Your nervous system controls your body. When you suffer nerve damage, you can lose your sense of touch and even experience paralysis. Your injuries might interfere with your ability to work or meet your daily needs.
In most situations, doctors cannot cure nerve damage. As a result, any pain, discomfort, or paralysis you experience will last for the rest of your life.
Here is an overview of nerve damage and the compensation you can seek for its effects.
What Are the Functions and Structure of Your Nervous System?
Your nervous system has two parts:
Central Nervous System
Your central nervous system (CNS) includes your brain and spinal cord. Your brain controls your nervous system. It receives sensory signals from sensory nerves.
These sensory nerves include the optic nerve from your eyes, the olfactory nerve from your nose, and the sensory receptors in your skin’s peripheral nerves. Your brain uses the information from your senses to form an image of your environment.
Your brain also sends out control signals to your body. The brain sends out two types of control signals.
Autonomic signals control the involuntary systems in your body, including:
- Blood pressure
- Heart rate
- Sexual arousal
Motor signals control the voluntary systems in your body. These include the muscles that move your body.
Your CNS also includes your spinal cord. The spinal cord carries all of the nerve signals from your brain to your body below your neck.
Peripheral Nervous System
Your peripheral nervous system (PNS) contains all of the parts of the nervous system outside of your CNS. The PNS includes:
Cranial nerves run to your head and neck. The cranial nerves do not branch from the spinal cord. Instead, the cranial nerves connect directly to your brain.
Your cranial nerves include the nerves that carry sensory signals for vision, hearing, smell, and taste. They also include the facial nerves and many of the nerves necessary for swallowing and speaking.
Your spinal cord runs through your spine, and nerve roots branch off of it at each vertebra. The nerve roots carry the nerves to a region of your body. For example, a nerve root in your neck carries all of the nerves that run to your hand and fingers.
The peripheral nerves branch off of your nerve roots. So a nerve root that carries all of the nerves for your right hand will branch into individual nerves that run to each muscle in your hand and fingers.
What Causes Nerve Damage?
When doctors refer to nerve damage, they usually mean the nerves of the PNS. If you damage your brain or spinal cord, doctors will usually diagnose you with a brain injury or spinal cord injury rather than nerve damage.
Nerves carry signals through a combination of chemical and electrical signals. A stimulated nerve cell releases charged ions to its surface. The adjacent nerve cell senses the electrical charge and releases its ions.
When nerves get damaged, they can drop signals or misfire. If you compare nerves to wires — damaged, severed, or frayed wires will not carry an electrical signal correctly. The same thing happens with nerves when they get damaged.
Nerve damage usually results from one of three causes:
Nerves can stretch a bit – but too much traction can damage or tear the nerves. A stretched nerve will misfire. A torn nerve will not carry a signal.
You can suffer a traction injury in almost any type of accident. If you get hit by a car in a pedestrian accident, you could hyperextend your shoulder. This might stretch the nerves running to your fingers, hand, wrist, or arm.
Traction-type nerve injuries can even affect newborns. Erb’s Palsy happens when the nerve bundle in your baby’s shoulder gets stretched. This child injury can cause paralysis and numbness in your child’s arm, hand, and fingers.
When a nerve gets cut, the nerve cannot carry a signal. A nerve that gets partially cut will carry only a weak signal.
Lacerations can happen when the nerve gets severed by a foreign object. For example, a defective product like a power saw could eject material that slices into your hand. If you sever the nerves in your hand, you might experience partial or total paralysis.
Lacerations also happen when bone fragments sever nerves. Thus, a compound fracture in your leg from a motorcycle accident could sever nearby nerves. Afterward, you might experience numbness or tingling in your foot and toes.
A compressed nerve (also called a pinched nerve) will inflame. Inflammation will cause swelling, and swelling will cause the nerve to send pain signals. The compressed nerve could also misfire or drop signals rather than carrying a clean nerve signal.
Compression often happens due to internal dislocations or protrusions. For example, when you suffer a herniated disc, the bulge can press on the nerve root that branches near the disc.
What Are the Symptoms of Nerve Damage?
The symptoms of nerve damage can vary widely depending on the nerve that gets damaged.
When you suffer nerve damage to a nerve that carries autonomic signals to your muscles or organs, you might experience:
- High or low blood pressure
- Inability to sweat
- Heart arrhythmia
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Sexual dysfunction
If you damage sensory nerves, you might have symptoms such as:
- Loss of sensitivity to hot or cold
When you damage motor nerves, your symptoms might include:
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of dexterity and fine motor control
- Muscle spasms
Unfortunately, doctors have few treatments for nerve damage. If something has pinched a nerve, doctors can relieve the pressure on the nerve through surgery. They can also try to reduce the inflammation with anti-inflammatory medication like corticosteroids.
How Can You Get Compensation for Nerve Damage?
You could seek injury compensation if someone else’s negligence caused your nerve damage. To prove negligence, you must show that someone owed you a legal duty and their action breached it, causing your nerve damage. For example, if someone ran a red light and crashed into your car, they probably acted negligently and must pay compensation for your injuries.
Your compensation can cover your economic losses, like your medical bills and lost income. It can also cover your non-economic losses, such as pain, suffering, and disabilities.
To learn more about the compensation you can seek for your nerve damage, contact Marzzacco Niven & Associates for a free consultation at (717) 231-1640 with locations conveniently situated in Harrisburg, York, Carlisle, Lebanon, Lancaster, Carbondale, Wyomissing, and Chambersburg.