Your nervous system controls every muscle and organ in your body. That said, if you suffer nerve damage, you could experience paralysis and other symptoms that require expensive treatment and therapy. Almost any type of traumatic accident can damage your nerves, but you can also sustain nerve damage from something like exposure to toxic chemicals.
Worse yet, nerve damage will likely disable you from earning a living or even caring for yourself. Still, if you can trace the cause of your nerve injury to someone else’s actions, you may have a claim for financial compensation. It may not restore your life to the way it was before the injury, but it can give you closure and the help you need to move forward.
What Is the Anatomy of the Nervous System?
Your nervous system comprises two sections: The central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS).
The CNS includes your brain and spinal cord. The former receives sensory signals from your senses, generating control signals for your muscles and organs in response to them. The latter carries all the signals from the brain to everything below your neck.
The PNS includes everything outside of your CNS; specifically, all the nerves that connect your CNS to your head and body, such as the following:
You have 31 pairs of spinal nerves in your spinal cord, each branching into a motor nerve root and a sensory nerve root, resulting in a total of 124 nerve roots, with four nerve roots at each vertebral level.
Each nerve root controls a section of your body. For example, you have a set of four nerve roots in your neck, two of which are responsible for receiving touch sensations from your shoulders, and the other two send motor signals to the shoulders.
With that said, if you suffer damage to any of these nerve roots, you could experience symptoms like paralysis and numbness.
The 12 cranial nerve pairs bypass the spinal cord, directly connecting the body and brain. Eleven of these connect to muscles and organs in your face and neck; you have a pair of optic nerves that connect your eyes to your brain, for instance.
The other cranial nerve pair, forming the vagus nerve, is unlike the rest in that it connects your vital organs to your brain, allowing it to control things like your heart, stomach, pancreas, gallbladder, and small intestine.
Your nerve roots and cranial nerves branch into smaller nerves connecting to specific muscles and organs. These smaller nerves also form nerve endings that detect sensations like pain, pressure, texture, and temperature.
What Can Cause Nerve Damage?
To be diagnosed with “nerve damage” usually means that you have sustained an injury to your PNS. Peripheral nerve damage, also called peripheral neuropathy, can result from both physical trauma and from diseases like diabetes and lupus.
In any case, some forms of trauma that can damage the peripheral nerves are as follows:
Nerve cells transmit signals along their length using a combination of chemical neurotransmitters and electricity. However, those signals are not designed to jump any gaps created by lacerations.
Nerves can be lacerated or torn in many ways. The broken end of a fractured bone can displace and lacerate a nerve. Similarly, a foreign object, like a glass shard, could slice through a nerve as you slide against the ground after a motorcycle crash.
Traction refers to pulling forces that often result from hyperextension injuries. Your nerves might stretch if you hyperextend your back in a slip and fall accident, for example. Stretched nerves cannot carry nerve signals correctly; instead, they will drop signals or misfire, producing incorrect responses.
Compression occurs when something presses on a nerve. A bullet fragment left embedded in your body by an assault might press on a nerve, but the compressing object could even come from inside the body. Thus, a swollen muscle or herniated disc could squeeze a nerve after a car accident.
Compression causes nerves to inflame, and the resulting swelling can cause the nerves to misfire, producing painful sensations in uninjured body parts. Thus, a herniated disc in the lower back could cause numbness, weakness, and leg pain, even if you did not suffer a leg injury.
Some dangerous products contain chemicals that can damage nerve tissue. For example, some toxins cause the myelin sheath, which surrounds nerves, to break down. Myelin functions the same as the plastic insulation around wires. Without its sheath, nerve signals leak away. Heavy metals, like mercury and lead, and dioxins in pesticides can lead to the deterioration of nerve tissues.
What Are the Potential Symptoms of Nerve Damage?
Since the PNS carries three types of nerve signals, you can experience three specific sets of symptoms. Bear in mind, though, that you may experience some symptoms without experiencing others, as sensory nerve roots are separate from motor nerve roots
Nevertheless, some symptoms caused by nerve damage are as follows:
Autonomic signals control your involuntary systems, so if you injure the nerves carrying these signals, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Abnormally high or low blood pressure
- Inability to sweat
- Sexual dysfunction
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
In some situations, you might not connect your symptoms to nerve damage. You should see a doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms so they can determine whether your symptoms resulted from a nerve injury.
Sensory signals travel from nerve endings and sense organs to the brain.
As such, sensory symptoms that can arise from nerve injuries include the following:
- Loss of balance
- Loss of sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
Sensory symptoms can disable you even if you do not have any accompanying motor symptoms. Numbness and pain in your hands, for example, might prevent you from typing even though you can control your fingers without any problems.
Motor signals move your body by telling muscles to contract or relax, which means the symptoms you may develop due to motor nerve damage include things such as:
- Muscle spasms
- Loss of dexterity and fine motor skills
These symptoms can cause anything from a minor limp to permanent paralysis.
Can I Be Compensated For Nerve Damage?
People injured due to someone else’s negligent or intentional actions can seek compensation that covers their economic and non-economic losses. Economic damages include the hard costs related to your injuries, such as medical expenses and income losses. Non-economic damages cover the impact of your injuries on your quality and enjoyment of life.
Nerve damage can cause permanent disabilities that affect your physical and financial health. Contact Curiel & Runion Personal Injury Lawyers at (602) 595-5559 for a free consultation to learn how we can help you recover fair compensation.