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Our bodies are a marvel of nature. At any given moment an incalculable number of messages are being sent throughout our body that allow us to move, think and simply live. Yet, we often only truly understand and appreciate our body’s many complex functions when something happens to disrupt them.
When you become seriously injured in an accident and lose some or all of an ability, you come to recognize just how much we take for granted. This is certainly true for anyone who has sustained a debilitating physical injury that results in paralysis.
Losing the ability to use your legs and/or arms significantly alters your day to day life. Many of the activities you previously enjoyed require adjustment or simply become impossible. Learning to live and thrive with an acquired disability takes time, and it can be an emotionally and physically exhausting process. It also usually takes a lot of money.
Assistive devices, home renovations, and attendant care all help a person with a serious disability continue to lead a fulfilling and independent life. However, the cost of these goods and services over a lifetime can add up to exorbitant sums. A person paralyzed as a result of a car accident may be eligible for Statutory Accident Schedule Benefits, also known as (SABS) of up to $1 million if they are deemed to have suffered a catastrophic impairment.
Obtaining a catastrophic impairment designation can be challenging if an insurer has reason to dispute it. The catastrophic paralysis injury team at Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers has the knowledge, experience and skill to help you with your SABS claim, to ensure that you get the maximum benefits you need and deserve after your life-altering accident.
Types of paralysis.
Paralysis is defined as a partial or complete loss of muscle control and function. The condition can be localized to one part of the body or generalized, and it may be temporary or permanent depending on the underlying cause. Paralysis is identified by a loss of function in a specific or widespread part of your body. When a person suffers from total paralysis, they usually will not feel pain in the part of the body affected as the condition is caused by message disruption between the brain and body. However, sometimes a tingling or numbing sensation occurs prior to this state.
Paralysis can be classified based on location in the body, severity, duration or by the type of muscle dysfunction. When paralysis is generalized, it affects multiple parts of the body:
- Quadriplegia/tetraplegia (both arms and legs).
- Diplegia (both arms or both legs).
- Paraplegia (below the waist, both legs).
- Monoplegia (one arm or leg).
- Hemiplegia (the arm and leg on one side of the body).
Partial or incomplete paralysis results in some sensation and control of muscles in the affected part(s) or the body. while complete paralysis results in no sensation or control. Paralysis may be temporary (when it is the result of a condition such as a stroke or Bell’s Palsy that improves over time) or permanent (when the result of a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage or other severe nerve damage). Paralysis can cause flaccidness in muscles (loss of tone) or spasticity (tightness, twitching, spasm).
Paralysis acquired as a result of a car accident is overwhelmingly caused by damage directly to the spinal cord. However, some traumatic brain injuries can also lead to permanent or temporary paralysis.
Since paralysis can affect so many parts of the body, symptoms are numerous and can differ depending on the cause and extent of the injury. They include:
- Complete loss of sensation.
- Altered sensation.
- Tingling sensation.
- Loss of movement.
- Diminished range of movement.
- Altered reflexes.
- Respiratory issues.
- Sexual dysfunction.
Paralysis diagnosis and treatment.
Sometimes a doctor can rule out a spinal cord injury with a physical examination and questioning. However, in other cases additional diagnostic testing is necessary. For a patient who is unable to speak due to injury, has neck pain or has other signs of neurological injury, a doctor may order:
- X-rays: this imaging can show problems with vertebrae, fractures, tumours, or degeneration of the spine.
- CT scans: these cross-sectional scans provide more refined images of abnormalities identified by X-rays.
- MRIs: this test employs a magnetic field and radio waves to generate images that can identify herniated discs, blood clots and other abnormalities that may put pressure on the spinal cord.
If there is significant swelling post-accident, additional tests may be ordered after it is brought under control. A comprehensive neurological examination will test a patient’s ability to feel sensations and assess muscle strength.
If paralysis is temporary, a person may improve in time or with rehabilitative physical therapy. Pain medication may be prescribed to assist with pain. Unfortunately, treatment for complete and permanent paralysis is usually limited to helping a person live as independently as possible with their long term disability. Researchers have suggested advances in stem cell treatment may create the ability to restore some function in the future.
SABS definitions of catastrophic injuries.
Every person involved in a motor vehicle accident in Ontario may be eligible to receive compensation under the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS). This system of no-fault benefits divides injuries into three tiers of severity.
Accident victims who qualify under the Minor Injury Guideline (whiplash-related injuries, muscular sprains and strains, bruising, and cuts) may receive up to $3,500 for medical-rehabilitation costs.
The next tier for more severe injuries, provides access of up to $65,000 of medical-rehabilitation and attendant care funding for up to five years.
If a person experiences significant loss of sensation and/or muscle function, they may qualify for the highest tier of compensation. In this tier, one or more of eight criteria must be met to be eligible for a catastrophic designation.
For injuries involving paralysis, this would include paraplegia or tetraplegia. To reach the required threshold the insured person’s neurological recovery must have or will have a permanent grade on the ASIA Impairment Scale of A, B or C. Or, the insured person may also have a D grade and:
- “The insured person’s score on the Spinal Cord Independence Measure, Version III, item 12 (Mobility Indoors), as published in Catz, A., Itzkovich, M., Tesio L. et al, A multicentre international study on the Spinal Cord Independence Measure, version III: Rasch psychometric validation, Spinal Cord (2007) 45, 275-291 and applied over a distance of up to 10 metres on an even indoor surface is 0 to 5,
- The insured person requires urological surgical diversion, an implanted device, or intermittent or constant catheterization in order to manage a residual neuro-urological impairment, or
- The insured person has impaired voluntary control over anorectal function that requires a bowel routine, a surgical diversion or an implanted device.”
Disputing the designation.
When a person has complete paralysis with no chance of recovering function in particular parts of the body, a catastrophic designation is generally not contested by insurers. However, when the injuries are closer to the catastrophic threshold, or there is indication that a person may recover enough ability that they will no longer qualify, insurers may attempt to deny or delay benefits.
Experiencing a life-altering injury where there is paralysis can be devastating in itself. Learning that an insurance company may be trying to deny the benefits you need and deserve can compound the anguish you or a loved one may be feeling.
How can Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers help?
For 60 years, Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers has been helping accident victims access the benefits and compensation they need and deserve to assist with their rehabilitation and recovery. Removing financial uncertainty from the equation means you can focus on what really matters. We know the difference these funds can make as you rebuild following a tragic accident and live your best life.
With Gluckstein’s catastrophic paralysis injury team on your side, you will not be in this situation alone. Our knowledgeable, experienced, and skilled personal injury lawyers have been trusted advocates to hundreds of people facing similar circumstances. With a proven track record for results and a strong reputation for providing empathetic and compassionate client care, you can be confident in our ability to be there for you when you need it, and how you need it, the most.
If an insurer is being difficult or has issued an outright denial of your claim, contact our team right away. In our first no cost, no obligation consultation, we will explain your rights, your options and how we can be of service.
Gluckstein’s catastrophic paralysis injury team can call on our extensive network of medical experts to build evidence on behalf of your claim. We know what it takes to persuade insurers that it’s in their interest to settle your claim fairly, and we have no hesitation in bringing your case to court if they won’t.
A trusted member of your team.
Our peers have recognized our excellence in law by consistently ranking us as one of the country’s top personal injury law firms. Our past clients have also seen our skills first-hand, but often tell us that what was even more meaningful to them was our commitment to compassionate full-circle care.
We don’t lose interest in our clients when their case concludes. Rather, we endeavour to help them in every way we can from building their case, connecting them with support systems, and working with them as they plan the next part of their lives. We may first meet you at an incredibly low point in your life, but we are determined to know you as a person confidently and resiliently building a better future.
Trust Gluckstein Lawyers to be your tireless and fierce advocate. Our experienced catastrophic injury lawyers in Toronto, Ottawa, Niagara, and Barrie serve clients across Ontario and are here to work with you. Contact us today for your no cost, no obligation initial consultation.
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