When someone’s brain or spinal cord is injured, whether it’s from a birth injury, work accident, or a motor vehicle collision, the consequences are often significant and long-lasting.
Nearly every aspect of a spinal-injury victim’s life transforms, and does so in drastic ways. Future medical care will likely be significant (both in terms of cost and scope), and they’ll need to adjust both physically and mentally to an entirely different way of living.
A catastrophic spinal injury can happen in an instant. If it results in partial or complete paralysis, not only can the body’s pain signals no longer make it to the brain, the brain can no longer fully communicate with the rest of the body, either. Living as a paraplegic can be difficult enough, but additional life-threatening health conditions and risks can quickly arise in the absence of proper care. One common issue directly related to a spinal injury in the upper back is autonomic dysreflexia (also known as Hyperreflexia), a potentially fatal cardiovascular condition.
The autonomic nervous system controls the functions in your body that operate automatically, such as breathing, heart rate, and even sneezing. It’s constantly monitoring multiple inputs and operations without you thinking about it, and utilizes the spinal cord as its communication path.
If a paraplegic has a pressure sore on their skin or a blocked catheter (both of which would be below the spinal cord injury location), the body still tries to send those pain signals to the brain as it did prior to the injury. This automatically causes the blood vessels in the lower body to narrow, raising the patient’s blood pressure. Normally the brain balances that out by sending signals of its own to relax the body’s blood vessels before things get too bad. It still tries, however none of these messages ever get there because the roadway – the spinal cord – has been cut off. A blood pressure spike like this is dangerous, and quick, proper medical attention is necessary to avoid a fatal stroke, myocardial infraction, pulmonary edema, or cerebral hemorrhage.
Spinal cord injuries in general, and those who suffer from autonomic dysreflexia specifically, require a lifetime of specialized care potentially costing tens of millions of dollars. Unfortunately, many patients and families are unaware of both these risks and the long-term care necessary to prevent additional injuries and even death.
At KBA we’re humbled to have worked with spinal cord injury victims who suffer from conditions like autonomic dysreflexia, and other serious personal injuries. We recognize how important is to be sure those responsible are held accountable because victims’ lives, and their families, will never be the same.
One such client we had the privilege of working for was a 28-year old man who fell 10 feet after being electrocuted while performing maintenance at an power substation. The company failed to turn off the power to the facility, and it struck a rod he was holding while assembling scaffolding. While establishing the company’s negligence and preventing their efforts to blame the victim, we also worked with leading physicians, economists, and multiple other experts to develop a life care plan designed to protect and provide for him both medically and financially well into the future.
This life care plan was the cornerstone of the $35,940,756 verdict our team secured for this man, allowing him to remain in his own home instead of relocating him a nursing home or other facility, as the opposing counsel wanted.
Make no mistake, maximizing what a client injured in this way and facing these serious healthcare challenges has available to them through a settlement or lawsuit is indeed a tremendous undertaking - but that’s what we do at KBA. We not only had to retain the best experts available, we also needed to oppose the other side’s chosen experts - one of whom was himself paralyzed in a traumatic incident and attempted to limit our client’s compensation by minimizing his anticipated future medical expenses.
During the trial, we promptly discredited their expert’s proposed life care plan, eventually resulting in his exclusion from testifying at all. Our team also presented critical impeachment evidence to deconstruct their remaining experts’ testimony.
Then, to engage and educate the jury, we created an animation video demonstrating how autonomic dysreflexia affects the body, and how each minute can mean life or death. Through this and other trial strategies, we helped convince the jury members that skilled nursing care in a private residence was not only appropriate for our client, it was vital. And now, he still resides in his own home, living his own life, and effectively managing his condition.
The KBA team has worked with several brain and spinal cord injury survivors over the years, and we understand just how radically their lives can change. We also understand the science and medicine involved, and work hand-in-hand with leading professionals to achieve true justice for our clients. Yes, their lives have been altered - but that doesn’t mean they’re over. Our pledge to keep this man out of a nursing home and safe from the persistent threat of autonomic dysreflexia all started with listening to his needs, learning about his condition, and our commitment to achieving the best result possible for him and his future.
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