Written on behalf of Brian S. Kabateck
March 3, 2017
Spinal cord injuries have long lasting effects, no matter how seemingly insignificant they may seem. These effects range from numbness and loss of movement to total paralysis and even premature death. Attorneys who represent clients suffering from spinal cord injuries and paralysis battle to get them the care they will need to live a relatively normal life. However, there are some new, exciting scientific breakthroughs for people suffering from these types injuries that should be interesting to both plaintiff and defense attorneys alike. While these treatments are expensive, they can allow people to walk independently and perform tasks that were otherwise impossible.
The costs for someone who suffers a spinal cord injury resulting in paralysis or otherwise are considerable. Prosthetics can run upwards of $80,000 and even more depending on how many and where on the leg the prosthetic attaches. Nursing care can cost $23/$25 per hour per nurse, and if the client requires around the clock care then the costs can go up. Ankle fusion surgery can cost $30,000, retrofitted vans are over $50,000 and so on. These are only some of the expenses, and many of these procedures would require regular medical attention to make sure there were no infections, malfunctions or other issues.
Groundbreaking scientific innovations have occurred in three main areas: stem cells; robotics; and wireless implants. Each of these are in the early stages, but some of the potential has already been realized with paralyzed people walking and moving their limbs on their own in some cases.
A company in Fremont, CA developed a procedure to inject stem cells into patients with cervical spinal cord injuries, and recently reported encouraging data from a clinical trial. Many of the patients injected with stem cells exhibited greater movement on one or both sides of their bodies and showed no measurable negative effects of the therapy. The trial hasn’t even injected patients with the optimal amount, so better results are still possible. In one case, a man who was paralyzed and left with no feeling below his neck as the result of a car crash, regained the use of his hands and arms after a surgical team at USC’s Keck Medical Center injected his spine with embryonic stem cells. The man showed improvement within two weeks of the procedure.
A British newspaper reported late in 2016 that a firm in the United States has developed a robotic exoskeleton that helped a paralyzed woman walk again. The suit is controlled by a device worn on the wrist that is linked to motors on the legs and sensors that detect motion. The cost of the exoskeleton to the woman in England was £50,000 (roughly $63,000). Another company in the United States has developed a robotic exoskeleton that weighs just 27 pounds, costs $40,000 and is custom fit to the user’s body. Mr. Burke is confined to a wheelchair that weighs upwards of 300 lbs. and makes him a fall risk as a result. Using technology that weighs 1/10 of what a wheelchair does while also providing the opportunity for Mr. Burke to walk would have been mind-blowing to most jurors.
In Switzerland, a team of doctors implanted a wireless neural prosthetic into the spinal cords of paralyzed monkeys. The monkeys regained use of paralyzed lower limbs just six days after their initial injuries without any training. The technology works in such a way that patients could use it in their own homes without any doctor supervision. As time went on, monkeys that had lost the use of a hind leg improved the quality and quantity of their steps which researchers hypothesized meant the system had triggered a lasting change in the brain and damaged spinal cord.
Taking advantage of these treatments would be expensive, however doctors believe the potential to help paralyzed people walk again is endless, and this is a new reality that attorneys will have to take into consideration when mediating a case involving a man or women who can no longer walk as a result of a car crash. Damages, medical costs and future costs of care will all have a new factor to take into consideration, and the science behind it all will be something judges will have to help sort out before and during personal injury trials.
If you or a loved one has suffered a paralysis injury due to negligence or wrongdoing, you must learn more about your rights. Give one of our experienced personal injury attorneys at Kabateck Brown Kellner, LLP a call today to learn more about personal injury claims that involve paralysis and to explore your options. Our spinal cord injury attorney in Los Angeles (LA) can help you achieve the maximum compensation for the harm you or a loved one has suffered due to the misconduct of an individual, a corporation or a public entity.