The human spinal cord works to send nerve signals through the central nervous system to allow us to coordinate movement and reflexes. The central nervous system is an extremely important part of the body that controls much of our movement and mind. The spinal cord is one component of it with the brain being the other. Working together, they are largely responsible for just about all of our bodily functions, thoughts, and behaviors.
However, when damage to the spinal cord occurs, the central nervous system is impaired and can alter our bodies and lives. Spinal cord injuries (SCI) can change a person’s life dramatically. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center at UAB (NSCISC), 87.4% of all SCI individuals are discharged from hospitals to a private home where they can further be taken care of in their condition. It is important to know the facts about this injury so that people can take the proper precautions to avoid it and know what to expect in the tragic event that it occurs.
At Mike Agruss Law, we have helped thousands of clients to seek justice and compensation for personal injuries, and you won’t owe us a penny for our services unless we win your case. If you or a loved one suffered from a spinal cord injury, contact our office today for a free consultation.
Causes of Spinal Cord Injury
SCIs can occur unexpectedly and in the blink of an eye. There are certain accidents that can cause the spinal cord to be the main target of injury, but to varying extents of damage and different types of injuries. Some of the most common causes of SCIs, which should warrant immediate medical attention include the following:
- Motor vehicle accidents – This is the most common cause, comprising 39.3% of all SCIs, according to the NSCISC. The abrupt halt of motion and jolt that is experienced in a collision can damage the spine. If the roof collapses in a rollover accident, it could crush one’s neck and spine as a result. Even power windows could crush a child’s neck and cause an SCI.
- Falls – Whether it be a slip and fall, a trip and fall, or a fall from a great height, anytime that one lands on their back and head means that those areas are at risk of great damage. Falling flat on your back can impact your spine so much so that it is suffers a contusion or compression injury.
- Violence – Acts of violence, most commonly gunshot wounds or stabbings, can cause SCIs due to the extremely heavy impact that a bullet has on the spine. This typically happens when one is shot square in the back or the exit wound goes through the back, hitting the spine.
- Sports – High-contact sports, such as football or martial arts, pose a risk of head, neck, and spinal cord injury. Any heavy impact that jolts the spine can cause various types of SCIs.
Symptoms and Effects of a Spinal Cord Injury
SCIs come in many different forms with several primary symptoms indicating that you have suffered from one. Some of the most common symptoms include extreme pain or pressure in the neck, head or back, tingling or a feeling of numbness in the upper or lower limbs and extremities, impaired breathing, partial or complete loss of control over some or all parts of the body, lumps on the head or spine, incontinence, loss of bladder control, and more. It is essential that you seek medical attention and call 911 immediately following a trauma where you feel any of these symptoms.
These injuries can ultimately result in some type of paralysis. The most common types of SCI paralyses include:
- Triplegia – Triplegia usually occurs after an incomplete SCI. This is when three limbs experience paralysis of three limbs. This can be both arms and one leg, or both legs and one arm.
- Paraplegia – This type of paralysis occurs when the legs and lower body lose the ability to move. This also includes sensory and motor control. The SCI does not allow signals from the central nervous system to travel to the lower half of the body, thus losing its ability to move.
- Tetraplegia – Also known as quadriplegia, this condition is the most severe type which eliminates the ability to move below the site of the injury. Ultimately, it results in partial or total paralysis of all of one’s limbs. In general, this typically eliminates sensory and motor control.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
SCIs can be divided into two main types: incomplete and complete. An incomplete SCI are the less serious type and result from compression or damage that interfere with the brain’s ability to send signals via the central nervous system below the injury site. The effects of incomplete injuries have a large range depending on the person and the severity of the injury. A complete SCI is very serious and occurs when the injury does not allow the brain to send signals below the injury site. Depending on how much and which area of the spine is most injured, one could face partial paralysis or complete body paralysis.
The symptoms mentioned above are generally found in most of types of SCIs. Common variations of SCI include:
- The cervical spinal cord – This type of injury affects the highest part of the spinal cord where the brain connects to the spine. Generally, the higher up that the injury is, the greater potential there is for more extensive paralysis. This is because paralysis begins at the injury site and continues downwards. With the cervical portion being injured, the entire spine remains below it to be left impaired.
- The thoracic spinal cord – The thoracic portion of the spine is in the upper/middle back and is meant to keep the body upright, as well as connect the cervical to the lumbar spine. This injury will typically result in paraplegia and fairly impaired bladder and bowel function.
- The lumbar spinal cord – The lumbar portion of the spine is the lowest major portion of the spine and carries the most weight. This typically results in some extent of paraplegia.
- The sacral spine – The sacral portion of the spine is the lowest part just above the tailbone. Injury to this area will typically result in some loss of function of the hips and legs and very impaired bladder and bowel function. They may still be able to walk, though.
Damages That Can Be Recovered
A SCI can cause lifestyle changes, disability, problems continuing your occupation, and much more. We are here to help you. After an accident that you suspect has injured your spine, see if you can have someone take photos of the accident, your injuries, and keep a copy of the police report if they are called. Once you receive initial medical treatment, we will help you to pursue a claim for your injury. We will look at your medical records and bills, deal with the insurance companies involved, and make sure that you are fairly compensated for this traumatic experience.
There are numerous damages that one can recover after a successful SCI claim. Some damages that you may be awarded include the following:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Property damage
- Emotional distress
- Humiliation and embarrassment
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of reputation
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Funeral and burial costs (in a wrongful death claim)
If you or a loved one has been suffered from a spinal cord injury, contact our office today for a free consultation.