In 2017, Michel Roccati was involved in a motorcycle accident. His spinal cord was completely severed and he was rendered paraplegic. Recently, doctors implanted an electrode in his spine and he is now able to walk again, and not just a few steps with lots of assistance, but a mile with a simple rolling walker. This could be a game-changer for people who suffer paraplegic and quadriplegic injuries in car, motorcycle, truck and other types of accidents. In the meantime, how could this change the lawsuits and recoveries arising from those accidents?
First, this advancement is incredibly new. To date, only Mr. Roccati and two other patients have received this particular electrode. But, all three have received positive outcomes: they have all been able to walk, stand and ride a stationary bike. Doctors and researchers hope to implant 50 to 100 more implants soon in hopes of learning which patients are best-suited for the electrode and how to maximize the positive outcomes. They predict the technology could become more widely available in a few years.
As a practical matter, because of the newness and uncertainty surrounding it, this technology will not factor into lawsuits involving spinal cord injuries until more questions are answered. Let us explain. In any accident case, a doctor must testify on two issues. First, a doctor must testify the accident caused the injury. Second, the doctor must testify about the damages associated with the injury. Importantly, this includes the medical care received to date and its cost and the anticipated medical care needed in the future and its cost.
As you might expect, paraplegic and quadriplegic injuries are two of the most catastrophic injury cases that exist and the medical costs associated with those injuries can easily be millions of dollars. To the extent this new electrode technology provides the ability to stand and walk and do other activities to individuals with these injuries, then the cost of their medical care could go down. Theoretically, spinal cord injury victims would not need as much medical assistance in their daily life. Of course, on the other hand, we do not know the cost associated with the new technology. How much does it cost to implant the electrode? How often must it be replaced? The cost of the new technology could offset, or perhaps, even exceed the cost of the current type of care these individuals receive.
Because at this early stage of the game we simply do not know these answers, a judge will not allow evidence of it to go to the jury. In Tennessee, a medical expert must testify to a reasonable degree of medical certainty. Or, in other words, that something is more probable or likely than not. In the area of new medical advancements such as these spinal cord electrodes, doctors simply are not in a position yet to testify to that degree of certainty. And, as such, it is not admissible. But, for the clients that we have represented that have sustained paraplegic and quadriplegic injuries, we are excited about this promising new technology and the impact it could have for them and others.
If you or a loved one has been injured and want to know if you have a case or if you have other questions about it, give us a call. We offer a free initial consultation and our award-winning lawyers handle all accident cases on a contingency basis, so we only get paid if we recover money for you.