Spinal cord injuries disrupt the transmission of information between the brain and the body. The location and severity of the damage determine how much functioning a person loses. A partial injury low on the spinal cord might result in some loss of sensation or control in the lower limbs. A complete severance of the cord close to the head could leave the person unable to move, swallow, or breathe on their own.
Spinal cord injuries can be catastrophic and generally do not improve much with time. The life of a person who loses significant functioning is changed forever.
If someone else’s negligence contributed to the accident that caused the injury, compensation could be available. A Rialto spinal cord injury lawyer could help an injured person and their family pursue damages from the negligent party or parties who are responsible for the accident.
Compensatory Damages Make Plaintiff Whole
Damages in most personal injury cases generally fall into one of two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages. Both economic and non-economic damages are considered compensatory damages because their intent is to reimburse the plaintiff for the losses they suffered due to their injury.
Economic damages reimburse costs and expenses associated with treating, recovering from, and living with a spinal cord injury. These include not just direct medical expenses but also rehabilitative services and therapies, the costs of adapting an injured person’s home or vehicle, durable medical equipment, nursing care, and all other necessary expenses. Economic damages also include lost earnings, lost future earnings, and lost earning opportunities.
Non-economic damages compensate for the real but intangible losses the injured person suffered because of their injury. A plaintiff’s attorney could present evidence showing the ways in which life changed and became more difficult for the plaintiff after their injury, and a jury would then decide an appropriate amount of compensation. Depending on the particular circumstances, an award of non-economic damages might include payments for:
- Physical pain
- Emotional distress
- Humiliation and embarrassment
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Inability to participate in enjoyable activities and hobbies
Punitive Damages Sometimes Available
If a negligent party intentionally harmed the plaintiff, or behaved with conscious disregard for the safety of the others, California Civil Code §3294 allows a plaintiff to receive punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. The intent of punitive damages is to punish a defendant whose behavior was especially reprehensible. Insurance does not cover punitive damages, so a defendant must pay them out-of-pocket.
Although ordinary negligence does not merit an award of punitive damages, there are many situations in which a plaintiff could seek punitive damages. Drunk drivers who cause severe injuries to others often must pay punitive damages. An experienced attorney could advise an injured person whether seeking punitive damages is appropriate in a particular case.
Delay Could Defeat a Meritorious Case
The statute of limitations in California personal injury cases is two years, and the clock starts running on the date of the accident. Although two years might seem to be plenty of time, recovery from a spinal cord injury could still be underway when the statute of limitations runs out. In many cases an injured person must start thinking about filing a lawsuit before they have fully understood the implications of their injury.
If the injury that caused the accident happened on government-owned property, or if it involved a motor vehicle being driven by a government employee as part of their employment, there is even less time to decide. A plaintiff who intends to assert a claim for personal injuries against a state or local government must submit a form notifying the government of their claim within six months of the accident.
Failure to submit the notice on time prevents the plaintiff from ever holding the government defendant accountable. If there is any possibility that the state or a local government might hold some responsibility for an accident that caused a spinal cord injury, it is critical to begin working with a legal professional immediately to preserve the right to sue.
Get Justice with the Help of a Rialto Spinal Cord Injury Attorney
Adjusting to life with a spinal cord injury can be challenging, and it is much more so if you are worried about how to pay the bills and support your family. Allow a skillful advocate to take that burden off of your shoulders.
Get in touch with a Rialto spinal cord injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident. There is no time to waste, so call today.