Top-Rated Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys
Not only is Keller & Keller one of the nation's most recognized and successful personal injury law firms, we are also one of the most experienced with spinal cord injury litigation. Our spinal cord injury attorneys have settled full and partial paralysis cases throughout the several states across the country and we continue handling these cases for our clients on a daily basis.
Keller & Keller's history of helping clients who have suffered permanent injuries to their spine dates back to 1936. That's more than 75 years of perfecting trial strategy for these cases, as well as developing rich, lasting relationships with our clients and their families.
Spinal Cord Injury Statistics and Types
Each year in the United States there are between 12,000 to 15,000 reported incidents that involve a serious spinal cord injury. Approximately 10,000 of these people are permanently paralyzed, and a number of others die as a result of their injury.
The majority of spinal cord injury cases involve young, healthy individuals, with males between the ages of 15 and 35 accounting for the highest affected percentage. And the vast majority of these injuries are the result of a car accident, a fall, or surgical error. (According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistics Center (NSCISC), motor vehicle accidents account for 36.5% of all new spinal cord injury cases, by far the highest of any category.)
Level and Type: We classify our client's spinal cord injury by "level" and "type." The level refers to the specific area of the spine that was damaged and the type describes the physical limitations that are caused by the injury. We'll examine the level and then discuss the type below.
Level of Spinal Cord Injury
In short, the higher up on the spinal cord where the injury occurs, the greater the the side-effects. The spine is divided into three distinct areas:
The vertebrae of the spine closest to the brain contain the High Cervical Nerves (C1-C4). When these vertebrae are damaged, the accident victim risks suffering the most serious of side effects that are associated with spinal cord injuries. We've created a chart to illustrate where on the spine the affected vertebrae exist and what limitations a person may experience with this type of injury.
The next set of vertebrae in a person's spine are the Low Cervical Nerves (C5-C8). Similar to the high cervical nerves, any injury to these vertebrae can cause life-altering side-effects. You can view the low cervical nerve chart here as well as learn more about the disabilities associated with this injury.
The middle of the spine contains Thoracic Vertebrae (T1-T12). This area of the spine is what controls a person' stability, allowing a person to sit and stand upright, while giving support for all of the organs in the upper torso. Damage to this area of the spine can also produce serious life-long after effects, but is not associated with a complete loss of mobility. To see the list of side effects associated with thoracic vertebrae injury, view the chart and blog entry here.
Directly beneath the low cervical nerves are a person's Lumbar Nerves (L1-L5). A client that has suffered a spinal injury in the lumbar area will experience compromised strength and ability to lift, bend, twist, and turn. To view the side effects associated with a serious spinal lumbar injury, please refer to this chart.
The lowest point of a person's spine contains the Sacral Nerves (S1-S5). When a client has suffered damage to this area of the spine, it typically means that there will be serious side effects, however, there is generally no indication of permanent paralysis or inability to walk. To view a complete listing of limitations associated with Sacral Nerve damage, view the chart found here.
Type of Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injuries are classified as either Complete or Incomplete, and depending on the classification, the side effects can greatly vary.Complete: As we mentioned earlier, Samantha suffered the most serious type of spinal cord injury, otherwise known as a complete injury. When a person sustains a complete spinal cord injury it means that the entire width of the spine in that particular area is completely affected. This will leave the victim with no muscle control or sensation beneath the damaged area of the spine.
Incomplete: While still very serious an incomplete spinal cord injury does not affect the entire width of the spine. There will be areas near the damage that remain unaffected and are able to function at a normal level. Spinal cord victims with incomplete injuries will have the ability to feel and move below the area of the injury, but may still exhibit serious limitations. In some instances a person may experience more limitations on one side of the body than the other. The after-effects of an incomplete injury will vary widely from person to person.
*A person can "break their back or neck" yet not sustain a spinal cord injury if only the bones around the spinal cord (the vertebrae) are damaged, but the spinal cord is not affected. In these situations, the individual may not experience paralysis after the bones are stabilized.
Keller & Keller Goes Above and Beyond for People with Spinal Cord Injuries
On May 12th, 2003, eleven-year-old Samantha Allen was attempting to cross a street near her home when she was struck by a car. After being rushed to the hospital, her family would soon learn that she had suffered the same type of spinal cord injury as that of the late Christopher Reeve. The spinal cord injury suffered by Samantha meant that her life and that of her family's would never be the same. She would require 24-hour medical care and housing that could accommodate her special needs. The family quickly contacted Keller & Keller, and soon after Jim Keller's involvement would reach a level he never envisioned.
"I clearly remember my first meeting with the Allen's. They shared stories about Samantha that made it clear she was deeply loved, but it wasn't until I began to get to know her personally that I understood what a special person she was--she displayed strength well beyond her years. While working on her case I decided that our firm could throw every resource we had at this thing, but it would never be enough. They deserved more, and that's where the idea of Samantha's House came from. Today, when someone comes into our office they can see on our mantel a picture Samantha painted for us using her mouth to guide the brush. It's a constant reminder of what a special person she is."
Jim used Keller & Keller's position in the community to call upon several local Indianapolis businesses and civic leaders to support him in the construction of a new, state-of-the-art home for Samantha. The new home would be equipped with specialized technologies to meet her medical needs and reduce the new demands faced by her family. The project was a success and led to the creation of the Samantha's House Foundation.
Today, the Samantha’s House Foundation has grown into an incredibly wonderful organization that helps seriously injured people throughout Indiana improve their surroundings and make their everyday life just a little easier, and it's Samantha Allen's courage that should be recognized for the good works of this foundation.
Our attorneys' commitment and dedication to clients who have suffered serious spinal cord injuries led us to become a driving forced behind the Samantha's House Foundation.
Spinal Cord Injury Treatment, Rehabilitation, and ImprovementOur Indiana spinal cord injury lawyers have worked thousands of cases where a client's spinal cord suffered mild damage and didn't result in permanent limitations. These cases are usually the result of an auto accident, leaving the person with areas on or surrounding the spinal cord that are bruised or swollen. As the swelling goes down, the nerves may begin to work again. There are no tests at this time to tell how many nerves, if any, will begin to work again or when this will occur. Some individuals have involuntary movements, such as twitching or shaking. These movements are called spasms. Spasms are not a sign of recovery. A spasm occurs when a wrong message from the nerve causes the muscle to move. The individual often cannot control this movement. In addition to movement and feeling, a spinal cord injury affects how other systems of the body works.
The response time and immediate care associated with a person's spinal cord injury can be instrumental in reducing the long-term effects. The ongoing research and treatment options associated with spinal cord injuries continues leading to promising treatment options and new advancements once thought impossible. Some of the more traditional treatments and after-care are listed below. These are often the treatment paths most of our clients will pursue or be assigned by their team of doctors.
Corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone or methylprednisolone, are used to reduce swelling that may damage the spinal cord. If spinal cord compression is caused by a mass (such as a hematoma or bony fragment) that can be removed or brought down before there is total destruction of the nerves of the spine, paralysis may in some cases be reduced or relieved. Ideally, corticosteroids should begin as soon as possible after the injury.
The more serious the injury, especially those accidents involving the C1-C8 areas, the more likely one or more surgeries will be necessary to treat the affected area.
A common surgery known as decompression laminectomy is designed to remove fluid or tissue that is pressing on a persons spinal cord. This is most often associated with spinal stenosis or herniated discs. Surgery may also be needed to remove bone/disc fragments, other foreign objects, or to stabilize fractured vertebrae. This type of surgery typically requires a fusion of the bones or insertion of hardware.
Old fashioned bed rest is sometimes prescribed by a doctor to allow the affected area of the spine time to heal itself. Because the spine bears the majority of a person's body weight, it's essential that the spine is not placed under a great deal of added stress which could lead to additional injury.
Spinal traction may reduce dislocation and/or may be used to immobilize the spine. The skull may be immobilized with tongs (metal braces placed in the skull and attached to traction weights or to a harness on the body).
A large number of spinal cord injury victims will require extensive physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other rehabilitation treatment after the acute injury has healed and it has been determine no further damage can be done to the affected area.
Depending on the severity of the injury, rehabilitation may be prescribed to help a person return to a level of health they had before the accident. In other instances, rehabilitation is much more aggressive and time-consuming, often assisting the person in coping with a permanent disability that is a result of the damage to the spinal cord.
Spinal Cord Injury Case Strategy
Making sure the victim and their family receive the maximum recovery for the accident and injury will be our paralysis lawyer's primary goal, but there are also several other options for recovery and assistance we investigate on behalf of our clients who have experienced a spinal cord injury. The majority of resources and options for financial assistance will depend on how and where the injury occurred. For example, a spinal cord injury caused in a car accident will often have a very different recovery strategy than one that occurred at work.
The majority of spinal cord injury cases handled by our office are the result of a car accident. In these instances we will seek compensation from all applicable insurance policies. In many instances there may be more than one policy that can be pursued. Because these injuries often require several years of therpay and on-going medical treatment, it is absolutely critical that you contact a law firm that can investigate all the possible sources of recovery.
When applicable, our office can also coordinate efforts to ensure you receive the proper disability insurance benefits from a policy held by you or your employer.
Social Security Disability
Keller & Keller has one of the largest Social Security Disability offices in the midwest. Most important is the fact that our attorneys are specialists: our disability lawyers only handle disability cases and our injury lawyers only handle accident cases. You and your family will receive focused, expert service no matter what type of case we handle on your behalf.
If the injury happened while you were on the job it's possible a worker's compensation claim can be filed against your employer. Before you file a workman's comp claim be sure to consult with one of our attorneys so as not to damage any additional sources of recovery that may be available.
Spinal Cord Injury Terms and Definitions
Injury to the spinal cord in the cervical region with associated loss of muscle strength in all 4 extremities (replaced the term quadriplegia).
Injury in the spinal cord in the thoracic, lumbar, or sacral segments, including the cauda equina and conus medullaris.
Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)
Is the placement of bone or cages between vertebrae from an anterior approach.
The outer portion of a disc in the spinal column, the annulus provides structure and strength to a disc and is comprised of a complex series of interwoven layers of fibrous tissues, which hold it's nucleus in place.
Refers to the frontal or ventral surface of the body.
Arthroscopic Lumbar Discectomy (PLD)
Using an endoscope for visualization.
This refers to bone taken from the patient, usually the hip, to be used as graft.
An option for fusing the spine. This requires either moving bone from one part of the body (autograft) or using bone from an outside source (allograft).
Computerized x-ray system which provides cross-sectional images of the spine or other parts of the body. Sometimes is done following a myelogram or discogram.
Pertains to areas involving the neck, e.g, a cervical strain.
Method of relieving pain with bed rest, analgesics and chiropractic and physical therapy.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Deterioration in disc structure and function, which commonly causes pain and loss of function.
Test or process used to determine the source of a problem, i.e., a diagnosis.
Discs serve as shock absorbers between the vertebrae of the spinal column. The center of the disc is known as the nucleus and the outer ring of the disc is called the annulus.
The procedure where a disc is removed surgically.
Provocative discography is the instillation of sterile saline (not dye) into the disc to try and reproduce the patient's pain.
Refers to a position toward the posterior or back side of the body.
Growth of bone where bone does not normally grow, as in replacing a disc with a bone graft. The bone graft is normally taken from the patient or a donor.
AKA a slipped disc, is a condition in which nucleus tissue is moved from the center of a disc into the spinal canal. Herniated discs cause great pain in the low back and leg or the neck and arm and they create pressure against one or more of the spinal nerves. Other names for herniated discs are prolapsed discs or ruptured discs.
Placing of a graft or cages between vertebral bodies.
A surgical procedure designed to stop the pain caused by the bone fracture, stabilize the bone, and to restore the lost vertebral body height due to the compression fracture.
Surgery technique in which part of the back of the vertebra is removed in order to reach to the nerves and discs. This may or may not require the disc be removed as part of the procedure.
This is bands of fibrous tissue that connect bones or cartilages that support and strengthen the bone joints. Ligaments surround the spine on all sides.
This refers to the lower back.
Surgical technique for removal of a disc via a small opening using a microscope.
Refers to postoperative pain and complications from to surgery.
Computerized magnetic imaging system that provides cross-sectional images of the spine or other body parts.
Diagnostic procedure in which an iodine is injected as a dye into the spinal canal and shows up on x-rays that are taken.
The center part of a disc and is made of a soft, rubber-like material that takes the shock of movement such as standing, walking, running, etc.
Invlolves placing bone screws into the spine from a posterior approach through what is known as the pedicle. Screws are then used with a rod or plate to keep the spine stable following bone grafting.
Percutaneous Cervical Discectomy
An outpatient procedure that uses minimally-invasive suction to remove herniated cervical discs.
Percutaneous Lumbar Discectomy
PLD using an endoscope for visualization.
Stand for Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion, which is the placement of bone or cages between vertebrae from a posterior approach.