Childhood Paralysis: Who Is Responsible?

A teen falls 35 feet from an electric utility pole. A 2-year-old girl suffers horrific injuries in a drunken-driving accident.

In each case, the children involved were paralyzed. And in each case, family members sued parties they believed responsible for the life-changing injury – one that can tax a family not just emotionally but financially as well.

According to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, the costs of living with quadriplegia for the first year can range from $712,000 to $990,000, depending on the location of the injury on the spinal cord, and from $105,000 to $171,000 each year after that. For a paraplegic patient, the respective costs are $480,000 (first year) and $64,000 each year after that. Costs of Living with Spinal Cord Injury – Spinal Cord Injury – Paralysis Research Center

To some degree, the issues facing the parents of a paralyzed child are similar to those facing parents of any injured child: Getting the child proper medical attention while seeking an experienced lawyer to determine whether to pursue legal action.

How Paralysis Cases Are Different

But paralysis cases are different because the condition can affect the patient for years. So a child who is paralyzed at birth — like the boy in Glasgow whose family won $36 million (USD) from the country’s publicly funded health care system – may face a lifetime of medical expenses. Indeed, in the Glasgow case, an article on the settlement explained that “the lad needs round the-clock care, costing hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.” Paralysed_boy_wins_cash_for_rest_of_life_The.DOC

Paralysis can require everything from retro-fitting a home to special cars to at-home medical care, all of which can drain a family’s finances. Parents of children paralyzed through accident or injury need to consider the long-term affects and whether legal action can help them recover money to maintain the child’s quality of life – at the moment and years ahead.

Paralysis: Causes and Costs

  1. The term “paralysis” can include a range of conditions and health-related issues, including: Basic Conditions A to Z – Spinal Cord Injury – Paralysis Research Center
  1. The number one cause of paralysis is spinal cord injury, 23%
  2. The number one cause of spinal cord injury is accident at work (28%), closely followed by a motor vehicle accident (24%) Paralysis Facts & Figures – Spinal Cord Injury – Paralysis Research Center
  3. The cost of  living with quadriplegia (tetraplegia) for the first year can range from $712,000 to $990,000, depending on the  location of the injury on the spinal cord, and from $105,000 to $171,000 each year after that. For paraplegia, the respective costs are $480,000 (first year) and $64,000 each year after that. Costs of Living with Spinal Cord Injury – Spinal Cord Injury – Paralysis Research Center
  4. Those who reported being paralyzed are more likely to live in a lower household income bracket and have significantly lower income than for the country as a whole. Household income – Spinal Cord Injury – Paralysis Research Center

Child Paralysis Lawsuits

1.  In Florida last year, the family of a 16-year-old boy sued an electric company after the teen climbed a power pole, got shocked, and fell to ground. He was left paralyzed below the waist. SUIT_SAYS_TECO_AT_FAULT_FOR_TEEN’S_FALL_FROM.DOC

The lawsuit claims Tampa Electric was “negligent for not blocking access to the pole or warning people of its dangers.”  According to the suit, the pole was anchored to the ground at an angle, had no fences around it, and wasn’t marked with signs. It had no “anti-climbing” devices, such as slippery galvanized spikes or barbed wire, that would discourage climbers.

A spokesman for Tampa Electric told the Tampa Bay Times that the company did not believe it could be blamed for the accident.

2.  In New Jersey in 2005, the family of a 2-year-old girl left a quadriplegic when a drunken driver smashed into her parent’s car sued the concession company that sold alcohol to the driver. The driver testified that he was already drunk when he bought “four or more” beers at Giants Stadium during a football game that day, and then drank more at a bar later that evening. ‘Culture_Of_Intoxication’_And_a_Victim_The_N.DOC

The jury awarded $105 million in damages; at the time, it was one of the largest awards ever ordered against a server or seller of alcohol.

Posts are not legal advice. Links to third party content do not imply a relationship or endorsement. Consult an attorney if you have questions. Full Disclaimer.

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