Neurologic injuries can be some of the most devastating types of injuries for patients and their families. Neurologic conditions can be caused by a traumatic event like a car accident or be related to degenerative conditions. When a neurologic injury is caused by an accident or medical mistake, the injury victim may be able to seek compensation for their injuries.
Nervous System and Health
The nervous system is responsible for many of the brain and body functions, from movement to memory. The nervous system consists of nerves and neurons that transmit signals throughout the body and communicate between the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.
The central nervous system (CNS) is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. The peripheral nervous system is made up of sensory neurons, ganglia, and nerves that extend throughout the rest of the body. The involuntary or autonomic system controls functions like breathing, blood pressure, and the heart. The somatic system controls voluntary functions, like walking and talking.
The nervous system is powerful but can be very fragile and easily damaged by outside forces or imbalances in the body. The brain and spinal cord are protected by bone and membrane barriers with the skull, vertebrae, and meninges. A traumatic injury event like an auto accident, gunshot wound, or sports injury, can cause permanent damage to the spinal cord or brain damage.
The nervous system can also be damaged through internal imbalances or health conditions. Neurological diseases can involve nerve damage, brain cell dysfunction, or progressive nerve diseases. This can be caused by birth injuries, infection, or inherited conditions.
Vascular conditions can also impact the nervous system. The nervous system requires a regular supply of oxygenated blood. Lack of oxygen caused by hemorrhage, low oxygen levels, or blockage can cause brain cells to die off within a matter of minutes. Brain cell death is generally a permanent injury and can lead to paralysis or death.
Nervous System Conditions
Nervous system diseases and disorders can cause pain or functional difficulties. This may be temporary conditions, lifelong conditions, or get worse over time. Some common nerve disorders include:
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Parkinson's disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease
- Huntington's disease
- Alzheimer's disease
- Bell's palsy
- Cerebral palsy
- Motor neuron disease
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Brain or spinal cord tumor
Signs and symptoms of neurologic disorders can involve a number of different body systems because nerves extend to every organ in the body. The symptoms of a nervous system disorder can be general or localized, and include:
- Memory problems
- Problems with judgment
- Decreased awareness
Motor Control and Sensory Symptoms
- Persistent or sudden onset of a headache
- Radiating pain
- Loss of sensation or tingling
- Spasticity or rigidity
- Poor balance
- Swallowing problems
- Lack of coordination
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Loss of sight or blurry vision
- Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
- Difficulty reading or writing
- Difficulty forming sentences
- Decreased motivation
- Irritability and mood swings
- Lack of inhibition
Neurological disorders or conditions can appear like other medical problems and should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Traumatic Neurologic Injuries
Neurological injuries can be categorized as traumatic or non-traumatic. Traumatic neurological injuries usually involve a physical injury to the body or head. Traumatic neurological injuries can also be classified as those occurring outside the body and those occurring inside the body. The most common cause of traumatic injuries include:
- Car accidents
- Sports injuries
Car Accidents and Neurological Injuries
Motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of neurological injuries, including spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Car accidents causing serious injury can involve major impacts or even low-speed fender benders.
For example, a rear-end accident can cause whiplash, which is a forceful, rapid back-and-forth motion of the neck. Whiplash can cause permanent neurological damage, leaving the injury victim with chronic pain, limited range of motion, or radiating pain to the arms.
In vehicles without side airbags, a side-impact or rollover accident can cause a driver or passenger to strike their head against the side of the vehicle, causing a traumatic brain injury. Brain damage can be caused by a direct blow to the brain or by swelling inside the skull, which can lead to cerebral edema. Edema that is not corrected or treated can lead to permanent brain damage or death.
After a car accident, the injury victim may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages. Damages can include all the losses associated with the accident, including:
- Medical bills
- Future medical care
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning potential
- Pain and suffering
Falls and Neurological Injuries
Falls are another leading cause of neurological damage related to brain or spinal cord injuries. This includes high falls that may occur during construction site accidents or slip and falls to the ground. Any fall that ends with the head or back striking the ground or another object can lead to a brain or spinal cord injury.
Many fall accident injuries occur in the workplace, including industrial accidents or construction site accidents. When an employee or worker is injured while on the job, their injuries should be covered by workers' compensation. Workers' comp provides limited compensation, which includes medical care and partial wage replacement for the time the injury victim is unable to work.
Violence and Neurological Injuries
Violence and intentional assault can also cause neurological injuries. Assault could include injury to the head, neck, or back, causing spinal cord damage or brain damage. Stabbing injuries could injure the spine or brain or lead to neurological injuries if it causes damage to the vascular system, such as a loss of blood.
Gunshot wounds are another major cause of spinal cord injuries in the U.S. This includes random acts of violence, domestic violence, or accidental shootings. When neurological injuries are caused by intentional actions, the injury victim may be able to file a lawsuit to recover damages from the perpetrator. This includes recovering medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and in some cases, punitive damages.
Sports Injuries and Neurological Damage
Injuries that occur while playing sports or participating in recreational activities may also cause neurological damage when it involves the head, neck, or back. Some of the sports and activities that carry a risk of neurological damage include:
Spinal cord injuries, depending on where along the spinal cord the injury occurs, could result in paraplegia or quadriplegia. Paralysis is generally a permanent injury that requires major modifications to the injury victim's life, including modifying the individual's home, workplace, school, or vehicle. Paralysis may also require lifelong medical care. Individuals with paraplegia and quadriplegia often have recurring medical conditions that require treatment, which may include urinary tract infections, pressure sores, pneumonia, and depression.
Sporting and recreational injuries may be more complicated to recover compensation if the injury victim signed a waiver. Waivers may be required to participate in a number of sports or activities that limit the liability of organizers, coaches, or organizations. However, injury victims may still be able to recover damages if an accident was outside the scope of the waiver, an injury was intentionally caused, or the waiver is unenforceable.
Medical Errors Causing Neurological Damage
Neurological damage can also be caused by medical mistakes. Medical errors that cause direct injury to the spinal cord or brain can cause permanent damage to the victim's nervous system, including paralysis. Other medical mistakes can cause vascular damage, like bleeding, swelling, stroke, heart attack, or infection.
Traumatic medical mistakes to the nervous system can occur when a doctor or surgeon is operating in the area around the spinal cord or brain. This includes:
- Brain surgery
- Nerve block
- Epidural steroid injection
- Lumbar puncture
- Myelogram contrast dye injection
- Lumbar fusion
- Spinal stimulation implant
Traumatic neurological damage can occur in most invasive surgeries, where a surgeon cuts or damages nerves. This can be minor when nerves are severed in a small area. Nerve damage to multiple nerves or sensitive areas can cause more severe damage. Nerve damage can lead to temporary or permanent pain, numbness, or loss of function.
When a medical mistake causes a neurological injury to the brain, spinal cord, or peripheral nerves, it can leave the patient suffering permanent injury, pain, or brain damage.
Neurological Complications in Treating Injuries
The cardiovascular system is tied to the health of the nervous system. Problems with the oxygen and blood supply in the body can directly injure the brain or spinal cord. This includes:
- Brain or spinal hemorrhage
- Brain or spinal cord stroke
- Brain or spinal cord infarction
- Anoxic or hypoxic brain or spinal injury
When treating an injury, illness, or other health conditions, mistakes and errors can have vascular consequences. Vascular problems can lead to neurological complications that cause nerve damage, brain injury, or spinal cord injury. There are a number of ways a medical error in a hospital or clinical setting could trigger injuries that lead to neurological damage. These generally include:
- Diagnostic errors
- Failure to diagnose
- Delayed diagnosis
- Improper medication
- Hospital-acquired infections
- Medication interactions
- Anesthesia complications
One of the problems for patients and their families is that it is not always clear whether the injury was an inherent risk of the medical care or the injury was caused by negligence. The doctor or hospital may not be upfront about a mistake that caused a serious injury. Even if the family has a copy of the medical records, it may not be clear what triggered the damage. It often takes a medical expert to review the documents and evidence to identify problems with the patient's treatment.
If you have a suspicion or questions about whether neurological damage was caused by a medical error, contact your medical malpractice attorney for help. Your attorney can look into your case, help identify possible causes of the injury, and let you know how you can recover damages to include:
Neurological Birth Injuries
Neurological birth injuries can be very traumatic for parents to discover their child will likely suffer neurological impairment for the rest of their lives. Neurological birth injuries can occur during pregnancy, during delivery, or be congenital conditions. Like other neurologic injuries, birth injuries can be caused by trauma or have non-traumatic origins.
Brain and spinal cord injury during labor can be caused by using too much force used to extract a child from the birth canal, twisting the spine, or using forceps or a vacuum-extraction tool on the child's head.
Neurological birth injuries can also involve medical conditions that a doctor fails to diagnose or there is a delayed diagnosis. For example, Spina Bifida is a neural tube birth defect that occurs in an unborn baby's spine and spinal cord, leaving the child more susceptible to spinal cord injury. Other neurological birth injuries can include:
Treatment and Recovery of Neurological Injury
Treatment of neurological injuries can be complex and the outcome may depend on a number of factors, including the severity of the injury, age of the patient, health of the patient, and future of emerging developments in brain and nerve treatments.
Many neurological injuries are permanent, including many brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and nerve damage. Treatment is often focused on therapy to help the individual live with their injury and increase independence in their daily lives. Therapeutic treatment for neurological injuries include:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Mental health counseling
- Pain management
- Nutritional counseling
Advancements in Treating Neurological Injuries
A neurological injury diagnosis is not necessarily the end of the story for the injury victim. Research continues to make advances in brain injury, spinal cord injury, and nerve injury treatments. Research includes ways to better diagnose injuries, improve recovery, promoting neuroplasticity, or the brain's ability to adapt and repair itself, and stem cell research to treat neurological disorders.
Neurological Injury Attorneys
If a family member or loved one was injured as the result of an accident or medical error, talk to an experienced attorney about options for recovery. The negligent party who caused the injury should be responsible for their actions and pay for the damage done.
If the neurological injury was caused by a medical mistake, the doctors and hospitals should be held accountable for their failures. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.