Your spinal cord is a very delicate neural pathway that runs down from your brain, into your neck (also known as your cervical spine) and through your back along the spinal column. The nerves that belong to or connect with your spinal cord form part of the central nervous system and branch off at different points within your body, sending messages about how and when to do things like move and breathe.
Spinal injuries can stem from a variety of personal injury events, such as motor vehicle accidents. Truck crashes, motorcycle accidents, and workplace incidents can all cause resulting injuries. So too can medical malpractice or premises liability accidents like slips and falls. Sports injuries can also affect a person’s spinal cord.
A Philadelphia spinal cord injury incident can significantly impact a victim’s life.
How Common Are Spinal Cord Injuries?
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, there are an estimated 294,000 people in the United States living with a spinal cord injury. There are approximately 17,810 new spinal cord injury cases that occur every year. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 250,000-500,000 new patients suffer a spinal cord injury worldwide annually.
What Types of Accidents Lead To Spinal Cord Injuries?
Most accidents that result in spinal cord injuries are severe and preventable. Recovery can be costly and take a long time, which is why you’ll benefit from hiring a Philadelphia spinal cord injury lawyer from Shrager & Sachs who will efficiently get you the compensation you deserve to ease your recovery process.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common accidents that result in spinal cord injuries. They include:
Car accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries sustained every year. Head-on and rear-end car accidents are more likely to result in this type of serious injury because of how the impact causes the individual inside of the vehicle to move.
In the case of motorcycle accidents, motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to suffering spinal cord injuries because there’s nothing that buffers them from the impact of the crash. The same logic that applies to a motorcycle accident is also applicable to bicyclists and spinal cord injuries. Pedestrian accidents can be equally catastrophic, often resulting in individuals on foot getting hurt.
Slip and Falls
Property owners have a legal liability to keep their premises free of any potential dangers.
A person can severely damage their back and spinal cord in the event of a fall. People are more likely to fall when hazards are present. For example, if a property owner neglects to clear their walkway of ice in the wintertime and you fall as a result, you may be able to hold them accountable with a premises liability claim.
Nursing homes are also common spots for slip and fall accidents that cause spinal cord problems.
While we would hope not to come out of a serious medical procedure with more complications than when we went in, there are instances where individuals suffer from spinal cord damage as a result of medical professional negligence. Situations also occur whereby defective medical devices or improperly implanted ones injure patients.
You have the right to file a medical malpractice claim if a spinal cord injury occurs under the circumstances above.
Most of us know that some jobs are inherently dangerous, like mining or tree cutting, for example. While these workers could plausibly be left with spinal cord injuries, so too could the following employees:
- Anyone who holds a job that requires them to utilize ladders or scaffolding for added height (like roofing and building construction).
- Cleaners, floor technicians, or anyone else such as health care, restaurant kitchen, or grocery store workers who have the potential to encounter wet, slippery, or debris-strewn flooring.
- Those employed in the transportation industry, who put exceedingly more miles on the road than the average driver, upping their risk of becoming involved in an injury crash.
Also, spinal cord injuries occur among warehouses or construction workers. These generally happen when heavy equipment is being utilized. These injury events often take on the form of crush or caught-in-between injuries.
While Pennsylvania workers’ compensation benefits generally cover some initial workplace injury-related expenses, filing a personal injury case may be necessary. There are a lot of costs associated with spinal cord injuries and recovering additional compensation could ensure you can maintain a desirable lifestyle.
Sports and Recreational Activities
Contact sports, like football or soccer, can put players at risk for spinal cord injuries if the rules of the game aren’t followed. Players are put at an even higher risk if their team skimps on proper protection equipment.
Also, spinal cord injuries occur during independent sports and recreational activities. Surfing, diving, horseback riding, and snowboarding can result in serious injuries if the individual isn’t aware of how to safely participate in them.
Who’s Most Vulnerable to Suffering From Spinal Cord Injuries?
Of the estimated over 17,000 who are left with spinal cord injuries in the United States annually, an overwhelming majority of the victims are men. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, at least 80% of spinal cord injuries happen to males between the age of 16 and 30.
Senior citizens over the age of 65 and young people are the two other groups most likely to suffer spinal cord injuries.
How Senior Citizens Receive Spinal Cord Injuries
As hinted at above, elderly individuals are most apt to suffer such an injury during a slip and fall incident. Spinal cord injuries like these may occur when a senior citizen, such as a nursing home resident, is subjected to neglect.
That older individual may decide that they’re tired of laying in their bed waiting for someone to transport them to the bathroom, for example, and attempt to get around on their own. They may lack the balance and ease of mobility they used to, leaving them vulnerable to falling.
How Youth Suffer Spinal Cord Injuries
Younger populations are most apt to receive spinal cord injuries in a car accident. According to the Mayo Clinic, an estimated 50% of spinal cord injuries result from motor vehicle accidents.
How Surgical Patients End Up With Spinal Cord Injuries
Another population highlighted above, but seldom discussed at length is how often individuals undergoing surgeries suffer spinal cord injuries.
Countless individuals come out of a neck, back, or another type of surgery, go through recovery, and feel significantly better in the long-term than they did prior to undergoing their operation. However, there are risks associated with any surgical procedure.
Surgeons, anesthesiologists, and others on the surgical team can make mistakes, resulting in adverse outcomes, such as a spinal cord injury. Situations like these may necessitate the filing of a medical malpractice claim to recover compensation.
Medical errors are largely preventable just like motor vehicle accidents and other personal injury incidents like slips and falls. You owe it to yourself and others to hold any negligent health care provider accountable for the mistakes that led to your spinal injuries. It’s your only way to recover financial compensation that you’re surely going to need to receive optimal care moving forward.
What Are the Consequences of a Spinal Cord Injury?
Spinal cord injuries can result in permanent disability which can vary depending on whether the victim suffered an incomplete or complete back injury.
An incomplete injury happens when the spinal cord is only partially severed. When the injury is labeled as complete, the spinal cord has been fully severed and the injured person has complete loss of function.
Complete spinal cord injuries tend not to leave victims with any motor or sensory function below their level of impact whereas individuals who suffer an incomplete spinal cord injury may be left with some lingering functionality or feeling.
Temporary Spinal Injuries Patients Face After an Accident
A few different factors impact how your spinal cord injury will affect you in the short and long term. These include where your injury site is along your spinal column and whether you receive immediate medical attention following your accident.
Temporary setbacks that spinal cord injury patients must contend with include:
- Pain or discomfort associated with inflammation
- Limited range of motion, resulting in generalized mobility issues
Individuals who’ve suffered incomplete spinal cord injuries may regain increased motor or sensory function along their limbs as their symptoms diminish within a few days or weeks after their accident. Functional improvements a complete spinal cord injury patient experiences are more likely to be left unchanged (not improve) as their recovery process lingers on.
Long-Term Prognoses Spinal Cord Patients Can Expect To Have
The impact a spinal cord injury will have on a patient long-term also varies depending on whether it is an incomplete or complete one as follows:
Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury
It’s likely a person with a partial injury will retain some sensory function below the impacted site. Those feelings may come and go and will likely get stronger with the right medical treatment. Some patients are even able to move some of the muscles below the injury site. Chronic pain is commonly associated with this type of injury.
Some of the more common partial conditions are:
- Anterior cord syndrome
- Central cord syndrome
- Brown-Sequard syndrome
Complete Spinal Cord Injury
When someone sustains a complete injury, their brain is no longer able to send signals down the spinal cord below the spot that has been damaged. The person may have a complete loss of motion, often referred to as motor function, since our brains send messages to our bodies to perform certain tasks.
Those who’ve had a spinal cord injury inflicted upon them often experience interrupted messaging within their central nervous system. This leads to motor function impairments, such as an inability to move one’s fingers.
Some individuals who’ve suffered a complete spinal cord injury may also experience diminished sensory function. Some of these may include feeling the sensation that you need to go to the bathroom or pain. These may result in spinal cord patients experiencing difficulty with bladder or bowel control. Sensory impairments can also affect a spinal cord injury victim’s breathing, depending on the location of the injury.
Common conditions resulting from a complete spinal cord injury include:
- Tetraplegia: Is when all four limbs are affected by some level of paralysis.
- Paraplegia: Is when the lower half of the body no longer has sensations.
- Quadriplegia: Affects all four limbs and frequently results in total or complete paralysis.
The paralysis described above often goes left unchanged (is permanent).
In some spinal cord injury cases, victims may experience more significant impairments immediately following their incident than they’re left with long-term. This happens because the spinal cord is in shock. The inflammation wanes over time as the body adjusts to the trauma that’s been inflicted upon it.
There should be some stabilization of symptoms soon thereafter and thus any treatment plan necessary to recover lost functionality should become clearer to your doctors. Also, any lasting impairments associated with spinal injuries should come into increased focus, making it easier to calculate any lifetime medical costs you can expect to have.
Costs Associated With Treating a Spinal Cord Injury
Most Philadelphia residents who have been to the doctor or who are hospitalized are well aware of how costly it can be to receive medical treatment. Someone who suffers a spinal cord injury generally spends an average of 11 days after their traumatic event in the hospital.
During this initial hospital stay, individuals may undergo a rapid cool-down procedure to reduce swelling and alleviate pressure along the spinal cord with the expectation that this minimizes more permanent injuries. Additionally, Philadelphia spinal cord victims may undergo surgery at the injury site to repair structural damage such as broken bones.
The medical bills Philadelphia spinal cord victims must cover generally extend far beyond the initial hospital stay, though. Medical bills spinal cord patients have generally last a lifetime. Their amount is largely contingent on whether an injured party is left with lingering paralysis and, if so, which type.
Some examples of costs spinal cord victims can amass during their lifetime if they suffer their spinal cord injury while in their 20s include:
- Lower extremity paralysis (paraplegia): Has an estimated lifetime cost of $2 million per person.
- A spinal cord injury that impacts the upper portion of a person’s spinal cord (tetraplegia): It can adversely impact the functionality of all four limbs, causing a victim to incur as much as $5 million in medical bills during their life.
- Tetraplegia, which affects the lower portion of the spinal cord and a person’s four limbs: Can cost as much as $3 million to treat across a person’s lifetime.
While having health insurance can certainly help you cover some of the medical bills you incur when you suffer a spinal cord injury, there are usually lifetime spending limits built into your policy that may be far less than your actual expenses.
Periphery Medical Expenses Spinal Cord Injuries Patients May Incur
Many individuals immediately think about the price of hospital care when a loved one suffers a spinal cord injury. However, there are other medical expenses that patients may require across their lifetime that can quickly add up, including:
- Occupational or physical therapy costs
- Lingering medical procedure or surgical costs
- Caregiving costs
- Chair and bed cushions to prevent pressure or bedsores
- Assistive devices
Medical equipment like moving boards and lifts may be necessary for transferring or lifting spinal cord injury patients. Bathing chairs may be required for personal hygiene purposes.
Health care supplies like catheterization tubes may also be a necessity since most spinal cord patients experience a loss of bladder control. Bathroom chairs may also be used to keep wheelchairs dry and to ensure individuals who have suffered spinal cord injuries receive adequate personal hygiene.
Aside from medical costs, those with spinal cord injuries may also require modifications to their homes or vehicles to better accommodate them.
Home Modifications Those With Spinal Cord Injuries May Need To Make
A home may need to undergo the following modifications to make it more accessible for wheelchair-bound individuals such as spinal cord injury victims:
- The addition of a ramp to make it easier to come and go
- An expansion of doorways so that they’re large enough to accommodate the width of your wheelchair
- The installation of an elevator to transport you and your wheelchair to a living environment that’s not on the ground floor
- Remodeling your bathroom to make it wheelchair accessible
It may also be necessary to pave a driveway to make it more easily navigable by wheelchair wheels. Also, replacing knobs with handles makes opening doors easier for individuals with spinal cord injuries.
As you can probably tell, costs associated with making modifications to your home to accommodate your wheelchair after you suffer a spinal cord injury can easily reach into the tens of thousands of dollars range.
Car Modifications That Individuals With Spinal Cord Injuries May Need To Make
There are transportation services that you may be able to summon to your home to pick you up and take you to doctor’s appointments. However, the waiting list for these options can be long. Also, coordinating the regular medical visits you’re sure to have with transportation can be a hassle.
There’s nothing like the convenience that comes with having access to your own vehicle. It ensures that you live more independently than you did prior to suffering your spinal cord injury. You may need to make modifications to an existing vehicle or purchase a new one that’s capable of accommodating your new circumstances. Attributes the car needs to have include:
- A ramp or lift that allows you and your wheelchair to get into the vehicle
- Ample space to accommodate your wheelchair’s footprint
- A cut-out for additional headspace in the roof of your vehicle
- Floor mounts that allow you to lock your wheelchair into the driver’s seat area
Modifying a vehicle to accommodate someone who has suffered a spinal cord injury may also require the installation of modified driving systems. These may make the accelerator or brake pedal hand-controlled or add a knob to the steering wheel so it’s easier to turn.
How a Spinal Cord Injury May Affect Your Ability To Earn a Living
While a spinal cord injury does not affect your ability to hold most jobs, you’ll certainly need some adaptive technology or tools to aid you in carrying out everyday tasks in your role. These expenditures may be too costly or otherwise impractical for your employer to reasonably accommodate as they’re required to do under both Pennsylvania and federal labor laws.
Your ability to return to any role requiring strenuous work may be largely out of the question, and training for an alternate career path may take time. You may need to recover lost wages in the interim.
Additionally, individuals with spinal injuries often experience symptomatology, such as blood pressure regulation issues. It can make your health too unpredictable to work. Plus, you may require a caregiver to tend to you around the clock, also inhibiting you from working.
All of the above factors can leave you with an inability to hold down a job when you need such funding to cover your increased out-of-pocket medical expenses and basic necessities.
Damages You Can Recover After a Spinal Cord Injury in Pennsylvania
Because this type of impairment is usually permanent, it’s often in the victim’s best interest to file a personal injury lawsuit with the help of a Philadelphia spinal cord injury lawyer in an attempt to assist with the financial burdens and life changes.
Since, as referenced above, the average spinal injury patient spends 11 days in a hospital’s acute care and 34 days in a rehabilitation program after their accident, bills can pile up quickly. Lawsuit damages can provide much-needed assistance.
What Can a Philadelphia Spinal Cord Injury Attorney Do for You?
Personal injury lawsuits can be incredibly complex, especially when you’re going up against a larger entity like an auto insurance company, workplace, or hospital. We understand how intimidating that may seem, but we have a strong legal team who is willing to do whatever it takes to get you the justice you deserve.
If you’ve been injured by another party’s negligence, our Philadelphia spinal cord injury lawyers are here for you. For more information about your legal rights and options after an accident, contact our office to speak with a spinal cord injury lawyer for a free consultation today.