Paralysis is one of the most traumatic injuries a person can endure in his or her lifetime.
It’s difficult enough when a person is born paralyzed, but it’s an entirely different situation when a medical professional makes a preventable mistake, causing paralysis.
If you or your family member sustained injuries from medical malpractice resulting in paralysis, you may be in a position to pursue legal action.
What is paralysis?
Paralysis is an injury to the central nervous system, resulting in partial or complete inability to move the extremities. It comes in many different forms and usually depends on the location of the injury.
Some forms of paralysis include:
- Monoplegia: Paralysis that affects only one limb or region of the body.
- Diplegia: Paralysis that affects corresponding parts on both sides of the body, including arms or legs.
- Hemiplegia: Paralysis that affects only one side of the body, such as the brain. This is usually caused by a stroke.
- Quadriplegia: Paralysis that affects all four limbs, along with certain organs.
- Paraplegia: Paralysis that affects all body parts from the waist down.
Such injuries carry with them many unforeseeable consequences for the victim and his or her family.
What causes paralysis?
Just about any type of major accident can cause paralysis. Some common incidents that result in paralysis include car or train accidents, sporting accidents (gymnastics, swimming, or contact sports), defective consumer products, or dangerous premises.
However, paralysis also occurs as a result of medical malpractice, most commonly from birth injuries or spinal surgeries.
Birth injuries caused by medical malpractice.
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, sometimes referred to as intrapartum hypoxia-ischemia, perinatal asphyxia or HIE, is a birth injury caused by an insufficient flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain. When this happens, a baby’s blood oxygen levels begin to fall below a point where the body can adequately support the normal metabolism of brain cells, causing injury to a baby’s brain.
Several conditions, if medical personnel fail to manage them properly during labor and delivery, can cause HIE, including:
- Placental abruption.
- Amniotomy or rupture of membranes, resulting on umbilical cord compression or prolapse
- Hyper-stimulation as a result of too many uterine contractions. This is often due to the drug, Pitocin.
- Delayed cesarean section delivery.
- Prolonged labor.
- Use of forceps or a vacuum extractor during delivery
- Umbilical cord compression.
- Uterine rupture.
HIE and brain damage due to lack of oxygen often leads to a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. Children with cerebral palsy may experience various types of paralysis, including spatic diplegia, hemiplegia and quadriplegia.
These children may have issues with walking, difficulty using hands and arms, and severe cognitive deficits or learning disabilities. As children with birth-related brain injuries and cerebral palsy become older, they often have difficulty with activities of daily living—such as eating, bathing, and dressing. The impact of these injuries is often permanent and requires a lifetime of care.
Errors during spinal surgeries.
Paralysis may also occur when a medical professional causes serious injury to the brain or spine during surgery. Usually, the injury results from a doctor’s error when treating the patient for another condition.
Instances that may lead to paralysis include:
- Error during surgery.
- Delaying surgery.
- Failure to diagnose a tumor.
- Failure to properly treat a stroke.
- Improper use of anesthesia.
- Incorrect position of the patient.
Ossification of the Posterior Longitudinal Ligament (OPLL) is a relatively common, but often overlooked and misdiagnosed condition that can occur when a ligament that runs along the spinal column becomes thicker and bony (i.e. ossifies). This usually occurs as we age.
You may have OPLL if you experience the following symptoms:
- Pain, tingling, or numbness in the neck, shoulder, arm, or hand.
- Difficulty walking and leg weakness.
- Difficulty with bowel and bladder control.
OPLL exists in up to 25% of the U.S. population for individuals suffering neurologic issues that impact the neck, arms, hands, and legs.
OPLL causes spinal cord compression and can lead to permanent spinal cord injury if the compression on the spinal cord is not relieved in time. If OPLL is not diagnosed and addressed before spine surgery, serious spinal cord injuries can occur.
Diagnostic tests, such as CT and MRI evaluations of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine, are the gold standard for detecting an OPLL diagnosis.
Neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons—the physicians who treat spine and spinal cord problems—often overlook and misdiagnose the symptoms of OPLL due to inexperience or failure to order proper testing in patients with the above neurologic symptoms. The result of misdiagnosis or improper treatment of OPLL can be permanent paralysis or quadriplegia.
These professionals have a duty to abide by specific care standards. When they deviate from those standards, resulting in harm or injury to a patient, they’re guilty of medical malpractice.
How do you make a paralysis accident claim?
The physical, emotional, and financial costs of paralysis treatment and rehabilitation can be staggering for victims and their families. In addition, determining whether a medical professional is responsible for paralysis can be quite difficult.
These cases involve extensive research to determine the root cause of the injury.
In most cases, if the evidence shows proof that the medical professional is at fault, a settlement agreement is worked out. When deciding on a settlement amount, the following are generally factored in:
- Medical costs and expenses.
- Assistive devices (casts, braces, splints, etc.)
- Home accommodations.
- Pain and suffering.
- Lost wages.
While no money can reverse the injuries endured, an attorney can help you get the compensation you need to live comfortably.
Are you a paralysis victim? Get the compensation you deserve.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, resulting in paralysis, you need attorneys that can help you get the compensatory damages you deserve. Chicago-based Hurley McKenna & Mertz has over 20 years of experience representing victims of paralysis accidents throughout the country. For assistance making a claim, contact us today for a free consultation.