Spinal cord injuries are devastating and can lead to catastrophic consequences including paralysis and even death. According to a study initiated by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, there are nearly one in 50 people living with some form of paralysis. Paralysis requires major life changes, and those living with spinal cord injuries can face average annual expenses ranging from $220,000 to well over $750,000 in the first year alone.
Spinal Injuries: The Basics
The spinal cord is the longest nerve in the human body and serves as a highway between the brain and the body. Traveling down this highway are messages controlling breath rate, heart rate, bladder control and other essential bodily functions.
If these nerves are damaged, the pathway can be blocked and delivery of these important messages may stop. Damage occurs when any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal are injured.
These injuries are most often caused by motor vehicle accidents but also result from falls, sports injuries such as diving into shallow water, work accidents and assaults. Generally these accidents occur among young and healthy individuals. In fact, males between the ages of 15 and 35 are most commonly affected.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
The degree of injury varies with each case, but most accidents do not completely sever the spinal cord. Generally, injuries are the result of fractures and compressions of the vertebrae, or bones surrounding the delicate cord. Although spinal cord injuries are caused by many types of accidents, the general cause is a traumatic blow to the spine compounded in the weeks that follow by bleeding, swelling, inflammation and fluid accumulation around the spinal area. The severity of damage is classified as one of two options: it is either a complete or incomplete injury.
If the spinal cord can still convey messages to or from the brain the injury is categorized as incomplete. A victim suffering from an incomplete spinal cord injury retains some motor or sensory function below the site of injury.
In contrast, a complete injury is indicated when a total lack of sensory or motor function exists below the site of injury. This type of cord injury results in paralysis below the damaged area.
Car Accidents and the Cost of Paralysis
One of the primary causes of spinal injuries for both adults and children, according to Mayo Clinic, is motor vehicle accidents. These accidents are responsible for more than 40 percent of new spinal cord injuries to adults every year and an additional 56 percent of pediatric spinal cord cases.
People living with spinal cord injuries are often unable to afford adequate health insurance to cover neccesary care. The cost of living with a spinal cord injury is considerable and varies greatly depending on the severity of the injury, according to the University of Alabama National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The first year is often most expensive, as homes may require additions to become wheelchair accessible and medical aids like wheelchairs may need to be purchased. Subsequent years are also costly, ranging from $40,000 to over $170,000 annually.
Compensation Available for Victims
Victims of spinal cord injuries are entitled to compensation, if their injury was caused by the negligence of others. This compensation can cover the cost of medical and rehabilitative bills as well as lost wages and pain and suffering.
Responsibility can fall on the shoulders of many involved. If, for example, the injury was the result of another’s negligence leading to a car accident, the negligent party may be held responsible for compensation.
Compensation can also extend to medical practitioners. Research shows certain forms of treatment are much more effective than others. One example involves the use of high-dose methylprednisolone increasing the average rate of recovery in individuals with slight sensation or movement below the injury site shortly after injury. Use of this medication can raise the rate of recovering lost function from 59 percent to 75 percent. If a physician does not follow best practices, he or she may be liable for a decreased likelihood of recovery.
The Big Picture
Recovery from a spinal cord injury takes a significant period of time. Christopher Reeve, for example, continued to see improvement over seven years after his spinal cord injury. As a result, it is important to receive compensation to cover all projected connected expenses during this time.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Help Spinal Cord Injury Victims
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced Philadelphia personal injury lawyer to ensure that all your legal rights and remedies are protected. Contact the legal team at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC at 215-569-8488 or submit an online contact form.