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Spinal Injury in Nursing Home
A spinal cord injury is one of the most devastating injuries imaginable. When there is significant damage to the spine, severe and often permanent complications can occur, including loss of muscle tone, incontinence, and paralysis.
Falls are the most common cause of spinal cord injuries in nursing homes. These accidents often occur due to the negligence of employees, management, or the administration.
Regardless of who is directly or indirectly at fault, any patient that suffers a spinal cord injury due to someone else's negligence deserves financial compensation.
Did you or a loved one suffer a spine injury in a long-term care facility? The affiliate attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC, can help you seek the justice you deserve.
Contact our nursing home abuse lawyers at (800) 926-7565 (toll-free phone number) or fill out this contact form for a free consultation.
What is a Spinal Cord Injury?
The spinal cord transmits messages between the brain and the rest of your body. It is composed of vertebrae (spinal bones) and layers of tissue that protect them (meninges).
A spinal cord injury damages any part of the spinal cord or surrounding nerves and tissues. It often causes changes in strength, sensation, and function below the site of injury. Most spinal cord injuries are caused by a sudden and significant blow to the vertebrae, damaging the spinal cord and its nerves.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
These injuries can either be:
- Complete: A complete spinal cord injury occurs when all feeling and ability to control movement are lost below the injury site.
- Incomplete: Spinal damage that leaves some feeling or motor function below the affected area is referred to as an incomplete spinal cord injury.
Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury
A patient that suffers a significant blow to the spine may experience the following symptoms:
- Loss of movement
- Numbness or tingling
- Decreased or altered sensation
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Changes in sexual function, sensitivity, and fertility
- Severe pain in the neck or back
- Difficulty breathing, coughing
- Unusual lumps along the spinal cord
- Exaggerated reflexes or spasms
- Balance and walking problems
Spinal cord injuries don't always produce symptoms immediately and may appear gradually. People who suffer severe head, neck, or back trauma must undergo a complete physical examination to rule out a broken spine.
A person may be more prone to a spine injury if they have the following risk factors:
- Older Age: People 65 and over have a higher risk of spinal injuries due to brittle bones caused by loss of bone tissue, which is part of the natural aging process. The risk is also higher because the elderly are more prone to falls.
- Being Male: In the US, traumatic spinal injuries affect 80% of men.
- Drinking Alcohol: Alcohol impairs coordination, balance, motor function, and judgment, increasing the risk of accidents that can cause a traumatic injury to the spine.
- Risky Activities such as playing sports with improper protection or driving above the speed limit elevate the risk of spinal cord injuries.
- Certain Medical Conditions: If you have a condition that affects the bones or joints (e.g., osteoporosis), you may have a higher risk of suffering a broken spine. Family history of these conditions may also increase your chances.
Complications of Spinal Injuries
Spinal damage interrupts the transfer of messages between the brain and the rest of the body. The following complications can occur:
- Paralysis: Damage to the spinal cord often leads to loss of motor function. The two main classifications of paralysis are tetraplegia (which affects the arms, hands, torso, legs, and pelvic organs) and paraplegia (which affects all parts of the trunk, limbs, and pelvic organs).
- Loss of Bladder and Bowel Control: A broken spine may not be able to control the bladder and gastrointestinal tract properly, increasing the risk of incontinence, constipation, and urinary tract infections.
- Bedsores: Long periods of laying in the same position can cut off blood flow to several parts of the body, causing skin injuries referred to as bedsores. Bed-bound patients who cannot frequently reposition themselves have an elevated risk of bedsores.
- Circulatory Issues: Some patients experience changes in the circulatory system after spinal damage, possibly causing problems like low blood pressure, swelling, and blood clots.
- Respiratory Problems: A patient may have difficulty breathing or coughing if the abdominal and chest muscles are affected.
- Lower Bone Density: Spinal cord injuries can cause a loss of bone tissue (osteoporosis), increasing the risk of fractures.
- Muscle Spasms or Flaccidity: An injured patient can experience either involuntary tightening or movement of the muscles (spasticity) or soft and limp muscles with reduced muscle tone (flaccidity) due to broken brain signals.
- Death: Patients with spinal cord injuries have a greater risk of dying due to decreased motor function, complications, and other injuries. A retrospective study of 640 patients at two nursing homes between 1991 and 2006 showed that elderly patients that suffered spinal cord injuries die within three months.
Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries in Nursing Homes
Spinal cord injuries among elderly residents are almost always caused by falls. These accidents often stem from:
- Lack of Supervision: Most elderly residents require supervision throughout the day. Without staff members to provide care, they may accidentally hurt themselves (e.g., trip over an object) or attempt to do something they're not supposed to (e.g., get out of bed without help).
- Environmental Fall Hazards: The presence of specific hazards, such as loose wiring, torn carpeting, and uneven floorboards, increases the risk of falls, especially in the elderly.
- Certain Medications: Drugs such as anxiolytics, antidepressants, antihistamines, and sedatives can cause drowsiness, lightheadedness, poor balance, and other side effects that increase the risk of falling.
- Lack of Mobility Assistance: Elderly or injured patients with limited mobility or are bed-bound are at an increased risk of falling, especially if they don't receive adequate help or aids (e.g., wheelchair, walker, cane).
- Dementia: A patient with cognitive impairment, such as dementia, is more prone to falling due to movement, strength, and balance problems, increased pacing, and difficulty avoiding and paying attention to hazards.
- History of Falls: An elderly patient who has suffered falls before has a high chance of falling again and sustaining a broken spine.
How Nursing Homes Can Prevent Falls
Every nursing home must have a fall prevention program that includes the following strategies:
- Rehabilitation of patients with poor strength, gait, and balance
- Fall prevention education and training for caregivers and patients
- Proper medication management for drugs that cause dizziness, drowsiness, and other risky side effects
- Assessments of patients who suffered previous falls and identification of the underlying diseases
- Installation of fall prevention modifications, e.g., alert systems, grab bars, handrails, raised toilet seats, etc.
- Removal of environmental hazards
- Optimal use of human resources to prevent neglect
Filing a Nursing Home Spinal Injury Claim
Acts of neglect and negligence may be considered nursing home abuse, whether intentional or not.
If a nursing facility fails to prevent an accident resulting in a spinal cord injury, the nursing home and other responsible parties could be liable in a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
To file a case, you must prove the following:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to you (all nursing homes have a legal obligation to prevent to residents)
- The defendant breached this duty of care
- This breach caused the accident
- The accident directly led to your injury and other damages
Possible defendants in a spinal cord injury claim can be:
- Health care professionals (doctors, nurses, pharmacists)
- Support staff members (maintenance professionals, aides)
- Other residents
A doctor or other health care professional may also be liable in a medical malpractice claim if the accident resulted from their negligence.
Additionally, the nursing home owner may be responsible for failing to prevent abuse or neglect caused by nursing home staff members, visitors, and residents.
A negligent nursing home could be liable for the losses you incur due to your fall injury, including:
- Medical bills
- Loss of quality of life
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death
- Punitive damages
The most crucial step of a nursing home abuse case is proving the defendant's role in your injury. The following forms of evidence can help:
- Medical or hospital records
- Incident reports
- Surveillance footage
- Witness accounts
Furthermore, you must present proof that demonstrates the extent of your damages, such as:
- Photos of injuries
- Torn or bloodied clothing
- Psychological evaluations
- Victim's testimony
- Testimonies from family members
- Receipts for purchase of a wheelchair, crutches, and other disability-related expenses
Compensation For Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are some of the highest-grossing claims in personal injury cases, mainly due to the life-altering effects they cause. The average recovery is over $1 million in many states.
Nevertheless, certain factors will affect the value of your settlement, including:
- Age: A younger person may receive a larger settlement because their injuries affect more of their lifetime.
- State: Some states award more significant compensations than others.
- Damages: The extent of a victim's losses largely determines how much they should receive in compensation. Generally, the worse the damages are, the larger the settlement.
How a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Can Help
Spinal cord injuries cause significant changes in one's bodily functions, often debilitating. Handling a legal battle on top of the physical, emotional, and financial effects on your family is often challenging.
An experienced attorney can take a massive burden off your shoulders during this difficult time. They can help you:
- Investigate how and why the accident happened and identify the factors that contributed to it
- Determine who is at fault for the incident
- Consult a doctor about your loved one's injury
- Gather evidence and maximize resources to build your claim
- File your claim with the defendant's insurance company
- Negotiate settlement values
- File your case in civil court, if necessary
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Nursing Home Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Today
Did you or a loved one suffer a broken spine due to a nursing home's negligence? If so, the experienced attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC, can help you seek justice from liable parties and recover fair compensation for your losses.
Our skilled lawyers handle various cases related to nursing home abuse, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and fractures. We help victims, and their families, hold negligent or abusive nursing home staff, visitors, and residents accountable for their harmful actions.
Call (800) 926-7565 or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team will remain private under an attorney-client relationship.
Our attorneys handle all accepted cases on a contingency fee basis. You don't have to pay for our services unless we win your case.