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Paralysis is the loss of the ability to move parts of the body. Paralysis can be temporary or permanent. Paralysis can affect only specific parts of the body, like a finger or arm, or affect the entire body. There are many causes of paralysis, including traumatic injury, disease, or congenital defects. 

Depending on the type of injury, prompt medical diagnosis and treatment can reduce the extent of paralysis and possibly restore some function to the affected body part. Unfortunately, when a doctor or healthcare professional fails to provide the proper care, it can lead to paralysis or increase the damage caused by the injury. 

If you were injured in an accident and lost the ability to move part of your body, or if a doctor’s negligence caused paralysis, you may have a claim for compensation. Contact your personal injury and medical malpractice attorney for help. 

Types of Paralysis

Paralysis can involve various parts of the body, including localized paralysis, transitive paralysis, and temporary paralysis. Some of the types of paralysis include: 


Paraplegia is the loss of ability to feel or move the lower extremities. Paralysis of both legs would be considered paraplegia. Individuals with paraplegia may require a wheelchair or mobility scooter to get around. 


Quadriplegia is the paralysis of the major limbs, both arms and both legs, as well as the torso. Also called tetraplegia, it is often caused by high spinal cord damage or brain damage. Tetraplegics may require full-time care to assist with activities of daily living.  


Monoplegia is paralysis of a single limb. Monoplegia can be caused by epilepsy, cerebral palsy, physical trauma to the limb, lesions, or hereditary conditions. In some cases, monoplegia can advance to paraplegia or quadriplegia. 


Hemiplegia or hemiparesis is paralysis of half of the body. The most common cause of hemiplegia is a stroke but it can also be caused by spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury. 

Temporary Paralysis

Temporary paralysis can be frightening the first time someone experiences an inability to move or feel in parts of the body. Temporary paralysis may be caused by an injury, pinched nerve, cut off of blood supply, or an indicator of some underlying health condition. 

Periodic paralysis can be caused by genetic disorders in which the body is temporarily paralyzed or weakened by triggers such as, cold, heat, lack of caloric intake, stress, physical activity, or high carbohydrate meals. Potassium imbalance and hyperthyroidism can also cause periodic paralysis. Periodic paralysis may be difficult to diagnose, leaving patients suffering the effects for years before drug treatments and lifestyle changes improve the condition. 

Panic anxiety disorders can lead to pseudoparalysis, which is not actual paralysis, and is often caused by mental stress which may go away when the anxiety or stress is reduced.

Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis is a period, usually when waking up or falling asleep, where the person is aware but unable to move. Sleep paralysis is not uncommon and may occur once or occur more often. During sleep paralysis, the individual may hallucinate and hear, see, or feel things that are not there. There are a number of folklore stories from around the world that involve a creature or spirit sitting on the chest of someone when sleeping, paralyzing them. 

Locked-In Syndrome

Locked-in syndrome, also called pseudocoma, is a condition of complete paralysis of all voluntary muscles except for some eye movements. Patients with this condition are conscious and have cognitive function but their only way to communicate may be through blinking or eye movements. With total locked-in syndrome, the eyes may also be paralyzed. Causes of locked-in syndrome can include: 

  • Stroke
  • Poisoning
  • Traumatic brain injury

Locked-in syndrome can be difficult to diagnose. It can look like other conditions or syndromes, including loss of consciousness, coma, or even death. 

Paralysis After Injury or Accident

Most paralysis is caused by damage or injury to the nervous system, primarily damage to the spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries are commonly caused by physical trauma, including injury to the head, neck, or back. The most common cause of spinal cord injury is from motor vehicle accidents. Other traumatic causes of spinal cord injuries include:

Spinal cord injuries may involve hyperflexion or hyperextension of the head or neck, rotation, compression of the spine. This can cause permanent damage to the spinal cord, which generally affects the body below the point of injury. Spinal cord injuries lower in the back may paralyze the feet or legs and spinal cord injuries higher in the neck or back may result in total muscular paralysis below the neck. 

Other Causes of Paralysis

Not all paralysis is caused by traumatic injury. Degenerative diseases, medical conditions, and disorders can cause paralysis, including: 

  • Stroke
  • Poliomyelitis
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Parkinson’s 
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Botulism
  • Tick Paralysis
  • Guillain–Barré Syndrome (GBS)
  • Tumors
  • Infection
  • Spinal Cord Vascular Disease

Paralysis Caused by Medical Malpractice  

A doctor’s mistake or negligence can be the cause of paralysis in a patient. When a doctor fails to provide the necessary level of care, they may be liable for injuries caused, including damages for paralysis. Some of the most common forms of paralysis caused by medical malpractice include: 

  • Causing or failing to properly treat infection
  • Cutting or damaging nerves in a surgical procedure
  • Birth injury damaging the infant’s spine
  • Failure to diagnose 
  • Lack of informed consent of the risk of paralysis

Paralysis and Birth Injuries

Some birth injuries can cause paralysis in a newborn. Many conditions, including birth defects and birth injuries, can also lead to eventual paralysis later in life. Conditions that can lead to paralysis include: 

It can be difficult for doctors and parents to identify paralysis in newborns. Paralysis may also not be present at birth but develop over time. Paralysis may appear as weakness in a limb and not a total inability to move that limb. If you suspect a doctor’s negligence during pregnancy or labor caused a birth injury or paralysis, talk to your birth injury malpractice attorney to learn more about your options.

Facial Paralysis Birth Defect and Injury

Facial paralysis is a type of birth injury that prevents muscles in the face from moving. There are a number of types of facial paralysis, including Möbius syndrome, facial dysplasia, teratogenic drugs, and Bell’s palsy. When congenital facial paralysis is present at the time of birth, it can prevent a newborn from nursing or even closing its eyes. These problems can lead to further health conditions at a crucial time in a newborn child’s development.

Facial paralysis in newborns can be caused by a traumatic birth or a developmental deformity in the fetus dealing with either the brain or the facial nerve, also known as cranial nerve VII. This nerve controls the muscles in the cheeks, forehead, eyes, nose, and mouth. Larger babies may have an increased risk of facial paralysis, where trauma can cause temporary paralysis or permanent nerve damage to the face.

Paralysis Injury Claims and Malpractice Attorneys

At Gilman & Bedigian, we will use our experience, knowledge, and dedication to fight for you to receive the compensation you and your family deserve. Our aggressive trial lawyers have helped our clients recover millions of dollars in compensation related to partial and total paralysis caused by an injury, accident, or medical error. Contact us online or call our law office at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.

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