Overview and Causes
Although some people are born without sight, loss of vision can occur at any point in an individual's life. In 2015, 23.7 million adults reported experiencing some level of vision loss. This number includes mild to severe cases but does not include people who are prescribed glasses or contacts and can see normally with the help of these aids.
Loss of vision can lead to partial or complete blindness and can occur quickly or over a long period of time. Partial blindness means that you have limited vision, which can sometimes be corrected with glasses or contacts. If someone's vision is 20/200 or less with the help of these aids, they can be considered “legally blind,” even if they can still discern shapes, color, and movement. Complete or total blindness means someone may not be able to see anything at all, including light.
Vision loss is usually caused one of two general ways: progressive health condition or traumatic injury. Conditions that may lead to partial or total vision loss include macular degeneration (usually in older adults), glaucoma, cataracts, or diabetes. Less common causes include bacterial infections, stroke, optical tumors called retinoblastomas or optic gliomas, and inherited eye diseases. Different causes of vision loss present different symptoms, which can include fuzzy or cloudy vision, tunnel vision, shadows or missing areas in the field of vision, or loss of the central portion of vision.
Traumatic injury can cause total or complete vision loss in one or both eyes. An injury resulting in vision loss is referred to in the medical field as a “Traumatic Optic Neuropathy” or a TON. The optic nerve can be either directly or indirectly damaged through physical trauma to the head, brain, or eye. This occurs in 2-5% of cases involving trauma to the head or face. These injuries can resolve on their own but may also require treatment. Brain injuries, for example, are often accompanied by blurred vision, among other eye sensitivities. The most common causes of this kind of trauma include vehicle accidents, bike accidents, falls, and assaults, but may also include chemical exposure, failed laser eye surgery, and defective products.
Treatment for Vision Loss
The underlying health conditions that lead to vision loss are usually treated to stop the vision loss from progressing or to reverse it. Ophthalmologists, who specialize in the treatment of eye disorders, may recommend surgery to remove cataracts, or prescribe medicated eyedrops to control glaucoma. A combination of medication and lifestyle changes may help improve the diabetic condition which caused vision loss. There is also much experimental research being done on stem cells and their possible use in vision restoration for degenerative diseases.
In the case of a traumatic injury resulting in vision loss, there are three typical courses of action. The physician may leave the injury alone and hope that the nerve repairs itself, administer a megadose of steroids, or choose to surgically decompress the optic canal. There is still some disagreement in the field as to the effectiveness of surgery, which can have major complications such as meningitis infection and an exacerbation of the vision loss. Neither of these active options is considered the standard of care, and doctors will decide a course of action based on individual cases.
Recovering from Vision Loss
After losing vision completely or partially, most patients experience physical and psychological challenges. Physically, they must learn to negotiate the world around them, which might include learning to read braille, use a cane and/or service dog, and find products designed for people with low vision. They will also most likely work with a variety of specialists such as Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapists (CVRTs) to regain independence, Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS or O&Ms) to learn to travel outside the home, and Certified Low Vision Therapists (CLVTs and SCLVs) to become familiarized with technology that assists individuals with low vision.
Many people experiencing vision loss will additionally join support groups or receive counseling for the grief associated with their loss. There are two major organizations in the US that provide resources to people with vision loss of any kind: the American Foundation for the Blind and the National Federation for the Blind.
How to Bring a Claim for Loss of Vision
Like many personal injury claims, there are certain requisites that must be proven in order to bring a successful claim. First, a claimant must establish negligence of some kind by a liable party. For vision loss cases, the liable party can vary widely, depending on the situation. If you were injured through chemical exposure, for example, the manufacturer or distributor may be liable for failing to advise you of safe procedures. If you were injured through interaction with a defective product, the company that produced that product may have to answer for your injuries.
In cases involving injuries sustained due to accidental violence committed by another person, you must prove that the person failed to act in a way that a reasonable person should act. Alternatively, if the error was medical, you must establish negligence by showing that the physician did not meet a certain standard of care accepted in the field.
There are all sorts of damages that can be claimed in association with vision loss, from present and future medical expenses to loss of future earning capacity to pain and suffering from the emotional trauma of losing your sight and coping with the lifestyle change that the loss necessitates.
Maximum Recovery for Colorado Victims
In order to bring a successful claim, it is imperative to talk to an attorney who understands the devastating impact of vision loss and will work tirelessly to recover the settlement you deserve for your injuries. The Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal has extensive experience in personal injury and knows how to maximize your reward to give you the financial space to recover and get your life back. Call us now at 303.825.2223 or contact us online.