Accidents and Spinal Cord Injuries – FAQ

Often, spinal cord injuries (SCI) seriously impact their victims — many for the rest of their lives. The vertebrae are responsible for protecting the nerves running from the brain to various parts of the body. When they are damaged, messages sent from the brain to all parts of the body are disrupted or completely blocked, leading to serious – even total – loss of some or all bodily functions.

The extent of a victim’s loss of function depends on which vertebrae are damaged and to what extent. Reputable personal injury attorneys are accustomed to working with victims who have been badly hurt in all types of accidents in which victims suffer spinal injuries and are adept at helping them successfully pursue compensation for legal damages caused by negligent defendants.

What are common causes of spinal cord injury?

Many types of accidents can cause an SCI; the largest percentage (40%) are caused by motor vehicle accidents (auto, commercial truck, ATV, motorcycle, or pedestrian being struck). Other prominent causes of SCI are accidental falls, swimming pool mishaps, medical malpractice, birth injury, workplace accidents and assaults.

If the incident which caused your spinal cord injury was caused by another’s negligence or carelessness, you may be able to file a personal injury claim and receive compensation for your injuries. At Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law, our spinal cord injury lawyers use their extensive medical and legal training to prepare strong cases for victims of negligence. Our goal is to help you obtain the necessary compensation to restore your quality of life as fully as possible.

Is a spinal cord Injury the same as a broken back?

Not necessarily. SCI is damage to the spinal cord, itself which results in a loss of function such as mobility or feeling. A person can “break” their back or neck yet not sustain a spinal cord injury if only the bones around the spinal cord (the vertebrae) are damaged, but the spinal cord itself is not affected.

How do SCI injuries affect victims?

They depend on the type of injury and its severity. SCI can be divided into two types, or levels:  complete and incomplete. A complete SCI means that there is no function below the spinal area of the injury at all, no sensation or voluntary movement. Both sides of the body are equally affected.

Incomplete SCI means there is some function below the location of the injury. Victims with an incomplete SCI may be able to move one limb more than another; or they may experience various levels of feeling in some locations of the body, while other areas have no sensation and cannot be moved.  Advances in acute treatment methods are making it more common to treat incomplete SCI.

Do serious SCIs result from some spinal locations more than others?

Generally, the higher the wound on the spinal column, the greater the injury levels and the victim’s incapacity and lack of sensation. But even damage to the lower vertebrae (known as the lumbar or sacral vertebrae) can result in loss of leg or hip function or even loss of bowel and bladder control. This alone can severely impact a victim’s quality of life.

Damage to the middle vertebrae – the thoracic vertebrae – usually result in paraplegia (loss of arm and leg function) where the victim is unable to perform many rudimentary physical tasks.

But the worst paralysis is associated with damage to the cervical vertebrae – those of the neck. Quadriplegia, weak breathing and loss of speech mean being totally bedridden, with constant need for around-the-clock, specialized nursing care in-hospital or in-home.

What sort of compensation can I collect for a spinal cord injury?

If your SCI is due to the negligence of another, you can receive payment for all medical expenses surrounding your injury. In most cases you may also collect for all of your lost wages for missed work and, often, future lost income since your ability to work is affected by the injury. It might be more difficult to collect all of your lost wages if you are collecting workers’ compensation for an SCI suffered in a workplace accident, but there are other avenues of compensation which we can explain to you. Additional damages to which you may be entitled include pain and suffering, future long-term specialized care and rehabilitation, the cost of adaptive equipment, specialized motor vehicles, other injury-related expenses and possibly punitive damages if the circumstances justify.

If the victim of a spinal injury suffers a wrongful death, surviving family members may be compensated for the loss of financial support, pain and suffering, loss of consortium (companionship), or other unique damages such as funeral expenses and additional pain and suffering

Do people with SCI get better?

Often with an SCI there is swelling of the spinal cord. This natural swelling response may cause changes in much of the body’s functions. After a time – usually a few weeks – the swelling begins to recede and victims may possibly regain some limited bodily functions. With many SCIs, especially incomplete, the victim may recover some function as late as a year or two after the injury. In very rare cases, SCI victims can regain a bit more motor function years after the injury, but only a very small percentage of them regain a noticeable portion of their pre-accident functions.

How can a personal injury lawyer help me or my family member after an SCI?

Accidents involving a spine injury can have an extremely profound effect on the victim’s life, and the medical expenses resulting from this sort of damage are can be overwhelming. With the assistance of an experienced attorney, a victim can pay for their medical treatment and long-term therapy. If the victim is also the family’s breadwinner, compensation for a serious SCI can also protect the family’s financial well-being.

Investigating and developing a claim for a serious SCI is both vital to your case and very complex. Experienced SCI injury lawyers are uniquely capable of managing such investigations which serve as the basis of proof to support your injury claims, thereby protecting your interests and maximizing the compensation you can receive.

If you have more questions you’d like to have answered, we encourage you to contact Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law to schedule a free consultation.