A spinal cord injury is a devastating and probably permanent injury. Almost any damage to the vertebrae may result in a spinal cord injury. In southern California, if you sustain a spinal cord injury because someone else was negligent, an Orange County personal injury lawyer can help.

Annually, about 17,500 people in the U.S. suffer a spinal cord injury – about 48 injuries a day. Approximately 291,000 people in the U.S. are now living with spinal cord injuries. Men account for about 81 percent of all spinal cord injury victims.

What Are The Causes Of Spinal Cord Injuries?

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the causes of spinal cord injuries are:

  1. Traffic accidents: 39.3 percent
  2. Slip-and-fall incidents: 31.8 percent
  3. Crime and violence: 13.5 percent
  4. Sports collisions and accidents: 8 percent
  5. All other causes: 7.2 percent

What Is The Definition Of A Spinal Cord Injury?

The thirty-three rings of bone that surround the spinal cord are called vertebrae. Vertebrae stabilize the spine and protect the spinal cord. Together, the spinal cord and vertebrae compose the spinal column.

A spinal cord injury is spinal cord damage that causes loss of function like mobility or feeling. Loss of function can happen without the spinal cord being severed. In fact, for most patients, the spinal cord remains intact. Spinal cord injuries are not back injuries. They are quite distinct.

Your spinal cord extends from the base of your brain, down the center of your back, to just above your waist. The nerves within it carry messages back and forth from your brain to your spinal nerves, which then branch out to the rest of your body.

Nerve cells and groups of nerves called tracts run from the spinal cord to the various parts of the body. If any of these nerves are injured, the consequences can be devastating.

What Is A Complete Or Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury?

If you sustain a complete spinal cord injury, which means the spinal cord has been completely severed, fractured, or compressed, you will have no function below the location of the injury. There will be no voluntary movement or sensation on either side of your body below the injury location.

With an incomplete spinal cord injury, some amount of function remains below the location of the injury. You may have more function on one side, be able to move one arm or leg, or having feeling in areas that you can’t move.

What Happens When The Spinal Cord Is Injured?

A spinal cord injury usually causes the spinal cord to swell, and this swelling may impact the entire body. In a few days or several weeks, as the swelling subsides, some patients will regain some of their body functions. However, few patients ever regain all of their body functions.

Spinal cord injury patients may struggle with bladder and/or bowel dysfunction. Other consequences of a spinal cord injury can include paralysis, reduced control of your body temperature, low blood pressure, loss of the ability to regulate blood pressure, and/or chronic pain.

There’s No Cure, But There’s Hope

A spinal cord injury, at least for now, cannot be cured, although medical researchers are making exciting advances. One study suggests that some spinal cord injury victims actually may be able to regain mobility.

At UCLA, the University of Louisville, and the Pavlov Institute of Physiology, researchers have used electrodes to stimulate injured spinal cords and regenerate impulses to apparently paralyzed limbs, allowing patients to move their arms and legs freely and fully.

In a personal injury case, projected future medical expenses are recoverable. These expenses may include therapy, rehabilitation, and treatment that will be required for years after a personal injury case is resolved.

A good personal lawyer can arrange for expert testimony and compile the medical evidence that you’ll need to be compensated for your projected future medical costs.

What Else Should You Know About Spinal Cord Injuries?

Eighty-five percent of spinal cord injury victims who survive the first twenty-four hours remain alive for at least ten years. The leading cause of death among spinal cord injury victims is respiratory disease and primarily pneumonia.

Prior to World War II, a spinal cord injury almost always meant death, but with modern antibiotics and today’s medical technology, many spinal cord injury victims are living as long as non-disabled people.

Nevertheless, most patients need extensive treatment and therapy for the rest of their lives – and a way to pay for that treatment and therapy. Treatment can include multiple surgeries, therapy, and a variety of prescription medicines.

What Is The Long-Term Cost Of A Spinal Cord Injury?

The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center estimates that the average lifetime treatment costs for a spinal cord injury victim who is injured at age 25 can be as high as $5 million.

When a spinal cord injury is the result of someone else’s negligence in southern California, it’s important to be represented by an Orange County personal injury lawyer who understands the long-term consequences that spinal cord injuries can have.

A personal injury attorney with substantial experience handling spinal cord injury cases will seek the maximum available compensation on your behalf and will not advise you to accept an inadequate settlement offer. However, you’ll need to act quickly after a spinal cord injury.

Is There A Time Limit For Taking Legal Action?

In California, the statute of limitations gives an injury victim two years from the date of the injury to take legal action seeking compensation. If you fail to act within this two-year window, the court will refuse to hear your case and your right to compensation will be forfeited.

There are, however, some narrow legal exceptions that can extend the statute of limitations deadline, but you need to act as quickly as possible. The sooner an attorney is working on your personal injury claim, the more likely it is that your claim will prevail.

Yes, You Can Afford A California Injury Attorney’s Help

Finally, if you can’t work because of your injury, you may think that you can’t afford an attorney, but California personal injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis.

That means your first legal consultation is free, with no obligation. If you and your attorney agree to proceed with a lawsuit, you will pay no attorney’s fee unless and until you receive the compensation that you are entitled to under California law.

As mentioned previously, researchers have made impressive progress in spinal cord injury treatment, but few families have the ability to pay for that treatment over a lifetime. Compensation – and help from a good attorney – is every negligence victim’s right.