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Common Spine Injuries From Car Accidents

Michael Agruss

Written and Reviewed by Michael Agruss

  • Managing Partner and Personal Injury Lawyer at Mike Agruss Law.
  • Over 20 years of experience in Personal Injury.
  • Over 8000+ consumer rights cases settled.
  • Graduated from the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law: Juris Doctor, 2004.

We at Mike Agruss Law are proud to serve the people of Illinois in personal injury cases, including when you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident, and we are fully committed to protecting your rights and ensuring that the other party is held legally accountable when negligence occurs. We will fight until the very end to ensure that you receive full financial compensation for all injuries and losses resulting from the accident, such as medical treatment, physical therapy, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering, and you won’t owe us a dime for our services. Contact our experienced personal injury attorneys for a free consultation today.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injury (SCI) describes any damage to the spinal cord which results in lost function, sensation, or mobility. SCIs are different from other back injuries, such as pinched nerves, ruptured discs, and spinal stenosis, and for SCIs a loss of function is possible without severing the spinal cord, which is the case for most SCI victims.

It is estimated that about 12,000 people sustain spine injuries each year, averaging about 32 per day. Most of these are caused by falls, car accidents, work accidents, and athletic activities, and it’s also estimated about 60% of victims are less than thirty years of age; men make up much of this majority.

Complete and Incomplete Spinal Injuries

Furthermore, spinal cord injuries are commonly divided into “complete” and “incomplete” injuries:

Complete Spinal cord injuries

These victims may suffer total loss of function, sensation, and voluntary movement below the point of injury.

Incomplete Spinal cord injury

This indicates some function below the point of injury. Patients of incomplete spinal cord injuries may have feeling in parts of the body which can’t be moved, or more feeling and function in one limb or side of the body than the other.

Due to lost sensation and motor function, many spinal injuries result in bowel/bladder dysfunction and a loss of other involuntary functions, such as the ability to breathe, which may necessitate a mechanical ventilator. Other injuries result in severe back pain, chronic pain, low blood pressure, inability to effectively regulate blood pressure and/or body temperature, and inability to sweat below the point of injury.

While there is no definitive cure for spinal cord damage, many medical advances have been made and some are able to decrease damage at the time of injury; these include steroid drugs to reduce swelling, which is a major cause of secondary damage. Some victims of incomplete SCIs are able to regain some function as late as eighteen months after the initial injury, though only a small fraction of SCI victims recover all function in their lifetimes. These injuries often result in lifelong and even permanent debilitations, and anyone who suffers an SCI due to another’s negligence deserves to be compensated for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.

Functional Outcomes

Here are some functional outcomes of severe spinal cord injuries:

C1 – C4 quadriplegia

These involve paralysis of upper and lower extremities, which may also include low endurance, inability to cough, and respiratory compromise due to paralyzed muscles. These patients are heavily dependent on caregivers and some require mechanical ventilation.

C5 quadriplegia

This is the highest form of SCI which still allows patients to drive vehicles with special adaptations, as it involves paralysis of the trunk and lower extremities and some upper extremities. Self-feeding and grooming are possible, though patients generally lack the upper body strength for independent transfers.

C6 quadriplegia

This involves paralysis in the trunk and lower extremities and some lost function in upper extremities. While patients may have respiratory dysfunction due to paralyzed intercostal muscles, independence in feeding, grooming, and other upper-body function is possible.

C7 – C8 quadriplegia

These also involve paralysis in the trunk and lower extremities, but with limited grasp and dexterity. Although the respiratory system is impaired, independence in eating, grooming, and manual wheelchair use are usually possible.

T1 – T9 paraplegia

These involve paralysis in the lower trunk and lower extremities, while strength in the upper extremities is preserved, and bowel/bladder function can also be maintained independently.

T10 – L1 paraplegia

These involve paralysis in the lower extremities, but patients also have full respiratory function and potential for improved ambulation (physical movement).

L2 – S5 paraplegia

These involve partial paralysis in the lower extremities. Bowel/bladder function can be maintained independently and four-point devices can be used for movement.

Personal Injury Lawsuits

If you’ve suffered a back injury in an accident, such as a herniated disc or similar injury, you may be eligible to recover compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress, and loss of consortium may be claimed for your spouse, if applicable. Speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer today.

Legal claims for spinal cord injuries come in many forms and may incorporate all sorts of legal issues. Here are a few common factors in a spinal cord injury lawsuit:

Proving negligence

As with other personal injury claims, such as for a car accident, spinal cord injury cases must sufficiently demonstrate that the other party’s negligence directly caused or contributed to the accident which resulted in your injury.

While presenting this evidence is necessary, gathering it can be a complicated process in itself and may require witness interviews, obtaining opinions and analyses from accident-reconstruction experts, and obtaining documents such as police reports and medical records.

Comparative fault claims

In a personal injury case, the negligent party may claim you were partially responsible for the accident in order to limit his/her own liability. These are accusations of “comparative fault,” and our spinal cord injury attorneys know how to defend against them and keep the story straight.

Calculating damages

Proving the extent of the losses you suffered ties in closely to proving you deserve the damages you are seeking. Common personal injury damages include past and future lost wages and benefits, past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, short-term or permanent disabilities, and lost capacity for enjoyment of life. Thanks to pay statements and medical bills, calculating past financial losses is relatively simple. Calculating future losses can be more difficult, however, and may require the assistance of medical or economic experts.

How We Help

If you’ve suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident, you may be unsure of how you will resolve the situation. After you’ve received medical attention, consulting with our spinal cord injury lawyers will help you in many ways. Our spinal injury attorneys will:

Advise you of your claim’s potential

Not all injured victims will be eligible for compensation in a spinal cord injury case, even for catastrophic injuries. When an individual is entirely at-fault for his/her own accident, for example, no one else can be held accountable.

On the other hand, if the personal injury accident was caused at least in part by the negligence of another person or entity, it is likely that you have a solid and viable claim. Your personal injury attorney may also interview witnesses or conduct certain forms of investigation to find evidence of negligence.

Review your options

Some accident victims may expect to file an immediate lawsuit, march into court, and be awarded a large chunk of money from the jury, but this is rarely how the process occurs. There are ways to earn your compensation without this type of litigation, and the few cases which do go to trial usually involve very serious injuries. Our personal injury lawyers will negotiate with the insurance company to obtain the best-possible settlement for your losses, which is likely to end in your favor without the need for a jury trial.

If or when these negotiations are ineffective for the injured party, there are always other options, such as filing personal injury claims in civil court or pursuing “alternative dispute resolutions (ADRs)” such as mediation and arbitration. Your spinal cord injury attorney will advise you regarding these potential options and what will be best for your case.

Investigate the accident and gather evidence

A legal claim will, of course, require evidence that the defendant’s negligence caused your accident and resulting personal injuries. This may involve multiple investigations, including:

  • Interviewing witnesses;
  • Obtaining video surveillance footage of the accident, if possible;
  • Reviewing safety records and related documents;
  • Obtaining medical records and police reports;
  • Consulting accident-reconstruction experts;
  • Conducting depositions or other legal discovery methods.

Determine the value of your case

Spinal cord injury claims, as with other personal injury claims, require a specific requested amount of compensation for your injuries and losses, which must be calculated based on past losses incurred as well as estimated future losses, such as lost wages and present and future medical expenses. spinal cord injury victims may also seek to recover compensation for “non-economic” losses, such as pain and suffering and emotional distress.

Represent you in court

In the unlikely event that a reasonable settlement cannot be reached, a trial will be necessary and you simply cannot afford to do it alone. Under the attorney client relationship, our personal injury lawyers will fight for you until the very end to earn full and fair compensation.


Spinal injuries can be very serious personal injuries, as some can interfere with the brain’s communication to other parts of the body and result in long-term complications. SCIs generally fall under two categories, which are “complete” and “incomplete.” Victims of incomplete SCIs retain some motor/sensory function below the point of injury, while complete SCIs result in no motor/sensory function below the injury.

Catastrophic injury victims often suffer substantial economic and non-economic losses, such as:

  • Long-term medical care/expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering, physical and/or emotional
  • Lost quality of life

Statute of Limitations

In Indiana, injury victims have up to two (2) years to file a personal injury claim. However, it is imperative to speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible following the accident to determine your case’s worth and how to earn maximum compensation.

Contact our Experienced Back Injury Lawyers Today!

If you or a loved one has suffered a back injury in an auto accident, you need an experienced car accident attorney. Contact Mike Agruss Law for a free case evaluation. We are a Chicago-based personal injury law firm, and helping our clients is about counseling, advocating, and ultimately solving problems. With years of experience successfully representing the people and not the powerful, we will take care of the insurance company, your medical bills, your property damage, and your lost wages under the attorney client relationship. We will handle your case quickly and advise you every step of the way, and we will not hesitate to go to trial for you. Lastly, Mike Agruss Law works on a contingency fee basis and is not paid attorneys’ fees unless we win your case. Our no-fee promise is that simple. You have nothing to risk when you hire us – only the opportunity to seek justice.

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