Issue: September 2017
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Spinal Cord Injury Malpractice: Back to Back Problems

Introduction

Liability Risks for Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries currently affect about 250,000 to 400,000 individuals in the U.S. More than 40% of spinal cord injuries result from motor vehicle accidents, but there are other causes. As many as 7,800 new spinal cord injuries occur in the U.S. each year.

 

The average annual cost of health care and living expenses for a person with a spinal cord injury ranges from the tens of thousands to more than a million dollars, and more than a million for lifetime expenses.

 

September is National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month.

 

A spinal cord injury can lead to litigation, and awards or settlements often are very large. Attorneys, physicians, insurers, employers, and other potential parties to litigation need to understand the types of lawsuits and other liability issues that may arise in connection with spinal cord injury litigation.


The Perspectives: Improve Your Strategy

Attorneys:

What proof is needed for a claim of lack of informed consent, alone or as part of a medical malpractice or negligence action, related to the treatment of a spinal cord injury? And, what is a potential strategy for the attorney to employ?

Physicians:

How can liability for medical malpractice be avoided for a patient’s spinal cord injury? And, what is a potential strategy for the physician to employ?

Insurers:

Can a payout under a medical malpractice liability policy be avoided by proof that the health provider was not negligent or there was no coverage for the patient’s spinal cord injury? And, what is a potential strategy for the insurer to employ?

Employers:

Can an employer be subject to liability for an employee’s spinal cord injury? And, what is a potential strategy for the employer to use?


Practice the Technique: Checklists

Attorneys:

Check this list of facts and circumstances tending to show a provider’s liability for malpractice or negligence for an injury involving a patient’s spinal cord.

Physicians:

Presented is a checklist of items a physician must consider when defending against claims of malpractice or negligence involving a spinal cord injury.

Insurers:

The insurer should check these “red flags” and inconsistencies when investigating a claim of medical malpractice or negligence for an injury involving the spinal cord.

Employers:

Use this checklist to determine if the employee’s injury involving the spinal cord is “work related” and occurred “in the course of the employment.”

Expert Analysis

What Therapies Show Promise for Spinal Cord Injury?

Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation

Is There a Detrimental Impact from the Re-Use of Catheters on Spinal Cord Injury Patients?

Andrei V. Krassioukov MD, PhD, FRCPC

What Expert Evidence Is Needed to Prove Postoperative Vision Loss from Spine Surgery?

James E. Girards, JD

Litigation

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Arbitration or mediation may be required by contract or statute, may be mandated by the court or, in some circumstances, may be the appropriate method for a negotiated resolution.


Reasons to Reach Settlement

The following are reasons why the attorney, physician, insurer, or employer would want to reach settlement, and not take the action to trial.


Reasons to Go to Trial

The following are reasons why the attorney, physician, insurer, or employer would want to take the action to trial.


Jury Awards and Settlements

How much have juries awarded and what settlements have been reached recently in cases involving spinal cord injuries?



Medical Examples

Spinal Cord Injuries

This section provides detailed medical information on spinal cord injuries (SCI), the spinal cord, risk factors for SCI, causes, resulting damage, complete and incomplete injury, symptoms, diagnosis and testing, and treatment. The section also discusses the patient’s prognosis and ability to work after the occurrence of an SCI.



Law and Medicine Resources

Law and Medicine Resources

Provided is a listing of law and medical resources for further information on spinal cord injuries.


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Spinal Cord Injury Malpractice: Back to Back Problems

Table of Contents
Introduction

Expert Analysis
   Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
   Andrei V. Krassioukov MD, PhD, FRCPC
   James E. Girards, JD

The Perspectives: Improve Your Strategy
   Attorneys
   Physicians and Health Providers
   Insurers
   Employers and Risk Managers

Practice the Technique: Checklists
   Attorney Checklist
   Physician Checklist
   Insurer Checklist
   Employer Checklist

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Reasons to Reach Settlement

Reasons to Go to Trial

Jury Awards and Settlements

Spinal Cord Injuries

Law and Medicine Resources