Statistics reveal that 350 to 400 new spinal cord injuries are reported in Australia each year and 80 percent of those are accident related.
You may be able to claim compensation for a spinal cord injury if it resulted from someone else’s negligence or carelessness. Negligence may arise in a variety of settings.
If you are injured at work, you may be able to claim compensation from your employer. Employers must provide proper and adequate means for employees to carry out their work. This includes:
If you are injured because your employer neglects to provide safe systems of work, equipment or a safe environment, you may be able to sue for personal injury compensation. This includes injuries incurred over a long period of time, late onset injuries, and aggravations of pre-existing injuries. Note however that, weekly WorkCover payments operate under a separate ‘no fault’ scheme, meaning that you can receive weekly payments to cover lost income even if your injury was not because of your employer’s negligence.
Examples: Jeff is injured at work when he falls from a roof because the metal connections on the harness his employer provided failed as they were rusted through. Jeff can claim compensation from his employer for his personal injuries. Rick is injured at work when he falls from a roof because he was not wearing the required safety harness apparatus. Rick would not be able to claim compensation for his injuries as they were due to his own negligence. However, he could apply for Workers Compensation payments while he is off work.
Jobs at higher risk for spinal injuries include those in the transportation industry and professional sports people.
See also: WorkCover claims
If you sustain spinal injuries in a road accident and it was totally or partially due to the fault of another driver or vehicle owner you can claim compensation from the owner of the vehicle that caused the accident through their Compulsory Third Party insurer.
Examples: Jeff is injured in a car accident when a delivery truck fails to stop at a red light because its brakes were not properly maintained. Jeff can claim compensation from the owner of the delivery truck through its CTP insurer.
Rick is injured in a car collision because he doesn’t look properly before pulling out onto a main road. Rick is unable to claim compensation for his injuries because the accident was totally his fault (although exceptions may apply for catastrophic accidents). If the accident occurred after July 1, 2016 he may be able to seek necessary and reasonable medical and rehabilitation services through the National Injury Insurance Scheme of Queensland (NIISQ).
See Also: Road accident injury claims
Occupiers (including owners of private property and public authorities), have a duty of care toward people coming onto their land. They must take reasonable care to make sure entrants are not exposed to risks that are likely to cause injury. This means if there is something that is potentially dangerous on their property they must rectify it or warn people of the danger. Common scenarios include someone slipping on a floorsurface or tripping over an unexpected obstacle on the ground, falling into an unmarked hole in the pavement, or being hit by falling debris from a building site. Examples:
Jeff was body surfing waves at a popular beach when he hit submerged storm water pipes, sustaining spinal cord injuries. There were no signs warning of the presence of the pipes. Jeff may be able to claim compensation for his injuries.
Rachel dives into water off a cliff and strikes her head on a rock. Signs are displayed around the cliffs warning of shallow waters and submerged rocks. Rachel may not be able to claim compensation since her injury resulted largely from her own failure to take care for her safety.
General damages compensate you for the pain and suffering you have experienced as well as any permanent loss of enjoyment of life as a result of your spinal injury. They are calculated by reference to the ISV Scale which rates the seriousness of any injury between 1 and 100 and accords a monetary value range to that rating.
For example, a severe spinal injury like quadriplegia has a rating of 75 to 100 and a monetary range of $232,600 to $349,400 whereas paraplegia a is rated 60 to 80 with a monetary range of $169,700 to $254,400.
To diagnose and treat a spinal cord injury you may need to consult your general practitioner, consult a specialist, obtain x-rays or MRIs, take pain medications use special medical apparatus such as a wheelchair. The expenses you incur to obtain medical treatment including costs of consultations, diagnostic scans, travel costs, medication and medical equipment may be claimed as compensation. You can also claim for medical costs you will incur in the future as a result of your injury.
Spinal injuries may require surgery to stabilise fractures or discs. Surgical or hospital costs paid by you can be claimed as compensation as long as the surgery was necessary to treat your condition.
Rehabilitating after a spinal cord injury may involve intensive physiotherapy and other therapies as well as home and vehicle modifications and ergonomic aids. Your reasonable costs of rehabilitation can be claimed back as compensation.
If you sustain a spinal injury you may need time off work for several weeks or months immediately after the incident. You can claim compensation for this lost income. If your back injury prevents you from working in the future to the same extent as you did prior to the injury you may also be able to claim loss of future income earning capacity. Occupations that require manual labour, repeated bending and twisting, or sitting for long periods may be difficult or impossible for someone who has suffered a back injury and their capacity to earn income in the future may be reduced. This is usually estimated as a lump sum figure based on the age of the person, their usual occupation and other skills.
Compensation can be claimed for superannuation that would have been paid on lost income.
Serious spinal injuries may prevent you from being able to perform tasks such as personal care, cleaning, laundry, mowing your lawns, caring for the garden or other domestic chores. If you formerly performed these duties but are now unable to due to an injury you can claim compensation for care and assistance provided to you by friends, relatives or paid contractors. In Queensland there is a minimum threshold for this type of compensation.
In general terms, the amount of compensation is gauged by comparing what your life was like before the injury and what it is like now as a result of the injury.
Therefore, someone whose injury has had a greater impact on their life will be entitled to more compensation than someone whose injury has had only minimal impact.
The amount of compensation payable for an injury will vary greatly from case to case, depending on a variety of variables such as:
For most personal injury claims, a legal action must be commenced within 3 years of the date of the injury. If you miss this deadline, your claim will be statute barred and you will lose all rights to claim compensation. However, depending on where your injury occurred or who you are suing, specific pre-court procedures may apply which have their own time limits which are much sooner. If you miss these time limits you may lose your right to pursue your claim if you cannot provide sufficient reasons to the court as to why you delayed and why you should be allowed to proceed with your claim. The time limits specified by some pre-court procedures are set out below.
If you are under 18 years of age For minors, the obligation to serve the other party with a Notice of Claim begins when the child turns 18, however a parent or guardian may do this on behalf of the minor before they turn 18. In the case medical negligence claims, a parent or legal guardian of a minor must serve a Notice of Claim within 6 years of the day when the parent or guardian knew or ought to have known of the injury.
The spinal cord extends from the brain to the lower back and consists of millions of nerve fibres that convey information to and from the limbs, torso and bodily organs. It is housed in a complex skeletal structure of 33 vertebrae. When damage occurs to the spinal cord a variety of other body functions can be disrupted, including:
Common back conditions include:
Spinal injuries most commonly result from trauma in the following situations:
In most cases, if you suffer a moderate to serious spinal cord injury you will most likely suffer some permanent effect or disability. In many cases, the permanent physical limitations imposed by such an injury can affect mood leading to depression. Long term impacts from a spinal injury such as mobility may affect your income earning capacity, which must also be taken into account when evaluating the amount of compensation you are entitled to.
Depending on the nature of your spinal cord injury and the circumstances which caused it, compensation may or may not be available. You should always seek expert legal help to see if you are able to make a claim.
It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.
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