suffering, disfigurement and loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium, meaning loss of sexual or intimate relations, on behalf of your spouse
- Alterations to your home
- Costs of personal assistance
- Future medical treatment and rehab costs
- Costs of altered transportation and mobility help
It's important to find a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after your accident, so evidence can be properly preserved and you can get the compensation you need and deserve.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Do I have to have a medical exam by a doctor selected by the other party's insurer?
- I was knocked out and dizzy, but my head injury doesn't seem that bad. Do I still have a legal claim?
- I have headaches due to an accident that occurred years ago. Is it too late to file a lawsuit for this injury?