E. Marcus Davis Has Over 36 Years Representing Spinal Cord Injury Victims
Representing clients who suffer from paraplegia or quadriplegia presents the most challenging yet rewarding damages case a lawyer can undertake.
The reward to the lawyer of knowing that he or she has fulfilled those needs in a skillful, dedicated and compassionate manner results in the highest degree of career satisfaction. Such a case also represents an opportunity for the lawyer to do good for a human being in dire need. Such a case deserves the very best representation a lawyer can deliver. Years of experience are required to effectively handle these cases.
The Spinal Cord Injured Client Has Lifetime Care Needs That Will Cost in the Millions of Dollars
The most challenging and daunting task is to educate insurance companies for settlement and juries in trial about the myriad complications and conditions that are associated with spinal cord injuries.
Actor Christopher Reeves’ plight following a horse jumping accident, which left him a ventilator dependent quadriplegic, has heightened public awareness and interest in spinal cord injuries. Unlike Mr. Reeves however, many potential clients cannot afford the sort of care that their injuries require, when they obtain full and adequate compensation against a negligent party who caused their injuries. Many clients suffered paralysis through no fault of their own and should be compensated for their life altering injuries so that they can afford excellent care.
As the spinal cord injury patient soon learns, being paraplegic or quadriplegic does not simply mean that a person experiences an inability to move extremities, nor does it mean that you can no longer act as a functioning member of society. What these injuries do mean is that a client will require expensive medical care, therapies, and assistive devices, in order to become accustomed to living with a spinal cord injury, as well as carrying out day to day activities or return to work or functioning as a parent or spouse in meaningful productive activities.
We have learned over many years of representation of catastrophically injured clients that spinal cord injuries cause both physical injuries, pain and suffering and emotional and mental harm.
The issues which must be taught to the jury in a trial or insurance company adjuster in a mediation, are that paraplegics and quadriplegics experience a break down of bodily tissue due to a lack of movement in and pressure on their extremities. Decubitus ulcers, known as pressure sores are common. 60% of quadriplegics develop these sores. In order to avoid the formation of these ulcers, the client must be constantly moved and readjusted by caregivers.
Such infections are serious and sometimes life threatening. They must be treated aggressively and sometimes at great expense.
Spinal cord injured patients develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which can result in pulmonary embolism. A number of methods must be used to prevent DVT including Heparin, Warfarin, external pneumatic compression, Greenfield filters and TED hoses. Because blood clots that result in pulmonary embolism normally originate in the calf muscle, both the paraplegics and quadriplegics are at risk. Quadriplegics are also at risk for pulmonary complications including; pulmonary atelectasis and bronchio-pulmonary infection and pneumonia.
Although some paraplegics retain normal bladder function, most paraplegics, and all quadriplegics need a system of mechanical intervention in order to avoid urinary tract infections from a neurogenic bladder. Urinary tract infections are common and must be prevented if possible and treated aggressively if they occur. Worse case complication is renal failure and death. Further renal problems include tubular necrosis as well as platelet dysfunction and disruption of bone and mineral metabolism.
A quadriplegic or paraplegic person can develop osteoporosis because of the lack of muscle activity and weight bearing that normally results from physical activity, thus increasing the likelihood of bone fractures.
Spinal injury sufferers also frequently have a condition known as a neurogenic bowel, in which fecal matter builds up until it causes an impaction, unless relieved. Many patients require a stoma or hole into the large intestine to avoid feces.
Muscle spasticity, the sometimes violent, rapid flexing of muscles, sometimes occurs. Heterotrophic Ossification, or abnormal bone build up, can cause diminish range of movement of major joints.
Gastrointestinal complications are common as well, such as illeus, paralysis of the intestines, and GERD (gastroesophigial reflex disease).
Perhaps the most threatening complication of paralysis below the sixth thoracic vertebra is autonomic dysreflexia, a symptom that occurs in 85% of tetraplegics. The complications of this syndrome includes stroke and death. Pain stimulus below the level of injury activates the sympathetic nervous system, causing blood pressure to rise to potentially dangerous levels.
It is a myth that spinal cord injured patients feel no pain below the level of injury. Frequently they experience pain akin to that experienced by amputees-phantom pain.
The psychological trauma associated with spinal cord injury may be the worst aspect of the injury. Client’s lives are altered in a devastating and lasting way. Depression is a common response. Traumatic deterioration of self-image ensues. The client and his or her family feel like the patient/client is no longer the same person in a very profound way. Many paralyzed people cannot get out of bed, feed oneself, scratch an itch, or use the bathroom without assistance. All of these complications of injury lead to embarrassment, frustration and loss of self-esteem. As a result of spinal cord injury, most victims have to leave work, causing problems of financial dependency and loss of the ability to support themselves and their family as well as the ability to have a meaningful function and purpose in life.
To children who suffer spinal cord injuries, the effects can be devastating. While other children can run and play at will, the severely injured client becomes a spectator to life, rather than a happy, active participant.
Romantic relationships, including sexual function, become more difficult for those who suffer a spinal cord injury. Procreation becomes problematic. Many paraplegics and quadriplegics fear that they will never find a mate or will lose the mate that they have.
As a result of all the negatively impacted aspects of life, most people suffer at least an initial period of depression requiring therapy.
For the attorney to properly represent the spinal cord injured client, he or she must plan for the injured client’s future and obtain a “life care plan” which will provide for all of the itemized expenses involved in such an injury including medical treatment, caregivers, special housing needs, special adaptive devices and the like.
We as trial lawyers have a vital and important role to play in society in helping spinal cord injured clients to obtain full compensation for their losses and enough money to pay for all their specialized medical, caregiver, housing and transportation needs.