Eye injuries can result from a number of negligent acts, including gun shots, foreign objects, explosions, medical malpractice, defective products and workplace accidents. Total or partial loss of vision in one or both eyes is a devastating injury with permanent implications for the injury victim’s health, safety and earning capacity. These are unique cases that require careful consideration by a Cleveland personal injury lawyer or medical malpractice lawyer.
The human eye is an unforgiving organ. When the optic nerve or structures within the eye are damaged, the damage is usually permanent in nature with few exceptions. Currently, an eye transplant is not an option.
When an individual loses sight in both eyes, a significant amount of retraining and occupational therapy is necessary to allow the individual to perform even basic functions. These individuals routinely need ongoing assistance with many activities of daily living, including transportation, shopping and self-care. But even partial vision loss, including loss of one eye, double-vision or hemianopsia, can have devastating consequences. Partial vision loss results in blind spots and impaired depth perception. With any type of vision loss, safety is a concern. Individuals are not only subject to falls and collisions, but are also less aware of their surroundings. This increases the likelihood of further injury due to accidents, crime, fire or natural disaster.
In assessing the damages caused by total or partial blindness, it is important to account for all of the economic costs of this injury. Economic losses include loss of earning capacity and costs of accommodations, rehabilitation, home care, transportation, safety and security. To estimate these future costs, it may be necessary to hire a trial consultant who is trained to analyze these costs, such as a life care planner, vocational rehabilitation expert and/or occupational therapist. Physiatrists, i.e., doctors specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation, can also be helpful in describing the implications of blindness to a jury.
Children are particularly prone to eye injuries. In a recent journal article published by Pediatrics, for example, researchers studied eye injuries to children under the age of 17 from nonpowder firearms (e.g., paintball, airsoft, and pellet guns). The researchers found that head and neck areas, including the eye, were most affected. Though the overall injury rate has declined over the past 25 years, this study found that the rate of eye injuries increased by 30%.
The source of recovery of compensation in eye injury cases varies depending upon the circumstances surrounding the injury. In the case of an eye injury resulting from negligence on the premises of a private residence or commercial premises, a personal injury attorney would look first to the availability of general liability insurance coverage maintained by the owner of the premises. When the injury occurs at the workplace, compensation may be limited to workers’ compensation unless the injury was caused by a third party (someone other than a co-worker) or resulted from an intentional act by a co-worker. In the case of a medical error, a medical malpractice attorney would look to professional liability coverage maintained by the negligent hospital, physician or other healthcare worker. In product liability cases, the source of recovery may be the manufacturer or supplier.
The statute of limitations applicable to these cases also may vary depending on the type of case involved (e.g., negligence, medical negligence, strict liability, intentional tort, etc.). As you can see, the considerations involved in cases resulting in blindness are complex and require an early consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Thanks to Mishkind Kulwicki Law Co., LPA for their insight into personal injury claims.