On this page we will look at vocal cord paralysis which is an injury that can result from medical malpractice and sometimes from auto accidents. We will look at how this type of injury can occur and what the average settlement value for vocal cord paralysis might be in a personal injury lawsuit.
Vocal cord paralysis (also know as vocal fold paralysis) is a type of injury that occurs when a person’s vocal fold is not able to open or close normally. The vocal folds are a pair of muscle flaps located right above the trachea inside the larynx. The vocal flaps enable people to talk by vibrating as air from the lungs passes through them. When someone has vocal cord paralysis one (or in some cases both) of these muscle flaps is not responsive. This can obviously impair a person’s speech. It can also have other health implications. The paralyzed vocal fold will often stay open and allow food or liquid into the trachea.
The most obvious symptom of vocal cord paralysis is changes in a person’s voice. Loss of speech or raspy, labored speech is very common. Vocal cord paralysis can also make breathing difficult and uncomfortable. Difficulties with eating and drinking are another significant symptom of vocal cord paralysis as the non-functioning vocal flap may allow things into the windpipe.
Vocal cord paralysis is a type of nerve injury. It is caused when something blocks or impairs the nerve impulses that enable the brain to control the vocal fold muscles. This impairment of the nerve impulses can be caused by head & neck injuries (including whiplash in a car accident), nerve damage during a surgical procedure, and certain types of cancers. The best known causes of vocal paralysis include:
- Nerve Damage During Surgery: one of the most common causes of vocal cord paralysis is inadvertent damage to the voice box nerves that occurs during surgical procedures involving the neck or upper chest. If the surgeon is not extremely careful he or she may easily damage the vocal nerves during these operations. The types of surgeries that most frequently result in vocal cord paralysis include procedures involving: the thyroid, esophagus, neck, and chest. If a surgeon damages the vocal cord nerves during an operation this constitutes surgical error malpractice.
- Neck or Chest Trauma: physical trauma to the neck or the chest can also damage the nerves which service the voice box and result in vocal cord paralysis. This can sometimes occur from neck or chest injuries suffered in an auto accident.
- Cancer: vocal cord paralysis can result from cancer when the tumor is located near the voice box and damages the nerves as it grows.
- Infections: a number of viral and bacterial infections are known to cause inflammation that can directly damage nerves in the voice box. These include: lyme disease, Epstein-Barr virus, and herpes.
The method of treatment for vocal cord paralysis will vary depending on the severity of condition and the cause of the nerve damage. There are basically three levels of treatment for vocal cord paralysis:
- Voice Therapy: this is basically like physical therapy for the voice box. The aim is to alleviate abnormal tension in the paralyzed voice flap muscle. In a small percentage of cases, voice therapy is the only treatment required.
- Bulk Injections: vocal cord paralysis causes the immobilized vocal flap muscle to become very thin and weakened. Bulk injections involve injecting collagen, body fat or a synthetic substance into the vocal cord in order add mass or bulk to the paralyzed flap. This brings the immobile flap closer to the other, functioning flap.
- Surgery: surgery is required for effective treatment in a high percentage of vocal cord paralysis cases. There are several different types of surgical procedures used. The most common involves the insertion of structural implants into the paralyzed flap. Another option involves surgical repositioning of the vocal cord, in which the surgeon moves tissue from the outside of the voice box into the middle. The 3rd surgical option is nerve grafting, which attempts to regenerate and repair the nerve damage.
The average settlement value for vocal cord paralysis in a personal injury lawsuit ranges between $175,000 and $275,000. Some of the most serious cases of vocal paralysis can have a settlement value 2 or 3 times that amount.
Vocal cord paralysis is a fairly serious injury. Treatment usually involves surgery and a long, uncomfortable recovery process. So anytime you have a personal injury lawsuit involving this injury it is going to have a pretty large settlement value. There are certain factors which tend to drive the potential value of vocal cord paralysis cases up or down. The first is how the vocal cord paralysis occurred. If the vocal cord nerves are damaged by a negligent surgeon, the case will have a much higher value than it would if the vocal cord paralysis results from a car accident neck injury. This is because medical malpractice cases simply have a much higher value than auto tort cases, in part because the insurance limits for doctors and hospitals usually dwarf the limits for a typical auto liability policy.
The other factor which will have a major impact on the potential value of a vocal cord paralysis lawsuit is the severity of the nerve injury and the corresponding level of treatment. A mild vocal cord paralysis injury that only requires voice therapy (and maybe bulk injections) will be on the lower end of the potential settlement value range. A more severe injury (such as those caused by surgical malpractice) will almost always require surgery to repair and will be at the higher end of the settlement value range.Vocal Cord Paralysis Settlements & Verdicts
|2019 California||54-year-old female plaintiff was rear-ended by truck on highway exit ramp. Plaintiff suffered herniated disc in accident and underwent spinal fusion surgery to treat it. The surgery caused vocal cord paralysis.||$1,750,000|
|2019 New York||Plaintiff underwent thyroidectomy surgery after which she suffered post-operative fistula, pneumonia, and pulmonary collapse, which led to vocal cord paralysis. She sued the doctors alleging that the surgery was improperly performed and that they were negligent in failing to prevent the post-operative complications.||$325,000|
|2018 New York||During surgery to remove parathyroid glands, surgeon negligently failed to local the glands and cut into plaintiff’s laryngeal nerve causes vocal cord paralysis. Surgery to repair the vocal cord was not successful leaving plaintiff with permanent left vocal cord paralysis.||$750,000|
|2016 Florida||Left turn accident at intersection. Female plaintiff, mid-50s, claimed mild head injury, spinal cord compression, and vocal cord paralysis resulting from the accident. Jury awarded $75,000 for pain and suffering and $280,000 for medical expenses.||$355,000|
|2016 Michigan||Plaintiff was rear-ended at moderate speed on highway. He suffered neck injuries which allegedly caused vocal cord paralysis. Defendant contested causation between accident and vocal cord damage.||$85,000|
|2015 Ohio||Plaintiff suffered vocal cord paralysis after her vocal cords were damaged during surgical procedure. She sued hospital and doctors for medical malpractice and the case settled.||$225,000|
|2014 Indiana||Negligent intubation of patient at hospital caused vocal cord paralysis on both sides and required surgery to correct. Plaintiff was left with permanent impairment of voice.||$900,000|
If you suffered vocal cord paralysis as a result of medical malpractice or in an auto accident, contact the vocal cord paralysis attorneys at Miller & Zois for a free consultation.