Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord is the bunch of nerves that allows the brain to communicate with the rest of the body making it essential to the normal functioning of the body. Unfortunately, almost 300,000 people are living with spinal cord injuries in the United States, which shows that accidents causing these types of injuries are all too common.
Spinal cord injuries are complicated and have limited treatment options. Read on to understand how spinal cord injuries occur and how victims can recover for their injury.
What is a Spinal Cord Injury?
Spinal cord injuries occur when any part of the spinal cord or the nerves at the end of the spinal cord are injured. These injuries most commonly occur when the vertebrae are fractured or dislocated, resulting in displaced bone fragments or disc material that bruise or tear into spinal cord tissue. While spinal cord injuries include those that sever the spinal cord, severing is not necessary for the injury to be classified as a spinal cord injury. Any injury that destroys nerve cells that carry signals between the brain and body is appropriately classified as a spinal cord injury.
Spinal cord injuries are classified as complete or incomplete:
- Complete: Total loss of all motor and sensory functions in the body area below the location of the injury and causing equal impact on both sides of the body. Complete spinal cord injuries are most often caused by a bruise to the spinal cord or compromised blood flow.
- Incomplete: When the victim retains some function below the area where the injury occurred. The victim might be able to move either a left or right limb or may have better function on one side of the body.
The location of the injury also determines which parts of the body are affected:
- Cervical Spinal Cord Injury C1-C8: An injury to the top portion of the spinal cord where the brain connects to the body; cervical injuries cause paralysis or weakness in both arms and legs, known as quadriplegia. The cervical vertebrae send signals from the brain to the back of the head, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, and diaphragm.
- Thoracic Spinal Cord Injury T1-T12: Protection from the rib cage makes thoracic injuries less common. When these injuries occur, they cause paralysis or weakness of the legs, called paraplegia, and loss of physical sensation, bowel, bladder, and sexual dysfunction.
- Lumbar Spinal Cord Injury L1-L5: The lumbar region is the lower region of the spinal cord where the spinal cord begins to bend. These injuries result in paraplegia but rarely affect shoulder, arm, or hand function.
- Sacral Spinal Cord Injury S1-S5: This is the lowest portion of the spinal cord where the spinal cord bends slightly outward. Sacral injuries cause loss of bowel and bladder control and sexual dysfunction. Other symptoms include weakness or paralysis of the hips and legs.
There are an estimated 17,500 new victims of spinal cord injuries every year in the United States. These numbers mean that 54 people out of every million Americans suffer from a spinal cord injury. Unlike many other injuries, spinal cord victims are more likely to be young with more than half of the injuries occurring among the 16-30 age group.
What are Common Causes of a Spinal Cord Injury?
Any action resulting in a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine can cause a spinal cord injury, but some actions and activities are more common than others. The two leading causes are:
- Vehicle Crashes: Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries resulting in nearly 40% of documented spinal cord injuries. Motorcycle accidents comprise a significant subset of spinal cord injury motor vehicle accidents. The sudden forceful movement of a car accident that causes whiplash can cause a cervical spine injury. The twisting caused by a side-impact accident can result in a cervical or thoracic spine injury.
- Falls: Falls are the second leading cause of spinal cord injury and is the leading cause in older populations. Falls cause over 30% of spinal cord injuries.
Other common causes include acts of violence from gunshot and knife wounds, sports and recreation injuries, alcohol, and certain diseases such as cancer, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
Who Is Responsible for my Injury?
If the negligent or intentional action caused the accident that resulted in your spinal cord injury, they are responsible for all the damages that result. For example, if a driver failed to follow any traffic law or regulation, they are responsible for any injuries resulting from this failure. If a business owner failed to rectify or warn of any hazardous conditions on the property, a fall and resulting injuries are the responsibility of the property owner.
The negligent party is responsible for all damages resulting from the injury their negligent action caused, including:
- Medical Expenses: Spinal cord injuries often require a lifetime of medical support in addition to immediate medical expenses like doctor’s visits and hospital stays. The defendant is responsible for current and future medical expenses including physical therapy, rehabilitation, assistive devices, and in-home medical support.
- Lost Income: Many spinal cord injury victims find themselves unable to return to work given their new physical limitations. Include all past and future lost wages in your damages demand.
- Emotional Distress: Dealing with a completely new and limited way of life is undoubtedly distressing. Many spinal cord victims suffer from anxiety or depression as they adjust to living life with their injuries. Appropriate damages for this emotional distress should be sought from the defendant.
- Loss of Enjoyment: If you are unable to participate in activities that were previously a meaningful part of your life because of your injury, include these damages in your demand.
- Punitive/Exemplary Damages: If the defendant’s actions rise to the level of oppression, fraud, or malice, punitive damages are available in Nevada.
An experienced personal injury lawyer will help analyze the facts of your case to determine whether a third party is responsible and, if so, what damages should be included in your damages demand. Contact the team at Gina Corena & Associates today for a case consultation.