Spinal Cord Injuries During Motorcycle Accidents

Spinal cord injuries in motorcycle accidents are among the most devastating. If not fatal, they are unquestionably life-altering, at best resulting in acute pain and temporary disability and at worst, permanent paralysis and a lifetime of dependency.

Although motorcyclists account for just a fraction of road users, their lack of external protection means they are more vulnerable to serious injury. Motor vehicle accidents are the No. 1 cause of spinal cord injury, with motorcycle crashes resulting in 7 percent of total spinal cord injuries among men and 2.5 percent among women, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center.

When these crashes are caused by someone else’s negligence, finding an experienced motorcycle accident attorney in Boston is critical because compensation is necessary to assisting with costs of ongoing medical care, the use of sophisticated medical devices, lost wages and rehabilitation.

Spinal injuries can be either complete or incomplete, with classifications referring to whether the brain has lost the ability to communicate message through the spinal cord. A spinal cord injury that is complete results in a total loss of motor and sensory function below the injury site. With an incomplete spinal injury, one may not experience total loss of feeling and function.

Spinal Cord Injury Statistics

The NSCISC reveals there are 17,000 new cases of spinal cord injury annually – and that doesn’t include victims who die at crash scenes. The number of people living with a spinal cord injury is roughly 290,000, with about 80 percent of those being males. Although the initial hospital stay and rehabilitation lengths have declined over the last several decades (now 11 days and 34 days, respectively), a third are re-hospitalized one or more times in any given year following their injury, with those hospital stays averaging about 22 days. Spinal cord injury patients are often plagued by recurring urinary tract infections, pressure ulcers, respiratory and circulatory issues and other serious complications. Those who survive also suffer lower life expectancy rates, often due to pneumonia and septicemia, conditions to which the injury makes them more susceptible.

One study by the International Association of Traffic and Safety Sciences explored spinal injury patterns in motorcycle crashes over five years. Researchers discovered:

  • Injury to the lower lumbar (low back) was the most common injury. This can affect hips and legs and may cause numbness or paralysis extending to the feet.
  • Injury to the thoracic vertebra (middle back) was the second most frequently-observed for motorcyclists with spinal injury. These can be extremely unstable injuries requiring surgery that often results in serious spinal cord or nerve damage. Quadriplegia was not uncommon.

Researchers found low-speed motorcycle crashes were more commonly associated with lower lumbar spinal injuries, while high-speed collisions resulted in more injuries to the thoracic and cervical spine. Severe spinal injuries were more likely when an ejected rider directly struck an object (such as a tree or pole or other vehicle) before hitting the ground.

The estimated lifetime costs of these injuries are difficult to pinpoint because every aspect of one’s life is impacted. It also depends on the type of spinal injury sustained and the person’s age at the time. The NSCISC reports a 25-year-old with a severe spinal cord injury can expect lifetime medical expenses nearing $4.9 million – with $1.1 million billed just in the first year. That same person with a less severe spinal injury can still expect lifetime medical costs of about $1.6 million, with $360,000 of that incurred in the first year after the injury.

At Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers, our motorcycle injury lawyers in Massachusetts know this its just a fraction of the overall financial burden because it doesn’t take into account one’s lost wages and earning potential or other compensable losses.

Compensation for Motorcycle Spinal Cord Injuries

In a civil lawsuit alleging negligence, we help clients pursue compensation for medical expenses, as well as for pain and suffering and other actionable losses. Spouses and other close dependents may seek damages for loss of consortium. Because the stakes are so high and these cases are so often complex, we carefully consider all possible defendants and insurers before formulating a legal strategy to help pursue a spinal cord injury claim.

MGL ch. 90 s. 34A-34R only mandates Massachusetts motorists carry a minimum of $8,000 in personal injury protection benefits (awarded regardless of fault for lost wages and medical bills) and $20,000 per person/ $40,000 per crash in bodily injury liability if they are at-fault. This is almost never enough, but there might be other possible sources of recovery including (but not limited to):

  • Uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage. MGL c. 175 s. 113L requires auto insurers to offer this, and it covers additional losses to an insured when a negligent party is not identified (i.e., hit-and-run), doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance to fully compensate the victim. UM/UIM coverage in Massachusetts can’t exceed your bodily injury liability limits.
  • Alcohol vendors. One-third of fatal motorcycle accidents involve a drunk driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. MGL c. 138 s. 69 prohibits alcohol vendors from serving or selling alcohol to an “intoxicated person,” and state courts have held (since 1968 with the ruling in Adamian v. Three Sons Inc .) that vendors who violate this provision can also be held liable for negligence in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Employers/ commercial trucking firms. Advancing technology has meant an increasing number of people are carrying out job functions on-the-road. That includes professional drivers like truckers, but it can mean anyone who is acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of a crash. Employers are vicariously liable for the negligent actions of employees in that situation, meaning we don’t have to prove the employer did anything wrong so long as we show the employee breached their duty to be a safe driver while acting on behalf of a company.

These are just a few examples, but viable recovery options are highly case specific.

Our team offers free consultations for Boston motorcycle accident victims to determine the best course of action. If we accept your case, we do so on a contingency fee basis, meaning we are paid no attorney fees unless we succeed in obtaining a financial recovery on your behalf.

Contact Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers today for a free and confidential consultation.
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