A spinal cord injury occurs when there is damage to the spinal cord or damage to the nerves at the end of the spinal canal. Spinal cord injuries are devastating to victims, as they can cause severe physical, mental, and financial effects. In cases where spinal cord injuries occur as a result of a sudden accident, victims are often overwhelmed dealing with the effects of their injury and may not know how to legally proceed if another party is at fault. In this article, we will cover everything about spinal injuries, including their causes, effects, and how a personal injury lawyer can help. Read on to learn more.
Categorizing Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are categorized into several components, including the type of spinal cord injury and the level of spinal cord injury.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
All spinal cord injuries are classified into one of two distinct types: incomplete or complete. These terms have to do with the extent of the damage to the spinal cord.
Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries
Incomplete spinal injuries occur when there is some damage to the spinal cord that is not necessarily significant. To be classified as an incomplete spinal cord injury, the victim must still have some degree of mobility below the affected body part. Incomplete spinal cord injuries are more common than complete spinal cord injuries.
Complete Spinal Cord Injuries
Complete spinal cord injuries occur when there is significant damage to the spinal cord. To be classified as a complete spinal cord injury, the victim must have no mobility below the affected body part. Complete spinal cord injuries are less common than incomplete spinal cord injuries and they are also more severe.
Levels of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are also classified based on the section of the spinal cord that is injured. There are four main sections of the spinal cord: cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral.
- Cervical spinal cord injuries occur in the first portion of the spine, beginning at the base of the skull and moving down to the bottom of the neck. Injuries that occur in this level are generally the most severe and cause the most lasting impact on victims.
- Thoracic spinal cord injuries occur in the longest area of the spine that ranges from the shoulder to the lower abdomen. With these types of injuries, there is generally weakness in the lower half of the body, loss of sensation, and no bladder or bowel control.
- Lumbar spinal cord injuries occur in the lower back. These types of injuries generally result in some loss of function of the lower half of the body and may require equipment for mobility, such as a wheelchair. There may also be lack of bladder or bowel control.
- Sacral spinal cord injuries occur in the lowermost portion of the spine between the lumbar region and the tailbone. These types of injuries generally result in some loss of function of the lower half of the body and difficulty controlling the bladder or bowels.
Common Spinal Cord Injuries
Some names of common types of spinal cord injuries include:
- Tetraplegia (also known as quadriplegia) occurs with damage to the cervical area of the spinal cord. This is the most severe form of a complete spinal cord injury, causing the victim to have paralysis of all of their limbs.
- Paraplegia occurs with damage to the thoracic area of the spinal cord. This causes paralysis in the lower portion of the body (generally the legs and below).
- Triplegia affects the mobility in three of the victim’s limbs. Triplegia is usually caused by an incomplete spinal cord injury.
Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries have a number of different causes. Top causes of spinal injuries include:
- Automobile accidents
- Slips, trips, or falls
- Gunshot wounds
- Motorcycle accidents
- Diving accidents
- Complications from surgery
While these are some of the most common causes of spinal injuries, there are also other ways they can occur, including blunt trauma from sports, or non-traumatic causes such as certain types of cancer. Regardless, if your spinal cord injury was caused by the negligence of another party, it is important to consult with a personal injury lawyer.
Effects of Spinal Cord Injuries
There are a number of physical, mental, and financial consequences of a spinal cord injury.
Spinal cord injuries can have a number of physical effects on the body. Generally, the lower the section of the spinal cord injury, the less severe the physical effects are. For example, an injury that occurs in the lumbar level will result in less negative physical effects than an injury that occurs in the cervical level. Nonetheless, common effects of spinal cord injuries include:
- Impaired mobility
- Lack of sensation
- Impact to bladder and bowel control
- Impaired breathing abilities
- Sexual dysfunction
Spinal cord injuries can also impact a victim’s mental health. Victims can have difficulty adjusting to the physical effects of their injury, often resulting in anxiety and/or clinical depression that may require treatment, including counseling and medication.
Additional financial expenses due to a spinal cord injury vary greatly depending on the type and severity of the injury, but they can be devastating. For example, a victim with a case of high tetraplegia can expect to spend over $1 million in their first year following the surgery, and about $185K each subsequent year on healthcare and living expenses alone. These figures do not include indirect financial considerations, such as loss of wages or mental health treatment.
What Does a Spinal Cord Injuries Lawyer Do?
Help Establish Liability
Victims of spinal cord injuries often know who can be blamed for their injury, but in the eyes of the law, culpability can be difficult to prove. A spinal cord injury attorney will develop an individualized plan for your case, compile resources, and consult with professionals to establish liability.
In the state of California, parties who caused a spinal cord injury through negligence can be found liable. This is commonly seen in cases involving motorists responsible for a car accident, property owners where a slip, trip, or fall took place, or product manufacturers.
Fight for Financial Compensation
Victims who have suffered a spinal cord injury that resulted from the actions of another individual or entity may be eligible for financial compensation. A personal injury attorney with significant experience handling spinal cord injury cases will provide you individualized treatment on your case and advise you on the best course of action. A personal injury attorney can help spinal cord injury victims this and gain compensation for expenses including but not limited to:
- Medical bills and ongoing treatment
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of wages
- Equipment, including wheelchairs
- Extra expenses due to changes in daily life
Contact a Spinal Cord Injuries Lawyer
Spinal cord injuries alter victims’ lives, including their physical capabilities, mental health, and finances. If you have suffered from a spinal cord injury, you do not have to endure this alone; let us help you. The attorneys at Law Offices of John J. Perlstein have extensive experience handling spinal cord injury cases, and we will work with you to determine the best course of action in receiving your entitled compensation. Contact us today for a free consultation.