Understanding Spinal Cord Injuries
An injury to the spinal cord, the main link between the brain and the rest of the body, often causes permanent changes in strength, sensation, and other body functions below the site of the injury, according to the Mayo Clinic. A spinal cord injury (SCI) may lead to paralysis that lasts a lifetime and causes the victim to never work gain or enjoy many of life's normal activities.
38 percent of spinal cord injuries occur in motor vehicle accidents, making car, truck, and motorcycle accidents the leading cause of SCI, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC). Other causes are falls, violence, and sports activities. The estimated lifetime costs of a spinal cord injury vary greatly according to the severity of the injury but are likely to exceed $1 million for even limited loss of motor function.
The Santa Barbara personal injury lawyers at Andrade Law Offices work with California residents who suffered serious injuries in car accidents, falls, and other incidents caused by another's negligence. We help our clients obtain the medical treatment and financial compensation they need to deal with catastrophic spinal cord injuries. We have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for the injured and are ready to see how we can help you.
What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?
A blow to the back or spine – and the 33 vertebrae of the neck, backbone, and tailbone – can cause a spinal cord injury. A severe blow can sever or tear the spinal cord. Blunt force trauma or a crushing injury that damages one or more vertebrae or a disk (the cushioning cartilage between the vertebrae), can impinge upon the spinal cord and cause loss of sensation or mobility. This loss of sensation or mobility occurs from the point of injury downward.
Depending on where the spinal cord is damaged, a victim may suffer pain or loss of function in the:
Spinal cord injuries are typically described as incomplete or complete. Patients with incomplete spinal cord injury may experience numbness or weakness in the arms and/or legs, which may include radiating pain, according to the USC Center for Spinal Surgery. Patients with a complete spinal cord injury will have total loss of strength and sensation from the level of injury downward. Patients who sustain a complete injury rarely, if ever, recover significant strength or sensation below the level of injury.
Loss of function, or paralysis, is called paraplegia if it affects all or part of the legs and pelvic organs. It is described as tetraplegia or quadriplegia when it affects the arms, hands, trunk, legs, and pelvic organs.
Treating Spinal Cord Injuries
Severe spinal cord injuries are treated with emergency care to stabilize and assess the patient, followed by surgery to repair the damage. After surgery, the patient will undergo aggressive rehabilitation therapy, which may include twice-daily sessions either in an in-patient or out-patient setting. Patients with tetraplegia or severe quadriplegia generally require lifelong assistance with activities of daily living and routine self-care.
A patient may be transferred to a regional spine injury center where neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, nurses, spinal cord medicine specialists, psychologists, social workers, and therapists with expertise in spinal cord injury can assist in their recovery.
The Extent & Costs of a Spinal Cord Injury
About 276,000 Americans are living with a spinal cord injury, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC). Also according to the NSCISC, spinal cord injury victims:
- Spend an average of 11 days in a hospital acute care unit immediately after their injury, followed by 36 days in a rehabilitation unit.
- Experience complete neurologic recovery by hospital discharge only 1 percent of the time.
- Suffer incomplete tetraplegia in 45 percent of cases.
- Suffer incomplete paraplegia in 21 percent of cases.
- Suffer complete paraplegia in 20 percent of cases.
- Suffer complete tetraplegia in 14 percent of cases.
- Are, on average, 42 years old at the time of their injury.
About 30 percent of spinal cord injury victims are re-hospitalized at least once in the first year after their injury. The length of their hospital stay averages about 23 days. Diseases of the genitourinary system are the leading cause of re-hospitalization, followed by disease of the skin. Respiratory, digestive, circulatory, and musculoskeletal diseases are also common reasons an SCI victim reenters the hospital.
The average annual and lifetime health care and living expenses for a spinal cord injury victim vary according to the severity of the injury, according to the NSCISC:
- High tetraplegia: $1 million in the first year, and $182,033 for each subsequent year. Over a lifetime, $4.6 million for a 25-year-old, and $2.5 million for a 50-year-old.
- Paraplegia: $519,520 the first year, and $68,821 for each subsequent year. Over a lifetime, $2.3 million for a 25-year-old, and $1.5 million for a 50-year-old.
- Some level of incomplete motor function: $342,112 the first year, and $41,554 for each subsequent year. Over a lifetime, $1.5 million for a 25-year-old, and $1 million for a 50-year-old.
These costs do not include losses in wages, fringe benefits, and productivity, which average more than $70,000 a year, according to the NCISC.
Contact Andrade Law Offices Today
Suffering a spinal cord injury in a car accident is a life-changing event. The injury victim and their family members will face a lengthy, difficult, and expensive recovery, which may result in a lifetime of ongoing medical needs and associated expenses and losses.
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury in an auto accident or other incident that was someone else's fault, contact Andrade Law Offices today. We can investigate to determine the full extent of your losses, including projections for future expenses and losses, and aggressively pursue the compensation you need and deserve. Our Santa Barbara personal spinal cord injury attorneys are here for you.
To discuss your spinal cord injury claim with a caring, knowledgeable professional, call (805) 962.4944.