Choosing a Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer: What You Need to Know for SCI & TBI
When you’ve suffered a spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury, you want someone on your side. Of course, deciding who to keep at your side can be tricky. Currently, there are more than 1.3 million lawyers practicing in the United States. They vary greatly in skill, experience, commitment to their clients, and willingness to zealously litigate a personal injury case.
Yet the practice of law, unlike fields such as medicine, comes with no residencies, no mandatory internships, and no state-required certifications. This means that anyone with a license to practice law can market themselves as a personal injury lawyer regardless of experience, knowledge, and respect in the legal community.
When you're facing a catastrophic injury, choosing the first lawyer you find online is almost always a mistake. Though referrals can be helpful, the word of a single friend tells you little about the experience and skill the attorney you hire brings to the table. When your life and money are at stake, it's worth taking some time to interview a number of attorneys.
At minimum, successful trial lawyers specialize in a specific area of the law. Most lawyers litigate cases in a few practice areas, but an attorney who does everything simply does not have the specialized skill necessary to master the intricacies of personal injury law. When narrowing down your options for spinal cord injury (SCI) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) attorneys, be sure that each lawyer or firm you consider is a specialist in the discipline.
Causes of a Spinal Cord Injury
When a spinal cord is damaged, the bundle of nerves in the backbone that carry the messages to the brain have become impaired. Because of this, the person that has suffered from this injury may now have partial or full loss of motor control and sensation. The most common causes of spinal cord injury, according to the National Cord Injury Statistical Center, are motor vehicle accidents, falls, acts of violence, and recreational sports activities.
Injuries can also occur during risky surgical procedures. If that is the case, the medical facility would be responsible for their error. In all cases, your attorney can help you determine exactly who it is that is liable for your condition. The people at fault have a responsibility to you and the situation they have put you in.
For example, what if you were undergoing surgery and the doctor’s gross negligence lead to a severe SCI? Seeking a spinal fusion lawsuit settlement to cover the costs caused by the injury (and remuneration for the pain and suffering caused) is only reasonable. If someone else is responsible for the accident that caused your spinal cord injury (whether through negligence or malicious intent), then you may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit.
What to Do After a Spinal Cord Injury?
A spinal cord or traumatic brain injury will change you or your loved one’s life. With mounting debts, medical bills, and other financial concerns—and the uncertainty of knowing if you or your SCI survivor will ever be able to work again—many in this situation may decide to seek out counsel from a spinal cord injury lawyer about pursuing a spinal cord injury lawsuit. Spinal cord injury survivors also face a variety of other legal issues, including discrimination due to their injuries and may choose to speak with an attorney about their rights.
When You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer for SCI or TBI
The CDC estimates that more than five million people are living with disability as a result of SCI or TBI. These survivors face an uphill battle to regain their independence, be treated fairly by employers, and find doctors who respect their needs and wishes. If you have suffered a brain injury, do not ever feel that hiring a lawyer means you’re being greedy. Brain and spinal cord injuries can be exorbitantly expensive, and if someone else is responsible for your injuries, that person should be required to cover your expenses.
You might also be eligible for assistance if you have been a survivor of discrimination, or if a dangerous product contributed to your injuries. Here is when you know that it's time to contact a brain injury attorney.
You Were Injured in an Accident
If you were injured in any type of accident—such as a car accident, cycling mishap, boating wreck, or even an accident at an amusement park—take the time to consult a lawyer. Even if it seems like no one is liable for your injuries, anything from faulty brakes to negligent operation of a machine could render one or more parties liable.
Someone Intentionally or Negligently Hurt You
If someone else injures you either on purpose or due to gross carelessness, you may have a legal case. A bar patron who punches you in a fight will be liable for any injuries you experience, as will a gun owner who accidentally shoots you or a driver who accidentally hits you. These are just a few examples of intentional or negligent harm.
Your Doctor Caused or Failed to Treat Your Injuries
Medical errors account for approximately 250,000 deaths per year, and may injure thousands more. If your doctor caused your injuries, talk to a lawyer. Of course, it can take years of medical training to even determine whether your injuries were the product of your doctor's actions. This makes it even more important to consult with an attorney. Your doctor might be liable if he or she:
- Failed to treat an injury that obviously warranted treatment
- Ignored medical standards for treating an existing injury
- Committed a serious error during surgery, such as nicking an artery or operating on the wrong organ
- Was intoxicated or impaired while consulting with you or operating on you
Not all cases of medical injuries warrant a lawsuit. Sometimes treatment fails or a doctor makes a common error that doesn't cause serious harm. If your condition worsened after seeking medical care, though, this is a sure sign you need legal help.
You Were Injured at a Business
If you were injured at someone else's business, that business might be liable for your injuries even if the injuries seem accidental. For example, a box that falls on your head from a warehouse could be the result of negligent packing or faulty equipment, or a fight at a local restaurant could be because the establishment failed to provide adequate security or fosters an abusive and aggressive environment. Businesses often have insurance for patrons and employees who sustain serious injuries. This makes it easier to recover damages.
A Faulty Product Injured or Failed to Protect You
Faulty products are almost always grounds for a lawsuit, but only if you are injured. Some instances in which you may be able to sue for a faulty product include:
- You correctly used a protective product, such as a bicycle helmet, but it failed to protect you in an accident.
- A protective product caused injury, such as an airbag that failed to deploy or deployed at the wrong time.
- You were given the wrong medication or health care products by a pharmacist.
- You suffered a serious reaction to a pharmaceutical product.
Determining Who is at Fault
In a perfect world, everyone who played a role in your injuries would be held accountable. In the real world, it's usually not worth your time to sue someone who has no money. Only a skilled lawyer can help you determine which party or parties to sue, so give as many details about the accident as possible.
You might opt not to sue the man who injured you in a bar fight, reasoning that he has no money, but instead sue the bar itself. Suing a party that has an insurance policy is more practical, since the insurer has resources to compensate for damages caused by their insured. There are no guarantees in these cases, though, so talk to your spinal cord injury lawyer or brain injury attorney and avoid making hasty decisions.
10 Considerations When Choosing Spinal Cord Injury or Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer
We can’t emphasize the importance of this point enough: Just because someone has a law degree doesn’t mean that they are qualified to handle a paralyzing accident. You may have a friend or family member who is a lawyer and who offers their services to help you: Unless they specialize in lawsuits pertaining specifically to SCI or TBI injuries, they are not qualified to help you. In fact, they may end up harming your chances of receiving justice or compensation for your injuries.
So, whether you want to pursue a quadriplegia lawsuit, paraplegia lawsuit, or any other spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury claims, it is imperative to work with a qualified, experienced, and knowledgeable SCI or TBI attorney. An experienced lawyer will help ensure that all of your bases are covered, all avenues of recovery are explored, and that your legal counselor knows the ins and outs of the legal system when it comes to spinal cord and brain injury law.
In addition to providing you with the best legal advice, a spinal cord injury law firm also can help you calculate your spinal cord injury settlement value based on your economic and non-economic damages (loss of function, inconvenience, emotional loss, loss of relationships, and psychological or mental issues). This can increase your brain injury or spinal cord injury compensation. So, without further ado, here are the ten considerations to look for when choosing a spinal cord or head injury lawyer.
1. Knowledge of Law
The law is a complex, ever-changing animal. A new Supreme Court ruling can change an entire field of law, and local trends figure prominently in how skilled lawyers litigate cases. The most successful personal injury lawyers remain up to date on both statutory changes and recent legal precedent. They also remain active in bar associations relevant to their field, and routinely attend continuing legal education (CLE) seminars.
You can tell that your lawyer is knowledgeable about the law by the way he or she discusses your case. The most skilled lawyers don't just give you vague assurances, but instead talk about how the law applies to the facts of your case.
2. Knowledge of the Medical Industry
Personal injury lawyers often joke that they have back-up careers as doctors and nurses. Of course, your lawyer is not qualified to give you medical advice, but the best trial lawyers know the topics they litigate inside and out. That means that highly-skilled personal injury lawyers are knowledgeable about the injuries they litigate—diagnostic criteria, prognoses, estimated costs, etc. The best lawyers may also be able to refer you to skilled medical providers.
Knowledge of the medical field becomes especially important when your lawyer must cross-examine witnesses. A lawyer who knows little about your injury may ask vague questions that bring you no closer to victory. An attorney who understands the specifics of your injury, the standard of care, and the prognosis can ask pointed questions that highlight your suffering, pin a medical provider down to the facts, and ensure you get a fair settlement or verdict.
A lawyer does not necessarily need 40 years of experience to excel at trial. Indeed, some of the best lawyers are those who are eager to prove their worth in the industry. But this doesn't mean that you should use your case to train a new lawyer. Trial advocacy takes more than just academic training; it's a valuable skill that must be honed with real world practice. Only select a lawyer with previous trial experience—the more cases he or she has litigated that are similar to yours, the better.
It's easy to fall for flattery and promises, but ultimately, you're hiring a lawyer because you want to win. The best attorneys are honest with their clients—even when they're breaking news the client does not want to hear. Good lawyers tell their clients about potential weaknesses in the case, including things the client can do to address those weaknesses.
For example, your lawyer might tell you that your aggressive demeanor makes you an unsympathetic witness, or that your goals for the case are simply unreasonable. It's not easy to hear that you're wrong, and you might even want to dismiss their critiques. You hired him or her for a reason, though. Flattery doesn't win cases—honesty does.
5. Commitment to Your Cause
Your case is the most important thing in the world to you, and you should reasonably expect your lawyer to share a similar passion for your cause. You deserve a lawyer who takes your pain and suffering seriously, and who sees real value in your case.
The best personal injury lawyers want more than just a paycheck. They truly want to see justice done. This spurs them to act as zealous advocates for their clients, even when a case proves challenging or opposing counsel is unwilling to entertain reasonable settlement offers. If the attorney you interview seems indifferent, refuses to speak to you in person, or pushes you to pursue settlements you do not want, consider someone else.
To determine if the injury attorney is an active advocate and a leader in their field, you might consider things like:
- Do they have any articles published in legal journals?
- Are they active in the bar association?
- Has the local or regional press covered them?
- Are they involved in the community? What types of outreach efforts have they made?
- Do they routinely attend seminars in their field?
- What types of industry memberships do they hold?
- Does their website feature an online library and/or blog with informative, newsworthy articles for clients?
6. Respect in the Field
It's hard to assess a lawyer's skills on your own, particularly if you lack legal training or experience within the court system. One of the best ways to objectively assess a lawyer, then, is to explore how other attorneys view him or her. The best lawyers gain the respect of their colleagues, even when they sit on opposite sides of a case.
Don't choose a lawyer who can't get along with opposing counsel, no matter how satisfying it may be to see your attorney give the other side grief. Instead, look for a lawyer who can work with anyone. That ability will serve you well when it's time to negotiate a settlement.
7. Trial and Negotiation Skills
In many serious spinal cord injury cases, sometimes the best strategic decision is to take a case to trial rather than settling, especially if the defendant or insurance company isn’t playing fair during negotiations. So, you want to have a lawyer who is good at trials.
Of course, trial preparation begins long before the trial itself. Look at how effective your lawyer is at negotiating on your behalf. Does he or she have a good working relationship with opposing counsel? Is he or she able to effectively communicate with you? Trial advocacy requires excellent social skills and a finely tuned ability to tell a compelling story. If your lawyer lacks both, there might be trouble when it's time to go to trial.
Ask your lawyer if you can see him or her at an upcoming trial to judge their skills in person. Or, see if there are online videos of your lawyer at trial, or news stories discussing his or her courtroom performance so you can judge for yourself.
8. Solid Track Record of Settlements/Verdicts
It is not impolite to ask about the lawyer’s recent track record, so ask about prior results. To consider them, they should have at least a few substantial settlements and verdicts on their record in cases that are related to yours.
Pro Tip: Consider the severity of the injuries and compare the results with other attorneys’ results for that particular type of case. For example, $300,000 might appear to be a substantial settlement, but not if it’s for a major spinal cord injury for which other attorneys could have secured millions.
9. Positive Reviews & Testimonials
An experienced injury attorney should have positive reviews and testimonials to support their credibility. There are client-attorney privacy laws that prevent attorneys from sharing information about their clients, but many satisfied clients happily provide references.
There are lots of places to check for reviews, such as:
- Google reviews
- Super Lawyers
- The attorney’s website
- The state bar association website
10. Trust Your Instinct
Don’t underestimate the importance of rapport. You will likely need to work with your attorney for months or even years, so it is important to actually like the injury lawyer you retain. A good lawyer will speak intelligently, patiently answer your questions, demonstrate sympathy, and be straightforward when discussing your case.
Rather than one that will try to flatter you or promise you the moon, you want an attorney who will be honest and realistic, and give it to you straight. You certainly don’t want to opt for a lawyer who gives you vague, convoluted answers, seems to rush through the meeting, or treats you like a number.
You should walk out the door confident that your attorney cares about your family’s situation and can get the job done. If your instinct tells you something is off about the lawyer or the firm, move on and try elsewhere
Factors Involved in an SCI or TBI Lawsuit
As a SCI or TBI survivor, you have to deal with all of the ongoing health challenges that come with your injury, including respiratory difficulties, increased risk of illness, and loss of various motor and sensory functions. All of that, on top of the emotional and financial challenges.
SCI and TBI survivors with high tetraplegia can expect to spend more than $1 million in just the first year after an injury, according to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. And for every subsequent year, they can expect to spend about $185,000. So how can you figure out what you stand to gain through spinal injury compensation claims?
The spinal cord injury settlement value in many SCI lawsuits is based on a number of factors. A few guidelines for what will be taken into account when calculating your back injury compensation payouts include the following factors:
Severity of Injuries
The severity of your injuries plays a significant role in the value of your settlement. Plaintiffs who suffer serious or life-threatening injuries are far more likely to get large settlements, especially when compared to people who retain all movement or who make relatively quick recoveries. With more severe injuries, your eligibility for pain and suffering-related damages typically climbs higher.
When you sue for a spinal cord injury, you're not just suing for your pain and suffering, or your medical bills. You can also sue for lost earning potential and the loss of your ability to provide for your family. More severe injuries more significantly inhibit your earning power, increasing the potential value of a settlement.
The primary benefit—to both you and the other party—of settling your case is that settling helps you avoid the uncertainties and costs of going to trial. For this reason, the other party will have a stronger incentive to settle the case if your evidence is strong.
Say you're suing a recreational facility for a million dollars. That facility is unlikely to shell out such a huge sum if you can't even prove that the facility was the proximate cause of your injuries. Conversely, if you have an avalanche of undisputed evidence, the other party might be afraid of being harshly penalized by the jury, thereby giving them a strong incentive to settle—even for a large sum.
One of the primary purposes of a lawsuit is to recover your out-of-pocket expenses, while funding those that have not yet occurred. For this reason, the current value of your medical expenses, as well as the future medical costs you are likely to incur, are key in the settlement negotiation process.
In many spinal cord injury cases, medical bills constitute the bulk of a settlement or jury award, so high medical bills, as well as severe injuries that make costly future bills likely, both increase your case's value.
Age & Health
Younger plaintiffs can typically expect to get higher settlements since they likely have more years of life ahead of them and therefore more medical bills. A longer life span also means that the injury comes at a greater toll. Taking away 10 years of potential activity from an elderly person versus 40 years of potential activity from a younger person will be viewed much differently when it comes to damages.
Likewise, juries may look at overall health when deciding a case. A young person who was in excellent health may have lost more than an older person whose health was already deteriorating. Defense lawyers are keenly aware of this fact. For this reason, they sometimes offer young, healthy plaintiffs higher settlements.
Like it or not, the person the plaintiff is now and who he or she was before the injury matters in court. When determining whether to settle, the other party will assess how sympathetic the jury is likely to feel toward the injured plaintiff, how believable the testimony is, and how tragic the injuries will seem to outsiders.
The plaintiff's lawyer will be interested in crafting a narrative that emphasizes the loss to the survivor, society, and their family resulting from the injury. The more compelling that narrative is, the more likely they will be to get a large award at trial. That translates into a significantly higher likelihood of a large settlement offer from the other party.
One of the primary benefits to defendants of settling cases is that it protects their reputation. They can seek a sealed settlement, and avoid a long and ugly courtroom battle that gets them nothing but bad press. For this reason, the more damaging a case may be to the defendant's reputation, the more compelled they will be to settle.
A doctor whose negligence caused paralysis, for example, generally has a much stronger incentive to settle if there is evidence that he or she made the same mistake before.
Many plaintiffs are surprised to learn that facts, evidence, and eyewitness testimony don't come into play until relatively late in the SCI lawsuit process. Early on, your lawyer and the other side will fight about jurisdictional issues, legal precedent, and your eligibility for certain types of damages.
If there are legal issues in contention—such as whether your case was filed within the statute of limitations, or the possibility that the defendant is entitled to some form of immunity—you might not get a settlement offer until the lawyers in the case have submitted a number of motions. This process can take anywhere from a few months to several years, and its length is partially dependent on the complexity of your case and the amount of evidence involved.
When the law is clearly on your side, as well as when the judge has repeatedly ruled in your favor on issues that were in contention, the other party is more likely to award a high settlement value in a spinal cord injury case.
Cause of Injury
A major component of any spinal cord injury case is the cause of the injury—and especially if that cause involved the malice or negligence of another. Typically, a lawsuit seeking spinal cord injury damages belongs to one of two basic categories:
- Negligence: The most common basis for personal injury claims are negligence. Negligence occurs in situations where a person owes a duty to act in a reasonable way but fails to do so, and an injury results from that failure to act accordingly. To prove successful in such a case, you must be able to show a demonstrable obligation and a correlation between the negligent action (or inaction) and the injuries. If a person or business is consistently negligent, then they may be facing a class action lawsuit—for example, a back surgeon with a lot of botched surgeries may be part of a class action lawsuit for spinal fusion malpractice.
- Faulty (or defective) products: Product liability is a major tenet of consumer law and applies in an injury case where a design or manufacturing flaw in a product leads to harm of some kind. Moreover, the defect could be tied to inadequate instructions or warnings for the product in question, rendering adequate use far more difficult or harmful than anticipated. As with negligence, in order to have a valid claim against the manufacturer and/or the seller of a product, you must be able to establish an undisputed connection between the defect and the injury itself.
Active malice is a rarer cause, as only a small portion of SCIs and TBIs are caused by violence and other actions with clear malicious intent compared to accidents. Being able to establish that the cause of the injury lies with the negligence of another, a company’s faulty products, or someone’s malicious actions can play a major role in the ability to get a favorable settlement.
Steps Involved in an SCI or TBI Lawsuit
Spinal cord injury survivors may face a variety of other legal issues, including discrimination, due to their injuries and may choose to speak with an attorney about their rights. But, how do you know what lawyer to approach? What are the general steps involved in a spinal cord injury lawsuit? And, in such cases, what is the value of agreeing to a settlement versus going to trial?
It is critical to keep in mind that every spinal cord injury lawsuit is different and the circumstances surrounding each case will be unique. Your injury, the facts surrounding the case, how the case is handled, and a variety of other factors will differ on a case-by-case basis. However, there are a few basic steps that often remain the same:
Initial Meeting with Lawyer
This first step in a spinal cord injury lawsuit is vital to your ability to seek out maximum recovery for your injuries. This first meeting with your spinal cord injury lawyer or traumatic brain injury lawyer will focus on discussing the grounds for your potential case (determining whether negligence was involved). This will involve a detailed conversation and questions about you or your loved one, your/their injury, the circumstances, and how your/their life has been impacted by the injury.
Review of Legal Contracts
Attorneys will review what your legal representation contract looks like. It is standard for SCI lawyers and TBI attorneys to use a contingency fee agreement, meaning that the lawyer doesn’t get paid unless there is recovery through either --a trial or a settlement. This will be an opportunity to discuss the possibility of having your spinal cord injury attorney recover their fees from the adverse (negligent) party rather than from your awarded spinal cord injury settlement or trial payment.
Research Into the Case
Once you have signed a contract with your attorney, the investigation period of your spinal cord injury lawsuit begins. During this investigation, your lawyer will try to gather as much evidence as possible concerning your case. They also will identify all potential avenues of recovery, including individuals, corporations, and insurance policies that are available.
This could also include your own insurance policy should you have an uninsured motorist (UM) policy. In the case of a car accident in which another person caused you or a loved one injuries due to negligence, for example, your attorney would look at:
- The insurance policies of both the driver and the owner of the vehicle (if they are not the same person or if it is a company)
- The company they work for if they were driving as part of their job
- Other factors and parties who may be potentially liable for your injuries
Communication with Insurance Companies
During this time, your spinal cord injury lawyer may send out letters of representation—this involves corresponding with any insurance companies that are involved in the spinal cord injury claim. This period of the lawsuit often runs on a 30-60 day calendar of back-and-forth communications that can take multiple months to complete between your attorney and the other parties.
Going to Trial or Agreeing on a Settlement
Your spinal cord injury attorney or traumatic brain injury lawyer is going to act in your best interest and will provide legal counsel about what they think is your best option based on their years of experience and their legal knowledge.
A settlement is sometimes the best option, depending on the specific case and its surrounding circumstances, and other times it is in the best interest of the client to go to trial. However, the decision about whether to go to trial or agree to settle with an insurance company is ultimately yours, and your personal injury lawyer should support and act in your best interests.
Types of SCI of TBI Compensation Paybacks
Spinal cord and traumatic brain injury settlements typically fall into two categories of compensable damages: Economic or non-economic.
Economic damages refer to money that you either have spent or will no longer be able to earn as a result of your injury. This compensation is based on the severity of your injury—for example, whether you have a complete spinal cord injury of the cervical spine or an incomplete lumbar spinal cord injury.
- Medical expenses: Due to the severity of spinal cord injuries, the most obvious target for damages will be medical expenses, as the potential funds won in court will help pay for some of these costs. Medical expenses may include anything from hospital and doctor’s bills, prescriptions, therapist sessions, rehabilitation, ambulance costs and any necessary assistive devices. Damages obtained for the costs associated with medical expenses are not limited to the costs already paid. Rather, damages for medical care often will include future costs associated with the injury. This is especially true in cases of spinal cord injuries since rehabilitation and recovery from such injuries are fairly certain future medical expenditures.
- Lost wages: Just like damages for medical expenses cover past and future expenses likely to be incurred, damages can also come from lost wages and future loss of those wages. Damages can also cover income you’ve been forced to forego because of your limited mobility from your injury, as well as the ensuing hospitalization and recovery. Chances are that your ordeal has led to missing more than a little of work. So, a lawsuit designed to compensate you for the various ways in which you’ve suffered at the hands of your injury wouldn’t be complete without addressing the wages you’ve lost both prior to taking legal action and any you’ll be forced to miss in the future.
- In-home assistance and renovations: Even when you are able to return home, there’s a very real chance that your lifestyle will undergo some drastic changes following your injury. Spinal cord injury cases can often help compensate you for any assistance you may require at home. This could extend from simple tasks like cleaning, cooking, and landscape work, to transportation services and child care.
If deemed necessary, damages could also cover the installation of a wheelchair ramp, widened doorways, or any other necessary modifications required to make your home a hospitable environment for your new lifestyle. Granted, every case is different, and the damages you receive to compensate your specific injury will depend on the details of your case and the damages your legal team deems appropriate.
Non-economic damages pertain to non-financial losses or “general damages,” covering a wide range of losses that are difficult to define by a dollar amount. This can include:
- Pain and suffering: Few physical and mental ordeals take as much of a toll on a patient as spinal cord injuries. While no amount of money can truly make up for the suffering that accompanies an injury of this scope, this form of damages attempts to compensate one for their pain and emotional distress—such as anxiety, depression and humiliation—that result from the physical damage and the accompanying mental anguish associated with spinal cord injuries.
Of course, it can be difficult to put a dollar value on human suffering, so there’s no hard rule or personal injury calculator for measuring the value of pain and suffering. Despite some tort reform laws that may limit the extent to which you may pursue pain and suffering damages, we’ll attempt to break it down in the next section.
- Loss of consortium: When a life-altering ordeal like a spinal cord injury comes your way, your loved ones are unavoidably affected by it. In fact, your relationships and even your marriage can often suffer during these trying times. Loss of consortium damages are designed to compensate them for how they’ve been impacted, though the reach of your claims in this regard will again greatly depend on your specific case. It does, however, play an essential role in situations wherein an injury resulted in the death of a loved one, as its scope applies more fully in this case.
- Punitive Damages: These types of damages intend to punish a defendant for his or her acknowledged behavior and/or actions that caused tangible harm. While it may or may not apply to your specific case, you and your legal team should at least consider the role that punitive damages may play with regard to your injury.
What Does Pain and Suffering Mean in Court?
Before you calculate pain and suffering for your traumatic injury compensation, it’s important to know what the phrase means in court. Pain and suffering is a kind of umbrella term for a range of physical and psychological effects that occur as a result of an injury. It could include:
- Actual pain from injuries
- Development of phobias and other mental disorders
- Loss of function
- Grief or emotional distress
Any of the above (and more) could be considered part of a pain and suffering claim in court. Because pain and suffering is so broadly defined, it can be difficult to fully account for in court. Another complicating factor is that the pain and suffering you experience is subjective—nobody can take a look at you and know all of the hurt and loss you’ve experienced and express it as a set number on a scale. Back injury settlements calculated at one value in one case can be very different in another case because of this fact.
So if there’s no standard, how is pain and suffering calculated? Different lawyers and insurance companies might try to calculate pain and suffering in different ways. One common method for establishing pain and suffering damages is to take the direct losses that have been incurred—such as medical bills and lost earnings—and apply some multiple of those losses. The multiplier can be any number, but is usually less than four times the value of your damages.
Another means of calculating pain and suffering is to use the “per diem” model. In this model, a specific dollar amount is set to be the value of the suffering of each and every day from the date the injury occurred to the time that “maximum recovery” is reached. So, if the assigned amount is $75, and it takes 300 days to recover, the pain and suffering damages would be calculated as being $22,500.
Of course, there are some issues with this—especially in cases involving permanent damage to the spinal cord or brain. First, if you’ve suffered SCI or brain trauma, there’s a very real chance you won't fully recover. So, it can take a long time to establish if you’ve truly reached “maximum recovery” after your gains from therapy have topped out. Second, most spinal cord and brain injury survivors can’t afford to wait to reach maximum recovery before filing a personal injury claim. There’s a limit to how long you can wait to file a claim—if you miss this deadline, you can’t file at all. So, you may end up either rushing to establish a potential recovery date that could be inaccurate, or waiting so long you lose the chance to collect compensation.
Proving Pain and Suffering in Court
Another tricky aspect of pain and suffering claims is that they are often difficult to prove in court. As we said earlier, pain is subjective—and nobody can really know how much suffering you’ve been through just by looking at you. So, it’s important to keep track of the following to prove pain and suffering:
- Medical bills and records that help prove the extent of your injuries
- Psychiatric evaluation reports
- Testimony from friends and family about changes in your life post-injury
Anything that can be used to demonstrate what your injuries have cost you emotionally and physically could be valuable for a claim of pain and suffering. Of course, even with plentiful evidence, it is easy for others to undervalue your suffering from a traumatic brain or spinal cord injury. This is why it’s so important to have the support of an attorney who has experience in handling SCI and TBI cases.
Achieving Spinal Cord Injury Lawsuit Success
Our sponsor, Swope, Rodante P.A., a spinal cord injury law firm based in Tampa, Florida serves clients throughout the United States. The firm, in just the past decade, has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for clients with catastrophic injuries and who were treated unfairly by an insurance company.
An example of a successful spinal cord injury lawsuit is of a U.S. Army veteran who became a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic after his minivan was T-boned by a dump truck. He received a $12.5 million settlement for his injuries, positively impacting his and his family’s financial stability. This was a case in which the insurance company’s highest prior offer was limited to what it claimed was a $300,000 policy limit*.
Remember: A spinal cord injury lawsuit is typically calculated in years, not months. Some cases can be resolved quickly when all of the parties involved can come to an equitable agreement. However, some cases could take longer because of negotiations or insurance companies acting in bad faith. Having a caring, compassionate, knowledgeable, and experienced spinal cord injury lawyer can make the difference between getting the justice and compensation settlement you deserve and just settling.
Would you like to discuss your spinal cord injury case or traumatic brain injury case with a caring expert? Contact us today for help receiving the support, and justice, your deserve.
*Note: This example is only used to highlight the difference having an experienced spinal cord injury lawyer on your side could potentially make. It should not be interpreted as a guarantee of increased remuneration for injuries, nor as a promise of how much your own spinal injury case may be worth. There are many variables that may influence whether or not a case is successful, and what the settlement/judgment amount will be.
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