Spinal cord injury research is optimistic and ongoing around the world. Today, some victims can utilize improved treatment and rehabilitation technique to lead highly productive and independent lives.
In some cases, however, the spinal cord injury is so severe that advanced science is not yet effective and life-long care is required.
Before you file a personal injury suit in Florida, here are some common questions about spinal cord injuries to review:
What is a spinal cord injury?
According to the Mayo Clinic, a spinal cord injury is damage sustained to any part of the spinal cord or the nerves running down the length of the spinal canal.
Who is at risk of a spinal cord injury?
Unfortunately, spinal cord injuries don’t discriminate—nearly anyone can become a victim. There are, however, some risk factors that put individuals at greater risk or disadvantage.
Men, for example, account for 80 percent of all spinal cord injury victims; and victims are statistically between the ages of 16 and 35; however, people over 65-years-old are most at risk for falls and related spinal cord injuries.
Participating in risky behaviors like reckless driving or neglecting to wear proper safety gear while playing sports can also put individuals at a higher risk of injury.
People with degenerative bone or joint disorders like arthritis or osteoporosis have an increased risk of spinal cord injury.
What are the most common signs and symptoms of a spinal cord injury?
Signs and symptoms of a spinal cord injury may include, but are not limited to:
- Severe back pain or pressure on the spine, neck, head, or back
- Loss of strength or coordination
- Paralysis in any part of the body
- Numbness or tinging in fingers, toes, hands, or feet
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Difficulty walking or balancing while standing
- Difficulty breathing
- Aggressive muscle spasms or reflexes
- Sexual dysfunction or sensitivity
- Stinging sensation in the spinal cord
- Inability to clear secretions from the throat or lungs
How long does a spinal cord injury take to appear?
Spinal cord injuries can be illusive. In some cases, the signs and symptoms will be apparent immediately following a car crash or accident. However, this isn’t always the case.
Spinal cord injuries can be observed days or weeks after an incident. However, the period immediately following an incident is the most critical, and therefore, anyone suspected of having such an injury should be seen by a medical professional as soon as possible.
Do spinal cord injuries always result in paralysis?
Depending on where and how severe the injury is, a spinal cord injury can affect the control, mobility, and sensation of limbs—this is often called paralysis. There are two classifications for spinal cord injuries: complete and incomplete.
- Complete injuries are those in which all feeling and motor function is lost below the spinal cord injury.
- Incomplete injuries are those where only some motor or sensory feeling is affected and can sometimes be restored.
Are spinal cord injuries common?
Car crashes are the leading causes of spinal cord injury in the U.S. and account for 35 percent of new spinal cord injuries each year. In medical circles, it is considered prudent to assume a car crash victim who experienced extreme trauma to his or her head is likely to have a spinal cord injury until proven otherwise.
While a popular cause of injury, car crashes aren’t the only way people sustain a spinal cord injury. For example, any bleeding, swelling, inflammation, or fluid collection in or around the spinal cord can cause injury. Arthritis, cancer, and bone degeneration are all potential causes of spinal cord injury. Additionally, a gunshot, stab, or fall could also damage the spinal cord.
According to the Mayo Clinic, one in four spinal cord injuries involve alcohol.
What kind of changes in my body can I expect after a spinal cord injury?
A spinal cord injury can have adverse effects on a variety of functions throughout the body:
- Bladder/bowel control: the brain may not be able to communicate with the bladder or bowels following a spinal cord injury, and changes in control may require new techniques to empty each respectively to avoid infection.
- Skin sensation: without proper sensation, victims may have difficulty detecting pressure, heat, or cold. This can result in subsequent injury.
- Circulatory control: circulatory problems include both high and low blood pressure, as well as increased rates for developing blood clots, pulmonary embolus, and other circulatory disorders.
- Respiratory system: sometimes the location of a spinal cord injury affects control of the abdominal and chest muscles, as well as the diaphragm. The loss of functioning in these muscles can result in labored breathing, lung problems, or pneumonia.
- Muscle tone: without control of the appendages, it is common for spinal cord victims to experience either uncontrolled tightening or motion in the muscles or soft and limp muscles that lack tone or definition.
- Sexual health: men and women alike may experience changes in sexual function following a spinal cord injury.
- Mental health: changes to the body following a spinal cord injury can be devastating, and depression is a common side effect.
How much does a spinal cord injury treatment cost?
Estimates from the Dana and Christopher Reeve Foundation say the average cost for people with high tetraplegia, also called quadriplegia (i.e., loss of function in all four limbs and torso), is roughly $1 million for the first year. For incomplete injuries ranging in severity, the average is about $350,000.
Medical costs for a spinal cord injury can include, but are not limited to:
- Trauma care or emergency services
- Long-term care such as in-home nurses
- Medical equipment like wheelchairs
- Prescription medications
- Pain management
Other hidden expenses such as travel costs to and from the hospital, parking fees, food while traveling, or therapy for depression also contribute to medical expenses.
As a victim recovers he or she will also lose wages resulting from time away from work. In some cases, the potential to earn an income may be limited or lost altogether if the injury is severe.
The total cost of spinal cord surgery is difficult to value since it often involves an enormous change in lifestyle for both the victim and his or her family.
Can I sue someone for a spinal cord injury?
The short answer is, yes; but you will need to contact an experienced spinal cord injury lawyer to ensure the case has merit and potential in court.
More specifically, someone else (aside from, or in addition to the victim) must be shown to be responsible for the injury, or negligent. This isn’t always clear in car crash cases or on-the-job accidents.
This is why it’s important to seek counsel from an experienced attorney who knows the law and can weed through the facts of the case.
At Heintz & Becker Law Firm, we provide compassionate, legal relief for Florida victims who’ve suffered a spinal cord injury.
Call 941-748-2916 today; or, tell us what happened online to get started now.