Many hundreds of thousands of people in the US live with spinal cord injuries, and the number grows each year as SCI victims live longer and our general population grows. Essentially, an SCI is damage to some part of the bundle of nerves that travels down your back within the bony “spinal column.” Damaged vertebrae usually cause the cord damage, as the broken or dislocated bones contact the soft cord tissue.
SCI of any severity are devastating injuries that alter the lives of both victims and their families. Over the life of the victim, the cost of medical care, rehabilitation, assistive devices, and attendants to help the victim perform every day, necessary activities can be enormous. If someone else was responsible for causing the injury, recovering damages from that person or entity can go a long way toward providing for the victim’s needs.
Causes of Spinal Cord Damage
Virtually any accident that subjects the neck and/or back to enough force can produce a spinal cord injury. The most common kinds of incidents that cause SCIs are:
Medical procedures like spinal surgery are also a cause of SCI.
Classification of SCIs
The severity of an SCI is classified as either complete or incomplete. The former is an injury in which all the fibers have been damaged; the latter is an injury in which there are some functioning fibers that allow for some messages to get past the damaged spot.
The degree of paralysis is classified as either:
- Tetraplegia, which is loss of use of upper and lower limbs (it may also be called quadriplegia)
- Paraplegia, while is loss of use of the lower limbs only
The level of the spine at which the injury occurs is designated as the specific vertebrae, by number, and the specific spinal region, by C for cervical, L for lumbar and T for thoracic. For example, C3 is the third vertebrae in the thoracic segment.
Consequences of SCI
The primary consequences of a serious SCI are paralysis, loss of sensation and loss of internal organ control. The extent of the loss and the specific limbs and organs affected, depend on the location of the cord injury and its severity.
Since the spinal cord also controls the many internal functions of the body, SCI victims can suffer a broad range of permanent and serious health problems, involving, depending on the location and severity of the injury, the bowels, the bladder, respiration, and sexual function.
Over time, SCI victims tend to experience a range of other “secondary” problems, which often include:
- Pressure sores (decubitus ulcers)
- Hypertension and cardiovascular disease
- Gastrointestinal problems of various types
- Respiratory problems
- Pain in the shoulders and/or arms (often from overuse of the upper limbs to compensate for paralyzed lower limbs)
Aging with SCI
The average age at which people experience an SCI has been increasing as the population ages and older people remain more active. The likelihood of surviving the early post-SCI years is also increasing. Combined with continued advances in rehabilitation, in assistive technology, and in early identification of secondary problems, these factors have allowed SCI victims to now live many years, often into their seventh and eighth decades. Survival is heavily influenced by:
- Level and severity of injury; the higher the spinal level and the more complete the injury, the shorter the survival time.
- Age at injury; mortality increases as the age of the victim at the time of injury increases.
But aging affects everyone. SCI victims who survive into their later years experience the same, or even accelerated, aging process as everyone else. Those who live into their older years, even if they are lucky enough to reach that age in relatively good health and with good function, experience the physical deterioration that naturally occurs with aging. This causes various other health problems that may limit their physical independence.
Help for Spinal Cord Injury Victims
Getting the compensation that SCI victims and their families deserve is a complicated matter. Not only do you have to prove that the entity you’re suing is legally responsible, you have to calculate how much damage has been done. How much will medical expenses be? What assistive devices may be needed? Will nursing or other assistance be required, and for how long?
It takes an experienced spinal injury lawyer to bring the case to a successful conclusion – someone who knows which experts will be needed to establish negligence, that the negligence caused the injury, and what that injury will end costing the victim and family both financially and emotionally.
We have that experience at the Austin injury attorneys firm of Briggle & Polan, PLLC. We know how trying it can be to deal with the injury and the finances and the worry about the case. Call us today. Once we know the facts we can tell you the best way to proceed. You pay us nothing before you receive your recovery award and nothing at all unless we win money for you. Call us today! 512-472-1926