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Spinal cord injuries

Overview

The spinal cord is a very complex structure that performs hundreds, if not thousands, of functions.

A simplified way of understanding the role of the spinal cord is to think of it as a pipeline that brings sensory information from the body and internal organs to the brain, where the brain can monitor activities of all body structures. The spinal cord also carries messages from the brain to the body, including muscles and the organs that are responsive to neural stimulus.

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is defined as damage to the spinal cord that results in the loss of function or sensation in the body below the level of the injury. The most common causes of SCI are:

  • Motor vehicle accidents such as: car accidents, motorcycle accidents, trucking accidents, boating accidents, cycling accidents and pedestrian accidents;
  • Slip and fall accidents;
  • Sport and diving accidents;
  • Medical complications;
  • Gun shot wounds;
  • Physical attacks (e.g. fights or assaults).

When an injury occurs to the spinal cord, nerve conduction between the brain and the body past the site of the injury is impaired. An injured spinal cord can cause neurological impairments ranging from slight weakness and decreased sensation to temporary or permanent loss of mobility and sensation (paralysis). Individuals who sustain a SCI are traumatized emotionally as well as physically. The emotional symptoms of a SCI are just as real as the physical. Individuals will often go through a range of emotions including anger, grief, denial, shame, guilt, helplessness and sadness.

It is important for individuals who sustain a SCI to recognize that their injury has a tremendous impact on their loved ones. Family and friends may experience many of these same emotional traumas. Family counseling and education will often help improve the recovery and healing process.

How we can help

Families are often surprised and overwhelmed by how much an injury can impact their lives and their financial situation. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand your current situation better and explain your legal entitlements.

Our involvement begins the moment we meet you. We start to work immediately to maximize your personal recovery by ensuring you get the treatment and assistance you require to return to as many social, family, and leisure activities as soon as possible. At the same time, we gather evidence to quantify every aspect of your losses to maximize your financial recovery.

After an accident, we will:

  • Meet with you to understand your life situation, the accident, and your injuries;
  • Assist you while you are in the hospital, arranging for parking passes and food vouchers for your family and ensuring a TV and phone are available for the duration of your stay;
  • Assist in bringing immediate family to visit you – even from outside Canada;
  • Determine which insurance company is responsible for paying your accident benefits;
  • Complete your accident benefits claims forms, explain the process, and follow up with the insurance company to ensure your benefits are paid as quickly as possible;
  • Open claims for any of your immediate family members who need treatment even though they were not in the accident—this protects your medical rehab limits;
  • Obtain police records about the accident and, if necessary, seek out and interview witnesses;
  • Put the at-fault party on notice that a lawsuit is likely.

Your options for compensation

If you are involved in a vehicle accident there is help available. 

You are entitled to:

  • Accident benefits: Whether or not you were at fault for the accident, all Ontario auto insurance policies provide compulsory benefits outlined in the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS).Your family members and dependents may also be entitled to some benefits even though they were not involved in the accident. Accident Benefits can be claimed no matter what your legal residence status is in this country.
  • Disability insurance: Short-term or long-term disability benefits available from your job or a private policy must be applied for immediately. These benefits are always primary. Your car insurance will only cover what your private disability policy will not cover.

Fault-based lawsuits

In addition to the accident benefits claim, you may also sue the person or people responsible for the accident. This type of claim (also called a tort claim) seeks compensation for: 

  • Pain and suffering; 
  • Economic losses (e.g. present and future income losses);
  • Loss of earning capacity;
  • The cost of future medical treatment and care;
  • The cost of future attendant care; 
  • The cost of housekeeping and care giving needs;
  • Out of pocket expenses; 
  • Loss of shared family income; 
  • Loss of care, guidance and companionship suffered by your immediate family;
  • Economic losses of family members incurred due to the accident.

With significant changes made to the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule as of June 1st, 2016, it is imperative that you consult one of our lawyers to find out what you may be entitled to.

Please see Your compensation for more information.

Time limits

Insurance companies will generally only pay for any treatment or expense after you apply for the corresponding benefit, so it is important that you apply for all the benefits you will need as soon as possible. Strict time limits apply. We will meet these deadlines for you, so you can focus on your recovery.

Some of the key limits to keep in mind:

  • 7 Days – you must inform the Accident Benefits insurance company of the accident and that you were hurt;
  • 30 Days – you must complete and send the Accident Benefits application within 30 days of it being provided to you by the insurance company. If you take longer, the insurance company can delay your benefits 45 days and may be able to deny you benefits altogether;
  • 120 Days – you need to give written notice of your intention to sue the at-fault parties;
  • 2 Years – to commence a lawsuit against an at-fault driver or your own insurance company if your benefits are denied.

You must provide the insurance company all the information it needs to determine your entitlement. You have 10 business days after it requests such information to provide it, or it can suspend or deny your benefits.

Disclaimer

This website is meant as a general reference for injured persons and their families. The medical and legal information contained in this manual is not intended to offer legal or medical advice. The content of this website is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the professional judgment of a legal and/or healthcare professional, and you should not rely upon any material or statements made on this website for legal or medical advice. It is not intended to create a solicitor-client relationship.

It is recommended that you review any medical information carefully with your doctor or healthcare professional before making any decisions regarding your health or recommended medical treatment. While reasonable attempts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this website, our firm cannot make express or implied representations or warranties about the accuracy or completeness of the information. Each person's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Please contact an Ontario Personal Injury lawyer for a consultation on your particular personal injury matter.

Carranza

Carranza LLP represents clients in Toronto and the greater Toronto area (GTA), Niagara, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga, Brampton, Richmond Hill, Aurora, Newmarket, Markham, Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa, Belleville, Kingston, Ottawa, Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo, London, Barrie, North Bay, Sudbury.