Spinal cord injuries (SCI) are among the most devastating physical injuries one can suffer. We have had SCI clients whose first reaction was to wish for death rather than life with paralysis.

In our law practice over several decades, we have represented numerous spinal cord injury survivors. Most had benefited from rehabilitation services at Shepherd Center or Emory Rehabilitation Hospital, both of which are near us in Atlanta. All these clients were injured in motor vehicle crashes or falls. One client who had been a high-powered government executive before an accident made him quadriplegic initially wanted to just turn his

Spinal cord injury survivors may someday have more hope for functional recovery. An article in Brain by James Fawcett at Cambridge University summarizes research papers reporting functional recovery following a variety of treatments. These have included interventions that affect myelin inhibitory molecules and their receptors, or inhibitory chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans, and treatments in which the regenerative potential of axons has been stimulated through growth-factor receptors or manipulation of internal signalling pathways. The article suggests  it is probable that much of the useful recovery seen following treatment of animals with partial spinal cord lesions is due to the stimulation of plasticity.  However, there is a wide gap between basic research with lab animals and clinically useful treatments.

Survivors of spinal cord injury face life-long problems with mobility.  As an attorney representing spinal cord injury survivors, I have often addressed needs for adapted vehicles in life care plans. Now there is news of the first factory-built, wheelchair accessible car – the MV-1 – which is a milestone for the 14 million American adults who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices. We may list this in future life care plans for survivors of catastrophic spinal cord injury who are paraplegic or quadriplegic.

As a personal injury trial lawyer in Georgia, I have often told clients that they do not want what goes with the kind of case that makes headlines. It is better to have good health than a multi-million dollar injury case.

A recent New Jersey case is a good illustration of that.

In 1999, an Aramark concession employee at Giants Stadium broke stadium rules by continuing to sell beer to a fan who had been drinking much of the day and was slurring his words. The drunk fan drove away and crashed into a family vehicle, rendering a two year old girl a quadriplegic.  The girl, now 11, is still paralyzed and dependent on a ventilator to breathe.

Three years ago, a jury awarded damages of $105 million.  An appeals court reversed that judgment and ordered a new trial, saying the lower court improperly allowed testimony about the "culture of intoxication" at the stadium. Now the case has been settled, with $23.5 million for the girl and $1.5 million for her mother, who was also injured. There is no further appeal from a settlement.

Having been represented  young quadriplegics with well-designed life care plans, I know what is involved and how expensive proper lifetime care for a quadriplegic is. 

Since receiving payment on the settlement,  the family began building a handicapped-accessible home equipped with  technology to provide the girl as good a life as she can have as a quadriplegic. The house should be ready by the holidays.

This young girl can only move her head, but with state of the art technology she will be able to control her wheelchair, elevator, TV and computer with her voice.  She will also be able to have  round-the-clock nursing care, which  is necessary in case her ventilator becomes clogged creating a life-or-death situation.

No amount of money can fully compensate a young girl for the loss of the ability to run and play, to hold hands, to enjoy all the blessing of life that the rest of us take for granted. But the money can allow her dignity, humanity, and the best life that is accessible to her.

And maybe, just maybe, this case will make an impression on businesses that serve alcohol around the country, and in that way prevent other tragedies over the years.

federal court jury in  Kansas has returned a $23.5 million verdict arising from a 2006 wreck in New Mexico, according to an article by Ron Sylvester of the Wichita Eagle. The court cut the amount to $15.3 million because the jury decided the driver of the Swift Transportation was only 65 percent at fault even though she was on methamphetamine.

The  Swift  driver was backing into the highway from a rest stop when she hit a Yellow Freight truck. The Swift driver  tested positive for methamphetamine. She claimed she was rear-ended but accident reconstruction proved her version of the incident was not true.

The  of the Yellow Freight driver was killed and the passenger / co-driver had a catastrophic spinal cord injury. This verdict was for the spinal cord injury victim. The wrongful death case is set for trail next spring.

Swift Transportation was hit with a $36.5 million verdict last year in an Arizona case brought by  the family of a man killed in a collision with a Swift truck.

At this firm we frequently represent truck drivers who are injured by the negligence of other truckers. We are always available to review such incidents.