Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers
Serving SCI Victims in California and Across the Nation
About 200,000 people live with spinal cord injuries (SCIs) in the United
States. The leading SCI causes are forms of trauma. A spinal cord injury
may result from direct injury to the cord itself or indirectly from damage
to surrounding bones, tissues, or blood vessels.
The following are the most common SCI causes in the United States:
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading SCI causes for people under age 65, accounting for almost
50 percent of new spinal cord injuries each year.
Falls make up approximately 22 percent of spinal cord injuries and are the leading
SCI causes for people 65 years and older.
Acts of violence account for 15 percent of spinal cord injuries and include such things
as gunshot and knife wounds.
Sports and recreation account for approximately 8 percent of spinal cord injuries.
If your spinal cord injury was caused by someone else’s negligence,
you may be entitled to seek compensation. Our award-winning Los Angeles
attorneys at Baum Hedlund are committed to helping victims with these
serious injuries seek the care and resources they deserve.
Call (855) 948-5098 to get started with a free consultation.
What Is Spinal Cord Injury Trauma?
Spinal cord injuries occur when the spinal cord is damaged by trauma rather
than disease. A spinal cord injury, or SCI, is often sudden and unexpected
and can happen to anyone, young or old, male or female, of any race, religion,
or socioeconomic status.
Approximately 11,000 people in the U.S. sustain a spinal cord injury each
year and nearly 200,000 Americans currently live with a permanent disability
related to SCI trauma. The effects of a spinal cord trauma depend on the
severity and location of the injury and can result from
motor vehicle accidents,
aircraft accidents, falls, sports injuries, industrial accidents, and assault, among many
others. Accounting for over 50 percent of spinal cord injuries are accidents
involving cars, motorcycles, and trucks.
Approximately 99 percent of traumatic spinal cord injuries lead to permanent
disability, including paralysis and loss of control of one’s own
body and independence. A traumatic spinal cord injury will also have a
deep impact on a survivor’s family and community. With rehabilitation
and support, a spinal cord injury survivor can learn to navigate the world
once more, reconditioning the body and mind to compensate for paralyzed
limbs and deteriorated strength.
Spinal Cord Injury Risk Factors
Every year, approximately 11,000 new spinal cord injuries are documented.
Although a spinal cord injury is often caused by an unexpected accident
that can happen to anyone at any age, some groups of people are more likely
to suffer a spinal cord injury.
Men: Men are more likely than women to sustain a spinal cord injury. Over 80
percent of all spinal cord injuries are sustained by men.
Young adults: People are at a higher risk of sustaining a spinal cord injury between
the ages of 16 and 30. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading SCI causes
for young adults.
Seniors: Spinal cord injuries suffered by people over 65 years-old are most oftentimes
caused by a fall. Falls account for a large number of spinal cord injuries
in older people.
Athletes: Sport-related injuries account for 8 percent of spinal cord injuries each
year. High impact sports such as wrestling, football, rugby, and gymnastics
result in a higher risk of spinal cord injury.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
The effects of a spinal cord injury vary according to its type, the severity
of the injury, and the location of the injury on the spinal column. A
traumatic spinal cord injury damages the nerve fibers passing through
the injured area of the spine, usually causing permanent disability or
loss of movement (paralysis) and sensation below the site of the injury.
Additional damage will most often occur over days or weeks following the
initial trauma due to fluid accumulation from bleeding, swelling, and
inflammation around the spinal cord.
How Are Spinal Cord Injuries Classified?
Spinal cord injuries are classified as either partial or complete, depending
on the amount of the spinal cord damaged. In a partial cord injury, or
incomplete injury, the spinal cord remains partially intact and able to
carry some messages to and from your brain. Survivors of a partial spinal
cord injury may retain some sensation and motor function below the affected area.
Impairments Associated with Spinal Cord Injuries
Impairments caused by spinal cord injuries are wide ranging and may include:
- Motor deficit
- Sensory deficit
- Breathing difficulty
- Bowel and/or bladder dysfunction
With a spinal cord injury, paralysis can be sudden and immediate. The extent
of paralysis depends on the severity of the injury as well as what parts
of the body it affects. Paralysis results from damage to the nerves carrying
sensory information and will often affect the arms, legs, or trunk. It
can affect only the one side of the body, or both. Paralysis can also
affect nerves which control the heart, lungs, glands, intestines, speech,
behavior and cognitive ability.
Unfortunately, 99 percent of traumatic spinal cord injuries will lead to
one of the following types of paralysis:
Paraplegia: When the injury only affects the lower body, it is called paraplegia.
Paraplegia results when an injury to the spinal cord is below the first
thoracic spinal nerve. Paraplegics retain movement and sensory abilities
in their arms but will experience impairment of leg movement or have complete
loss of leg movement all the way up to the chest. About 52 percent of
spinal cord injury survivors are considered paraplegic.
Quadriplegia or tetraplegia: Refers to paralysis that involves the majority of the body, including
the arms and legs. Quadriplegia/tetraplegia can also affect the abdominal
and chest muscles, making breathing difficult. This type of paralysis
is a result of a spinal cord injury above the first thoracic vertebra.
Approximately 47 percent of spinal cord injury survivors are considered
Spinal Cord Injury Complications
Secondary complications occur as a direct result of a spinal injury and
are a major health issue for those living with a SCI. While loss of sensation
and movement are the most common spinal cord injury complications, other
systems in the body can be significantly affected. Spinal cord injury
complications, such as pressure sores, urinary tract infections, spasticity,
and osteoporosis, if not treated, can lead to serious illness or death.
Pressure sores (skin breakdown): Also called decubitus ulcers, pressure sores are dangerous spinal cord
injury complications. Pressure sores are caused when an individual sits
or lies in the same position for a long period of time. The pressure prevents
blood from reaching the skin causing the skin to die. People with spinal
cord injuries are particularly susceptible to pressure sores since damage
to the spinal cord keeps messages of pain and discomfort from reaching
the brain, making it very difficult to identify a developing sore. Pressure
sores are a common cause of hospitalization, and if not treated, cause
death. The best way to prevent these sores is changing positions frequently.
Urinary tract infections: A traumatic SCI can often lead to loss of bladder control, which increases
the risk of urinary tract infections. Urinary incontinence may also cause
kidney infection and kidney or bladder stones. These types of spinal cord
injury complications can be avoided by drinking plenty of clear fluids
and using a catheter—a thin tube that is inserted into the urethra
and bladder to drain urine—several times a day.
Spasticity: Muscle spasms, or spasticity, can develop after a spinal cord injury.
These involuntary twitches are exaggerated reflexes caused when some of
the nerves in the lower spinal cord are stimulated. Unfortunately, this
does not mean that a person is recovering. The nerves, sensing discomfort
or pain, are merely causing muscle contractions that the brain is no longer
able to control or regulate. Almost anything can trigger spasticity. A
paralyzed person cannot perform normal range of motion exercises, making
their joints and muscles less flexible and therefore more prone to these
types of spasms. The best way to manage or reduce spasticity is to follow
a daily range of motion exercise program. If spasms become severe, medical
treatments may be needed.
Osteoporosis and fractures: The majority of spinal cord injury survivors develop osteoporosis. Osteoporosis
means “porous bones” and occurs when bones become weak and
brittle due to lack of calcium and phosphorus. Normally, bones are kept
strong by bearing weight and through regular muscle activity. In people
with spinal cord injuries, however, decreased or eliminated muscle activity
as well as decreased load on the bones can lead to loss of calcium and
phosphorus. In the years following spinal cord injury, some degree of
bone loss will occur, which, in turn, increases the risk for fractures.Using
one’s legs to provide some support in transferring or standing using
a standing frame is helpful in increasing the load on the bones, which
can help slow down the osteoporotic process and reduce the risk of fractures.
Other spinal cord injury complications:
- Changes to circulation and respiration
- Changes to muscles, joints, and bones
- Edema, swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in the body’s tissues
- Changes to the kidneys and gastrointestinal system
- Blood clots in the lower limbs
- Feelings of numbness or pain
- Skin injury
- Bacterial infection
- Sexual difficulties
- Abnormal sweating
- Abnormal breathing or heart rate
- Balance problems
- Difficulty thinking
- Behavioral issues
- Difficulty speaking or swallowing
- Vision problems
- Chronic pain
- Low blood pressure
- Disruption of the normal working of the tissues, glands, and organs
The True Cost of a Spinal Cord Injury
The spinal cord injury cost can be overwhelming. Individuals with spinal
cord injury have many additional living expenses which might include rehabilitation,
medication, assistive devices and equipment needed for mobility. Only
52 percent of spinal cord injury survivors have health insurance at the
time of their injury, leading to many questions regarding the spinal cord
injury cost of treatment and rehabilitation. Some people may be eligible
for economic assistance from the state or federal government. There are
also many charitable organizations that offer economic support to those
facing seemingly overwhelming expenses.
Spinal Cord Injury Cost Statistics
Spinal cord injury cost, on a national level, is an estimated $9.7 billion
each year. The annual cost of treating pressure sores alone is
estimated at $1.2 billion. Spinal cord injuries very often require lifetime care, including health
care. Depending upon the People who suffer a spinal cord injury can also
face difficult challenges to achieve employment, making it even more difficult
to take on the added expenses associated with SCI care.
People who suffer a spinal cord injury can also face difficult challenges
to achieve employment, making it even more difficult to take on the added
expenses associated with SCI care. According to the National Spinal Cord
Injury Statistical Center, 57.5% of those persons with SCI admitted to
an SCI Model System, reported being employed at the time of their injury.
At post injury year one, 11.5% of persons with SCI are employed. By post
injury year 20, 35.4% are employed.
Call (855) 948-5098 or complete our
online form to learn about your legal options.