A spinal cord injury has catastrophic consequences. Victims of serious spinal cord injuries are likely to suffer the loss or significant impairment of sensory perception, motor functioning, and mobility that results in them requiring support and care for the rest of their lives. Recent accidents – and payouts – demonstrate once again the long road to recovery and justice accident victims face.
Largest awards in personal injury
Some of the largest awards of personal injury compensation have occurred in spinal injury cases. In Gordon and Morrison v Greig (2007), the Ontario Superior Court awarded $24 million to two victims for serious spinal and brain injuries. Regarding the spinal injury, the Court’s award was the largest sum ever granted in Canada for such an injury.
People who suffer serious injuries (spinal, brain, amputated limbs) require long term treatment, rehabilitation, and caregiving. In such cases, the “future care costs” are often so formidable that they result in huge monetary awards. It is hardly surprising, then, that the plaintiffs and defendants in cases involving catastrophic injuries, with enormous financial implications at stake, often engage in long, protracted legal battles. As so much can be at stake in spinal cord accident and injury cases, they can often take many years to decide.
How victims have to fight for justice
Though it may seem obvious that someone who has suffered a catastrophic spinal injury will automatically be entitled to compensation, that is, unfortunately, not the case. Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an insurance company’s appeal of a $1 million award to a victim who had been badly injured by a drunk driver. Closure for the accident victim finally came in 2019 – some 17 years after the 2002 accident!
More on spinal injury
An incomplete understanding of spinal cord accidents
Mention an accident causing spinal cord injuries and the presumption is that it must have been the result of a severe car accident or a fall from a significant height. In fact, rather than being the result of a catastrophic accident, many spinal cord injuries are sustained over a period of time.
Recently, a news report told the story of how a Toronto school teacher had sustained spinal injuries due to the physical exertion of assembling and dismantling her temporary classroom. Because her employer was not covered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario, she was not eligible to receive any form of compensation.
Seriousness of injuries
Spinal and brain injuries are amongst the most serious and life-altering conditions that one can suffer as a result of an accident. Despite all the miraculous developments in medical science, spinal cord and brain injury patients are often limited in their capacity to recover from their injuries and, tragically, they are often consigned to a diminished quality of life. The case of a victim injured in a motor vehicle accident in Manitoba, which resulted in the driver being left paralyzed from the chest down, is a stark reminder of how dramatically people’s lives can be impacted by a serious spinal injury. The victim and his family are confronted by crushing medical bills, the need for ongoing treatment, rehabilitation, and lifelong caregiving — all of which will place tremendous burdens on the victim, his family, and their finances.
Additional support for catastrophically injured patients in Ontario
Ontario is considering a return to a $2 million default benefit limit for those who have been injured catastrophically. That limit had been reduced to $1 million in 2016. For accident victims who have suffered spinal or brain injuries, this is a significant development. The various treatment costs involved in addressing catastrophic spinal and brain injuries — including expensive surgeries and extensive patient support — may exhaust $1 million in benefits all too quickly.
Spinal cord injury lawyers
For those who have suffered spinal cord injuries, indemnification can never restore the loss of life’s opportunities, or compensate adequately for the pain and suffering they must endure. Moreover, victims of such injuries may be confronted by the emotional challenges arising from insurers’ and provincial health bodies’ attempts to reduce their financial commitments to the victim.
The difficult challenges associated with such injuries explain why spinal cord injury lawyers must take on the role of being more than just the victim’s legal representatives. Lawyers must actively support spinal cord injury victims and their families in navigating what can be a very difficult course to secure the optimal outcome of their lawsuit. Due to the complexities associated with spinal cord injuries and their treatments, numerous issues are likely to arise during the course of the legal process that involve choices and decisions that are neither obvious nor easily made. With the experienced and informed guidance of a spinal cord injury lawyer, you and your loved ones can receive the support you need and, in doing so, protect the future care you are owed.