Auto Accident / Spinal Cord Injury

This case involves an auto accident that caused what initially appeared to be modest neck and back injuries but turned out to be disabling spinal cord injuries.

The accident occurred when a business man driving a company car ran a stop sign and struck the truck being driven by an off–duty police officer. The young officer was transported to the local emergency room where he was treated and released with instructions to follow up with his family doctor if he had additional problems. Over the next several weeks he experienced significant back and neck pain. In addition to his work as a police officer he was attending night school, was near the completion of his criminal justice degree and was very busy. He decided that if his injuries resolved he would not seek further medical treatment.

However, as time went by his symptoms got worse rather than better and began to focus in his mid back. He returned to his family doctor who referred him to an orthopedic surgeon. The orthopedic surgeon ordered a MRI of his mid back which showed the fluid filled sack around his spinal cord in his thoracic area had begun to enlarge at several levels. The orthopedic surgeon referred him to a neurosurgeon who conducted additional testing. Subsequent MRIs showed the bulge in the thecal sack was getting progressively worse. Furthermore, as the sack enlarged he began to experience severe low back pain and partial left leg paralysis.

Medical research indicated that bulges in the thecal sack were largely congenital but in a small percentage of cases could be caused by trauma of the type and nature experienced by the young police officer. An internal shunt was placed to manage the condition and over time the bulge was stabilized. However, permanent limitations from the spinal cord injury prevented the young man from continuing his career as a police officer.

The testimony of the neurosurgeon was obtained to establish the permanent nature of the spinal injury and the causation by the automobile accident. A vocational expert was employed to review the young man’s skills, abilities, education, and limitations and give testimony regarding the impact of the accident and injuries upon his vocational options. An economist reviewed the young man’s earning’s history as well as his potential for future earnings and testified regarding the lifetime lost wages which resulted from the accident.

At the time of the accident the defendant driver was on the job and was covered by a large commercial insurance policy. Although the insurance company initially denied that the injury resulted from the accident they ultimately accepted liability and a large confidential settlement was achieved at mediation.

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