What are Permanent Disabilities Caused by a Car Accident?September 6, 2021
A car accident can be over in mere seconds or minutes, but sometimes the consequences can last for a lifetime. Victims of car accidents who end up with permanent disabilities because of their injuries can face major, overwhelming life changes that leave them unable to work or carry out the daily activities of living without some sort of assistance. This puts them in very difficult positions and can make even the simplest activities challenging on a daily basis.
What are the Most Common Disabilities Caused by Car Accidents?
Spinal cord injuries (SCI) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are the most common kinds of disabilities in these situations, and most people understand the seriousness of these conditions. When the spine is injured, it can lead to partial or total paralysis, depending on the part of the spine that was injured. In an acute SCI, the spine could be in shock, leading to a loss of reflexes, feeling, and muscle movement. Additional symptoms can appear once the initial swelling subsides and include breathing problems, weakness, loss of bladder and bowel function, and a loss of feeling and voluntary movement elsewhere in the body.
The higher the injury is on the spinal cord, the more severe the person’s symptoms usually are. Injuries to the neck or first and second vertebrae (C1, C2) or the mid-cervical vertebrae (C3, C4, C5) can cause respiratory problems. Lumbar vertebrae injuries can impact muscle and nerve control for sexual function, the bladder, bowel, and legs. A loss of function to the arms and legs is called quadriplegia; a loss of function in the lower body and/or legs is paraplegia. Either can be partial, an incomplete injury; or there can be no movement or felling at all, a complete injury. In the most severe cases, victims may end up in wheelchairs, restricted to their beds, or need assistive devices for breathing.
TBI caused by car accidents often result when the head receives a violent blow or jolt. This can happen from a forceful impact or an object piercing through brain tissue. Mild TBI can affect brain cells temporarily, but more serious ones cause long-lasting physical damage and can be fatal. The more serious symptoms include a loss of consciousness; nausea; persistent, painful headaches; a loss of coordination; profound confusion; personality changes; and coma.
Severe joint damage and amputations are two other common permanent disabilities that can result from car accidents. After these kinds of devastating injuries, many people are not able to use their limbs in the same as capacity as before the accident. Even the best treatment cannot help enough in certain cases. Other permanent disabilities include blindness, deafness, burns, severe back injuries, and emotional trauma.
Living with a Permanent Disability
Although every person’s situation is different, these kinds of injuries usually lead to ongoing, costly medical treatment and procedures, physical therapy, medications, the need for caregivers, long-term care, and future expenses that can be quite unpredictable. It may be possible to qualify for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA) if the problems have lasted for a year or more and have prevented the person from working, but these benefits are not exceptionally high.
To meet the eligibility requirements, applicants can check the SSA’s Blue Book for a Listing of Impairments. For back injuries, some of the qualifications include compression of a nerve root, muscle atrophy with weakness, limitation of movement, spinal arachnoiditis, lumbar spinal stenosis, and other degenerative diseases. Car accident-related soft tissue injures to muscles, nerves, the skin, tendons, and ligaments, and burns are also listed, but approval depends on many other factors as well.
There is also a category for bone fractures, but the breaks must be serious enough to cause an extreme impairment. Significant anxiety may also qualify a person to receive SSA disability, and there are some other categories as well. The SSA will establish whether the person’s residual functional capacity allows them to still work. They will analyze the hospitalization records and review the medical treatment, any complications, and medications being taken. There will be other assessments of the person’s mental and physical capacity as well.
Can I be Compensated for a Permanent Disability Caused by a Car Accident?
Permanent disabilities turn people’s lives upside down, and their families and friends are affected as well. Besides the problems associated with daily activities, the emotional toll and mounting medical bills all compound the situation. Filing a personal injury claim can be the first step toward seeking compensation to cover current and future medical costs, a loss of current and future income, lost earning potential, loss of enjoyment of life, and pain and suffering. Personal injury cases can be filed by the injured party or their spouse, child, or parent as a wrongful death lawsuit. These cases are filed against negligent parties who cause accidents and their insurance providers. If they lose a case, they may both be responsible for damages.
Of course, the most important to do after the accident is to seek out and receive the proper medical treatment. Doing this as soon as possible is essential, as negligent parties often claim that the injuries were not a result of the accident. For many people, the symptoms may not be obvious at first, but it does not pay to wait to be evaluated. Also, the medical providers should be informed that the injuries were caused by the accident, and make sure that the injuries are documented.
It is possible that the insurance company will offer a settlement, and in many situations these may be acceptable. The initial amount will depend on their determination of who was at fault, state insurance laws, and other factors. It is never a good idea to accept an initial settlement right away; insurance companies are in the business to make profits and they can and will make modest offers. Even if the money is badly needed and the amount looks good enough, it is wiser to wait and consult with a professional. You may want to work with an experienced car accident lawyer from the beginning to make sure that your rights are protected. Lawyers gather information to investigate personal injury cases, such as statements made to law enforcement, police reports, medical records and bills, evidence from the scene including photographs, and witness interviews.
If the settlement is not appropriate, there may be negotiations with the insurance provider and the liable party. Otherwise, you may opt to file personal injury lawsuits. These can go on for years when they are complicated, but it can be worth it when the damages awarded are fair and just.
How Long do Car Accident Lawsuits Take?
Settlement negotiations and personal injury lawsuits can take long amounts of time, so patience will be required. Once a lawsuit is filed, the discovery process begins and there will be additional investigations. One or both sides may attempt to settle the suit before it goes to trial by starting a mediation. This can save all those involved a lot of time, and it can also be less costly in the long run.
Should a trial ensue, a judge or jury will listen to the case and decide if there are to be any damages awarded to the plaintiff by the opposing party. The amount is based on how well the injured party can prove liability and damages. Complex cases take more time, but shorter ones can last a few weeks or even only a couple of days.
Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Support Permanently Disabled Car Accident Victims
If you or someone you care about has suffered a permanent, life-altering disability due to someone else’s negligence in a car accident, the experienced, compassionate Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton are ready to offer legal guidance. We are committed to treating each client with the highest level of respect while providing unsurpassed service with accountability, ethical behavior, and the best result. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online for a free consultation.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.