Paraplegia is a type of paralysis that generally affects the lower half of the body from the waist down. Paraplegia is generally caused by spinal cord or brain damage that prevents the nerves and muscles in the lower body from receiving signals from the brain.
Paraplegia can be very different in different situations. Paraplegia can be total and permanent but other cases can be temporary and change over time. Treatment and rehabilitation can help restore some function in some patients. In some cases, paraplegia can advance to quadriplegia, or paralysis from the neck down.
Paraplegia can be caused by a traumatic accident, like a fall or car accident. Paraplegia can also be caused by health conditions, congenital diseases, or illness. In some cases, paraplegia can be caused by medical malpractice where a doctor negligently damages the spinal cord or fails to properly treat a patient, leading to infection and paralysis.
Paraplegia Injury and Treatment
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), there are an estimated 294,000 persons in the U.S. with spinal cord injuries. About 20% have complete paraplegia and another 20% have incomplete paraplegia. The most common causes of spinal cord injuries since 2015 include:
- Vehicular accidents (39%)
- Falls (32%)
- Violence/gunshot wounds (14%)
- Sports injuries (8%)
- Medical/surgical injury (4%)
Other causes of paraplegia may include:
- Genetic disorders
- Birth injuries
- Autoimmune disorders
- Cerebral palsy
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Tick Paralysis
- Guillain–Barré Syndrome (GBS)
When an injury or illness causes damage to the spinal cord, the paralysis can be immediate or onset over time and progress. Paraplegics may have a loss of sensation ranging from tingling, or reduced feeling, to an inability to feel anything, including painful stimulus, below the waist.
Paraplegic Injury Treatment
Treatment and living with paraplegia can be a long road. In some cases, an individual can recover partial or full mobility after paraplegia. However, paraplegia is often permanent, requiring regular treatment and care.
Early treatment and diagnosis can help reduce the severity of some paralyzing injuries. Anyone who suspects they may have suffered a spinal injury or traumatic brain injury (TBI), should seek immediate medical attention.
Rehabilitation can help paraplegic individuals strengthen their arms and upper body to help them with mobility after the loss of use of their legs. Rehabilitation can also help with dietary and lifestyle changes. Surgical treatments may be an option to reduce the effects of paralysis or even recover partial use of the lower limbs.
Paraplegia Caused by Medical Malpractice
One of the most traumatic causes of paraplegia for a victim is medical errors. A patient places themselves into the hands of a healthcare professional and they expect a certain standard of care. When a doctor fails to properly diagnose an illness, delayed diagnosis or treatment, negligently surgical damages the spinal cord, or fails to warn a patient of the risks of a procedure, the doctor can cause paraplegia or paralysis.
If a doctor, healthcare professional, or hospital negligently causes paralysis or paraplegia, they should be held responsible for their actions. A medical malpractice lawsuit may allow the injury victim to recover compensation for their injuries, including:
- Medical costs,
- Loss of income,
- Future medical costs,
- Loss of earning potential, and
- Pain and suffering.
Paraplegic Modifications for Home, Work, and Transport
Paraplegia often requires major life changes. This includes modifications to the home, workplace, school for students, and transportation.
Modifications to the Home
Most people do not think about how inaccessible their home can be until they are in a wheelchair. Areas may not have enough space to turn around, stairs may not be accessible, and even uneven sidewalks can be challenging. Home modifications may include:
- Installing a ramp to get around stairs,
- Changing door knobs,
- Widening doors,
- Installing grab bars in the bathroom,
- Piping insulation on exposed pipes,
- Installing an elevator or stair chair, and
- Change cabinets and countertops to be more accessible.
Employers are generally required to provide accommodations for employees who are in a wheelchair. Failure to provide reasonable accommodations could be a violation of state or federal law. Some workplace accommodations for wheelchair users may include:
- Allowing breaks for bathroom needs,
- Allowing flexible scheduling,
- Height adjustable desks, and
- Reachable access to office supplies, filing cabinets, and other equipment.
Transport Modifications for Paraplegics
Paraplegics may be able to get in and out of an unmodified vehicle but many people seek modifications to make it easier to get around or to be able to drive without the use of their legs. Modifications may include using a wheelchair accessible minivan or getting a specially equipped vehicle that can be driven fully with the hands, including hand controls for braking and accelerating, touch ignition pads, and adjustable seats.
Education for Children with Paralysis
There may be a number of considerations for a child with paralysis to be able to thrive in a school environment. Special education needs may include:
- Counseling services
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Therapeutic recreation
Costs of Care and Treatment for Paraplegia
According to the NSCISC, the historical lifetime costs attributed to paraplegia can amount to millions of dollars. The average healthcare and living expense costs related to paraplegia average $560,000 for the first year and $74,000 each subsequent year. The estimated lifetime cost of paraplegic injury are:
- 25-year-old paraplegic: nearly $2.5 million
- 50-year-old paraplegic: over $1.6 million
These costs do not take into account other costs and losses associated with paralysis, including loss of income and lower earning potential caused by the accident. These costs may also not include the emotional costs of losing the use of a person's limbs.
Paraplegic 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 paraplegia and 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.