When a spinal cord injury (SCI) or any catastrophic injury occurs, the life of the person injured and their family is turned upside down. Some of the many changes following a spinal cord injury include the loss of motor and physical movement, loss of feeling and sensation, loss of bladder or bowel control, and an increase of post secondary health conditions such as infections and autonomic dysreflexia. These critical changes make a SCI a life-long, life-changing, and very expensive injury.
If your injury occurred because of someone else’s negligence, it is in your best interest to consider pursuing a lawsuit to receive financial compensation for your injury. Compensation does not reverse what happened to you, but rather it holds those responsible accountable and provides you with a better quality of life with money going towards your future needs. Holding those accountable for their negligent actions can help prevent injuries to others in the future. The legal system in the United States allows those hurt by another person, business or entity to have justice through the courts.
How the US Legal System Works
Before you pursue a lawsuit, it is a good idea to remind yourself of how the US legal system works and how it can protect you. In the United States, there are two separate parts to our justice system–the criminal justice system and the civil justice system. While your SCI may be a result of a criminal act, in order to receive financial compensation, you will want to pursue a claim through the civil justice system. The civil justice system is rooted in the 7th Amendment of the US Constitution, which provides for the right to a trial by jury for your legal claim. A trial by jury means that if you have an actionable legal case, then a jury of your peers will be in charge of weighing the evidence brought forward and determining who is telling the truth. After weighing the evidence, the jury decides what damages or monetary compensation you should be awarded based on your injuries.
Damages can include financial compensation for your injuries which includes medical bills, from the past, present, and future attributable to your injuries; lost wages, from the past, present, and future attributable to your injuries; and compensation for your pain and suffering from the past, present, and future.
Would I be the Plaintiff or Defendant?
As the person filing the lawsuit, you are referred to as the Plaintiff. The Defendant is the person, business or entity you are bringing the claim against. In many cases, there may be more than one defendant.
Fault vs No-Fault Insurance States
When your personal injuries are the result of a car accident, you will need to determine if your state is considered a “fault” state or a “no-fault” state. If your state is a fault state, the person or entity who caused the accident that resulted in your injuries can be held liable as long as a jury determines that they are at least 51% at fault for the accident and resulting injuries. On the other hand, if you live in a no-fault state, where one person or entity is not at least 51% at fault for the accident and resulting injuries, insurance is set up so that each driver carries their own level of protection for medical bills and lost wages in the event of a car wreck. This type of insurance is called Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and will be paid out for medical bills and lost wages regardless of who is at fault. If another person is responsible for your injuries, a claim can be pursued against them for your pain and suffering.
The following 12 states and Puerto Rico currently follow a no-fault insurance threshold:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
“Catastrophic” Injury Can Help Your Case
For most people with spinal cord injuries, their injury is considered “catastrophic,” which means that it is a serious, permanent disability with long-term effects. An injury is considered catastrophic if it makes you unable to be gainfully employed. In many catastrophic cases, a life care plan will need to be established to determine the ongoing costs related to the injury for the person’s lifetime. A qualified spinal cord injury lawyer will help establish if your injury is catastrophic and what the life-long financial effects of your injury are. Catastrophic injury cases tend to award the Plaintiff more financial compensation than non-catastrophic injury cases.
Finding an attorney that understands spinal cord injuries and that will fight for you
The Spinal Cord Injury Law Firm understands an individual’s lifetime expenses and the importance of receiving compensation to pay for the future. Kelley, the law firm’s founder, is a paraplegic and lives with a spinal cord injury every day. Most personal injury attorneys across the country don’t understand the needs and future needs of a person with a spinal cord injury. The Spinal Cord Injury Law Firm lives it and flights for it. You can count on us to fight for you!
Know Your State’s Statute of Limitations
You also need to be aware of your state’s statute of limitations. Each state provides how long a person has following a personal injury to bring a legal claim. After that time, a person will be barred from bringing a personal injury suit. While most states’ limitation period is two years, some states require a lawsuit for personal injury be brought within one year of the injury, while other states provide five years to bring a legal claim. Because of the importance of timing in these types of cases, it is necessary to contact a spinal cord injury attorney as soon as possible to determine what the statute of limitation is for your case. While understanding the basic nature of the legal system is important, the particulars of each case will vary. That is why retaining lawyers who understand the legal process for people who have sustained a spinal cord injury is vital.