The human body contains approximately seven trillion nerves. These nerves form the central nervous system, which includes the spinal cord and the brain. Nerves associated with the brain are called cranial nerves. Those associated with the spinal cord are spinal cord nerves. Spinal cord nerves control the body’s motor and sensory functions. These nerves act as messengers between the spinal cord and the rest of the body.
The largest spinal cord nerve — indeed, the largest nerve in the body — is called the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve provides sensation to the ankle, the soles of the feet, the back of the thigh, and the lower legs. If the sciatic nerve is injured, the resulting condition is called sciatica. Pain caused by sciatica, or sciatic pain, can run across the nerve. As a result, an individual can experience pain from the spinal cord all the way down to their feet.
Those most susceptible to developing sciatica are middle-aged adults, particularly men. The condition is most common in adults who are between 40 to 60 years of age. Children can have sciatica, as can those people in their 20s, but these occurrences are rare.
What Causes Sciatic Nerve Pain?
The most common causes of sciatic nerve pain include bone spurs on the spine, or herniated disks. These conditions compress the nerve, infaming it to produce pain. Narrowing of the spine, a condition known as spinal stenosis, can also compress the sciatic nerve, producing pain.
Any pain radiating from the sciatic nerve is called “sciatica.” A particular condition known as sciatic nerve injury results from trauma sustained to the nerve. This trauma can take the form of excessive pressure to the nerve, or excessive stressing of it. Sciatic nerve injury can result in loss of muscle power. This condition can interfere with an individual’s ability to walk and lift objects. Damage to the sciatic nerve also causes pain in the buttocks, lower back, and a tingling sensation known as “pins and needles.”
Sciatic nerve pain is commonly caused by car accidents. The spinal cord consists of a series of discs. These discs are made of connective tissue known as cartilage. When an accident occurs, one or more discs can bulge out of their ordinary positions. This bulging places pressure on the sciatic nerve, injuring it as a result.
Sciatic nerve pain can also be caused by a herniated disc. Excessive strain or injury to a disc cause it to herniate, or protrude. The protrusion can “bump up against” the sciatic nerve. An individual experiences pain as a result. An individual can sustain a herniated disc through a variety of activities, including slips, trips, and falls.
When Can I File a Sciatica Lawsuit?
If an individual sustains sciatica injury due to the negligence of another person, the individual may file a lawsuit against that other person under a negligence theory. Examples of negligent behavior causing sciatic injury include negligent driving causing an accident, and maintaining premises in an unsafe condition, causing slips, trips, and falls. A plaintiff would file the lawsuit against the driver of the other vehicle, or, in the case of the slip, trip, or fall, the owner of the premises.
Sciatica is not always caused by negligence, which is the unintentional act of another. Sometimes the act causing a sciatic injury is intentional. Intentional acts include battery, which is the intentional application of force against another, without consent. A plaintiff can sue an individual in civil court for injuries caused by battery.
Sciatic injury may also occur as the result of exposure to or use of a defectively manufactured or designed product. For example, if a plaintiff purchases a deck chair that was defectively manufactured, and their chair collapses, injuring the sciatic nerve, the plaintiff may be able to sue the manufacturer on a products liability theory.
What Do I Need to Prove in a Sciatica Lawsuit?
A plaintiff must prove that an act of negligence, intentional act, or manufacturing defect caused the sciatica. Plaintiff must do so by a preponderance of the evidence. That is, the plaintiff must establish evidence sufficient to show that it is more likely than not that the defendant caused the injury.
In a negligence theory, plaintiff prevails by demonstrating the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care (such as, to drive safely, or keep premises safely maintained), that the defendant breached that duty, and that as a result, the plaintiff was injured. The plaintiff must also show that the breach led to injury causing damages. Damages are losses measured in money, such as doctor’s bills for treatment of the sciatica.
In a battery case, the plaintiff must demonstrate the defendant intentionally applied offensive force to the plaintiff. The plaintiff must show that the force produced the injury. To prove a manufacturing defect claim, a plaintiff must show that they used the product, that the product was manufactured defectively, and that the defect caused injury.
Evidence of sciatic injury can be proven by providing medical records. When a plaintiff receives treatment for sciatic nerve pain, the treatment is provided by an orthopedist, chiropractor, or physical therapist. This individual, to treat the plaintiff, may take X-rays, perform a physical examination, or prescribe medication to the plaintiff. A plaintiff can use evidence, called documentary evidence, of these treatments, to prove their case.
A plaintiff can also use what is called testimonial evidence. Testimonial evidence is evidence provided by a witness testifying in court. For example, a plaintiff may retain the services of an expert medical professional. The professional may testify that the plaintiff has sustained sciatic nerve injury, and can offer an opinion as to whether an event such as a car accident may have caused it.
What Can I Recover in a Sciatica Lawsuit?
Damages include out-of-pocket expenses incurred by a plaintiff as a result of the injury. Such expenses can take the form of lost wages, or medical expenses such as the cost of an operation. A plaintiff, in lieu of filing a lawsuit, may attempt to settle a sciatic nerve damage claim with the defendant. In a sciatic nerve damage settlement proceeding, the plaintiff and defendant, typically represented by attorneys, agree to settle the claim for an agreed-upon sum of money.
In auto accident cases, the defendant’s attorney is usually an attorney assigned by the defendant’s auto insurance carrier. Judges frequently encourage settlements, and settlement is generally permitted any time before a trial. Parties may also settle while a trial is pending, in some cases, with the judge’s assistance.
What If My Sciatica Injury Is Work-Related?
An individual may sustain a sciatica injury during work. If the injury arises out of and during the course of employment, a plaintiff typically must file a workers compensation claim. A plaintiff files this claim through their employer’s workers compensation insurance carrier.
Once the claim is filed, the plaintiff is eligible to receive workers compensation insurance in the form of treatment for the injury, and monetary benefits. The amount and type of benefits a plaintiff can receive depend on the severity and nature of the injury.
Do I Need to Contact an Attorney about My Sciatica Lawsuit?
If you believe you have sustained sciatic nerve injury or that you have sciatica, you should contact a personal injury attorney. An experienced personal injury attorney near you can evaluate the facts of your case, advise you as to rights and options, and can represent you at court, settlement proceedings, or workers compensation hearings.