New Jersey Spinal Injury Cases and Settlements

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Undiagnosed Broken Neck Leads to Further Spinal Cord Injury and Temporary Paralysis

In September 1998, Plaintiff, of Mount Laurel, New Jersey, was admitted to the emergency room at Cooper Hospital/University Medical Center in Camden, New Jersey, for neck injuries that he sustained in a car accident. At the hospital, a resident doctor ordered a CAT scan of Plaintiff’s cervical spine. The resident sent the image to the attending physician who examined the image on his home computer. Suspecting a problem with the spine, he ordered a second series of more thinly sliced CAT scans to examine the area in more detail.

The resident however released Plaintiff from the hospital at around 11:30 p.m. that same day. The following morning, Plaintiff, experiencing severe pain and difficulty in walking, went back to the hospital. Another doctor read the later set of CAT scans and discovered a fracture of the facet joint at C5-C6 for which Plaintiff underwent immediate surgery.

Plaintiff suffered from bleeding in the spinal canal, which put pressure on his spinal cord resulting in temporary paralysis. After the surgery to treat the paralysis, Plaintiff suffered from weakness in his arms and legs, incontinence, loss of fine motor skills and inability to dress or drive a car.

The plaintiffs sued the resident and attending physician and Cooper Hospital, claiming that the delayed diagnosis caused neurological damage to Plaintiff. The plaintiffs claimed that the fracture caused bleeding in Plaintiff’s spinal canal that exerted pressure on the spinal cord resulting in paralysis. A note on Plaintiff’s case written by the resident said, ‘negative for fracture’. Yet nearly everyone that testified agreed that the second set of scans showed a fracture. Plaintiff’s estate sought damages for his pain and suffering, disability and impairment and loss of enjoyment of life. His wife sought damages on a loss of consortium claim.

The resident’s defense argued that the doctor e-mailed the second set of CAT scans to the attending physician, a claim that the attending physician’s attorneys denied. At trial, the attending physician produced a computer to show that he had received the first scan but not the second set of scans, and the case against him was dismissed for lack of cause of action.

The case went to trial in the Superior Court of Camden County. The jury awarded $1.75 million to the plaintiffs from the doctor’s insurer, Lexington Insurance of Boston.

Laborer Suffers Incomplete Quadriplegia When Driver Runs Stop Sign, Airbag Fails to Deploy

A 42-year-old plaintiff, who was employed as a driver of a moving van, suffered incomplete quadriplegia, a fractured vertebra, a spinal cord injury, respiratory dysfunction, a tracheostomy, sepsis, pneumonia, a vertebra dislocation, bowel and bladder infections, osteomelitis, a decubitus ulcer and a skull hematoma when his van struck the female defendant’s vehicle broadside at a controlled intersection. The plaintiff contended that the defendant operated her vehicle in a negligent manner, failed to keep a proper lookout, failed to yield the right-of-way, specifically, failing to obey a stop sign.

The plaintiff further contended that the airbag in his vehicle, manufactured by the codefendant, failed to deploy properly and was improperly designed. The defendant female driver denied liability. The codefendant denied liability and contended that the air bag was designed properly, that the plaintiff was not wearing his seat belt and was otherwise comparatively negligent.

At trial in the Superior Court of Gloucester, the plaintiff was found to be 30 percent comparatively negligent and the defendant 70 percent negligent and the award was reduced accordingly. No liability was found against the codefendant.

Scaffolding Not Secured Properly Leads to Plaintiff’s Fall and Spinal Cord Injuries

In September 2003, Plaintiff, a 34-year-old construction worker, was hired to work at a residential construction site in Upper Freehold Township New Jersey.

Plaintiff was nailing wood while on scaffolding above the second story. The scaffolding was not properly secured, and started to shake. Plaintiff fell backwards and off of the scaffolding, landing on the ground floor.

Plaintiff sustained a comminuted L1 burst fracture with significant anterior thecal sac compression as well as edema within the conus medullaris at T12-L1, requiring L1 corpectomy. He also underwent a fusion with allograft at T12 to L2, an instrumented fusion and open treatment of the fracture.

Postoperatively, Plaintiff had difficulty urinating and defecating (neurogenic ileus) secondary to his spinal cordinjury, which was managed with bowel decompression and bowel stimulants. Unpaid medical bills were approximately $200,000. Although the plaintiff no longer works, there was no lost wage claim. He returned to Guatemala, where his wife and child live.

Plaintiff sued in Union County Superior Court, naming the general and subcontractors on the job site and claiming negligence. The plaintiff claimed that the defendants had a duty to provide safe scaffolding for him to work on. The plaintiff maintained that the scaffolding was constructed about an hour-and-a-half prior to the incident by a framer other than the plaintiff.

Although no defendant denied that plaintiff was injured at the work site, no defendant admitted to being the employer of the plaintiff and denied liability, pointing to the co-defendants as the plaintiff’s employer.

The parties settled that matter for $900,000 after two days of mediation, with insurers for the various contractors, including Travelers Insurance, Quincy Mutual, and Westport Insurance Corp. contributing for plaintiff’s injuries.

Motor Vehicle Accident Leads to Lumbar Disc Herniations

In January of 2004, Plaintiff was operating a motor vehicle on Brunswick Avenue in Trenton, New Jersey, when she was broadsided by a car driven by the defendant.

Plaintiff went to the emergency room at Mercer Medical Center, where she was X-rayed and released. Plaintiff claimed that she sustained herniations of the lumbar spine at L4-5 and L5-S1. She also complained of a chronic sprain of the talofibular ligament.

Thereafter, Plaintiff treated with her family doctor, who referred her to a chiropractor and podiatrist. When treatment did not alleviate plaintiff’s pain, she was examined by an orthopedic surgeon. The surgeon did not find Plaintiff a candidate for surgery because she was functioning well and had no significant spinal cord impingement. However, he testified that Plaintiff had sustained disc herniations as a result of the motor vehicle accident, and opined that the herniations were permanent. He predicted that the injuries would affect Plaintiff’s quality of life interminably.

Plaintiff sued defendant for negligent operation of a motor vehicle. Plaintiff claimed that defendant ran a stop sign and hit the driver’s door of her vehicle. There was no stop sign controlling traffic in the plaintiff’s lane. Defendant denied liability and claimed that Plaintiff had not sustained any herniated discs and that her spinal condition was caused by congenital variation and degenerative disc disease.

Plaintiff testified that she experienced pain performing her daily activities. For example, she claimed that it was difficult to exercise as she had formerly done, and that she simply did not feel as young as she had before the accident. Plaintiff claimed that she no longer was able to comfortably go dancing, and that sleeping was problematic. The plaintiff gave birth to a child following the accident. She claimed that her injuries affected her ability to care for her infant.

At trial in the Mercer County Superior Court, jurors rendered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant’s insurance carrier, Hartford, awarding damages in the amount of $75,000.

No Recovery for Young Man Paralyzed During Surgery-doctor Fails to Use Shunt

A 25-year-old man suffered paralysis of lower limbs and ischemia to a portion of spinal cord when he underwent cardiothoracic surgery performed by the defendant doctor to repair an aortic transaction. Plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to provide for blood flow during surgery. The plaintiff further contended that the defendant negligently used the clamp and sew method and that he was negligent for failing to use a shunt to continue blood supply for the duration of the surgery. The plaintiff contended that the clamp and sew method should only be used on surgery that can be completed in 30 minutes and that the defendant should have anticipated that the surgery would take about twice as long. The defendant denied liability and contended that the proper standard of care had been met.

At trial in the Ocean County Superior Court, the jury found that the defendant was not liable for Plaintiff’s injuries and Plaintiff recovered nothing.

For more information or to speak with a New Jersey spinal cord injury lawyer, contact Keefe Law Firm.