The spinal cord functions like a bridge between the brain and the rest of the body, helping to translate our thoughts into actions. If the spinal cord is damaged in a work-related accident, such as being pinched, lacerated, or severed completely, the results can be catastrophic for the victim. Depending on the severity of the injury and where it is located, damage to the spinal cord can result in chronic pain, muscle weakness, and even permanent paralysis.
These effects not only prevent victims from working and earning income – they can also be very costly to treat, often requiring multiple surgeries, ongoing physical therapy, and other forms of specialized care. However, if you or a family member suffered a spinal injury at work in Charlotte or the surrounding region, financial help may be available through workers’ compensation benefits, which can help to pay for various medical treatments while providing additional compensation for lost wages and earnings.
Led by work injury lawyer and Board Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist Martha Ramsay, the attorneys of the Ramsay Law Firm bring over 20 years of combined experience to every workers’ compensation claim we handle. Whether we are helping an injury victim understand whether they have a claim, are filing an appeal to challenge a requested reduction or termination of employee benefits, or are guiding a client through the procedures for obtaining medical care or returning to work, our Charlotte workers’ compensation attorneys are committed legal advocates for injured and disabled workers in North Carolina. For a free consultation about workers’ compensation for a spine injury, contact us online, or call the Ramsay Law Firm at (704) 376-1616.
Common Effects of Spine Injuries
Whether an injury affects the spinal cord, which is a bundle of nerves connected to the brain, or the spinal column, which is the vertebral column or “backbone,” the effects of a spine injury can be profoundly devastating for the victim and his or her dependents. Because the backbone provides so much physical support for the body, while the spinal cord transmits signals from the brain, an injury to either can seriously impair the victim for months or even years.
The effects of a spinal injury depend largely on two factors: (1) the severity of the injury, and (2) where along the spine the injury is located. The higher the injury is located, the more extensive the resulting impairment will typically be. For example, if a worker sustains an injury to the lumbar or sacral regions, which are in the lower back near the base of the spine, he or she might become paralyzed below the rib cage, navel, or waist, a condition known as “paraplegia.” By comparison, an injury to the cervical (neck) or upper thoracic region, which comprises the middle and upper back, can result in total or near-total paralysis, a condition known as “quadriplegia” or “tetraplegia.”
Paralysis is the most devastating effect of a spinal injury. However, even if the worker is not paralyzed by the injury, he or she could still experience other disabling symptoms that make working difficult or impossible. Depending on the injury, potential outcomes of damage to the spinal cord or spinal column could include:
- Back pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle weakness and/or spasticity
- Loss of bowel/bladder control (incontinence)
- Neck pain
- Numbness or tingling sensations
Damage to the central nervous system (CNS), which the spinal cord is part of, is also a risk factor for a rare but serious condition called “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome,” or CRPS, which causes severe, chronic pain lasting at least six months. CRPS is frequently misdiagnosed, leading to the improper denial of benefits. It is essential to be represented by an attorney who understands the debilitating effects of both rare and common spinal injuries, so that your claim is supported by robust medical evidence.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits for a Spinal Injury at Work in NC
Under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, the majority of businesses in North Carolina must carry workers’ compensation insurance, which is there to provide disabled workers with financial support after they have been seriously injured at work. It does not matter if the injury occurs on or off the physical jobsite, as long as the injury was sustained in the course and scope of the accident victim’s job duties. Most disabled workers are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in North Carolina, including full-time workers, part-time workers, and in some cases, even independent contractors, such as truckers.
Unfortunately, spinal injuries can be difficult or impossible to completely heal from, often resulting in long-term or permanent disability. However, workers’ comp benefits can compensate injury victims for both medical expenses and lost wages while they are injured. In most cases, the maximum period for which benefits are available is 500 weeks, which is approximately 9.5 years.
Benefits to replace lost wages are calculated to be 66.66% of the worker’s pre-accident weekly wages. For example, if the worker earned $725 per week before the injury occurred, he or she could receive up to approximately $483 in wage loss benefits. Compensation is also available to cover “reasonable” medical expenses, which, depending on the person’s treatment plan, could include:
- Medical devices and equipment, such as a wheelchair
- Physical therapy
- Prescription medication
- Treatment-related transportation
Charlotte Workplace Spinal Injury Attorneys Can Help
A spinal cord injury or backbone injury can cause lasting, potentially permanent effects, such as chronic pain, loss of muscle strength, and paralysis. In many cases, this forces the injury victim to take a lower-paying job, or to exit the workforce entirely. However, workers’ compensation benefits can provide a financial security net for those who are injured on the job, ensuring that work accident victims do not have to struggle unsupported with their medical costs.
If you or someone you love suffered a spinal cord injury at work in Charlotte or the surrounding suburbs, legal help is available. To talk confidentially about whether you could have a workers’ compensation claim for your spinal injury in North Carolina, contact the Ramsay Law Firm at (704) 376-1616 for a free consultation today.