One of the most serious consequences of any accident or dangerous incident is a spinal cord injury. The spine is one of the most vital areas of our body—and one of the most sensitive. Even slight damage to the spinal column or an accident that did not seem devastating when it occurred could result in a permanent disability. If you’ve been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault and suffered from spinal damage, a Charleston spinal cord injury lawyer can help your family recover.
The spinal cord is one of the most vital areas of the body due to its functions. The cord itself is a fragile bundle of nerves that travels through the middle of the spine—an area called the spinal column. These nerves are responsible for relaying messages up and down throughout the entire body—from the legs and feet to the heart, lungs, arms, hands, and brain.
The spinal cord is protected by the spinal column and each of the vertebrae and spinal discs that give our bodies the flexibility they require. Even though the spinal column can protect the cord from many injuries, any injury that potentially damages the spinal column or any of the discs may damage the cord as well. Additionally, even the spinal column is unable to protect the cord from every type of injury. The most severe injuries often damage both—potentially causing debilitating pain and paralysis.
Spinal Cord Injury Statistics
There are two categories of spinal cord injuries: Complete and incomplete. Complete means that the patient has no sensation or voluntary movement of limbs while incomplete means that some level of functionality and/or movement exists. Most victims suffer from incomplete injuries of the upper half of the body (tetraplegia) or lower half (paraplegia) while others suffer from complete paralysis of either area.
According to a study performed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), there are roughly 18,000 new spinal cord injuries every year in the U.S. Many victims of serious spinal injuries never fully recover and need assistance getting around and functioning normally for the rest of their lives. Many others can partially recover with the help of intense therapy and multiple surgeries.
This study also showed the different demographics of which populations have suffered from injuries to the spinal column. The average age for a spinal cord injury is 43, and 78 percent of all cases are men. Nationally, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injury, followed by falls, acts of violence, and sports. Unfortunately, less than one percent of all patients experienced full neurological recovery by the time they were discharged from the hospital.
After an injury to the spinal cord, the average stay in the hospital is 11 days, and the average length of rehabilitation stays is 31 days. As technology and medicine improve, those numbers could reduce even more, as the length of stays now are less than half of what patients endured in the 1970s. Still, the amount of time spent in the hospital depends on the region of the back that was injured and how severe the lesion on the cord is.
To better understand these statistics, let’s take a look at what causes these injuries to happen in our own state.
What Causes Spinal Cord Injuries in West Virginia?
Despite their seriousness, spinal cord injuries can be caused by a surprisingly large amount of accidents and incidents that happen on a regular basis. Injuries of this nature often depend on the severity and circumstances of an accident rather than the type. Still, some accidents tend to cause spinal injuries more than others. These are some of the most likely:
The force of a car crashing into another vehicle or building can easily damage the back, neck, and spinal area of the driver or any passengers involved in the accident. Even a somewhat minor crash may cause permanent back and neck issues due to the brutal way in which most accidents force our bodies backwards against the seats.
Industrial and Workplace Accidents
Workplace and industrial vehicles and machinery tend to be extremely heavy and dangerous to work around. If a worker gets injured in an industrial accident with a bulldozer, lifter, crane, or other large piece of construction machinery, for example, they may be susceptible to back, neck, and spine damage—including damage to the spinal cord.
Slip and Fall Accidents
A dangerous falling accident (often referred to as a “slip and fall” accident) can result in permanent back, neck, or spinal damage depending on the nature of the fall and the surface the victim fell onto as well as the distance they fell. Our spinal column protects us when we’re upright, but when we suffer from an extremely forceful fall, our vertebrae become susceptible to damage.
Commercial truck accidents tend to be much more dangerous than car accidents due to the simple fact that trucks are larger and carry more weight and force behind them. Occupants of passenger vehicles tend to suffer from severe injuries when involved in a truck accident, and one of the most common types of injuries is back and spinal cord injuries.
Other common sources of spinal injuries include sports-related accidents, boat accidents, acts of unnatural violence such as gunshot wounds, and motorcycle accidents.
Recovering from a spinal cord injury is rarely a simple procedure. Any damage to the nerves can take years to heal or even be completely incurable. Whereas other types of injuries may take one or two hospital visits to treat, a spinal injury could require extensive care for the rest of your life. The end result could potentially be a price tag that continually increases.
Expenses related to a spine injury can include:
- Emergency hospital treatment
- Return visits and procedures
- Ongoing and routine rehabilitation therapy
- Lost wages or decreased income
- The cost of mobility and home help equipment
With so much on the line, you should seek the professional legal counsel of our Charleston spinal cord injury attorneys right away if you’ve suffered from a serious injury which may have impacted your spine.
Symptoms of Spinal Injuries in West Virginia
When someone suffers a spinal cord injury, the immediate consequences can include paralysis, extreme back pain, or even death if the injury induces shock. While these consequences are severe and require emergency medical attention, they may not be the only problems that arise from the injury. Many people who have suffered a serious spinal injury do not realize the full extent of the harm until it degrades into a more severe condition.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms or conditions after being in an accident of any type, you may have a lingering spinal cord injury that requires medical attention:
- Varying degrees of paralysis
- Difficulty standing still
- Pain when lying down or anywhere in the body that reaches a chronic level
- Soreness in lower back
- Numbness or tingling in extremities
- Unexplained headaches
- Stiffness when walking
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty with bladder/bowel functions
While these symptoms could signify that you have a spinal cord injury, it’s important to understand how the location of your injury can affect specific areas of your body.
Spinal Cord Injury Levels
When you break your neck or your back, you could harm more than just your vertebrae. You could also injure the spinal cord at the level of your neck or anywhere in your back. Depending on where your cord is damaged, you could experience different side effects and losses of function. There are levels to categorize spinal injuries so that patients can better understand what to expect from the damage done to their spine.
As mentioned above, an injury to the spinal cord can be considered complete or incomplete. A complete SCI is severe and means that the patient has lost all or almost all sensory or motor function. An incomplete SCI is less severe but is still serious and means that the patient still has some sensory or motor function below the injury site.
As a general rule, the closer the lesion, or injury, on the spinal cord is to the skull, the more of the body is affected, and so the more serious the injury is considered. In higher cord injuries located between the cervical and upper thoracic region, tetraplegia is possible, which is loss of function from the neck or shoulders down. Any injury from the lower thoracic region to the sacral region could cause paraplegia, which is the loss of function or feeling in the lower portion of the body.
Here are the different levels of spinal cord injuries and the general effects they have on the body, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
- Cervical. The top seven vertebrae of the spine that are in the neck are the cervical vertebrae. When a spinal cord injury happens in this section of the spine, it’s possible that the patient will be paralyzed from the neck or shoulders down. Along with the potential loss of function from the neck down, an injury to this part of the column can result in the patient needing a ventilator to control their breathing.
- Thoracic. The next 12 vertebrae in the upper and middle back are known as the thoracic section of the spine. If a person is injured in this portion of their back, they could lose function of muscles and organs from the chest down. They could have trouble breathing and be unable to walk.
- Lumbar. The next section of the spine holds the five lumbar vertebrae in the lower back. An injury to this portion of the spinal cord could affect the hips and below. A patient could lose function in their legs and could lose control of the bladder and bowels.
- Sacral. This portion of the spine is in the pelvis. The sacrum is located between the lumbar vertebrae and the tailbone and is a section of five vertebrae that are fused together. An injury to the sacral nerves of the spinal cord can affect the person’s legs as well as their bladder and bowels.
When you’ve experienced a back injury at any level of the spinal column, you could be facing debilitating injuries that could change your life. If someone else’s negligence is what caused the accident that led to your injury, then you can hold them accountable for their actions that caused all this damage for you. With the help of a Charleston spinal cord injury lawyer from our firm, you’ll be able to recover from the financial losses from your injury.
A Charleston Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Can Help You Recover
A constant worry people have when they have been injured by someone else’s neglect or wrongdoings is if they can afford to retain a professional lawyer to represent their claim. At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, we do not charge our personal injury clients any money upfront. We operate using contingency fees. This means that we only obtain a fee out of a successful settlement. If your case doesn’t succeed, you owe us nothing.
Our Charleston spinal cord injury lawyers are more than happy to meet with you to discuss your potential case. Get in touch today to learn more and find out how recovery may be a possibility for you and your family.