Spinal cord injuries are some of the most devastating injuries a person can sustain in an accident. In addition to the costs of treating spinal cord injuries, the permanent disabilities and impairments that can result from this type of injury can be life-altering. Victims and their families often face an uphill battle financially, physically, and emotionally as they deal with the consequences of a spinal cord injury.
Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
Motor vehicle accidents continue to be one of the leading causes of spinal cord injuries in the United States. Traffic crashes account for about one-half of the new spinal cord injuries each year. Falls are another common cause of injuries to the spinal cord, especially in seniors. Other causes of spinal cord injuries include certain diseases, acts of violence, recreational activities, and sports injuries.
Even though anyone can sustain a spinal cord injury, some risk factors increase your chance of sustaining an injury to your spine. Males are more likely to suffer a spinal cord injury compared to females. Individuals between the ages of 16 and 30 or over the age of 65 can also have a higher risk for spinal cord injuries. Joint and bone disorders also increase the risk of an injury as does engaging in risky behavior or high-risk activities.
What is the Difference Between a Complete and Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury?
The spinal cord contains neural cells and nerve pathways that transmit information throughout our body. The spinal cord receives and transmits sensory information from all areas of the body to the brain. It also transmits messages from the brain throughout the body. This “information highway” is what allows us to move and our organs to function. Any injury to the spinal cord can result in a partial or complete loss of function in one or more areas of the body.
When the spinal cord is injured, the injury is like a “roadblock” that prevents information from being transmitted. If the injury is complete, the spinal cord is severed entirely at the point of injury. The “roadblock” is therefore complete meaning that no information is transmitted below the injury. All motor function and sensation are lost.
An incomplete injury occurs when the spinal cord is partially severed. Some information is transmitted through the “roadblock.” The amount of movement and sensation maintained after a partial spinal cord injury depends on the severity of the injury.
Location of the Injury Determines the Severity of the Paralysis and Loss of Sensation
The areas of the body impacted by the spinal cord injury depend on where the injury occurred. Injuries higher on the spinal column impact larger areas of the body.
For example, a complete spinal cord injury to the cervical spinal cord (the neck) results in quadriplegia or tetraplegia, which causes total paralysis to the trunk, pelvic organs, arms, and legs. A complete spinal cord injury to the thoracic spinal cord results in total paralysis in the lower half of the body. Incomplete injuries to these areas result in varying degrees of paralysis and loss of sensation.
Because of the complexity of the spinal cord, spinal cord injuries can vary dramatically. There are many different degrees of spinal cord injury, depending on the location of the injury and the severity of the injury. Because of the long-term effects of a spinal cord injury, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to diagnose the injury and develop a treatment plan based on the type and severity of the injury.
Long-Term Consequences of a Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injuries can result in immediate and permanent paralysis and loss of sensation. However, there are also long-term consequences of spinal cord injuries that victims may face.
For example, paralysis from a spinal cord injury often results in loss of control of bodily functions. While the stomach and intestines continue to operate, a victim may not have control over their bladder and bowels. Respiratory problems related to paralysis can increase the risk of developing pneumonia in addition to making it impossible for the person to receive enough oxygen without assistance. Spinal cord injuries may also negatively impact blood circulation, thereby creating circulatory problems, including blood clots, low blood pressure, and high blood pressure.
Learning to cope with a spinal cord injury can result in mental health conditions. Individuals who sustain a spinal cord injury often deal with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. It is important to seek professional mental health treatment in addition to treatment for the physical consequences of a spinal cord injury.
Financial Hardship Caused by Spinal Cord Injuries
The cost of treatment and care for a spinal cord injury victim can be astronomical. Over a person’s lifetime, the costs associated with a spinal cord injury can total millions of dollars. Depending on the severity of the injury, a person may require 24/7 care and assistance for the rest of his or her life.
Therefore, it is crucial that spinal cord injury victims and their families work with an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney who understands the necessity of obtaining accurate cost projections from medical and financial experts. These cost projections are used to calculate the total value of an injury claim. Insurance companies and defense attorneys may downplay the actual cost of a spinal cord injury and the future losses and expenses the victim may incur because of the injury. An attorney who has experience handling spinal cord injury cases understands what is required to prove actual and future damages in a complicated personal injury case.
Contact a Maryland Spinal Cord Injury Attorney for Help
Spinal cord injuries change the lives of victims and families. If you or a family member has sustained a spinal cord injury because of negligence or wrongdoing, you deserve to be compensated fully for all damages, including future losses and damages.
Call Pinder Plotkin at 410-661-9440 for a free consultation with one of our Maryland spinal cord injury attorneys. The information you receive can help you protect yourself and your loved ones now and in the future.