Spinal cord injuries are some of the most serious injuries that a car accident victim can suffer. Serious spinal cord injuries can leave a car accident victim paralyzed and can even result in death. Many survivors are left unable to work and face a lifetime of expensive medical, rehab and assisted living bills.
Car accident victims whose spinal cord injuries were caused by someone else’s negligence could be entitled to compensation for their losses. Consulting with an experienced accident lawyer such as the ones at the Louthian Law Firm is the best way to find out what benefits you might be able to recover.
About Spinal Cord Injuries
The spine is part of the central nervous system. Extending down from the brain, the spinal cord is a long, thin bundle of nervous tissue and support cells. The spinal cord is located within a long chain of vertebrae that make up the vertebral column.
The primary role of the spinal cord is to transmit signals between the brain and the other parts of the body. The spinal cord carries information from the brain to various parts of the body and also serves as a pathway for sensory information to travel from the body to the brain. The spinal cord is also responsible for controlling many of the body’s reflexes.
Generally, damage to the spinal cord comes from the splintering, fragmenting or dislocation of a vertebra,instead of from direct damage to the spinal cord. When the spinal column is damaged, a vertebra may push on the spinal cord or create a tear in the cord, which can cause the victim to suffer indirect injury to the spinal cord.
Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury
A spinal cord injury can range in severity from a minor injury to a complete severing of the cord itself. A severe spinal cord injury can result in paralysis, including quadriplegia (tetraplegia) and paraplegia.
Doctors classify a spinal cord injury as either “complete” or “incomplete.” A complete injury means that the victim has no ability to control motor function and has no feeling below where the injury occurred. An incomplete injury means that the victim retains some motor function and sensation below the level of injury.
The symptoms experienced by a victim vary, depending on the severity and location of the spinal cord injury.
Some common symptoms include:
- Loss of sensation
- Loss of movement
- Inability to feel hot or cold
- Tingling or numbness
- Loss of bowel control
- Loss of bladder control
- Pain or stinging sensation
- Spasms or exaggerated reflexes
- Pressure in head, neck or back
- Difficulty breathing
- Changes in sexual function
Diagnosing a spinal cord injury typically requires complicated tests such as an MRI. If you suspect that you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of an auto accident, seek medical treatment immediately. Further injury, including paralysis, could occur if a spinal cord injury is not treated immediately.
Treatment for Spinal Cord Injuries
Despite monumental advances in medicine and science over the last century, we still do not have a way to reverse damage to the spinal cord.
Preventing further injury is the first step in treating a spinal cord injury, which is why emergency workers usually immobilize an accident victim before transport to the hospital if there is even a chance that a neck or back injury has occurred.
Spinal cord injury victims often require surgery to remove bone fragments or replace herniated discs. Although this may prevent further damage to the cord itself, permanent damage may already have occurred. The patient may also need to be immobilized for a period of time and go through a period of rehabilitation. Ongoing care is likely and may include medications to control pain or assist with some of the side effects of a spinal cord injury such as decreased bladder control or sexual function.
Although doctors are working hard to find a way to reverse damage to the spinal cord, it may be decades or more before they find a cure. In the meantime, a victim with a spinal cord injury can expect to have the injury for his or her lifetime. This often means that a victim will have ongoing physical and emotional pain, as well as mounting medical bills. The CDC estimates that the average lifetime cost of treating a spinal cord injury is between $500,000 and $3 million.