Car Accident Injuries: Spinal Cord Injuries

A Washington, D.C., Car Accident Lawyer Working with SCI Victims

About 17,500 Americans suffer spinal cord injuries each year, or nearly 500 per day. Most of these injuries result from automobile accidents, falls, gunshot wounds, and sports-related injuries. In fact, traffic accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries and are responsible for 38 percent of all spinal cord injuries from 2010 through the most recently available data.

A spinal cord injury is defined as an injury to the spinal cord, generally through trauma, including car accidents—although disease also can be a cause—that causes a loss of spinal cord function. This can include a loss of feeling or even the ability to move a portion of your body—paralysis. Such loss of function does not require severing of the spinal cord—for most people who suffer a loss of function as a result of a spinal cord injury, the cord remains intact.

Spinal cord injuries are relatively uncommon, constituting only a small proportion of all traffic accident injuries each year in the United States. Traffic accidents are the cause of roughly 6,650 spinal cord injuries each year, compared to the 2.4 million traffic-related injuries suffered every year on U.S. roads. However, spinal cord injuries usually are more severe and have greater potential to cause long-lasting or permanent disability. These injuries can leave victims debilitated and financially drained, with healthcare and litigation costs for spinal care injuries totaling more than $29 billion each year.

What Kinds of Spinal Injuries Are Common in Auto Accidents?

Spinal cord injuries are described base on what portion of the spine they affect. The three areas of the spine where these injuries can occur are:

  • Cervical
  • Thoracic
  • Lumbar

Cervical spinal injuries impact the upper seven vertebrae of the spine, which includes the neck. Thoracic spine injuries affect the middle portion of the spine—a stretch of 12 vertebrae, and lumbar injuries affect the lower section of the spine, the lowest five vertebrae. Thoracic and lumbar spinal injuries are less common in traffic accidents, as these portions of the body generally are better protected by the seat and seat belts. Cervical or upper spine injuries are by far the most common in traffic accidents. These injuries will affect the upper part of your body, including shoulders, arms, and hands. Cervical spine injuries, including injuries to the neck, are often the result of rear-end collisions.

In addition to the location of the spinal injury, it is important to understand the type. At their most basic, there are two kinds of spinal injuries: complete and incomplete. A complete spinal cord injury results in no function, movement or feeling below the level of the injury to the spine. Paralysis, either paraplegia or quadriplegia, is the result of a complete spinal injury. The extent of paralysis depends entirely upon the place on the spine affected by the injury. The higher on the spine the injury, the greater the extent of the paralysis. Because most spinal injuries caused by traffic accidents affect the cervical spine—the highest portion, involving the neck and the top of the back—spinal injuries suffered in traffic accidents, if complete spinal injuries, tend to more debilitating and can result in significant paralysis.

Incomplete spinal injuries leave the victim with some function below the location on the spine that is primarily affected by the injury. There may be some feeling or ability to move, or the victim could have more function on one side of the body than on the other. There may even be feeling in a body part that cannot be moved voluntarily. Improved care techniques have resulted in there being a greater number of incomplete spinal injuries than complete injuries, but both can have devastating impacts upon victims’ lives.

Spinal Cord Injuries Can Bring Extremely Expensive Lifetime Care Expenses

If you have suffered a significant spinal cord injury in a traffic accident, significant medical expenses are going to be in your future. While the circumstances of the injury and the extent of the damage will drive how high the costs of treatment go, the potential costs are truly astronomical.

Typically, spinal cord injuries from traffic accidents result in nearly 60 days of inpatient care. Of that, 15 days will be the initial hospitalization in an acute care unit, followed by a typical 44-day stay in some kind of rehabilitation facility. The cost of this initial hospitalization generally runs about $140,000.

It doesn’t get better from there. The first year of medical care following a spinal injury averages nearly $200,000. For those left as paraplegics, that average is about $152,000, but for quadriplegics, it increases to an average of $417,00 for the first year. The average lifetime medical costs for paraplegics hits $428,000, while for quadriplegics the average is $1.35 million.

Spinal cord injuries lay a tremendous burden on those affected, but incidents severe enough to leave patients as paraplegics and quadriplegics are particularly draining, as the average lifetime medical costs reach $428,000 and $1.35 million, respectively. These costs often exceed the coverage limits of insurance policies. Combined with what is frequently an inability to return to work after such an injury, these costs can be financially disastrous.

While a spinal cord injury can have a major impact on your life, it doesn’t have to result in your financial ruin and an inability to even afford the proper care that you require. If you have been injured in an accident, you should explore the possibility that another person was at fault, particularly in an automobile accident. You should talk to a profession to determine whether someone else might bear liability for your injury. A recovery of compensation from another party could literally be a life-saving event.

If You Sustained an SCI in a Car Accident, Call The Abelson Law Firm Today

If you suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident, consult an attorney to see if you can recover compensation for your injury. Attorney Michael A. Abelson at The Abelson Law Firm has helped many people through their car accident cases. You can reach him at (202) 331-0600 or through our online contact form.


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If you find that you are in need of a personal injury lawyer, I HIGHLY recommend Attorney Michael Abelson. I suffered a permanent disabling injury in a car accident. Mr. Abelson worked hard on my case and prepared carefully for trial. He guided me every step along the way. His diligent preparation led to a settlement agreement that greatly exceeded my expectation. Date published: 09/07/2018
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