Quadriplegia, also known as tetraplegia, is a form of paralysis that affects sensation and movement in both legs and both arms, as well as most or all of the torso. This kind of paralysis may be complete or incomplete, with some muscle control or sensation, but in all cases it causes serious disability and often complete dependence on others for care. The physical, emotional, and financial costs of quadriplegia are high.
The maritime industry can be a dangerous one, and a lot of accidents that occur on ships, in ports and docks, and on offshore rigs, have the potential to cause back and spinal injuries that could cause quadriplegia. This is a life-changing condition, and if you were injured in this way at a maritime workplace, you may be entitled to compensation. Let a maritime lawyer advocate for you and prove that you deserve to get money to cover your many new costs.
What is Quadriplegia?
Paralysis refers to loss of control over muscles and sensation in either one muscle, or more commonly, in groups of muscles. Paralysis can be categorized by whether or not it is complete, with absolutely no movement or sensation, or incomplete, with some control and sensation. It is also categorized by the part of the body or muscle groups affected. Quadriplegia refers to paralysis in all of the limbs, both arms and both legs, as well as in most of the trunk of the body.
How much of the trunk is paralyzed depends on where in the spinal cord an injury caused damage. The higher up the spine the damage is, the more extensive the paralysis. Injury between the C1 and C3 vertebrae causes paralysis of all four limbs and all of the trunk, with only potentially some movement in the neck. Spinal injuries in C4 through C8 cause varying degrees of paralysis, but all four limbs are still impacted. With these lower injuries, a person will have more function, such as the ability to breathe without a ventilator, or even some movement in the hands.
Causes of Quadriplegia
Quadriplegia and other types of paralysis are most often caused by damage to the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves running from the brain down the spine. The vertebrae protect the spinal cord, but when the back and spine are injured by a physical trauma, the spinal cord can also be damaged. The spinal cord sends messages from the brain to organs and limbs, and those parts of the body send messages back to the brain through the spinal cord. When the nerves are damaged, the result is loss of control in organs and muscles, as well as loss of sensation.
The physical trauma to the spine that causes spinal cord injuries and paralysis can be caused by a variety of accidents. The most common cause, though, is vehicle accidents. Falls are the next most common cause of quadriplegia, followed by physical violence and assault, and sports and recreational activities, like trampoline accidents. Accidents that cause paralysis may also happen in the workplace, especially those with large equipment and fall hazards.
How Quadriplegia is Treated
Emergency medical treatment is required after a person suffers a back or spinal cord injury. It isn’t possible to reverse any damage done to the spinal cord, but appropriate and quick medical care can prevent further damage. Immediate treatment for a spinal injury that may cause quadriplegia includes stabilizing the neck, back, and head, making sure the patient can breathe, and preventing shock and a dangerous drop in blood pressure.
After emergency care, a victim of a spinal cord injury may need surgery to repair damaged bone or cartilage in the spine. Once this is done and the person is stabilized, the level of paralysis can be evaluated. For someone with quadriplegia, the long-term treatment usually revolves around helping that person learn to live with this major disability. This means working with a physical therapist and an occupational therapist to help the patient learn to do some things independently, but general with this degree of paralysis a patient will need care indefinitely and will never be fully independent again.
Treatment will also focus on the complications caused by quadriplegia, which may include bladder and bowel incontinence, the formation of blood clots, pressure sores, respiratory disability, muscle spasms, and pain. Another common complication is depression. Living with the inability to move much of the body or to be independent can trigger serious mental health issues that need to be treated.
Quadriplegia in the Maritime Industry
Physical trauma to the body is the number one cause of quadriplegia, and in the maritime industry, accidents that could cause this kind of paralysis are not uncommon. Whether on a vessel at sea, in a port, or on an offshore platform, working in this industry is inherently dangerous. Falls, for instance, are a leading cause of quadriplegia, and falls happen all too often in maritime work. Workers may fall overboard onto another part of the ship, onto a dock, or into a cargo hold. Workers may also be struck by moving cargo, equipment, such as cranes, or by vehicles moving on a ship or in a port.
Even falls into the water can cause paralysis from a spinal injury. Such was the case when a man in Australia fell from a boat into shallow water. He broke his C5 vertebra and was paralyzed from the neck down as a result. Because of this fall he will have to live the rest of his life with quadriplegia. Anyone in a maritime setting is vulnerable to these accidents, including seamen, offshore workers, longshoreman, crew members on fishing vessels and tourist boats, and the guests on boats.
Compensation after a Quadriplegia Diagnosis
If you were injured in the maritime industry and have been told that you are now paralyzed in all limbs, you have to now face life without independence and without the ability to move or control your body. With quadriplegia you will not be able to return to work or earn an income, and you will be facing countless costs from medical expenses, therapy, home health care, and assistive devices.
You may be entitled to compensation to help you with these costs. If you are a seaman, for instance, and you qualify for the Jones Act, if you or your lawyer can prove that your employer was negligent in your accident, you can fight for compensation. Accidents in this industry often involve negligence. For instance, if you were hurt when your ship ran violently aground and caused you to fall, it may be that your ship’s navigation equipment was not kept up to date by your employer. Or, if unsecured cargo struck you, it could be the result of your employer failing to train the crew to secure it properly.
There are other maritime laws that can help you get compensation if you work as a longshoreman or are an offshore worker. You need a good lawyer with experience in maritime law to help you understand your rights, which laws apply to your situation, and to help advocate for you in settlements or in a courtroom if necessary. If you are facing the devastating consequences of an accident and quadriplegia, contact a lawyer to help you navigate this new world.