Offshore Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers
Paralysis & Spinal Cord Injuries
Offshore workers face unique hazards in their line of work. From dangerous weather conditions to equipment failures to employer negligence, crew members may be seriously injured while trying to do their jobs. One of the most debilitating injuries is that of spine trauma.
Within the spinal cord, 31 pairs of nerves are responsible for transmitting information and commands to and from the brain and the rest of the body. If any of these nerves are damaged, it can permanently affect a person’s ability to move and feel the affected part of the body. For offshore workers, spinal cord injuries can happen in falls, heavy machinery accidents, and other incidents where the spine is impacted, pulled, or twisted in an unnatural way.
Offshore spinal cord injuries are extremely serious, as they can lead to paralysis and quadriplegia. Many offshore workers, harbor workers, and crew members are not able to return to their former occupations because of their injuries. If this happened to you, you could qualify for compensation. Besides lost wages, you may be entitled to compensation for ongoing treatment as well as any initial medical bills. Our team can review your unique case to see how to best help you.
Call our offshore spinal cord injury attorneys at (888) 346-5024 for your free consultation.
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Offshore Spinal Cord Injuries: Types & Cost of Treatment
Because the spinal cord is delicate and so crucial in the functioning of the body, it is protected by the spine. Made up of 24 vertebrae, the spine is divided into three sections: the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions. These extend from the base of the skull down the torso to the sacrum. The vertebrae allow for mobility while still protecting the spinal cord.
Spinal cord injuries can occur in several ways, with varying degrees of severity. Hyperflexion and hyperextension injuries happen when the spinal cord is bent too far, potentially leading to tearing. Compression can result in bone fragments damaging the spinal cord and affecting different body functions. The most severe form of spinal injury is a complete severance, where the spinal cord is entirely cut, resulting in loss of function below the injury level.
The location of a spinal cord injury is critical in determining its impact.
Injuries to the cervical (neck) region can lead to quadriplegia, characterized by the loss of control over limbs and torso. However, not all cervical injuries result in quadriplegia; the specific vertebra affected will determine the extent and nature of the impairment. Thoracic (mid-back) injuries often cause paraplegia, affecting the lower half of the body.
Damage to the lumbar or sacral (lower back) sections typically impairs the lower body, including limb movement and urinary system function. The prognosis differs between complete and incomplete injuries; while there's potential for recovery from incomplete injuries, complete injuries often result in permanent disability. Individuals with complete spinal injuries must adapt to living with their condition, often requiring long-term care and support.
Annual & Lifetime Costs of Spinal Cord Injuries
Treating an offshore spinal cord injury can be extremely expensive, depending on the injury's severity, the patient's age, and their ongoing care needs. In the first year after injury, costs can range from $350,000 to over $1,000,000, with paraplegia on the lower end and high tetraplegia (C1-C4) on the higher end. Annual costs in subsequent years remain high but decrease slightly, averaging between $40,000 for paraplegia and over $200,000 for high tetraplegia.
Over an injured offshore worker’s lifetime, the costs increase considerably.
The estimated lifetime costs for someone injured at age 25 are:
- Paraplegia: $1.5 million - $2.5 million
- Low tetraplegia: $2.5 million - $4.5 million
- High tetraplegia: $4.5 million - $5 million or more
For someone injured at age 50, the estimated lifetime costs are:
- Paraplegia: $1 million - $2 million
- Low tetraplegia: $2 million - $3 million
- High tetraplegia: $2.5 million - $4 million
These estimates include healthcare costs and living expenses but do not take indirect costs, such as lost wages, into account. Given the tremendous financial burden of treating and living with a spinal cord injury, offshore workers and their families should consider all sources of compensation.
If a rig owner or operator acted negligently or failed to maintain a seaworthy vessel, they may be held liable. Our offshore spinal cord injury lawyers represent workers in Jones Act and all types of maritime law claims.
Paralysis Caused by Offshore Accidents
People who sustain traumatic injuries to their spinal cord may suffer from partial or total paralysis. Paralysis is a loss of muscle function which is caused by damage to the nervous system. Since there are so many nerves located in the spinal column, trauma to this region may cause partial or total paralysis. It is not uncommon for people to experience a loss of feeling or a tingling sensation in some of their limbs after an accident in which they injured their back.
Among the differing types of paralysis are paraplegia and tetraplegia. Paraplegia refers to the loss of function of the lower extremities only. This occurs when the lower regions of the spinal canal (thoracic, lumbar, or sacral) sustain trauma. Tetraplegia, more commonly referred to as quadriplegia, affects all four limbs and the body from the neck down.
Offshore workers are at risk of paralysis caused by trauma to the back or spine. Lax safety standards, poorly maintained and aging equipment, and unseaworthy vessels can cause serious accidents that leave workers partially or completely paralyzed.
The following types of offshore accidents can lead to paralysis:
Paralysis from such injuries can drastically change a maritime worker's life, requiring extensive medical care, rehabilitation, and assistance with daily activities. For those affected, seeking legal guidance is crucial to understand their rights and potential avenues for compensation, considering the significant long-term impact of such injuries.
Treating Offshore Spinal Cord Injuries & Paralysis
According to the American Spinal Injury Association, there are five levels of spinal cord injury:
- A - Complete: Total loss of all feeling and motor function.
- B - Incomplete: Loss of motor function, but preservation of sensation.
- C - Incomplete: Preservation of motor function, but with fair to poor muscle strength.
- D - Incomplete: Motor function is preserved, and muscles are in fair condition or stronger.
- E - Normal: Motor and sensory functions remain normal.
With recent advances in medical technology and research, doctors are making headway in improving and treating paralysis. For now, there is only rehabilitation and treatment to improve—not cure—paralysis. One way that paralysis patients are commonly treated is by seeing a physiatrist. This type of doctor will specialize in rehabilitation and can treat both acute and chronic pain resulting from the injury. Occupational therapy is also a common avenue for treatment. These individuals are professionals whose job it is to help patients re-learn how to perform day-to-day activities.
Physical therapy is slightly different. Their primary goal is simply to help patients strengthen their muscles and coordination. There is also something called functional electrical stimulation (FES) that paralyzed people may benefit from. This treatment uses electrical currents to re-activate the nerves that have been damaged. Some patients have even been able to walk again and have their bowel and bladder functions restored.
Brainwave Research: Advances in Rehabilitation for the Paralyzed
Research advances and recent studies indicate that brainwaves may be able to control and even improve muscle function and movement in those who have been paralyzed. Per the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, approximately 12,500 Americans sustain a spine injury annually, making the need for improved rehabilitation a necessity. Currently, there are nearly 300,000 people living in the U.S. with disabilities due to spinal cord injuries.
Spinal cord injuries in which the nerves were completely severed will likely not be able to benefit from brainwave therapy, but most people with spinal cord injuries only sustained bruised or fractured vertebrae. Advances are being made in the field of brainwaves as related to muscle movement. Scientists and doctors hope to be able to improve this form of treatment to a degree that it can encourage axon growth in the central nervous system. With a greater understanding of how cells work with each other comes a greater understanding of how to improve cell growth and restoration.
Paraplegia is a particularly serious condition often faced by offshore workers who have sustained severe spinal injuries. The spinal cord can be damaged in various offshore accidents, leading to loss of feeling and mobility. In the case of paraplegia, the injury typically results in a total or partial loss of function in the lower extremities.
Offshore environments pose specific risks for such injuries, with falls, heavy equipment accidents, and other hazardous incidents potentially leading to damage high in the spinal column, particularly in the thoracic region (T1 through T12). Paraplegia is commonly associated with injuries occurring at the T1 level or lower.
Treating paraplegia involves addressing not only mobility issues but also complications such as loss of bowel and urinary control, and increased susceptibility to bed sores and thrombosis due to prolonged sitting or lying down. Rehabilitation is key, offering hope and potential improvement in function. However, successful rehabilitation requires consistent effort and often significant medical support. Rehabilitation focuses on re-establishing the connection between the brain and limbs, adapting to the injury, and possibly regaining some function.
Considering the complexity of the human back, with its 33 vertebrae, 31 pairs of nerves, and numerous muscles, it's clear how delicate and susceptible to injury it is. For offshore workers who suffer such injuries, aggressive rehabilitation, supported by adequate medical resources, is essential. This can be a costly endeavor, highlighting the importance of securing appropriate compensation to cover these extensive medical needs.
Paraplegia is a life-changing injury. At Arnold & Itkin, we’re committed to helping injured offshore workers get the treatment and support they need to face brighter and more stable futures—by holding at-fault parties accountable for creating or allowing unsafe workplace conditions to exist.
Call (888) 346-5024 for a free offshore spinal cord injury consultation.
Quadriplegia, also known as tetraplegia, is a severe condition marked by paralysis of all four limbs. In the maritime industry, quadriplegia can result from traumatic accidents that crush, twist, pull, or impact the spine. Falling from a height, being struck by heavy machinery, or being crushed between two objects can cause quadriplegia in the offshore sector.
Cause & Symptoms of Quadriplegia
Quadriplegia primarily results from injuries to the upper spinal cord, specifically the C1-C7 region. Such injuries disrupt the normal function of the spine’s upper sections, often leading to extensive physical limitations and health complications. The severity of these symptoms and their impacts can vary depending on the exact location and extent of the injury.
Common symptoms and effects of quadriplegia include:
- Loss of limb movement
- Breathing difficulties
- Reduced/no sensation in the limbs
- Bladder and bowel dysfunction
- Sexual dysfunction
- Pressure sores
- Blood clots
- High blood pressure
- Temperature regulation issues
- Spasms and muscle atrophy
- Chronic pain
- Anxiety, depression, and PTSD
Quadriplegia often arises from traumatic incidents, with falls accounting for about 20% of cases. The condition requires comprehensive medical care, rehabilitation, and lifelong management. For those in physically demanding jobs, such as offshore work, the impact of quadriplegia is particularly profound, affecting their ability to work and engage in daily activities. Understanding these symptoms and effects is crucial for both immediate care and long-term management.
Rehabilitation After Spinal Cord Injury
Rehabilitation for quadriplegia can be long and challenging, sometimes yielding limited results. On average, quadriplegics spend about seven months hospitalized for initial rehabilitation. Advances in medical technology, including embryonic stem cell research, offer hope for partial mobility restoration. For those with milder paralysis, occupational therapy can be instrumental in relearning daily tasks. Physical therapy may also help manage muscle spasms.
Offshore workers who suffer such debilitating injuries are entitled to compensation under admiralty law. We help workers navigate these complex claims, seeking benefits and support for their recovery and adaptation to life with quadriplegia.
Contact an Offshore Spinal Cord Injury Attorney
In an instant, a fall on deck, an explosion, or another accident can cause a spinal cord injury that changes the course of a worker’s life. At Arnold & Itkin, we are committed to providing the highest quality representation to those who were injured in maritime accidents. We have represented crews and family members after the worst offshore disasters, such as the loss of the El Faro and the Deepwater Horizon explosion. We are standing by to see how we can help you.
To find out how our offshore spinal cord injury lawyers can help you, contact us today.