Nerves carry signals between your brain and your body. Sensory signals travel from your sense organs to your brain along your nerves. Nerves also transmit control signals from your brain to your muscles and organs.
Severed nerves cannot carry sensory or control signals. Damaged nerves will send erroneous signals or lose signals. In either case, you could lose the ability to perform actions necessary to work or meet your daily needs.
Below, you will learn about the causes and effects of nerve damage and how to get compensation for it.
What is the Structure and Function of Your Nervous System?
The brain controls the nervous system and connects to two major sets of nerves. The cranial nerves run from your brain to elsewhere in your head. The cranial nerves include the nerves that control your facial expressions, tongue, and jaw. They also include the nerves that carry smells, sounds, sights, and tastes to your brain.
The spinal cord runs from your brain to your body below your neck. The spinal cord carries all of the nerves that control the muscles and organs in your limbs, chest, and abdomen.
The spinal cord travels through the vertebrae in your spine. At each vertebra, the nerves in the spinal cord branch off into nerve roots. Nerve roots further branch off into peripheral nerves.
Doctors refer to the nerve roots and peripheral nerves as the peripheral nervous system. These nerves control individual organs or muscles. The peripheral nerves also pick up sensations from individual regions of your body.
A nerve cell transmits a signal by releasing ions to its surface. When the adjacent nerve cell senses this, it also releases ions. This process allows nerve signals to travel at nearly the speed of light.
How Does Nerve Damage Happen?
The term “nerve damage” usually refers to damaged nerves in the peripheral nervous system. This term helps doctors distinguish nerve injuries in the nerve roots and peripheral nerves from nerve injuries in the spinal cord and brain.
In other words, nerve damage can happen anywhere in your nervous system. But the effects of nerve damage in your peripheral nervous system will produce different symptoms than a spinal cord injury or brain injury.
When nerves get severed, the nerve cells cannot communicate across the gap. You can think of a severed nerve cell as a severed electrical wire. A severed nerve cannot carry a nerve signal, just as a severed wire cannot carry an electrical signal.
Nerves can get severed due to an injury that physically cuts the nerves. A laceration in a pedestrian accident or a deep abrasion in a motorcycle accident can create a break in the nerves that prevents them from carrying nerve signals.
Nerves can also get severed by a dislocated bone. The broken end of a bone in a compound fracture could sever the nerves near the bone fracture.
When nerves get compressed, the nerve cells can misfire or drop signals. Pressure on the nerves causes inflammation. The inflamed nerves can send signals even when there is no sensation. For example, an inflamed nerve can send a pain signal from a body part that you have not injured.
Inflamed nerves can also drop signals. Thus, an inflamed nerve might drop some of the signals that control your muscles, making you feel weak.
Nerves can get compressed in two primary ways:
- Swelling of nearby muscles or tendons
- Dislocation of bone or cartilage
Swelling from another injury can pinch nerves and produce nerve pain. Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when a damaged tendon in your wrist swells and compresses the median nerve. This produces nerve pain and weakness in your hand even though your hand is undamaged.
Dislocation of a bone or cartilage can also compress nerves. The most common example is in your spine, where a herniated or bulging disc can press on a nearby nerve root.
What Are the Symptoms of Nerve Damage?
The symptoms of nerve damage will vary depending on which nerves get injured and the nature of the injury.
Nerves carry three types of signals:
- Autonomic signals control your body’s involuntary responses like respiration, digestion, and circulation.
- Motor signals control the muscles.
- Sensory signals carry information to the brain.
Severed nerves will produce paralysis and a loss of sensation. You might have retained some motion and sensation in the injured area if some but not all of the nerves were severed.
Compressed nerves, also called pinched nerves, that connect to your limbs can cause:
- Nerve pain
- Loss of sensitivity to pressure, temperature, or texture
- Loss of dexterity
- Muscle spasms
Compressed nerves that connect to your organs can produce:
- Inability to sweat
- High or low blood pressure
- Loss of bowel control
These injuries can affect your daily life and ability to earn a living.
What Compensation Can You Get for Nerve Damage?
If the injury that caused your nerve damage resulted from someone else’s negligent or intentional actions, you can seek compensation for your losses. Your losses include your economic and non-economic losses.
Your economic damages include your medical expenses for treatment and therapy. Nerve injuries often require some amount of therapy to train undamaged nerves to take over the functions of the damaged nerves. You might also need treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the symptoms from your inflamed nerves.
Economic losses also include lost wages and diminished earning capacity. If your nerve damage prevents you from working or forces you to change jobs, your wage losses can be included in your economic losses.
Your non-economic damages include all of the ways your injuries diminished your quality of life. Examples of non-economic losses include pain, mental anguish, inability to engage in activities, and reduced enjoyment of life.
Nerve damage usually produces pain and discomfort. It will probably affect your sleep. You may even need to give up activities like hobbies and exercise due to your injuries. These effects count as non-economic losses.
To learn about the compensation you can seek for the nerve damage you suffered, contact the M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation with a Los Angeles brain injury lawyer.