Austin Spinal Cord Injuries
Legal Help for Victims of Spinal Cord Injuries
Car accidents are among the most common causes of spinal cord injuries. Statistics released by the CDC show that nearly half (46 percent) of all spinal cord injuries result from car crashes. The impact of a crash can cause a victim’s body to whip around violently, causing the spine to flex beyond its capacity. That alone can cause a spinal cord injury.
In a collision where a victim’s head or back hits a hard object, such as the pavement if the victim is ejected from the vehicle, the spinal cord can be compressed, causing serious damage. A car accident can also sever or penetrate the spinal cord itself, causing life-threatening injuries.
There are approximately 6 million people living with a spinal cord injury throughout the world, according to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Statistics released by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) indicate that about 12,000 new spinal cord injuries occur in the U.S. each year. The NSCISC figures show that the median age for a spinal cord injury is 40, with over 80 percent of the victims being males.
Disc Injuries in Texas Car Accidents
Disc injuries can cause a spinal cord injury if not properly treated. Between each vertebra is a disc that cushions the spinal column as it flexes and bends. The outside of the disc is hard, and the inside is spongy.
If the outer shell is damaged, as often happens in a car accident, the spongy interior can bulge out. These injuries are referred as a bulging, slipped, ruptured or herniated disc. The disc can press on a nerve that connects to the spinal cord, causing extreme pain. Sometimes, a disc can push on the spinal cord itself, potentially causing injury to the spinal cord.
Disc injuries can occur anywhere along the spine, though they are most common in the lower (lumbar) spine.
An injury to the spinal cord itself may result in some form of paralysis. Paralysis is the loss of function and sensation in a part of the body.
The nerves that span out from the spinal cord are responsible for sending signals to the entire body. If the spinal cord or the nerves attached to it are seriously damaged in a car accident, it can result in paralysis to the part of the body connected by the nerves. If the spinal cord is actually severed, a fatal injury may occur.
Nerves that connect to the spinal cord at the top of the spinal column control functions in the upper part of the body, such as the arms and hands. The nerves in the lower spine control the lower regions of the body, including the legs and feet. An injury to the lumbar or lower spine may result in paralysis in only the lower half of the body (paraplegia). An injury to the cervical (neck) spinal cord can result in paralysis to both the upper and lower body (quadriplegia or tetraplegia).
Paralysis injuries are categorized as follows:
- Monoplegia – paralysis of one limb
- Hemiplegia – paralysis of the arm and leg on one side of the body
- Paraplegia – paralysis in both legs and sometimes the pelvic area and some of the lower body
- Tetraplegia – paralysis in both the arms and legs (also known as quadriplegia).
Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury
One of the most dangerous aspects of a spinal cord injury is that it is often not obvious immediately after an accident that one has occurred. Frequently a victim does not recognize the symptoms or may not present any right after an accident, leading to delayed treatment.
Whenever an individual has been involved in a car accident, a thorough medical examination should be conducted to rule out the possibility of spinal cord injury to prevent further damage.
Some of the symptoms that a spinal cord injury victim may experience include:
- Pain in the neck, back, arms or legs
- Loss of sensation (usually in the arms, legs, hands or feet)
- Loss of movement
- Tingling sensation
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Spasms or exaggerated reflexes
- Respiratory problems, coughing and trouble breathing
- Change in sexual function
Treatment of Spinal Cord Injuries
Injuries to the discs found in the spinal column can be treated with varying results. A bulging disc, for instance, may be treated with a combination of medications, at-home traction and injection therapies. This may reduce the bulge, which in turn decreases the pressure on surrounding nerves. If conservative treatment is unsuccessful, surgery may be recommended to replace the disc. Although this should relieve the pressure, damage to the nerves may have already occurred, and a victim may live with nerve pain for life as a result of the injury.
Despite monumental advances in medicine and technology over the last several decades, a cure for paralysis has yet to be discovered. Though much is being done to discover a method for replacing nerves or repairing a damaged nerve, a nerve that has been damaged to the point of causing paralysis cannot be repaired at the present time. The focus of treatment for paralysis is to provide therapy and mobility devices to increase the quality of life for the victim.
The cost of treating a spinal cord injury can be staggering. Treatment for a bulging disc can easily top $50,000 if surgery is needed. If the victim suffers residual pain, the yearly costs involved in treating that pain can be costly as well.
Treatment for a paralysis victim in the first year may cost between $300,000 and $1 million, according to the CDC. Treatment for each subsequent year can run from $40,000 to $170,000 depending on the type of paralysis suffered by the victim. Figures compiled by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation indicate that the lifetime cost of treating a 25-year-old who suffers paralysis will run between $1.5 and $4.5 million. These figures do not factor in the emotional cost that a victim endures, nor the costs associated with lost income.
Contact Our Austin Car Accident Lawyers Today
Texas has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury and wrongful death cases, including those involving spinal cord injuries and paralysis. Depending on the parties involved in the accident, the deadline for taking action may arrive even sooner. That’s why it’s important to contact a skilled and experienced Texas car accident attorney as soon as possible.
If you or a family member has suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident in Austin, Waco or surrounding Texas communities, call The Bob Richardson Law Firm today toll-free at 800-880-5100 or use our online form to learn more about how we can help you. We can provide you with a free case evaluation and answer your questions. We won’t charge you for our services unless we recover for you.