Trip and falls can be perilous, especially for older people. Many people have fallen at least once in their lives, which is part of why insurance companies sometimes undervalue these claims. However, claims involving a fall can result in permanent injuries, including paralysis, brain injuries, and fractured skulls. Understandably, some clients want to know: How common is suffering from paralysis after a trip and fall accident?
Many people fall and land on their backs, increasing the risk of spinal damage and paralysis. If you or someone you love suffered paralysis from a trip and fall, you could have a legal claim against the at-fault party. These are typically very complex claims to pursue. Contact the skilled Louisville trip and fall lawyers at Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC, to discuss your options.
How a Trip and Fall Can Cause Paralysis
When you slip or trip over something, your leg can come out from under you, causing you to lose your balance. Some falls result from a trip that causes you to fall forward. In some situations, you may have the ability to brace yourself or grab a nearby object.
When you fall backward, you have nothing to cushion your fall and will land directly on your spine. When your spine receives the brunt of the impact, the risk of damage increases. If you land on a hard surface, there’s a risk of brain damage as well if your head strikes the ground. You can be paralyzed if the impact causes damage to your spinal nerves. Falls from heights can be particularly damaging.
Vertebrae make up your spine and are the bones that facilitate movement in your neck and back. You’ll also find a series of nerves here that run from your brain to the rest of your body. These nerves allow you to feel things, such as pain and temperature. They also allow you to perform movement, such as walking or going to the bathroom.
During impact, your spine can break, causing shards of bones to sever your nerves. A trip and fall can also stretch, bruise, or tear your nerves, which can also lead to paralysis. A nerve that is stretched or bruised could heal and recover. A torn nerve is not likely to recover, which will also result in permanent paralysis.
Types of Paralysis
Your spine is divided into four sections—cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral. Each section has different nerve groups that control various parts of your body. The severity of your paralysis is determined by the spinal injury level and severity.
- Cervical spinal cord: Injuries affect the head and neck above the shoulders and is the most severe type of spinal cord injury.
- Thoracic spinal cord: Injuries here affect the upper chest and middle back area, as well as abdominal muscles, but people usually still have standard arm and hand function.
- Lumbar spinal cord: Injuries at the lumbar level affect legs and hips, with some people able to walk with braces or require the use of a wheelchair.
- Sacral spinal cord: An injury to the sacral area can affect the pelvic organs, hips, buttocks, and back of thighs, with many people still able to walk some.
When talking about a spinal cord injury, medical professionals use the terms complete and incomplete. A complete injury results in total paralysis below the level of injury. It also affects both sides of the body. That is why paralysis resulting from a cervical spine injury is the worst. Victims are left paralyzed from the neck down, which is known as quadriplegia. Paralysis affecting only the lower limbs is known as paraplegia.
An incomplete spinal cord injury is where the person retains some function on one or both sides of the body. The brain is sending limited information along the neural pathways.
Diagnosing a Spinal Cord Injury
Not all spinal cord injuries result in immediate paralysis. You should seek medical attention right away after a fall if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Decreased sensation in your arms or legs;
- Weakness in your arms or legs;
- Severe pressure or pain in your neck or back;
- Loss of bladder or bowel control;
- Odd lumps along your spine; or
- Difficulty breathing.
Seeking immediate medical attention in cases involving minor spinal cord injuries could make a difference in whether your nerves can heal. When you go in for an assessment, the doctors will check your motor function and how well you move parts of your body. They will also measure your sensory function, which is your touch response.
Diagnostic tests such as MRIs and CT scans can show possible spinal cord damage. Some providers may use an electromyogram (EMG) which looks for damage by testing your electrical activity in muscles and nerve cells if there is an accompanying peripheral nerve injury.
Some injuries require immediate surgical intervention if you sustain trauma to another part of your body. Surgery may also address spinal cord damage if the injuries come from blood clots, broken bones, or damaged tissue.
In limited cases, corticosteroid shots administered within eight hours of the injury may help with spinal cord damage. The shot could reduce inflammation, improve your blood flow, and possibly preserve nerve function.
How Paralysis Impacts Your Life
Repairing spinal cord damage is not typically possible. Long-term treatment options focus on improving your quality of life. The goal is to reduce ongoing and chronic health conditions and restore some nerve function in partial injuries cases. Many people can benefit from physical therapy or rehabilitation. Your team of specialists can teach you how to work with a wheelchair or walker. They will teach you how to handle your activities of daily living, such as getting dressed and using the toilet.
Contact a Louisville Trip and Fall Attorney
You have legal rights when another party’s negligence results in your injuries after a trip and fall. Pursuing a claim for damages in a trip and fall or slip and fall can be very complicated. You should not attempt to handle your case independently. Instead, let the skilled lawyer at Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC, assist you.
We have two decades of experience with personal injury cases, including slip and falls. Attorney Seth Goldstein has worked on both the defense and plaintiff sides of cases. He understands how insurance companies think and the tactics they use. This experience can help you get the maximum compensation you deserve. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment and learn more about your legal options.