Research has shown that people who suffer a spinal cord injury can expect to pay up to $1 million in the first year and up to $200,000 in succeeding years.
There is another alternative to paying out of pocket. If your spinal cord injury was caused by the negligence of another, you may be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit against the liable party.
Lawsuits for spinal cord injuries typically fall into two categories: negligence and faulty or defective products.
The law defines negligence as the failure of a person to act in a reasonable way when they had a duty to do so. For example, if your spinal cord injury was caused when you were hit by a driver who failed to obey traffic laws or was checking their phone, this is a form of negligence and grounds for a lawsuit against that driver.
Negligence is essentially a wrongful act committed by an individual, company, or group that caused harm to someone else.
In order to successfully pursue a spinal cord injury claim, a victim must prove that:
- The defendant owed the victim a duty of care
- The defendant failed to comply with this duty of care
- The defendant's failure to comply with their duty of care was the significant factor that caused a spinal cord victim’s injuries
California is a comparative negligence state, which means that a spinal cord injury victim may still recover some damages even if he or she is found partially liable for the accident. An injury victim’s available damages will of course be reduced by his or her degree of fault.
A company who produces or sells a defective product that causes or contributes to causing a spinal cord injury may be held liable for any losses caused. According to product liability law, anyone involved in the chain of distribution -- including product designers, manufacturers, or sellers -- can be held strictly liable for injuries caused by the faulty product
Strict liability cases typically revolve around:
- Defects in the design process
- Defects in the manufacturing process
- Lack of adequate warnings about a hazard or proper instructions about how to use that product
In order to successfully pursue a product liability lawsuit after a spinal cord injury, a victim must prove the following:
- Spinal cord injury victim used the product in a reasonable way
- Defendant designed, manufactured, or sold a defective product
- Product already had a design, manufacturing, or warning defect when it left the defendant
- Product defect was the significant factor that caused a spinal cord injury victim's losses
Let’s consider an example:
Say that Juanita recently purchased a personal weight lifting system for her home. Juanita is diligent and follows all the instructions and is careful during installation. She then uses the exercise equipment in a reasonably safe manner and enjoys herself.
A week into her workout routine, as Juanita is lifting a weighted bar over her head, a screw comes loose. The bar then slips and hits Juanita in the back of her neck, causing damage to her spine. As a result of this product defect, Juanita suffers a serious spinal injury resulting in partial paralysis.
In this example, Juanita would be entitled to file a personal injury claim for damages against both the exercise equipment manufacturer and the distributor. Given the seriousness of the injuries sustained, Juanita would likely be entitled to a significant amount of damages.