The Challenges for Victims of Neurological Injuries such as Spinal and Brain Injury

Posted by Injury Lawyers of Ontario on November 28, 2016

Many people who are injured in a motor vehicle accident, a serious fall or in a recreational accident, experience neurological injuries.  Neurological injuries can be mild or very severe, and may improve or worsen over time. The symptoms and disability associated with a neurological injury are often chronic and have a substantial impact on the well-being and life of an accident victim, along with their family.

A neurological injury involves damage to the body’s nervous system.  This includes structural, biochemical or electrical damage or abnormalities damaging the spinal cord, causing injury to the brain or damage to other nerves, and damage can result in a wide range of symptoms.

In a study of neurological conditions in Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported the following potential impacts of a neurological injury.

  • There can be broad and profound functional impairments affecting mobility, dexterity, functioning of the bladder and bowel, skin and joint sensation, speech and language, cognition, perception, behaviour, emotion and consciousness.
  • Pain and distress
  • Negative impact on mental health, quality of life, work capability, participation in activities, financial security and educational opportunities
  • Victims may feel stigmatized

Studies have shown that symptoms, reactions and outcomes for people differ, even with similar injuries.  Also, the kind of injuries and symptoms can vary between men and women, and between young and older patients. The circumstance of living with and supporting a loved one with a neurological injury often results in a strain on, and stress for family members as well.

Not surprisingly, Canadians who are living with a neurological condition require and use more health care services than the average Canadian, including hospital stays, physician visits and care, and pharmaceutical drugs.  Victims also have a higher need for formal and informal personal care assistance, help with housework and home maintenance functions, as well as assistance with other tasks, such as grocery shopping and commuting to a doctor’s offices.  Even patients with a drug plan tend to have more out-of-pocket expenses for medications. Canadians who live with neurological damage generally require professional emotional support in coping with the symptoms of their condition, including their loss of enjoyment in life.

Even in Canada, there are sometimes barriers to receiving needed health care, for individuals suffering from serious neurological conditions.  Particularly in rural or more remote areas, it can be difficult if not impossible to gain access to specialists such as neurologists. For patients with less common injuries or conditions, there can be a lack of availability of specialized services.  Sometimes information on available services, continuing education, caregiver support, transportation, and other necessary services may be lacking or difficult to find, as well.   When someone’s injury is long-term or combined with cognitive impairments, it can be even more difficult to obtain services.

When someone has experienced a neurological injury, in addition to the direct impact of their injury, injured persons are also at greater risk of other conditions.  Accident victims, particularly men, who suffered a brain injury, are at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.  Brain injury is a risk factor for epilepsy, both for men and women.

In cases of a neurological injury such as spinal cord injury, (U.S. National Library of Medicine, January 2015), there are a number of secondary long-term complications that commonly occur.  These include:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Cardiovascular complications
  • Bowel and urinary problems
  • Pressure ulcers
  • Tightness and stiffness in muscles
  • Pain syndromes
  • Osteoporosis and fracturing of bones

A landmark case, Gordon v. Greig, 2007, involved an Ontario man who suffered catastrophic injuries to his spinal column resulting in paraplegia, caused by a serious car accident. In addition to the huge impact on his ability to work and enjoy ‘normal’ activities, the injured man will require significant future care expenses to pay for such necessities as: a wheelchair, walker and leg braces; modifications to his vehicle; rehabilitation treatments including physiotherapy and chiropractic; health supplies and medications; and housing. To understand the extent of help needed when someone has sustained a catastrophic neurological injury of this nature, here are some of the tasks with which the injured man will need assistance: dressing and undressing, removal of clothing and shoes associated with a lack of bladder control; putting long leg braces on and off; transfers to and from the wheelchair and vehicle; getting in and out of bed; bowel treatments; showering supervision; bathroom cleaning; meal preparation, transport and cleanup; exercising and many more.  It is anticipated that, as the injured man ages, he will suffer shoulder deterioration that will necessitate full assistance to complete such tasks as reaching.  The court awarded the injured man over $12.4 million in damages, including almost $9 million for attendant care and future care needs.

In acknowledgement of the often life-long requirements for coping and functioning after a neurological injury such as a spinal cord injury, accident victims deserve access to the broad range of care and services that allows them to function as much as possible, given the severity of their injuries, as they did prior to their accident.  If you or a family member sustained a neurological injury or other injury resulting from a reckless driver or another negligent action, in the Kitchener or Waterloo area you can seek expert representation with experienced Kitchener-Waterloo personal injury lawyers with well-established ties to respected medical practitioners in our community.  In an initial consultation, you can find out about the strength of your claim and legal options for obtaining compensation. Let us help you get the financial help you need and are owed.

 

Sources:

http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/cd-mc/mc-ec/sum-som-eng.php

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4303787/


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