The spinal cord is a critical part of the body because it is a biological “information superhighway” through which messages pass to and from the body and the brain. Spinal cord injuries, or SCIs, can be quite serious and in many cases the damage is irreversible. Spinal cord injuries are commonly caused by car accidents (over 40 percent) and other traumatic physical injuries.
Types of SCIs
Spinal cord injuries can be classified into two categories: complete and incomplete. In response to a spinal cord injury, the body experiences motor and sensory dysfunction below the injured area of the spine – in other words, weakness or paralysis and numbness. If you retain at least some sensory and/or motor function in the affected area, the spinal cord injury is classified as incomplete. If no sensory or motor function remains, the injury is classified as complete.
In paraplegia, your torso, legs and pelvic organs are all paralyzed. In tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia, your arms and hands are also paralyzed. In many cases, the damage done is permanent – you may never regain sensory or motor function in the affected areas. Recent medical research in this area is promising, however.
If you suffer the following symptoms immediately following an accident, you may have suffered a spinal cord injury:
- Impaired breathing
- Weakness, clumsiness or paralysis anywhere on your body
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Numbness or tingling in your extremities – your hands, fingers, feet or toes
- Problems walking or keeping your balance
- Extreme back pain
- A sensation of pressure in your neck, head or back.
Any of the following long-term symptoms may indicate that you have suffered a spinal cord injury:
- Loss of the ability to move a body part
- Loss of the ability to feel heat cold or touch in some area of your body
- Loss of bladder control
- Loss of bowel control
- Pain, especially a stinging sensation
- Breathing difficulties or difficulty clearing your throat or coughing.
None of these symptoms necessarily means you have a spinal cord injury; however, any of them should prompt you to seek immediate medical attention.
Basis for a Legal Claim
Your claim might be based on:
- Negligence – if you were involved in a road accident with a negligent driver, for example
- Intentional misconduct – if you were assaulted in a mugging, for example
- Product liability – if you were involved in a road accident caused by a defective auto part, for example.
While other potential bases of liability exist, the foregoing are the most common.
Because of their severity, spinal cord injuries return some of the highest verdicts and settlements of any type of personal injury claim. More than 15 percent of spinal cord injury lawsuits return awards of $1 million or more, and multimillion dollar awards are not at all uncommon. Unless your injuries are particularly severe, however, you could end up with a lot less than a million dollars. A lot of that depends upon the skill of your lawyer.