Spinal Injury Compensation
Introduction to Spinal Injury Compensation
Spinal injuries are most often caused by a blow to the spine which fractures or dislocates one or more vertebrae. Whereas the bones can heal over a period of time or be repaired by surgery, permanent damage occurs when pieces of a fractured bone pierce the spinal cord – the communication highway from the brain to the rest of the body – causing partial or total paralysis in the part(s) of the body which is no longer receiving instructions from the brain. When the spinal cord is completely severed, it frequently results in total paralysis below the level where the spinal cord has been cut.
According to the charity Spinal Injuries Ireland, an average of one person each week sustains a spinal injury from which they will never fully recover. The majority of these injuries occur in the 18-35 age group due to road traffic accidents, falls from height and participation in physical sports, and more than 75% of those sustaining a spinal injury will never be able to return to work. It is therefore essential that when a spinal injury has been caused by the negligence of another, a claim for spinal injury compensation provides lifelong financial security and include the costs of healthcare, rehabilitation and emotional support as well as physical.
Procedures After a Spinal Injury
Most accidents where a spinal injury is suspected will result in the summoning of an ambulance and the accident victim being immobilised to prevent further damage before being taken to hospital. Thereafter, the extent of the spinal injury will be determined by a medical team, with decisions made over surgery or rehabilitation discussed with the victim’s family. It is important that you speak with a solicitor at an early stage about the possibility of interim spinal injury compensation payments, as medical and care costs may soon start to add up and, if the victim if a primary wage earner, you may not have as much income to cover these costs.
A solicitor will review accident reports recorded in the Gardai’s or employer’s “Accident Report Book” and arrange for witnesses to be interviewed in order that liability can be ascertained at an early stage. When negligence is not contested, the liable party’s insurance company may often consent to an interim payment being made as part of the final spinal injury compensation settlement but, as this may take some time, it is always in your best interests to consult with a legal professional as soon as you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a spinal injury.
Claiming Spinal Injury Compensation
Even when a spinal injury is not catastrophic, there are several reasons for involving a solicitor when making a spinal injury claim. First of all, your application to the Injuries Board Ireland has to be comprehensively completed to ensure that your claim for spinal injury compensation is assessed to the maximum value. Any less than the maximum award of spinal injury compensation could mean you are risking long term financial problems if you or a loved one are unable to return to work because of the injury.
At a time when you are still recovering from your injury, or are worried about how you are going to cope after a loved one has been injured, you may not be in the best emotional state to complete an application for spinal injury compensation. Should you fail to include elements of your spinal injury claim which subsequently make a substantial difference to how much spinal injury compensation you receive, it could leave you undercompensated. Once a spinal injury compensation claim has been settled, you cannot go back for more!
Spinal Injury Compensation and Special Damages
Whereas a solicitor’s expert application to the Injuries Board Ireland will ensure that you receive the maximum amount of compensation for your physical injury, you are also entitled to claim “Special Damages”. Special damages cover “out of pocket” expenses or costs that you will encounter – or have already experienced – due to your spinal injury, and usually include the cost of travelling to hospital to receive treatment, any expenses associated with the treatment itself and future loss of earnings.
However, in a spinal injury compensation claim, your solicitor will also be able to include the expense of adapting your home if you or a loved one are going to be confined to a wheelchair, the costs of having others do jobs for you that you used to do yourself such as DIY, gardening and car maintenance, and also claim for the psychological damage that a catastrophic injury can cause. Victims in serious accidents have been known to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and depression as they adapt to a new life without full mobility.
Spinal Injury Compensation and the Statute of Limitations
In Ireland, you have two years in which to make a claim for spinal injury compensation from the “date of knowledge” of an injury. In most spinal injury claims, the date of knowledge will be the date on which the accident occurred, although in some less serious cases spinal damage can be diagnosed many years after a physically traumatic event. Nonetheless, it is important that you speak with a solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity, not only to discuss the possibility of interim spinal injury compensation payments, but also to enable him to construct the strongest possible spinal injury claim in the time allowed.
The exception to this time limit is when a child has suffered a spinal injury. Children have two years from their eighteenth birthday in which to make a spinal injury compensation claim, although it is recommended not to wait when a catastrophic injury has occurred and witnesses memories can become blurred or evidence of what caused the injury mislaid over a period of time. A child of any age can make a claim for spinal injury compensation through a parent or guardian acting as their “next friend”, however any spinal injury compensation settlement will have to be approved in court before payment can be made.
Spinal Injury Compensation and Third Party Capture
Settlements of spinal injury compensation can be substantial when a young person loses their mobility due to the negligence of another. Consequently, the negligent party’s insurance company may attempt to intervene in the compensation procedure by offering you an early settlement of your spinal injury claim in return for your acceptance of a specified amount. Their offer can be made at any stage of your spinal injury compensation claim and sometimes even before you have engaged a solicitor.
Sadly, the insurance companies concerns are based more around their own financial wellbeing than yours, and their offers of early settlement are frequently much lower than would be assessed by the Injuries Board Ireland. If you are approached by an insurance company after suffering a spinal injury, it is always in your best interests to advise your solicitor of their contact for, although it may extend the length of time you have to wait for a spinal injury compensation payment, it shows that the insurance company have acknowledged that their client has been negligent and are willing to communicate. Your solicitor will be able to negotiate a far more appropriate settlement of your spinal injury compensation claim, which may include an interim payment while negotiations are ongoing.
Spinal Injury Compensation Summary
No amount of spinal injury compensation can ever make up for a life in which you are confined to a wheelchair or lose the use of part of your body. Coming to terms with such a catastrophic injury can be daunting for both the victim and members of their family, and spinal injury compensation can only help victims find support without financial concerns taking over their lives. Because spinal injury compensation settlements are often substantial, it is advised that you speak with a solicitor as soon as you or a loved one has been injured in order that the solicitor can construct the strongest possible spinal injury claim or your behalf and attain the maximum amount of spinal injury compensation possible.