San Francisco Personal Injury Lawyer
In the course of day to day life, accidents happen. You may be involved in a car accident, slip and fall in a grocery store, or suffer an injury as the result of using a certain product or tool. As the result of your accident, you could suffer broken bones, cuts or bruises, as well as more serious injuries that impact your quality of life or ability to work. These types of accidents and others like them are referred to as personal injuries, and while they are common and occur on a daily basis, they are often not an accident at all. Instead, they occur as the result of someone’ reckless or negligent conduct, actions which may have occurred intentionally or unintentionally, but either way resulted in harm to others. Personal injuries often result in extensive damages, both to the injured person’s physical health and well being, as well as to their finances. It is important to understand not only the impacts that can result from these types of injuries, but also what options are available to you to ensure your best chance of recovery.
Leading Causes of Personal Injuries
Personal injuries are unfortunately common, impacting millions of people each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 80 million people are treated annually by doctors, hospitals, and emergency medical providers for serious and potentially life threatening accidental injuries. Unfortunately, for close to 200,000 of these people, their injuries end up being fatal. Personal injuries result in billions of dollars of medical costs and rehabilitative care, and researchers have conducted exhaustive studies into how and why these injuries occur. The latest research conducted by the CDC indicates that the leading causes of accidental injuries in 2013 include the following:
- Slip and fall accidents, resulting in over 8.7 million injuries;
- Being struck by or against something, which accounted for 4.2 million injuries;
- Motor vehicle accidents, accounting for more than 2.4 million injuries;
- Being cut or pierced by an object, which resulted in two million injuries;
- Physical assaults, accounting for nearly 1.3 million injuries;
- Bites and stings, which were responsible for close to 1.2 million injuries;
- Poisonings, resulting in one million injuries per year.
All of these types of incidents have the potential to result in lasting, permanent damage, with injuries that often require extensive medical treatments and physical rehabilitation in order to make a complete recovery.
Common Types of Personal Injuries
Depending on the type of accident you are involved in, your injuries may be serious and potentially disabling. Oftentimes, people who suffer personal injuries do not immediately realize the gravity or exact nature of their condition. They may try to brush their injuries off as being mild, while failing to acknowledge the underlying symptoms of a more complicated and dangerous condition. Anytime you have suffered an injury, regardless of how mild it may seem to you, seek medical help immediately. The smallest bump, bruise, or strain can have lasting, permanent impacts on your health, your ability to participate in hobbies and interests you enjoy, as well as your ability to provide for your loved ones. Common types of personal injuries include the following:
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), head injuries are one of the most common, and potentially dangerous, types of personal injury. A head injury results from a bump, blow, or jolting of the head, and these injuries occur frequently in slip and fall accidents, car crashes and collisions, as well as the result of sports injuries or due to physical assaults. The NIH states that head injuries often involve the following three types of wounds:
- Scalps wounds, which cause bruising and bleeding, and may require stitches;
- Skull fractures, in which the force of the blow was hard enough to actually break the skulls, potentially damaging the brain underneath; and
- Concussions, in which the brain is shaken as the result of the blow or jolt you received.
According to the NIH, concussions are one of the most common types of head injuries, and may range from mild to severe. A severe concussion is called a traumatic brain injury, and the NIH states that millions of people suffer TBI every year as the result of accidental injuries. Any kind of head injury has the potential to be fatal, and you cannot always tell from a person’s outward appearance when they have suffered this type of injury, or the extent of the damage that has occurred. Symptoms of a concussion may occur right away, or develop over time, and generally include feeling dizzy or lightheaded, having blurred or double vision, experiencing problems with memory or cognitive functions, stomach upsets such as nausea or vomiting, and severe headaches. It is important that if you suspect a head injury you seek medical care immediately.
Neck and Back Injuries
Back and neck injuries are a common result of slip and fall and motor vehicle accidents. According to the NIH, the back is made up of bones, muscles, tendons, and other tissues running from the neck down through to the pelvis, and any type of blow or jolt can result in damage to this area. Common types of back and neck injuries include:
- Sprains and strains: Sprains result when the ligaments that connect the bones to the joints are stretched or torn. According to the NIH, this is a common form of injury in falls, as well as any time the back or neck is twisted or hit. A strain occurs in injuries in which the muscles are bent or twisted, and the result is a tear in the muscle, or in the tendons connecting the muscle to the bones. Sprains and strains usually require a period of rest to allow the injury to heal, and people suffering these injuries often require physical therapy to increase flexibility and get the muscles back into shape afterward.
- Herniated disks: There are 26 bones in your back bone called vertebrae, and in between each are disks comprised of a jelly like substance that act to support the vertebrae. According to the NIH, a herniated disk is caused by a break in the disk, in which the jelly like substance leaks out. The result is a lack of cushioning of the vertebrae in the area of the affected disk, resulting in intense pain and limited mobility. Herniated disks are usually treated with rest, pain medicine, and anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce swelling around the injury. Herniated disks may require surgery, as well as physical rehabilitation to recover from the injury.
- Fractured vertebrae: The vertebrae in the neck and back can actually break or fracture when enough force is put on them. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, fractured vertebrae can happen in car accidents, slip and fall accidents, and as the result of sports injuries. Symptoms include moderate to severe pain, which increases with movement. Treatment may involve the use of a back brace, as well as the need for surgery to repair the damage. Certain types of these injuries can affect the spinal column, resulting in limited movement, paralysis, and even death.
Back and neck injuries can take a long time to heal, and often require bed rest and lengthy periods of immobility. While some types of injuries require surgery and physical therapy, most all will require lifestyle changes, such as losing weight to prevent stress on the injured part, using extra pillows or supports when seated, and limiting movements or lifting which could aggravate the condition.
Spinal Cord Injuries
According to the Mayo Clinic, spinal cord injuries involve any kind of damage to the spinal cord itself or the nerves at the end of the spinal canal. These types of injuries are often considered catastrophic, meaning they have a permanent and lasting impact on the major functioning of the body. Depending on the location and severity of your injuries, you may experience significant changes in the following body functions, changes which can have a dramatic impact on your quality of life:
- Loss of bladder and bowel control;
- Problems with circulatory control, resulting in potentially life threatening changes in blood pressure;
- Problems with the respiratory system, which may require you to have assistance with breathing; and
- Loss of physical sensations and effects on sexual health.
The Mayo Clinic states that these profound changes can all have serious negative effects on the sufferer’s mental state, and learning to live with spinal cord injuries takes time. People with these injuries often undergo surgeries, as well as grueling physical therapy in order to make the maximum amount of recovery possible from these injures.
Chest and Abdominal Injuries
According to researchers at the NIH, the chest and abdomen are relatively unprotected areas of the body and prone to trauma in personal injury accidents. Abdominal injuries can result from blows, cuts, or puncture wounds, and may include strains, hernias, and internal bleeding. The NIH states that the most dangerous type of abdominal injury involves damage to internal organs. Both the spleen and kidneys are vulnerable to damage when the abdomen is injured, and any type of abdominal trauma that occurs in an accident should be checked by a doctor immediately. Chest injuries commonly involved bruised or fractured ribs, which can result in breathing problems and potentially life threatening lung infections.
In addition to the above injuries, cuts and lacerations requiring stitches are common, and infections can make even the smallest cut potentially dangerous. Broken bones are also common, and depending on the type of break and the location, recovery can take months and even years.
Dealing with the Costs and Expenses resulting from Your Injury
When you have been injured in an accident or as the result of someone’s reckless or negligent conduct, you may be surprised by the various costs associated with your injury, as well as how quickly these costs add up. Getting the help you need to offset these costs is often a top priority during your recovery. In the aftermath of a personal injury, there are two main ways in which injured people may be able to get compensation for the injuries and damages they have suffered: through the at-fault party’s insurance company, or by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Dealing with Insurance Company Claims:
Depending on where your injury occurred, you may be able to file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company for the damages you have suffered as the result of your injury. The types of places and activities in which insurance may be available to cover your injuries includes:
- Car accidents;
- In public places, such as a grocery store, restaurant, or retail establishment;
- In a private home or on someone’s private property;
- While involved in school or recreational activities;
- In a hospital, clinic, nursing home, or doctor’s office; or
- In your own home, for injuries sustained while using a defective product.
When dealing with insurance companies, it is important to remember that these companies often undervalue or even deny claims in an effort to save money. Any statements you make to them can and will be used against you. Beware of making statements admitting any kind of liability or fault for your injuries, do not downplay the severity of the injuries you have suffered, and be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions when it comes to follow up care and returning to work. It is always a good idea to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer before making statements to the insurance company, and to consult with a lawyer before accepting any settlement offers.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Under Section 3333 of the California Civil Code, you may be able to get compensation for the damages you have suffered due to the reckless or negligent acts of another by filing a personal injury lawsuit. The types of compensation, otherwise referred to as damages, you may be entitled to include the following:
- Medical expenses for past, present, and ongoing medical needs, including surgery, prescription medication, and physical rehabilitation;
- Lost wages, including any future loss of income which may result from your injury;
- Property damages, and the cost for repairs or replacements;
- Compensation for physical scarring or disfigurement arising out of your accident;
- Compensation for temporary or permanent disabilities you suffered;
- Pain, suffering, and mental anguish caused by your injury; and/or
- Compensation for loss of quality of life, and loss of companionship for yourself.
In addition to the above, California Code Section 3294 allows for punitive damages, which is an amount that is additional to your actual losses, meant to punish particularly reckless and negligent conduct.
Recovering From Your Injuries
Recovering from personal injuries takes time. During your recovery, remember to follow your doctor’s instructions precisely in terms of treatment, and be sure to keep all follow up appointments. While some injuries may result in lasting, permanent damages, your medical providers can help you to find the rehabilitative services needed to help you learn to deal with your injury. Remember that, when dealing with an insurance company, it can take months and even years to fully recover, and any estimates as far as the amount of compensation an insurance company claim will provide needs to have those ongoing, future medical costs and expenses figured into it. Consult with a qualified personal injury lawyer to ensure your rights are protected, and that your best interests are being served.