Spinal Cord Injuries

A sudden, traumatic spine blow fracturing or dislocating your vertebrae marks the beginning of what we call a spinal cord injury.

The majority of spinal cord injuries are preventable and due to causes such as car vehicle accidents, falls, or violence.

38.6% of all spinal cord injuries are a result of a motor vehicle accident.

In the USA alone, approximately 17,810 new cases of spinal cord injuries are registered each year.

Approximately 294,000 people live with spinal cord injuries live in the United States.

Every year, 250,000 to 500,000, people all over the world sustain a spinal cord injury. People with spinal cord injuries experience a massive impact on their mental, emotional, and social state.

While scientists believe that advancement in medical science will soon help millions suffering from the issue, we are yet to see an efficient cure for spinal cord injuries. There are modern lightweight wheelchairs and other advanced equipment that improves a patient’s ability to move, but you may have to pay a substantial price. Spinal cord injury patients have two to five times more chances of premature death than people without an SCI.

To recover from SCI, patients need early treatment and immobilization. Working as a spinal cord injury attorney, we come across several people without a clear idea of SCI and how it impacts an individual’s life. This article aims to help everyone as we break down everything there is to spinal cord injury.

Michael Hua Injury Law Case Spinal Cord Injuries

Common Spine Injuries from Accidents

Whiplash or whiplash-associated disorder (WAD) is one of the most common spine problems after a road accident. The whiplash symptoms start developing within a few days post-accident and can include:

  • Problem in sleeping
  • Depression
  • Dizzyness or tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Headaches from base of the skull
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms
  • Limited or complete loss of neck movement
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Pain or tenderness anywhere across upper back, arms, or shoulders
  • Memory or concentration Issues

A herniated disc occurs when the soft, jelly-like center of discs starts leaking through a crack on their tough exterior due to a road accident. This liquid starts surrounding and putting pressure on nerves and nerve roots. Symptoms of the herniated disc include:

  • Muscle weakness around the affected nerves
  • Extreme pain radiating from low back or the shoulders to the legs or arms
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs

Vertebral fractures, like any other fracture, can be of any degree across the vertebrae. While mild fractures may heal without any long-term treatment or by merely resting, major fractures can result in serious issues such as burst fractures, flexion fractures, or vertebral compression fractures. The symptoms of a vertebral fracture include:

  • Moderate to severe pain as per the degree of fracture
  • The pain gets worse with movement
  • Tingling, weakness, and numbness in the limbs

Types of Paralysis

A personal injury accident can result in several different types of paralysis. The severity of the paralysis depends on whether the injury is a complete or incomplete spinal cord injury. The severity of the paralysis also relates to how high on the spinal column that the damages occurs. Generally, the higher the spinal column (closer to the head) the more likely that the paralysis will be severe or catastrophic. This is not to say that lower damage on the spinal column (towards the pelvis) is not catastrophic, because it is, but the most severe types of paralysis occur in injuries to the neck.

For instance, the most common types of paralysis include the following:


Damage to the thoracic or lumbar spine (mid-back or lower back) could result in paraplegia. This can affect the torso and lower extremities. If the damage to the spine is incomplete, an individual may maintain some ability to walk, move, or have sensation. This could still be impaired to a great extent and still require some type of ambulatory device. If the damage to the spine is complete, however, a person is likely unable to move the lower extremities or be able to sense anything below the point of damage.


Also known as tetraplegia, quadriplegia can greatly affect a person’s life because it is due to damage to the cervical spine or the neck. An incomplete spinal cord injury could result in diminished function and sensation to all four extremities and nearly the entire torso. Whereas a complete spinal cord injury could result in a person having completely no function and sensation to all four extremities and the torso. This could render a person almost 100% dependent on the care and assistance of another.

Quadriplegia is often classified as high or low. High quadriplegia could leave a person with no sensation anywhere below the chin or mid-neck. Low quadriplegia could allow a person to have some sensation in the upper shoulders or arms, but not much else below that. This can affect damages.


A rarer type of paralysis, monoplegia occurs when only one extremity is damaged. This is often not due to damage directly to the spinal cord, but rather this is due to the major branches leaving the spinal cord and extending out to the extremity. For instance, a right-sided compression fracture in a motor vehicle accident to the cervical spine could damage parts of the brachial plexus nerves that govern sensation and movement in the right arm. As a result, a victim’s right arm may not function properly, or at all, but a victim’s other extremities may work as normal.

Spinal Cord Injury: Signs, Causes, and Prevention

After suffering a spinal cord injury, an individual may or may not be able to control their limbs. Two factors decide whether or not the victim will be able to control their arms, hands, legs, or feet- place, and severity of the injury. In medical terms, the severity of a spinal cord injury is defined through completeness.

  • Complete Spinal Cord Injury: As the name suggests, when all sensory parts stop functioning, or the ability to control movement is lost below the place of the spinal cord injury, it’s known as a complete injury.
  • Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury: On the contrary, when some sensory or movement function is still present, it’s classified as an incomplete injury.
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Any kind of spinal cord injury may result in one or more of the following signs or symptoms.
  • Loss of movement
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control (unable to control urine leakage)
  • Loss or altered sensation such as the ability to feel touch, heat, and coldUnwanted reflex activities or spasms
  • Unwanted reflex activities or spasms
  • Changes in sexual function, sexual sensitivity, and fertility
  • Pain or an intense burning sensation across the spine or limbs due to the damage caused around nerve fibers in your spinal cord
  • Difficulty breathing, coughing, or while cleaning your lungs
There are also some emergency signs in case the injury is big. These emergency symptoms may include:
  • Extreme back pain or extreme pressure in your head, back, or neck
  • Weakness or paralysis in a certain body part
  • Numbness or loss of sensation in your fingers, hands, feet, or toes
  • Difficulty while walking or balancing
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Twisted or oddly positioned neck
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A spinal cord injury can be caused due to several reasons that damage vertebrae, disks, or ligament of the spinal cord or spinal column. Here are some common causes of spinal cord injuries:
  • Motor Vehicle Accidents: It is the leading cause of spinal cord injuries. Statistics even say that half of the new spinal cord cases every year result from a road accident.
  • Act of Violence: Any violent attack on someone such as gunshot or stabbing can cause an SCI.
  • Electricity Accidents: Damage caused to the spinal cord due to an electric shock takes more than usual time to show signs. However, any neck or back pain needs immediate medical help.
  • Water Accidents: Diving into too shallow water and hitting the bottom.
  • Traumatic Accidents: Falling from height or any trauma to the face, head, neck.
  • Head or Back Injuries Due to Sports.
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To prevent the risk of spinal cord injuries, one should follow the following advice:
  • Drive Safely: Follow safety practices like wearing seatbelts or following traffic rules to keep yourself and others safe on the road. Never forget to protect children and adults through seatbelts.
  • Prevent Falls: When reaching objects at height, don’t risk yourself by using chairs. Instead, use proper step stools to climb and prevent falls using nonslip mats.
  • Avoid Drink & Drive: We are mentioning this separately because car accidents are among the biggest SCI factors. In our experience as a spinal cord injury attorney, we have come across several drink-&-drive accident cases.
  • Play Sports with Necessary Precautions: When playing dangerous sports, ensure to wear recommended safety gear.
  • Check Water Depth Anywhere Before Diving: Make sure to check water level when jumping from short cliffs or anywhere other than swimming pools.

Long Term Effects of Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries cause several long-term functional, social, and mental problems. Patients with SCI experience a huge impact in various aspects of their life. They are always at risk for complications such as osteoporosis, numbness & weakness in limbs, kidney stones or bladder infections, and more. Their social life gets restricted, and it can mentally disturb them.

Anatomy of the Spinal Cord

The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves made up of 31 segments running down the bony spinal column. This somewhat flexible cord connects the peripheral nervous system to the brain, functioning as a pathway for the brain’s information or instructions.

The spinal cord is located in the vertebral column, consisting of thoracic, cervical, sacral, lumbar, and coccygeal sections.

The average length of the spinal cord ranges from 45 cm to 43 cm in men and women, and it is always shorter than the bony spinal column surrounding it. This disproportion in length is caused during development since our spinal cord finishes growing by 4, whereas the vertebral column grows until 14 to 18.

Being part of our central nervous system (CNS), the spinal cord originates from our brainstem and is divide into five parts, including:

  1. The Cervical
  2. The Thoracic
  3. The Lumbar
  4. The Sacral
  5. The Coccygeal Regions

The spinal cord controls our voluntary movements and is made up of 33 bones, including 12 vertebrae in the thoracic region, 7 vertebrae in the cervical region, 5 in the sacral region, 5 in the lumbar region, and 4 in the coccygeal.

Spine Injuries from an Accident: Get the Basics

Road accidents are the biggest reason for the elevating number of spinal cord injuries globally. No one wants you to stop driving your cars, but the risk of having a potential lifetime paralysis due to a car accident is worth discussing. Having extensive experience as a spinal cord injury attorney, we know the ins and outs of accident-related SCI cases. Here’s a list of injuries you might sustain from an MVA-related incident, how they can be treated, how much time it can take to recover, what legal issues are involved, and insurance-related information.

Coping With Long-term Spinal Injury Effects

Apart from a huge impact on individuals’ health, long-term injuries care also comes with an immense expense. When someone loses their ability to earn, the family has to spend a significant amount on the patient’s equipment and medication.

Family members need to maintain the patient’s peace of mind by providing him hope and regular medical care. In case the family members witness any other complications in the patient’s health, seek immediate medical help.

Lifetime Costs of Spinal Cord Injuries

The lifetime costs of spinal cord injuries is staggering. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistics Center (NSCISC), the lifetime costs all range well into the seven-figure range for all types of spinal cord injuries. Most of the expenses relate to the need for medical treatment, surgeries, physical therapy or occupational therapy, and mobility assistance devices. This includes modifications to a home or vehicle. But in severe cases of spinal cord injuries, the expenses also include continued therapies for life, more advanced mobility assistance devices, and nursing care. In fact, very serious cases of quadriplegia like high quadriplegia that is a complete spinal cord injury may require near around-the-clock nursing care and attention. This is what significantly increases the lifetime costs of an injury.

Some of the following examples of the costs include the following:

First Year Costs
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  • High quadriplegia (upper neck) – over $1.1 million
  • Low quadriplegia (lower neck) – roughly $830,000
  • Paraplegia (lower extremities and torso) – approximately $375,000
Each Subsequent Year Costs
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  • High quadriplegia (upper neck) – almost $200,000
  • Low quadriplegia (lower neck) – over $120,000
  • Paraplegia (lower extremities and torso) – approximately $45,000
Estimated Lifetime Costs When Injury Occurs at Age 25
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  • High quadriplegia (upper neck) – over $5.1 million
  • Low quadriplegia (lower neck) – over $3.7 million
  • Paraplegia (lower extremities and torso) – over $1.7 million
Estimated Lifetime Costs When Injury Occurs at Age 50
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  • High quadriplegia (upper neck) – over $2.8 million
  • Low quadriplegia (lower neck) – almost $2.3 million
  • Paraplegia (lower extremities and torso) – over $1.2 million

All of these costs are based on 2020 figures, and undoubtedly will go up over the years due to inflation and the rising costs of healthcare. This means that the lifetime costs of a spinal cord injury at 25 years old could in fact double the estimated lifetime costs provided here. This is even more overwhelming which is why it is imperative for victims to recover the compensation they deserve with the health of an experienced Las Vegas spinal cord injury lawyer like ours at Michael Hua Injury Law.

Other Spinal Cord Injuries Information

How Spine Injuries After Road Accidents are Diagnosed & Treated
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First, the doctors review your medical history and also the accident. The next step for diagnosing a spinal cord injury includes an imaging study or other possible tests, like:
  • MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • CT or Computed Tomography Scans
  • X-Ray
  • Measuring how much time nerve signals take to reach the brain
Recovery After a Spine Injury from Accident
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Every accident and every injury is unique. However, the recovery depends on several factors related to the victim. Catering to several victims as a spinal cord injury attorney, we have seen that health, age, and severity of the injury play a significant role in determining the time and things required to recover from a spinal cord injury due to an accident.
Legal Issues That Might Arise
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Unfortunately, the patients pay thousands of dollars as medical bills following a spinal cord injury every year. These medical bills keep piling if the care or equipment required is long-term. But an experienced spinal cord injury attorney can help you get a personal injury claim if you don’t have any fault in the accident. The problems for which you can file a claim include:
  • Employment Benefits Loss
  • Loss of Wages or Ability to Earn
  • Medical Expenses
  • Inconvenience, pain, and suffering
Workers’ Compensation
Another type of insurance that can help you after suffering a spinal cord injury is workers’ compensation. It offers medical benefits and replacement of wages if the accident happens while on duty. Many road accidents from cars or trucks happen when patients are still on the clock performing their duties.
Common Types of Back Pain After Car Crash
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There are five common types of back pain after a car crash including:
  1. Thoracic Spine Injury Pain: The upper back or thoracic spine is linked to the chest and ribs region. Someone with upper back pain after a car crash might have a thoracic spine injury.
  2. Lumbar Spine Injury Pain: According to NHS, the Lumbar spine is the strongest of the vertebrae’s muscles. Any damage to the lumbar spine can be very painful to the entire back. Car accidents leaving a lumbar spine injury may limit your ability to do regular tasks due to back pain.
  3. Slipped or Herniated Discs: As explained earlier, herniated discs can cause back pain after a car crash.
  4. Sciatica: Any damage caused to the sciatic nerve can cause weakness and painful sensation around the bottom end of your back. Car crashes often damage or irritate the sciatic nerve causing pain that worsens day-by-day.
  5. Spinal Cord Injuries: Spinal cord injuries after car accidents can lead to pain in the mid-section of the back and long-term disability.
What is Whiplash?
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Forcefully or rapidly moving the neck back-and-forth causes whiplash or neck injury. A lot of whiplash cases are from rear-end car accidents. As mentioned earlier in the common injuries due to car accidents, whiplash can also result from physical abuses, sports accidents, other traumatic experiences.

While it often leaves a strain, whiplash after a car crash should get a quick and accurate diagnosis. You should immediately contact a doctor in case of pain due to whiplash increases.