Toronto Eye Injury Lawyer - ON Compensation
Our Toronto personal injury lawyers can help you to assert your legal rights and get the compensation that you deserve following an eye injury, causing full or partial loss of vision, as a result of carelessness or negligence by another person. If you, or someone you know, have suffered an eye injury in Ontario and you would like to know if it is possible to claim compensation, just call the helpline or complete the contact form or email or our Toronto offices. A Toronto eye injury lawyer will telephone you with free advice.
Loss of vision tends to be severe and vision is rarely something that comes back again once injured. While vision loss can be completely accidental with no negligence on anyone’s part, some causes of vision loss are due to the neglect or purposeful act of another. Vision loss can be bilateral, meaning that both eyes are affected (a ‘catastrophic injury’) causing total blindness, unilateral, meaning only one eye is affected or partial, meaning there is not a complete loss of vision but there is enough vision loss to affect the way the person sees out of the affected eye. Total blindness in both eyes caused by a car accident is considered to be a catastrophic impairment in Ontario, which justifies increased levels of benefit in a negligence compensation claim.
Vision loss is most often traumatic, including a direct blow to the eye which can damage the eye permanently or cause immediate blindness. There can be puncture injuries that damage the eye and permanently affect the vision again to the extent of blindness. The doctor investigating vision loss must determine the cause of the injury and the degree of vision loss. Not all vision loss is permanent and not all vision loss is complete.
The mildest injury you can get with the eye is a corneal abrasion. This results from a scratch to the eye or a foreign body that has struck the eye. The eye hurts and tears up but vision is usually normal. Doctors diagnose the corneal abrasion by looking at the eye under the microscope after putting a drop of dye into the eye. Corneal abrasions fluoresce under the dye and reveal the depth and length of the abrasion. Any foreign bodies can be visualized under the dye and under the naked eye. Corneal abrasions are treated with protection of the eye and the use of antibiotic drops. Foreign bodies to the eye are usually wooden or metallic. They can be treated by anesthetizing the eye and removing the foreign body with a needle or with a special machine that grinds out the foreign body.
Puncture injuries of the eye result when something pokes a hole in the eye, causing loss of vitreous fluid and distortion of vision. While the puncture wound can be removed and repaired, there is often a distortion of vision which persists after the injury. There is also a risk of eye infection after a puncture injury so antibiotics need to be used until the wound clears. Puncture wounds are more serious than blunt trauma wounds to the eye because of the risk of infection and the difficulty in ever getting complete restoration of vision after the accident.
Traumatic injury in a car accident that involves fractured bones in the face may also crush the eyeball causing serious injury that may be irreparable. A blunt object that hits the eye full on such as an elbow or part of a car during a collision can also increase pressure inside of the eye and cause a crush injury. Structures within the eye can be damaged by the inevitable temporary increase in pressure which may also cause a detached retina which can be repaired by surgery.
Physicians Overview of Vision/Eye Loss
The loss of vision or perhaps the loss of an eye can come from many sources. Vision loss alone is usually the result of certain medical diseases and less likely to be due to trauma. Loss of vision has many medical causes, including:
- Diabetes. This can be due to what’s called “diabetic retinopathy”. This is when small blood vessels form in the retina and interfere with the visual input to the retina’s rods and cones. The small capillaries in the retina coalesce to damage the vision center of the retina and permanently affect the vision. The vision loss is gradual and, unless it is fixed with therapy, is permanent.
- Acute vision loss. This is a sudden loss of vision, usually in one eye at a time, caused by trauma or medical conditions. It can be caused by clouding of the visual medias, retinal diseases, disease of one or more optic nerve, visual path disorders, stroke or an acute exacerbation of a chronic disease.
- Opacity of the lens. This can happen in the case of cataracts, which is an opacification of the lens of one or both eyes. The lens gradually crystallizes so that the vision is lost gradually over time.
- Retinal diseases. The retina is the seeing part of the eye. In cases of trauma or in cases of spontaneous disease, the retina can become detached from the back of the eye, causing acute loss of vision that is almost always permanent.
- Diseases of the optic nerve. The optic nerve can be suddenly damaged in cases like multiple sclerosis or a stroke near the optic nerve. The optic nerve is the main nerve leading from the eye to the brain and when it is damaged, it usually is a permanent phenomenon. When multiple sclerosis causes the damage, it is called having “optic neuritis”.
- Hypoxia. This is a loss of vision secondary to a loss of oxygen. It can be due to low blood pressure as well. The degree of hypoxia is proportional to the degree of low oxygen levels. Vision tends to dim and this is followed up by loss of peripheral vision. It can be temporary, as when a pilot ascends to high altitudes or permanent, in cases of prolonged hypoxia.
- Visual Pathway Disorder. This occurs when there is damage inside the brain along the visual pathway. A stroke in the brain can do this. The signaling from the eye can’t reach the brain’s cortex so that vision can’t act as before, even if the eye and the brain are functioning normal.
- Trauma. Blunt trauma or a puncture wound to the eye can result in permanent damage to the globe of the eye and permanent vision loss. It can cause the eye to burst and lose its vitreous humor so that vision is distorted or so that the eye needs to be removed (enucleated) to prevent infection or clean up tissue that is irretrievably destroyed.
- Functional Loss. This happens when a person has a mental disorder that causes blindness that can be reversed when the mental disorder is resolved. It is also called “hysterical blindness” or “malingering”.
Many people suffer from what is known to be “low vision” in which there is some vision but the patient cannot really function as a seeing individual. Visual acuity is severely diminished and many can only see a type of contrast sensitivity or will have an obstructed field of vision.
Signs that a person is suffering from low vision include difficulty recognizing even a familiar face, difficulty reading even large print, and difficulty seeing potential hazardous objects such as curbs, walls, steps, furniture and uneven surfaces.
A person with low vision may still have some useful vision especially if they see an ophthalmologist or specialist in low vision. Certain optical devices can be used to maximize the vision the patient already has so that quality of life can be maintained.
Some functional devices include eye glasses, magnifying glasses and even contact lenses. These can easily take an item that was out of focus and bring it into focus, even if it is to read a medicine bottle. Sometimes something as clever as a tinted lens or magnifier can bring the world into view and restore some aspect of low vision. Items unrelated to the eyes that seem to work in low vision are things like large print clocks and magnified writing and reading guides are also helpful.
People with low vision can undergo vision rehabilitation in which they learn strategies for safety and for getting around places both inside and outside the house. This involves a multidisciplinary team of social workers, vision rehabilitation therapists, occupational therapists, career counselors and specialists in orientation and mobility with loss of vision.
If an eye is irretrievably lost due to injury, the doctor needs to go about the process of surgically enucleating the eye, leaving behind the ocular muscles and whatever else can be salvaged. The same ocular enucleation is done for ocular tumors as is done for traumatic enucleation. Sometimes the eye is completely blind and is causing the patient a great deal of pain. An enucleation procedure is recommended in those types of cases as well.
There are three types of enucleation procedures a patient can have. The first is called an “evisceration” and involves removal of the contents of the eye with the sclera and extraocular muscles left intact. Straight “enucleation” involves removal of the eyeball itself with the eye socket and eyelids left behind. All the adjacent structures around the eye are left intact. “Exenteration” is the most severe type of procedure, reserved for certain kinds of infection and certain tumors. It involves taking the eyeball, muscles, fat and adjacent eye structures. Even the eyelids may have to be removed if there is cancer in the eyelid.
The enucleation is usually followed by placement of a false eye that best matches the existing eye. They eye usually sits snugly in the eye socket and allow the individual to avoid wearing a simple eye patch.