Spinal Cord Injuries
Denver, Colorado Spinal Cord Injury Attorney
Accidents which cause spinal cord damage can result in bulging or herniated discs, pinched nerves, numbness, pain, or even paralysis. There are many causes of spinal cord injuries, including car accidents, semi-truck accidents, drunk driving accident and motorcycle accidents. Construction site accidents, medical malpractice and birth injuries can also result in spinal cord injuries. If you’ve been involved in an accident which leads to a spinal cord injury, it is important to have an experienced spinal cord injury lawyer from the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya by your side.
With our extensive network of specialists and experts, we take a team approach to spinal cord injuries which can often require a lifetime of expensive care. Rehabilitation therapies, surgical procedures, and even assistance with routine, day-to-day living activities may be necessary following a spinal cord injury, and at the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya, we believe we can help you get the help you need.
Spinal Cord Injury Facts
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center there are approximately 54 cases of spinal cord injury per one million people in the United States, or about 17,700 new spinal cord injuries every year. It is estimated there are 288,000 people living in the United States at any given time who suffer from a spinal cord injury. In the 1970’s, the average age at the time of a spinal cord injury was 29, however today, the average age at the time of a spinal cord injury is 43. Additional spinal cord injury facts include:
- Seventy-eight percent of new spinal cord injury cases are males.
- Vehicle collisions are currently the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, followed by falls.
- Acts of violence—primarily gunshot wounds—and sports and recreations accidents are also significant causes of spinal cord injuries.
- The average time spent in the hospital following a spinal cord injury has decreased from 24 days in the 1970’s to about 11 days currently.
- There are about the same number of incomplete and complete paraplegia resulting from spinal cord injuries.
- Over half of those who experience a spinal cord injury are single or have never been married at the time of their injury.
- Almost one-third of spinal cord injury victims are re-hospitalized one or more times during any given year after the injury, with the average length of a hospital stay being about 22 days.
- Not counting lost wages, the estimated costs of a serious spinal cord injury for the first year is between $359,000 and $1,100,000. For each year thereafter, the estimated costs range from $43,700 to $141,936. A 25-year old who experiences a severe spinal cord injury can expect that injury to cost between 1.6 million and 4.8 million over a lifetime.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
The severity of a spinal cord injury is dependent on the area of the spinal cord which is affected. The higher the spinal cord injury, or the closer to the brain, the more likely the injury is to be severe. Those with spinal cord injuries which are lower down on the spine usually leaves the victim with more movement, voluntary control and feeling. Tetraplegia (also known as quadriplegia) can result when the spinal cord in the cervical region is injured and is associated with the loss of muscle movement in the arms and legs. Paraplegia, results when the spinal cord is injured in the lumbar or thoracic areas and is associated with paralysis of the legs and lower body.
A complete spinal cord injury can produce a total loss of all motor and sensory functions below the level of the injury—half of all spinal cord injuries are considered complete. With a complete spinal cord injury, the loss of function is more likely to be related to a contusion or bruise on the spinal cord or compromised blood flow to the spinal cord rather than a severing of the spinal cord. An incomplete spinal cord injury usually leaves the victims with some level of function below the injury level. A person who has an incomplete spinal cord injury may be able to move one arm or leg more than the other.
Spinal concussions can also occur, and can be complete or incomplete, however the dysfunction caused by the spinal cord injury will usually resolve within a couple of days. Spinal cord concussions or spinal cord contusions are often seen among football players and can produce such symptoms as burning in the extremities, tingling or numbness in the extremities, or electric-shock-like sensations in the extremities.
An open or penetrating spinal cord injury—such as those caused by a firearm—can present different challenges. Depending on the location and type of injury, the patient could need to be immobilized in a brace or collar for weeks or months so that the injured spinal cord can heal. Removal of a bullet can bring additional risks, therefore in some instances the bullet may be left where it is.
Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common causes of spinal cord injuries in the United States are:
- Motor vehicle collisions, including motorcycles and large commercial trucks, cause the greatest number of spinal cord injuries.
- Falls cause more than 15 percent of all spinal cord injuries—among those over the age of 65, a fall is the most likely cause of a spinal cord injury.
- Violent acts cause about 12 percent of all spinal cord injuries, particularly gunshot wounds and knife wounds.
- Athletic activities, such as diving and impact sports are responsible for about 10 percent of all spinal cord injuries.
- It is estimated that alcohol is a factor in as many as 25 percent of all spinal cord injuries.
- Cancer, arthritis, inflammation of the spinal cord and osteoporosis are also causes of spinal cord injury.
Although spinal cord injuries are usually the result of an accident, there are specific factors which can increase the risk of a spinal cord injury such as: being over the age of 65 or engaging in risky behaviors. Having a bone or joint disorder can turn a relatively minor injury into a serious spinal cord injury for those with arthritis or osteoporosis.
Effects of Spinal Cord Injuries
Victims of spinal cord injuries will find their physical capabilities change, in most cases, dramatically. Some of the symptoms experienced by those with a spinal cord injury include:
- Numbness or tingling sensations;
- Difficulty with sexual function;
- Difficulty with libido;
- Difficulty with fertility;
- Difficulty controlling bowels or bladder functions;
- Pain at the injury site;
- “Phantom” pain which radiates to places beyond the injury site;
- Gastrointestinal issues;
- Difficulty breathing without assistance;
- Changes in breathing;
- Partial or complete loss of control over parts of the body;
- Abnormal band-like sensations in the thorax;
- The development of sleep apnea;
- Difficulty with balance and walking;
- Other skin issues;
- Higher vulnerability to skin infections;
- Higher likelihood of developing respiratory infections which turn into pneumonia;
- Mental health issues including depression and anxiety.
Types of Medical Treatments for Those with Spinal Cord Injuries
At present, there are no known ways to reverse damage sustained in a spinal cord injury, however researchers continue working on new treatments, particularly those which show promise as far as regeneration of nerve cells. Fast medical attention at the scene of the accident is crucial to minimizing spinal cord trauma. The spine must be quickly, yet gently immobilized using a rigid neck collar and rigid carrying board. Once the victim of a spinal cord injury is at the hospital, physicians will focus on maintaining the person’s ability to breathe and keeping the neck and spine immobilized.
Surgery may be appropriate to remove fluid which is pressing on the spinal cord, to remove bone fragments or foreign objects, or to fuse broken spinal bones. The patient may be placed in traction to align the spine and may be administered Medrol which is a steroid medication which, if administered within 8 hours of the injury, can help many patients improve by reducing damage to the nerve cells and decreasing injury site inflammation.
Rehabilitation for victims of a spinal cord injury can include the following:
- Occupational therapies which improve fine motor skills;
- Adaptive devices used for communication;
- Muscle strengthening physical therapy;
- Use of assistive devices such as leg braces, walkers and wheelchairs;
- Techniques to assist bladder and bowel management;
- Techniques to assist personal grooming;
- Strategies to cope with pain;
- Vocational therapies to help people get back to work with the help of assistive devices;
- Recreational therapies including social activities and sports;
- Strategies to assist spinal cord injury victims to exercise and eat healthy diets, and
- Electrical stimulation to help restore sensory functions, neuromuscular functions and bladder, bowel and respiratory functions.
As you might imagine, these treatments and therapies are expensive, requiring years of surgical procedures, rehabilitative therapies and home care. Because of this, those whose spinal cord injury is the result of negligence on the part of another person or entity should strongly consider filing a lawsuit in order to recover damages which can help pay for their spinal cord injury treatments. A settlement could include medical expenses, lost wages, lost future wages and pain and suffering. If your spinal cord injury accident was caused by criminal behavior—like drunk driving—you could also be entitled to punitive damages.
How an Attorney Can Help with Your Spinal Cord Injury
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury due to the negligence or misconduct of another person, you are fully aware of the emotional and physical devastation spinal cord injuries bring. The compassionate spinal cord injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya understand spinal cord injuries can disrupt lives and shatter families, and we want to help the victims of such injuries. Our team works to help you regain your function and your dignity as well as to find the person at fault and hold them responsible. If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, contact the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya for a free evaluation of your spinal cord injury case. There is no obligation—if we work together, we don’t get paid unless you get paid.