Today, researchers estimate there are more than 288,000 Americans living with a spinal cord injury. More than one-third of these injuries are caused by motor vehicle crashes. For those thousands of people and their families, life can be complicated and difficult. A spinal cord injury is a unique and challenging medical condition, and it requires significant care, home modification, and life changes.
What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?
A spinal cord injury is damage to the spinal cord from a trauma (such as a car crash) or indirect damage to the surrounding structures. The spinal cord itself is a bundle of nerves that carries impulses from the brain to the rest of the body. Running from the base of the brain to the lower back, the cord is protected by rings of bone (vertebra) that form what is called the spinal column. There are two main types of spinal cord injuries:
- Complete. There is no sensation or bodily function below the point of injury.
- Incomplete. There is some function below the point of injury, although the degree of an incomplete injury can vary greatly from case to case.
Common Spinal Cord Injuries After a Car Crash
The spinal column is a long structure with many different functions. It is possible to injure any part of the spine, which can create a wide range of medical issues. The most common injury areas include:
- Cervical spine. Injury to this upper portion of the spine often involves permanent, complete, or partial loss of function to nearly all areas of the body below the neck. It is typically the most severe type of spinal injury.
- Thoracic spine. A common area of spinal injuries, the thoracic spine is located in the upper and middle part of the back. Injuries here typically affect the abdomen, lower back, and legs.
- Lumbar spine. Another common area of spinal injury, the lumbar spine is the lowest major portion of the spine, comprising the five vertebrae below the thoracic spine. Injuries in this area often result in loss of function in the hips and legs, which typically impacts bladder function and the ability to walk.
- Sacral spine. Five fused bones comprise the triangle-shaped sacral spine, located under the lumbar spine and above the tailbone. Like lumbar spine injuries, sacral spine injuries typically affect the bladder. However, it is more likely that a person with a sacral spine injury would retain the ability to walk. Injury to this area is less common.
Treatment of a Spinal Cord Injury After a Crash
The treatment of a spinal cord injury will vary depending on its location and severity, as well as the health and fitness of the injured person. In nearly every case, however, these injuries require immediate and serious care to prevent further injury. Often, a spinal injury is irreversible, so it is especially important for car accident victims to seek care right away to minimize the damage as much as is possible. Some common treatments for a spinal injury include:
- Bed rest
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Assistive devices
Living With a Spinal Cord Injury
Life after a spinal cord injury can be difficult for injury victims and their families. Victims can face many challenges going forward, and while many of those challenges are related to their physical health, there are other difficulties, as well. These can include:
- Employment issues. Researchers from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center found that one year after a spinal cord injury, only 12 percent of injury victims are employed. Twenty years later, that figure grows only to about 33 percent. Given the restrictive nature of life after this type of injury, it can be difficult to find and maintain employment.
- Frequent hospitalizations. Those living with spinal cord injuries often face recurring hospital stays. About 30 percent of victims re-enter the hospital at least once during any given year after the injury, and the typical hospital stay lasts about 22 days.
- High cost of living. The lifetime costs of living with a spinal cord injury can be overwhelming. Those with less severe injuries can expect to pay more than a million dollars throughout their lives, while victims with more serious injuries could face expenses totaling nearly $5 million.
- Decreased life expectancy. The life expectancy for a person with a spinal cord injury remains markedly below that of a person without a spinal cord injury. Mental and musculoskeletal disorders, endocrine and metabolic disease, and accidents all create significant risks.
Obtaining Compensation After a Spinal Cord Injury
Suffering a spinal cord injury can have a profound impact on a victim’s physical, financial, and emotional life. Even in best case scenarios, it is likely that a victim will require at least some type of medical care throughout his life. For those who suffer more severe injuries, there will be expensive changes needed. Victims and their families need compensation to create a new normal life after an accident. That’s why injury compensation is especially important for those who suffer a spinal cord injury.
Spinal injury victims can hold negligent drivers accountable and obtain this vital compensation though a personal injury legal claim. These claims can help victims address:
- medical care
- future medical care
- home and vehicle modifications
- lost wages
- future lost wages
- pain and suffering
Our Fairfax car accident injury lawyers are here to help victims understand their rights and pursue an effective, comprehensive claim that can provide the compensation they need to manage their injuries and move forward with their lives. At-fault drivers and their insurance companies will likely fight your claim and attempt to reduce their own liability, but our experienced lawyers will be your advocate and guide your family through a difficult time. Call our office, or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to learn more about how we may be able to help.