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Chiari Malformation Lawyer

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, an estimated one person in just under 1,000 people has a Chiari malformation. Most cases are asymptomatic until a trauma occurs, such as a car accident, that triggers symptoms that drastically impair your quality of life.

When someone else’s negligence triggers these symptoms, you are entitled to compensation. Insurance companies attempt to escape liability by claiming the condition pre-existed. The experienced personal injury lawyers at Milavetz Law can overcome these objections and help you recover your rightful compensation.

What Is A Chiari Malformation?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines a Chiari malformation as a defect in the base of the skull and cerebellum, where the cerebellum and sometimes the brain stem extends through an opening located at the base of the skull.

The cerebellum is the portion of the brain that controls balance and movement. It is located near the brain stem toward the bottom of the back of the skull. Normally, the cerebellum sits completely inside of the skull, and does not pass through the opening at the bottom of the skull at all.

Chiari malformations are classified according to their severity.

Type I Chiari Malformation

Type I Chiari malformations are the most common type. In this type, the lower portion of the cerebellum, known as the cerebellar tonsils, passes through the opening at the base of the skull.

This is the only type of Chiari malformation that may be caused by trauma. Even if trauma does not directly cause it, this type often remains asymptomatic until a traumatic accident occurs.

Type II Chiari Malformation

Also known as classic Chiari malformation, a Type II malformation is a congenital condition that occurs when both the cerebellum and brain stem push into the opening at the base of the skull. Nerve tissue may also be missing from between the two halves of the cerebellum. Spina bifida commonly accompanies this type.

Type III Chiari Malformation

Type III Chiari malformations are the most serious form, but they are extremely rare. With this type, the cerebellum and brain stem stick out from an abnormal opening in the back of the skull, leading to paralysis, neurological defects, seizures, and developmental delays.

What causes a Chiari Type I malformation?

Many people with a Chiari I malformation were born with it, but traumatic injuries, such as those caused by automobile accidents, can also cause them.

When a Chiari malformation occurs later in life, it is the result of an excessive loss of spinal fluid from the mid- and lower sections of the spine. This can occur as a result of a catastrophic injury, disease, or infection.

Accidents That May Trigger a Chiari I Malformation

According to Medical Hypotheses, the injuries most likely to bring on symptoms of a Chiari malformation include the following:

Whiplash is a common injury in car accidents that can trigger the onset of symptoms from an existing Chiari malformation. Damage to the lower and middle spine could cause a new Chiari malformation.

What are the symptoms of a Chiari I malformation?

The symptoms of a Chiari I malformation may include the following:

  • A headache in the back of the skull that may worsen after sneezing, coughing, or straining
  • Poor balance
  • Hearing impairments or tinnitus
  • Muscle weakness or numbness
  • Neck pain
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive drooling, gagging, or vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing, swallowing, or speaking

Even without further complications, these symptoms can result in significant impairments in quality of life.

Complications of Chiari I Malformations

Chiari malformations can lead to other serious conditions, including the following:

  • Hydrocephalus – A buildup of fluid in the brain that can result in mental impairment and death if untreated
  • Syringomyelia – The formation of tubular cysts in the center of the spinal cord; these can press on nerves, causing symptoms like pain, weakness, stiffness, and loss of sensation
  • Tethered cord syndrome – The attachment of the spinal cord to surrounding tissues, which can result in permanent damage to nerves

Chiari Malformation Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no cure for a Chiari malformation. Treatment is aimed at controlling symptoms. Treatment options include the following:

Decompression Surgery

Decompression surgery is the removal of a portion of the bone at the bottom of the skull to relieve pressure on the spinal cord. This restores the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid.

Hydrocephalus Surgery

Hydrocephalus surgery may include implanting a tube in the patient’s skull to drain excess fluid from around the brain. The tube typically drains the fluid to another area of the body, such as the abdomen or chest cavity.


Electrocautery is the removal of the cerebellar tonsils. These tonsils have no known function.

How can a Minneapolis Chiari malformation attorney help me with my case?

When a severe car accident, fall, or other trauma causes a Type I Chiari malformation or triggers symptoms from an existing Chiari I malformation, the at-fault party’s insurance company may refuse to settle your claim on the grounds that your injury was pre-existing before the accident.

Our attorneys can help you prove that the Chiari malformation did not exist prior to the accident. If your Chiari malformation did pre-exist but was asymptomatic before the accident, we will help you prove that the accident aggravated the condition and caused the symptoms.

This will require a detailed review of your medical records to verify that you did not previously have symptoms, and to note whether or not the Chiari malformation was previously diagnosed. Once we have established these facts, we can provide the following services:

  • Identify all liable parties
  • File a Chiari malformation lawsuit
  • Negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement
  • If necessary, litigate your case in court

When should I contact a Minneapolis Chiari lawyer?

The state of Minnesota sets deadlines on when cases can be filed, known as a statute of limitations. This can vary based on the type of accident that caused your injury and other factors specific to your case.

Our Minneapolis Chiari malformation attorneys can advise you on how the statute of limitations applies to your case, but it is important to contact us as soon as possible to ensure this important deadline is not missed.

Who is liable for a Type I Chiari malformation?

Whether your Chiari malformation existed prior to the incident or was caused by the incident, if your symptoms only occurred after the incident, any party that caused or contributed to your injury may be liable, such as the following:

  • A vehicle driver, owner, parts manufacturer, or mechanic
  • The city of Minneapolis if a road condition or public sidewalk caused an accident
  • A premises owner if your accident occurred on private property
  • An employer or workers’ compensation if the incident occurred at work

How much compensation can I recover for a Chiari malformation?

The compensation you recover will vary based on the severity of your symptoms, the type of accident, and the available insurance coverage. Your damages may include economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. There are no damages calculators that can accurately assess the amount, which is unique in every case.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are monetary losses as a result of the incident, including property damages, lost wages, medical expenses, and the cost of domestic services required for tasks you can no longer complete without assistance.

Lost wages can also include future lost wages based on how long your earning capacity remains compromised. If your disability is permanent, lost wages will be based on your projected lifetime wages.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are the subjective losses that impact your quality of life and relationships. These damages are also known as pain and suffering and may include the following:

  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of society
  • Loss of bodily functions
  • Loss of consortium

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are only available in rare cases when it can be proven that the conduct of the at-fault party leading to your injuries was deliberate or exceptionally reckless. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the at-fault party and deter others from similar conduct.

What if I am partly at fault for the accident?

You can recover financial compensation from the other party as long as your share of the fault is lower than the at-fault party’s share. However, your compensation will be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault. For example, if you are 10 percent at fault and your case value is $100,000, your award will be reduced to $90,000.

How much does a Chiari malformation lawyer in Minneapolis cost?

Our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay nothing up front, and you only owe us legal fees if and when we recover compensation on your behalf.

Why is Milavetz Law the best choice for a Minneapolis Chiari malformation lawyer?

Milavetz Law was established in 1963, and through the years we have built a reputation for individualized attention and outstanding results that have helped shape personal injury law. We are passionate about helping everyday people get justice by standing up to rich corporations on their behalf.

Our dedication to our clients has helped us achieve the results our clients have needed to recover to the fullest extent possible, including the following:

  • $400,000 for an 80-year-old woman with fractured ribs and leg from a car accident
  • $250,000 policy limits paid in a motor scooter accident resulting in a broken arm
  • $90,000 for a pedestrian struck in a crosswalk
  • $2 million in Vioxx settlements

Milavetz Law is a Minnesota-based law firm that cares about our communities. Our firm seeks to make a positive difference in the lives of Minnesotans by supporting such organizations as the following through volunteerism, financial support, and services:

  • Legal Aid
  • Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest
  • Beyond the Yellow Ribbon
  • The Merriam Park Community Council

If you have been in a car accident or any other type of accident that has triggered symptoms of a Chiari malformation, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. You do not have to accept no for an answer from the insurance company.

The statute of limitations limits your time to file a case. Contact a Minneapolis Chiari malformation lawyer today by calling 763-560-0000 or by submitting a form online before your opportunity has passed.

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305 North 5th Avenue, Suite 300
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 339-0140

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Content Reviewed by:

Alan Scott Milavetz