Every year, approximately 11,000 Americans suffer a traumatic spinal cord injury. Auto accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries. Other major causes include work injuries, falls, acts of violence, and sports injuries. In many cases these injuries are the fault of someone other than the victim. Spinal cord injury victims are often faced with a lifetime of medical and rehabilitation expenses, loss of income and pain and suffering. Because of their significant damages, spinal cord injury victims should select a law firm that has extensive expertise, resources and an established record of significant results.
The Spinal Cord
The spinal cord runs from the base of the brain, down the middle of the back, and ends just above the waist. It consists of a bundle of nerves which send information back and forth between the brain and the rest of the body. The spinal cord is protected by thirty-three ring-shaped bones, or vertebrae, making up the spinal column. A sudden, traumatic blow to the spinal column can fracture or dislocate the vertebrae, damaging the spinal cord. Unfortunately, the nerves in the spinal cord do not regenerate once they have been injured.
The extent and area of the body affected by damage to the spinal column depends upon the location of the injury. Generally, trauma to the spinal cord results in loss of movement, or paralysis, as well as a loss of sensation in the body below the point of injury, or radiating pain in the victim’s extremities, which is called “radiculopathy.”
Types of Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injuries are classified as complete or partial, depending upon how many of the nerves in the spinal cord are damaged.
- Complete: If a spinal cord injury is complete, there is no sensation or voluntary movement below the point of injury and both sides of the body are affected.
- Partial: If a spinal cord injury is partial, or incomplete, there is some function and feeling below the point of injury. The victim may be able to move one limb more than the other or have more sensation on one side than the other. Whether a spinal cord injury is complete or partial may determine the outcome of the injury. Many individuals with partial spinal cord injury may experience significant recovery, while victims with complete spinal cord injury are often permanently paralyzed.
Classifications of Spinal Cord Injury
- Tetraplegia: Tetraplegia is also known as quadriplegia. It is usually caused by an injury to the spinal cord in the neck region and causes the loss of use and sensation in the body below the neck, including both arms and legs.
- Paraplegia: Paraplegia is caused by an injury to the spinal cord below the neck level and causes the loss of use and sensation in the lower part of the body, including the legs. In addition to the loss of movement and sensation, victims of spinal cord injuries often face other difficulties. A victim may be unable to breathe without a ventilator. There may be a loss of involuntary functions, such as the inability to regulate blood pressure and body temperature. Spinal injuries can also result in the loss of bladder and bowel control and, in men, there may be a loss of sexual function.
The Outcome of Spinal Cord Injuries
While there currently is no way to reverse damage to the spinal cord, the goal of rehabilitation focuses on preventing further injury and teaching people with spinal cord injuries to return to an active and productive life. A rehabilitation team can work to improve remaining muscle strength and teach the injured person new techniques to accomplish day-to-day activities.
Advances in modern technology can also assist the spinal cord injury victim. Modern light-weight wheelchairs can improve mobility. Voice-activated technology and computer-controlled devices can help with daily tasks such as dialing a phone or using a computer. Recent research has even provided sophisticated devices which can be implanted in the body and restore movement or assist with breathing in some cases. Research to assist those living with spinal cord injuries is ongoing and technology is always improving, but the costs to the injured party can be substantial.
The attorneys at the Merman Law Firm are experienced with all aspects of spinal cord injuries. Our attorneys work with the premier specialists in the country to ensure that our clients receive the best care available to speed the recovery process and maximize recovery for the injured person and their family.