Bakersfield Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer

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Robert May

Founding Partner

Bakersfield Spinal Cord Injury Attorney

 
  • 25 + Years of Experience

    When you hire us, you’re adding unmatched experience to your team, ensuring you get the best possible outcome.

  • 99% Win Rate

    Our firm maintains an impressive 99% win rate, even while accepting difficult cases other law firms have turned away.

  • No Upfront Fees

    We are not afraid of trial, and insurance companies know this. If it’s in your best interest, we are always trial ready.

As Bakersfield continues to grow, traffic throughout the city has increased, even in residential neighborhoods and other places with many pedestrians. Unfortunately, the increase in traffic is a major downside to population growth, creating delays for other travelers and increasing the risk of severe injuries.

One of the most severe injuries an individual can suffer in a motor vehicle accident is a spinal cord injury. Motor vehicle accidents are among the most common causes of spinal cord injuries.

If you have suffered a spinal cord injury in a Bakersfield motor vehicle accident or other accident that someone else’s carelessness or recklessness caused, you can obtain compensation for the expenses and psychological impacts of your injury through a spinal cord injury lawsuit.

An experienced Bakersfield spinal cord injury lawyer from The May Firm can assist you in understanding this process.

We are pleased with the results we have obtained for our clients, including:

  • $2.3 million for a client who was injured when a utility truck rear-ended their vehicle.
  • $1.9 million for the family of an individual who was struck and killed by a motor vehicle.
  • $1.5 million policy limits settlement for a client who suffered a spinal injury with no surgery required. This case settled before we filed a lawsuit.

Note that these are past results and no guarantee of outcome in any particular case.

The May Firm understands that many people are hesitant to seek the services of an attorney because they don’t know how much it will cost to hire one. We also understand the permanence of spinal cord injuries and the need to not only obtain enough compensation to last through a lifetime of complications. Because access to experienced legal counsel is such a vital part of your case, we are available to answer your questions and discuss your case for free during a case evaluation.

About Spinal Cord Injuries

The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that extends down the center of the back from the base of the skull to the waist. The spinal cord—along with the brain—makes up the body’s central nervous system.

The spinal cord primarily relays messages between the brain and other body parts. While the bony spinal vertebrae and the cushioning of the spinal discs generally protect the spinal cord, damage to the cord can still occur.

Contrary to popular belief, a spinal cord injury rarely severs the cord, but just damages it. Unfortunately, despite the spinal cord’s importance to the body’s ability to function, the cord has only a limited ability to heal itself from injury, and the damage is often permanent.

The main risk that individuals suffering from a spinal cord injury face is a loss of sensation and function below the injury, known as paralysis. If the injury occurs high up the cord in the cervical (neck) area, it may paralyze the individual’s limbs, chest, torso, and pelvis. This is known as quadriplegia or tetraplegia. Injuries occurring lower on the spine will often paralyze the lower extremities, which is called paraplegia.

The Most Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the most common causes of spinal cord injuries worldwide include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents, including those involving cars, commercial vehicles, pedestrians, or bicycles.
  • Falls, including those from height and the same elevation.
  • Acts of violence, including assault, child abuse, or combat.
  • Sports and recreational activities.

Spinal cord injuries are more prevalent in males than females, with young males in their 20s suffering this injury more frequently than other demographic groups. Spinal cord injuries are also more prevalent in the elderly due to visual declines and other physical issues resulting from age that lead to falls.

How Are Spinal Cord Injuries Treated?

Spinal cord injuries can result in death. Doctors must treat them promptly. Early treatment generally consists of maintaining the patient’s airway, immobilizing the neck to prevent additional damage, preventing or treating shock, and treating issues that can lead to complications such as stool or urine retention or the development of blood clots.

During the early stages of recovery, rehabilitation will already begin, first to avoid the loss of muscle tone. As time goes by, depending on the individual’s level of physical function, rehabilitation may include learning new ways of accomplishing personal care tasks, using assistive devices and technologies to increase social and work opportunities, and methods of care that can reduce complications like infections.

In addition to ongoing rehabilitation, individuals with spinal cord injuries generally require treatment for the ongoing needs and complications associated with the injury. Any spinal cord injury resulting in a loss of motor function will result in complications, with the average cost per year of addressing these complications ranging over $40,000 annually.

The Permanent Impacts Associated with a Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries are considered catastrophic injuries due to their high likelihood of producing permanent disabilities that prevent someone from accomplishing personal care tasks independently or earning an income.

In truth, a spinal cord injury can change every aspect of a sufferer’s life, including:

  • Health. Spinal cord injury sufferers are up to five times more likely to die prematurely than other individuals, with pneumonia being the leading cause of premature death. Pneumonia is a common complication of quadriplegia due to the inability to clear excretions from the lungs and throat by coughing. While the direct costs of treating a spinal cord injury are highest in the first year after the injury, those living with a spinal cord injury can expect huge medical expenses each year to maintain one’s health and address the impacts of the many complications from their injuries.
  • Finances. The indirect costs of a spinal cord injury, such as lost wages from the inability to perform one’s job because of disabilities, often exceed the direct costs, such as medical expenses. An individual who suffers a spinal cord injury featuring high tetraplegia at the age of 25 can expect to pay more than $4.7 million in direct lifetime costs, while those suffering paraplegia at 25 can expect to see more than $500,000 in direct costs throughout life.
  • Relationships. The family members of an individual who suffered a spinal cord injury often face severe changes in their relationships with the injured person, assuming caregiver roles for someone who can no longer accomplish personal care tasks independently and needs regular medical intervention. Likewise, the friends of an individual who has incurred a spinal cord injury often fade away as the injured person can no longer participate in activities and pursue common interests. The spouses and partners of individuals living with spinal cord injuries often experience a loss of consortium (a loss of physical intimacy and companionship that frequently occurs after one has suffered this injury).

Common Complications from Spinal Cord Injuries

In addition to the extreme psychological impacts of a spinal cord injury, there are also frequent and serious physical complications associated with the injury, such as:

  • Respiratory issues from paralysis in the abdominal and chest muscles that prevent the individual from coughing to remove secretions from the lungs and throat.
  • Circulatory issues, such as a dangerously low blood pressure upon rising, a potentially life-threatening rise in blood pressure, or swelling extremities. Circulatory issues increase the risk of developing a blood clot in the deep veins of the arms or legs—a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is of particular concern as it creates the risk of the blood clot breaking free and traveling through the venous system to the lung, where it can create a potentially fatal condition known as a pulmonary embolism.
  • Loss of bladder control if the part of the spine that relays messages to the bladder was damaged. The changes in your ability to control your bladder can increase the risk of urinary tract infections, kidney infections, and kidney or bladder stones.
  • Lack of bowel control, which can lead to issues of incontinence or constipation. Individuals who have suffered spinal cord injuries often follow a high-fiber diet to assist their stomach and large intestines in the digestive process.
  • Loss of skin sensation, which can lead to serious injuries as the individual can no longer feel and promptly react to contact with the skin by extremely hot, cold, or sharp surfaces. Additionally, the loss of skin sensation makes it difficult for the individual to tell when it is time to change body positions, which can lead to the development of pressure ulcers.
  • Changes to muscle tone. Spinal cord injury sufferers can experience loose, limp muscles, known as flaccidity. They can also experience an uncontrolled tightening or spasming of the muscles, known as spasticity.

Seeking Compensation for Your Injury

There are approximately 12,500 new spinal cord injuries in the U.S. each year, and more than 275,000 people living with the impacts of a spinal cord injury. More than half of all new spinal cord injuries occur in motor vehicle accidents, while falls cause another 31 percent.

Individuals who suffered their injury because of someone else’s carelessness or recklessness somewhere in Bakersfield can seek compensation for the injury through the spinal cord injury claims process, including a lawsuit if needed.

The statute of limitations for filing your spinal cord injury lawsuit is generally two years after the injury. You must file the claim with the at-fault party’s applicable insurance policy.

The types of insurance policies that are often accessed to compensate individuals for Bakersfield spinal cord injuries include:

  • Auto liability policies. All drivers who register their vehicles in California must purchase a minimum amount of insurance to cover expenses associated with property damage and personal injuries incurred by others in accidents caused by driver negligence.
  • Homeowner’s policies. If your accident was a fall or other injury at a private residence because the property owner or possessor failed to promptly repair known hazards, you would seek compensation from their insurance policy.
  • Business insurance policies. If your injury was from a fall in a business environment, such as a retail store or restaurant, you will demand payment from this policy. One exception is if you were an employee of the business where your injury occurred and injured while on the job. You get compensation for these injuries through California’s worker’s compensation program, which provides wage replacement and medical coverage for more employees through a no-fault worker’s comp insurance policy. Most employers in the state are required to maintain worker’s comp insurance for their employees.

Spinal cord injuries are complex, and the legal process of recovering damages for this type of injury is also complex. Read on for the answers to some of the questions we hear most often about obtaining compensation for this type of injury, and contact us for a free case evaluation so you can obtain answers to the legal questions you have about your specific case.

Bakersfield Spinal Cord Injury FAQs

Whether your spinal cord injury occurred in a motor vehicle accident on Highway 99 or a slip and fall at Valley Plaza, we don’t need to tell you how serious this type of injury can be.

However, the experienced spinal cord injury lawyers at The May Firm can tell you that you can use the California civil court system to obtain compensation for the extraordinary expenses and quality-of-life impacts a spinal cord injury produces.

Here are the answers to some of the questions our Bakersfield neighbors ask us most often about spinal cord injuries.

The process you use to obtain compensation after suffering an injury due to someone else’s carelessness or recklessness is the spinal cord injury claims process. This involves submitting a demand for the expenses and impacts of your injury to the carrier of the at-fault party’s applicable insurance policy.

The insurance company then has three options:

  • Accept liability for the accident and pay the demand as submitted;
  • Reject the claim outright and notify the claimant of the reasons for this decision; or
  • Offer to settle (resolve) the claim for a lesser amount.

Generally, the insurance company will either reject the claim outright or offer to settle for a lesser amount. This offer is generally far lower than the case’s value but serves as a good jumping-off point in negotiating for a fair offer.

At some point, however, if the other side doesn’t offer a fair settlement, your attorney may advise you to file a lawsuit.

In California, you must file a lawsuit in court within two years of the date on which the accident occurred.

California allows spinal cord injury claimants to seek the recovery of both economic and non-economic damages—both for the expenses and psychological impacts of your injury.

Common expenses and impacts to appear on damage claims in a Bakersfield spinal cord injury case include:

  • Medical expenses, including the cost of emergency treatment, ambulance transport, diagnostic testing, hospitalization, the services of your physicians and surgeons, prescription medication, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. You can also seek to recover the expense of care in a long-term care facility, as well as assistive devices such as crutches or a wheelchair.
  • Lost wages from being too injured to work.
  • Loss of future earning capacity if your injury prevents you from earning what you did before the accident.
  • Property damage you sustained in the accident, such as the cost of repairing or replacing the vehicle you were driving if your injury was the result of a motor vehicle accident.
  • Physical pain and suffering.
  • Emotional distress.
  • Loss of the enjoyment of life.
  • Loss of consortium, which is collected on behalf of an injured person’s spouse for the loss of physical intimacy and companionship that often accompanies serious injuries such as spinal cord injuries.

To have a successful outcome to your claim, you must be able to show that someone else was liable (legally responsible) for causing your injury.

You prove liability by showing:

  • The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. The duty of care is simply the actions that a reasonable person would take in a given set of circumstances to avoid harming other people or their property.
  • There was a breach in the duty of care, which refers to actions that a reasonable person would not have taken in similar circumstances.
  • The breach caused an accident, which resulted in your spinal cord injury and the subsequent expenses and impacts involved with having and treating the injury.

Catastrophic injuries have a high likelihood of permanent disabilities and drastically decreasing an individual’s ability to earn an income. Commonly, the term refers to injuries to the central nervous system, including the brain and the spinal cord.

Catastrophic injuries tend to result in higher-value legal cases due to the permanence of the injury and the need to provide enough compensation to pay for service, treatment, and equipment for the duration of the individual’s life.

Every settlement reflects the unique facts of the case it pertains to and the willingness of the parties on either side to agree. Because of this, there is no average settlement in a Bakersfield spinal cord injury case.

Many factors, however, can affect the value of your claim, including:

  • How much insurance the at-fault party has, because insurance pays almost all settlements and awards.
  • The severity of your injury. Spinal cord injuries are considered “catastrophic injuries” because of their high likelihood of resulting in permanent disability and a loss of earning capacity. This injury also commonly results in higher non-economic damages, because many spinal cord injury sufferers cannot accomplish personal tasks independently and complications arising from the injury may cause the sufferer to experience many additional medical treatments and associated expenses.
  • Your patience during settlement negotiations. The at-fault party’s insurance provider can begin negotiating a settlement shortly after the initial demand package is received by your attorney, and these negotiations can still be ongoing after the trial has started. While offers can be forthcoming throughout the process, your attorney will be watching for offers that can ensure you have enough compensation to see you through the common complications that accompany spinal cord injuries.

Yes, generally speaking, you can file a lawsuit on your spouse’s behalf. However, if your spouse didn’t name you in a living will or other legal document as a personal representative, you must obtain a medical proxy, power of attorney, or conservator to make legal decisions. Obtaining these documents usually requires a court hearing in which you will need to show that your loved one is mentally or physically unable to make his or her own decisions.

While there is currently no cure for spinal cord injuries, researchers are working all the time to develop treatments to assist spinal cord injury sufferers with the many difficulties that arise with this type of injury. That said, settlement agreements are almost always final.

Just as you can’t go back and ask the at-fault party’s insurance provider for more money if you discover that the settlement did not provide enough to completely compensate your expenses, the insurance company cannot demand that you return money that you truly believed you needed.

If you have not spoken to a Bakersfield spinal cord injury lawyer about your case, you should do that before agreeing to the settlement. Insurance adjusters are not in the business to help those whom their insureds injured, they’re in business to make money. One of the ways they do that is by avoiding large payouts on claims.

Early settlement offers have very little to do with ensuring that you obtain enough compensation for a permanent injury such as a spinal cord injury. Instead, they’re all to do with getting someone to agree to a low amount before they have had the opportunity to completely understand their injury’s expenses and impacts.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not consider the money you receive in compensation for the impacts and expenses of a personal injury income and does not tax it.

However, there are two exceptions you should be aware of:

  • If you used your medical expenses as a tax deduction in the year your injury occurred or in subsequent years and then later obtained compensation that includes medical expenses, you must return what you deducted.
  • If you received punitive damages, the IRS can tax it because they don’t compensate for your expenses or impacts, they punish the malicious or extremely reckless actions of the defendant.

A Bakersfield spinal cord injury lawyer from The May Firm can pursue the maximum amount of compensation available in your case.

We provide:

  • A no-obligation, free case evaluation, which provides you time to speak with an attorney about your case, obtain answers to your legal questions, and learn more about the process of pursuing compensation after an injury.
  • A determination of all sources of liability in your case, and all insurance resources can compensate you.
  • Establishing a case value based on the expenses and impacts you have already incurred as a result of your spinal cord injury, as well as those you will likely face.
  • Negotiations with the at-fault party’s insurance provider to obtain a fair settlement offer on your behalf.
  • Guidance through the pros and cons of accepting or rejecting an offered settlement.
  • The timely filing of your court-required paperwork, and attendance on your behalf at all pre-trial conferences and hearings.
  • Collecting and organizing the evidence and witness testimony that is necessary to prove your case in court.
  • In lieu of a fair settlement offer in your case, litigation services may include delivering opening and closing arguments, presenting evidence, and examining witnesses.
  • Assistance collecting your settlement or award.
  • A client-friendly contingent-fee payment arrangement that allows you to withhold payment for your attorney’s services until there has been a positive outcome in your case.

We understand that your spinal cord injury has changed every aspect of your life, from your ability to work to your relationships with your loved ones and friends. Let an experienced Bakersfield spinal cord injury lawyer from The May Firm help you understand the process of obtaining compensation for the many expenses and impacts you are facing because of your injury.

For your free case evaluation, contact The May Firm online or by calling (844) 629-3476.

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