Spinal cord damage is one of the most serious injuries a person can suffer in an accident. The body relies on the spinal cord to serve as a communications pathway for messages sent between the brain and the nerves. In this role, the spinal cord works with the brain and the central and peripheral nervous systems to control motor functions (such as voluntary muscle movements), sensory functions (by registering sensations like touch, pressure, temperature, and pain), and autonomic functions (such as regulating body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and urination).
When the spinal cord is damaged in a car accident, truck wreck, motorcycle crash, slip and fall incident, workplace accident, or when using a defective product—temporary or permanent loss of movement, sensation and control of bodily functions can result. In the most dire cases, victims can even suffer partial or total paralysis.
Approximately 17,000 people are diagnosed with a spinal cord injury each year, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCSC). The cost of long-term treatment and care for these catastrophic injuries can be astronomical. If you or someone you love sustained a spinal cord injury in an accident caused by the negligence of another party, you may be eligible for compensation for medical expenses and other damages.
Spinal Cord Injury Types and Degrees
The type and degree of a spinal cord injury play a big role in determining the extent and cost of the needed treatment and care. Spinal cord injuries can be divided into two types: incomplete injuries and complete injuries. Victims with incomplete spinal cord injuries still have some function, as their spinal cord was only partially severed. That is not the case for victims with complete spinal cord injuries. Sadly, they are left with no function due to the complete severance of the spinal cord.
Spinal cord injuries can also be classified by the degree of paralysis:
- Quadriplegia and tetraplegia: Paralyzed from the neck down, victims with these injuries often require round-the-clock care for the rest of their lives. As a result, the cost of treatment is usually highest for victims with this degree of paralysis.
- Paraplegia: Spinal cord injury victims with paraplegia retain motor function in their upper bodies, allowing them to perform many daily tasks on their own. However, due to the paralysis of their lower limbs, people with paraplegia use wheelchairs and may still require some in-home care and assistance.
- Partial paralysis: Some spinal cord injuries cause only partial or temporary paralysis that improves with treatment. Unfortunately, for some victims, this partial paralysis is permanent.
Spinal Cord Injury Treatment
Many people with spinal cord injuries require specialized medical treatment from the moment they sustain the injury and for the rest of their life. This treatment can include:
- Initial emergency services to stabilize vital signs
- Spinal surgeries, such as spinal stabilization and fusion
- Respiratory care
- Post-accident rehabilitation and assistive devices training
- Long-term care, such as assisted living or in-home care
- Assistive medical devices, such as wheelchairs, scooters, and respirators
- Prescription medications, such as antibiotics and pain relievers
Costs of Spinal Cord Injury Care
Spinal cord injury treatment costs can vary dramatically by pre-injury employment history and the extent of neurological impairment. However, victims with high tetraplegia can expect to face costs of up to $1,064,716 in the first year after their injury and $184,891 each subsequent year; while victims with low tetraplegia will face costs of approximately $769,351 in the first year and $113,423 each subsequent year. For people with paraplegia, first-year costs average $518,904 with yearly costs of approximately $68,739. Victims with partial paralysis see $347,484 in treatment costs in the first year, followed by $42,206 annually. Lifetime cost estimates are as follows:
- High tetraplegia: $4,724,181 (for a 25-year-old) or $2,596,329 (for a 50-year-old)
- Low tetraplegia: $3,451,781 and $2,123,154
- Paraplegia: $2,310,104 and $1,516,052
- Partial paralysis: $1,578,274 and $1,113,990
Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney?
Did you sustain a spinal cord injury in an accident caused by someone else's negligent actions? The skilled attorneys with the Morris James Personal Injury Group can help you explore your legal options. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss the details of your case.