Work Related Spinal Cord Injuries
The lives of employees who have been injured or suffer an illness due to a work related incident or cumulative trauma may be affected to a different degree, depending on the type and severity of the injury or illness itself. Spinal Cord injuries are one of the most severe cases of work related injuries, and this article is dedicated to providing general information with respect to such injuries and how to obtain compensation for them. If you have sustained a work related spinal cord injury and would like further assistance and consultation by a professional, you can contact one of our Work Injury Lawyers Los Angeles.
Sustaining a work-related spinal cord injury is very likely to change your life, which will suddenly revolve around medical appointments and physical therapy, as well as the overwhelming amount of medical costs which you have incurred as a result of your unexpected injury.
What is a spinal cord injury?
The spinal cord is essentially the nervous system’s communication system. To put it in simple and understandable wording, the spinal cord contains bundles of nerves and other structures whose role is to pass messages from the brain to your other body parts. Therefore, when it is injured, the messages that your brain sends to your other body parts cannot effectively pass through.
Generally, there are two types of spinal cord injuries:
1. Complete spinal cord injury: where the cord is completely severed, preventing any communication from the brain, and
2. Incomplete spinal cord injury: where the cord is partially severed or damaged, causing loss of some, but not all, function.
As can be seen even from this simplified explanation, any damage to the spinal cord may cause serious consequences for your health and your future. Depending on the injury’s severity and its location, you might suffer any of the following: paralysis, loss of motor skills, bladder and bowel dysfunction, pain, numbness, tingling, and difficulty breathing. The injury’s location is essential to how much the body is impacted as a result of it.
There are various medical terms for the different types of injuries with respect to the location of the injury, but the following are most common:
· Cervical injury, which may result in partial or full paralysis in the arms and legs;
· Thoracic injury, which may result in partial of full paralysis in the legs;
· Lumbar injury, which may result in a partial or full paralysis in the legs; and
· Sacral injury, which may result in bowel or bladder weakness or sexual dysfunction, as well as paralysis to the legs and hips.
Paralysis to different parts of the body of the injured person are a very possible result with spinal cord injuries. Thus, if such an injury is sustained as a result of a work-related injury or illness, then it is important to understand how you may get help.
What consequences may I expect if I have suffered from a spinal cord injury?
As mentioned above, paralysis is a common result of spinal cord injuries. Obviously, if you become paralyzed as a result of your injury your life is going to change significantly, and will at least to some extent revolve around the injury itself.
However, it is also important to be aware that every spinal cord injury is unique, and if you are lucky enough to not suffer paralysis, full recovery is not out of the equation.
Furthermore, with the rapid advancement of technology, the quality of life for people who suffer from paralysis due to a spinal cord injury is improving. The possible recovery or rehabilitation process is nevertheless not an easy one. This is why it is important for you to have a strong support system after suffering such an injury, and why you should make sure that if your injury has been sustained while at work, you make use of the rights and protections afforded to you by the State of California as an employee and claim all the financial support available to you.
What can possibly cause a spinal cord injury to occur?
The cord can either be damaged or completely severed. This can happen as a result of a dislodged vertebrae which presses on the spinal cord, thus causing damage or completely severing it. It is also possible that damage is caused by other factors, such as internal bleeding or swelling, which puts pressure on the cord and this results in nerve damage. While most people associate injuries which result in paralysis, and spinal cord injuries in general, with severe accidents like car crashes, there may be other much less dramatic causes.
The following are examples of work-related settings which result in spinal cord damage:
· Industrial and construction incidents which have been caused due to the fact that your place of work is actually a dangerous environment and your day to day work includes lifting heavy equipment, intense labor, unprotected heights, etc. In such a scenario it is not hard to imagine an employee sustaining damage, or even spinal cord damage.
· Repetitive motion injuries/illnesses, which cause degenerative disc disease and arthritis: the repetitive work and the wear and tear associated with it can cause changes in your spine, and in severe cases this may result in damage to your spinal cord.
· Regardless of the work setting itself, if an object falls on you while at work for whatever reason, this can easily result in damage to your spine and spinal cord.
· If you for some reason sustain a head trauma while at work, for example due to a fall, it is possible that this will result in spinal cord trauma as well, as it is particularly vulnerable in the neck area. This is especially true if you have fallen from a significant height.
What are the symptoms of spinal cord injuries?
If you have experienced an accident similar to the ones described above, perhaps you are worried that you may have sustained spinal cord trauma without realizing it, and may be worried that if you do not take measures accordingly you will end up paralyzed. The reality is that generally spinal cord injuries are severe and thus come with symptoms which are immediately noticeable and hard to ignore.
The most common symptoms include, but are not limited to, the following:
· Severe pain in your back;
· Pressure which you feel in the neck, back, or head;
· Diminished coordination or weakness;
· Inability to move a part of your body (paralysis);
· Numbness or tingling;
· Loss of control of the bowel or bladder;
· Difficulty with balance or walking.
What are the common treatments for spinal cord injuries?
More often than not, spinal cord injuries require significant medical attention due to the fact that they may be responsible for both immediate injuries and further ongoing problems. The treatment for each case differs, with the severity of the injury itself determining the length, the complexity and ultimately the result of the treatment.
Typically, if you have sustained a spinal cord injury, you will need to undergo at least one of the following treatments:
· Emergency Care – if a spinal cord injury has been sustained, it is very likely that you will need to be examined by emergency care in a hospital, and the injury may even make it necessary that you have surgery.
· Ongoing Care – even people whose injuries are not severe find themselves needing treatments which are continuous, such as physical or rehabilitation therapy provided by professionals, and ongoing care may include other professionals as well such as psychologist, dieticians, etc.
· Ongoing medical attention – sometimes if you are injured you may require working with doctors continuously in order to regain your body’s functioning, either fully or partially.
· Living assistance – such care may be necessary if you need a live-in nurse to take care of you on a daily basis.
What can I do if I have sustained a work-related spinal cord injury?
As you can see from the information provided in this article, spinal cord injuries can be the result of an injury or an illness you have sustained while at work, and they may alter your life for a very long time, if not forever. Such an injury is very traumatic both to a person’s physical and mental health, and it can be a significant financial burden once the medical costs start piling up.
It is thus important to be aware that you are entitled to compensation in the State of California for any work-related injuries. You might be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, including:
· Financial support through payments for your medical bills, which may include rehabilitation, mental health counselling and nurse care;
· Temporary and permanent disability benefits;
· Purchase of necessary devices to help you live with your injury, such as a wheelchair, etc.
It is important to contact a professional who can provide you with assistance and advice with respect to bringing the necessary claim in compliance with all the legal requirements, and who can give you an idea of the benefits you might be entitled to in your particular case.
Our Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Los Angeles are always available for you to contact and receive consultation regarding your workers’ compensation claim. For further details about workers’ compensation laws in California, refer to the other articles found on our site and contact our Workers Compensation Attorney Los Angeles as soon as possible.