Severe spinal cord injuries fall into the category of injuries that can be described as life-altering. Enormous strides have been made in the last decade to help individuals paralyzed by spinal cord trauma live longer with a higher quality of life. Naturally, the greater the damage to the spinal cord and the more severe the limitation on movement and self-sufficiency, the greater the supports that must be provided.
The federal Center for Disease Control estimates that approximately 11,000 Americans are hospitalized each year with spinal cord injuries of varying severity. The most common cause for people under 65 are motor vehicle accidents. Perhaps surprisingly, the most common cause of spinal cord injuries to people 65 and older, are falls.
In a spinal cord personal injury case, a most important factor, in addition to the usual elements of a personal injury case, will be the life care planner. These experts review the client’s medical records, meet with the client, and project the lifetime cost of care related to the spinal cord injury. Attorneys sometimes differ on how to use life care planners. Some life care planners tally the cost of every tissue and include items that even uninjured people use and pay for. The problem with the everything approach, is that it generates numbers for lifetime care so high as to discourage reasonable settlement demands (a demand for less than the life care planner’s numbers implies concern about the strength of the liability case), and lacks credibility with a jury.
In my opinion, the best life care planners in the forensic setting, will avoid inflating the cost of care and if anything, will be conservative with the numbers. Severe spinal cord injuries are sufficiently devastating, that calculating the financial cost of the injury requires no exaggeration.