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What to Do When You Suffer a Spinal Cord Injury in an Indiana Car Crash

Spinal Cord Injuries and Car WrecksThere is no doubt that cars are safer than they have ever been. With crash avoidance technology and occupant protection features, most of us are safer in our cars today than we were 20 years ago. However, cars are also faster, bigger, and more numerous than ever before, resulting in nearly 3 million people being injured in motor vehicle collisions each year. Close to 40,000 people were killed in car crashes in 2016. One of the most serious injuries a car accident victim can suffer is damage to the spinal cord. We take a look at this devastating injury and why those who suffer a spinal cord injury in a car crash should consider hiring an attorney to represent them when they seek damages from the at-fault driver.

How Spinal Cord Injuries Occur in Crashes

According to the Mayo Clinic, car and motorcycle crashes are the most common cause of spinal cord injury, accounting for 35 percent of new injuries each year. An impact force from any direction in a car crash will affect the back and spinal cord, jerking it violently back and forth or from side to side, causing a variety of injuries to the soft tissue and bones surrounding the spinal cord. These injuries can be life-threatening and often result in permanent damage, including paralysis and chronic pain.

Spinal Cord Injuries Commonly Sustained in Car Crashes

No matter what kind of crash you are involved in, your back is at risk for injury. While shoulder harnesses do a good job of keeping you secured in your seat, there is enough give in the seat belt's tension that the back is vulnerable to injury. Motor vehicle collisions can cause the following back and spinal cord injuries:

  • Herniated discs. Between each vertebra in the back sits a soft cushion known as a vertebral disc. When the back suffers trauma, the disc can bulge out or even break open, causing extreme chronic pain. A rear-end or head-on collision could easily cause a herniated disc.
  • Soft tissue damage. A collision can also violently stretch or tear the ligaments, tendons, and muscles surrounding the vertebra. This type of back injury affects thousands of nerve endings, resulting in mild to excruciating pain.
  • Fractures. When extreme force is applied to the back, bones can be fractured. Depending on the direction of the force, the vertebrae can be compressed until they fracture or the violent motion can exert enough pressure on the bones to cause them to break. When a fragment of bone lodges in the spinal cord itself, paralysis from that point down can result.
  • Whiplash. While often thought of as a less serious neck injury, whiplash can be very painful and require long-term physical therapy to recover from. Whiplash can occur in even minor fender-bender crashes.

Because the spinal cord is an essential part of the central nervous system, when it is damaged the consequences can be severe and recovery can be a long and difficult process, if it is even possible.

Treatments for Back Injuries

Some back injuries cannot be cured and sufferers require ongoing physical therapy and pain management techniques. Catastrophic spinal cord damage cannot be reversed and victims will suffer permanent paralysis. Forms of treatment for other types of back injuries include the following:

  • Medication. Chronic pain caused by a bulging disc may be managed with over-the-counter pain medication or narcotic pain relievers.
  • Physical therapy and chiropractic care. Less serious soft-tissue injuries may be treated with physical therapy, massage, or chiropractic techniques. With therapy and rest, many people recover from these injuries in a few months.
  • Surgery. There are surgical options for spinal cord injuries, from minor procedures to risky and invasive surgeries. When successful, these procedures can eliminate pain and return full functioning, but they can be costly.

How a Spinal Cord Injury Attorney Can Help

A serious spinal cord injury can require years of expensive medical treatments and, in cases of paralysis, life-long personal care. When you or a loved one is suffering following a car accident, you need an attorney who knows what kind of settlement you will need to ensure the best possible outcome. When another driver caused the accident that left you injured, he should pay. Contact Keller & Keller in Indianapolis or Granger to discuss the crash that caused your spinal cord injury.

 

Jim Keller
Partner at Keller & Keller

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How Much Is My Car Accident Injury Claim Worth?

Before we look at the factors that determine the value of your car accident claim, know this: NO ONE can initially tell you what your car accident claim is worth; not until you tell your version of the story, liability is nailed down, your medical treatment is finished, and an experienced personal injury law firm has reviewed your case.

And it's ok not to have an immediate dollar amount thrown at you. After all, if your accident had a "price tag," then there would be no opportunity for you to present your particular case, meaning you'd potentially risk shorting yourself thousands of dollars, or the entire claim!

(Having settled thousands of personal injury cases, we are certain of one fact: No two clients are alike, no two car accidents are alike, no matter how similar they seem.)

Our firm's #1 goal is likely similar to your own at the moment: recover the maximum amount of compensation for the accident. The way to ensure you receive a fair settlement is to present a professional and persuasive case that is supported by medical documentation and measurable course(s) of treatment, e.g., physical therapy.

WHAT FACTORS CAN INCREASE MY CASE VALUE?

You're likely worried about hospital bills, property damage, lost wages, and a possible change in lifestyle, so a quick settlement may seem attractive. However, as time passes, most clients are thankful they took the time to consult with someone who could advise them of future factors that could potentially increase their case value.

Scenarios that can increase the value of a car accident case might include:

  • The client's injuries worsened over time, leading to unforeseen treatments and costly procedures.
  • The client didn't predict the type and/or duration of treatment their injuries required.
  • The client didn't anticipate the strain the accident would place on their personal life.
  • The client didn't account for the long-term psychological effects.

These points are common after-effects accident victims are unable to predict immediately following their accident, and the insurance company is going to try and settle with you before any of these scenarios occur.

Ultimately, your damages are likely to have additional value if presented to an insurance company by way of experienced legal representation. Having an attorney allows you to take the time you need to ultimately see the full picture of your claim, and remember, once you sign a release of all claims, you're essentially telling the insurance company they're "off the hook."

ARE SIMILAR ACCIDENT TYPES WORTH THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY?

Each person is unique, each accident is unique, every case has unique value, and there are no exceptions to this rule. Let's look at an example:

  • Driver A is a young pregnant female with no pre-existing medical conditions. She has been involved in a rear-end car accident collision. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital for examination of back and neck pain. The doctors diagnose her with whiplash and prescribe her a course of treatment that is consistent with the needs of her pregnancy. She completes treatment and is released soon after.
  • Driver B is a middle-aged male with prior back surgery. He has also been involved in a rear-end style car accident collision and is experiencing neck and back pain. He was not able to visit a doctor until two weeks after the crash due to fear of missing work and losing his job. When he is able to visit the doctor, he is diagnosed with whiplash and is prescribed a course of physical therapy. He is released soon after.

Let's also assume that Driver A and Driver B were rear-ended at the same spot on the same highway on the same day. Additionally, the vehicles that struck A & B were traveling at the same speed at the time of impact. Weather conditions were the same for both accidents, and both A & B and the adverse drivers have the same insurance companies, etc.

What does all this mean?

Despite everything we know about driver's A & B accident details, their claims will have different values!

Even with all the listed similarities, it's very unlikely that driver A & B will undergo the similar medical treatment for their injuries; respond to treatment in the same manner; or experience the same types of aggravation and frustration in the days and months after their accident.

IS IT TRUE THAT I'LL GET THREE TIMES THE MEDICAL BILLS FOR MY ACCIDENT CLAIM?

This "formula" is an estimate that has often been thought of by many as a way to value car accident claims. And though it is true that you may receive three times your medical bills, it's also just as likely that you'll receive more or less.

In short, never assume the value of your car accident claim is simply "3 x's your medical bills."

WHAT THINGS CAN I RECOVER FOR IN MY CAR ACCIDENT CLAIM?

There are typically 3 components we look to recover for in a personal injury case that arises from a car accident:

  1. Past and future medical bills
  2. Past and future lost wages, or loss of earning capacity
  3. Past and future pain, suffering, disfigurement, and disability

Again, the numbered factors above don't apply to every case, and you should always have an experienced injury lawyer evaluate your specific claim.

IS THERE EVER AN INSTANCE IN WHICH I CAN IMMEDIATELY KNOW MY CASE VALUE?

Accidents that leave a person with traumatic injuries; broken bones; the need for surgery; permanent hardware; and/or cause death, may constitute what is known as a "policy limits demand."

In these instances, our personal injury attorneys will immediately notify the adverse insurance company of our representation of a client and ask that they send us what is known as a "certified declarations (DEC) sheet." This document will reveal the total amount of available dollars under the liable party's policy.

Once we receive the DEC sheet we will be able to tell you how much money is available, and whether or not your injuries justify asking for the entire amount. However, it will still be very difficult to predict the value of your car accident claim, because other factors will almost certainly play a role.

For instance, we may be able to reduce certain medical bills on your behalf so that you're not required to pay back the full amount, thus increasing your settlement. We may also be able to secure Underinsured Motorists Coverage (UIM) from your policy in the event that the adverse policy limits are inadequate.

ASK AN ATTORNEY TO REVIEW THE INSURANCE POLICY.

Asking an experienced personal injury attorney to examine an insurance policy ensures you aren't leaving money on the table. Policies can be confusing, full of difficult-to-understand contract language, some of which is applicable to your case, and some that isn't.

If your everyday job doesn't require you to review insurance policies, then your chance of fully understanding available coverage will be challenging. Fortunately, we have more than 75 years of locating and examining insurance polices for car accident victims, so we can help guide you and youir family in the right direction at no cost.

Ultimately, speaking with an experienced injury law firm about your case is an excellent step toward determining what your car accident case is worth.