PA Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys
It is estimated that there are over 17,000 new spinal cord injuries each year in the United States, with many experiencing severe chronic pain, paralysis and death. The cause of a spinal cord injury is generally a trauma, a sudden blow or impact to the spine, that fractures or dislocates the vertebrae. Automobile accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, accounting for 38% of all cases since 2010. This is followed next by falls, violence (such as gunshot wounds), sporting accidents, and medical/surgical injuries. In many cases, the injury is the fault of another, whether the driver of a car or truck, a defective product, or a neglected/hazardous property.
Our spinal cord injury lawyers are based in Philadelphia, PA and ready to evaluate your medical file to determine whether a lawsuit is the right option for you and your family.
To understand what can happen as the result of a spinal cord injury, it is important to understand the anatomy of the spinal cord and its normal functions. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerve fibers within the spine that connects the brain to nearly all parts of the body. Collectively, the nerves and tissue make up the central nervous system.
Your spine has many functions. It carries the weight of your head, torso and arms, and allows your body to move in any direction. Some sections of the spine are more flexible than others. The neck is the most flexible part. The spine also surrounds and protects the spinal cord.
The cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) sections of the spine curve inward, and the thoracic (upper back) and sacrum (lower spine) sections curve outward. These curves make the spine stable by helping you keep your balance when you are in an upright position, acting as shock absorbers when you walk and protecting the individual bones in the spine from fractures. The spinal column is not all bone. Between the vertebra are discs of semi-rigid cartilage and foramen that act as passages in which the spinal nerves travel to and from the rest of the body. These are places where the spinal cord is particularly vulnerable to direct injury.
What happens when the spinal cord is injured?
A spinal cord injury is damage to the spinal cord that often results in a loss of function, mobility, or even paralysis. Damage to the vertebra (the bones protecting the spinal cord) can occur without there being a spinal cord injury. The outcome of any injury to the spinal cord depends upon the level at which the injury occurs in the neck or back, and the amount of axons (nerve fiber that protects a nerve cell) and cells that survive in the injured region. The more axons and cells that survive in the injured region, the greater the amount of function recovery.
A sudden blow to the spine can fracture or dislocate a vertebrae in a manner that can displace bone fragments, disc material, or ligaments, and bruise or tear spinal cord tissue.
Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury
An incomplete spinal injury means that the ability of the spinal cord to convey messages to or from the brain is not completely lost. Victims with incomplete spinal cord injuries may be able to move one limb, or part of the body, more than the other, or they may have more feeling on one side of their body. They retain some sensory function and may have voluntary motor activity below the injury site. Studies have shown that people with incomplete injuries have a greater chance of recovering some function in the affected limbs than those with a complete injury.
Complete Spinal Cord Injury
A complete spinal cord injury prevents nerve communications from the brain and spinal cord to parts of the body below the injury site. There is a total loss of sensory and motor function below the point of injury (with both sides of the body usually affected). This can result in quadriplegia (paralysis of all four limbs) or paraplegia (paralysis of the lower half of the body).
What other symptoms are there in spinal cord injuries?
People who survive a spinal cord injury often have medical complications resulting in bladder, bowel, and sexual dysfunction. They may also develop chronic pain, autonomic dysfunction, and spasticity (increased tone in and contractions of muscles of the arms and legs). Higher levels of injury (in the upper back and neck) may have an increased susceptibility to respiratory and heart problems. Here are a few common symptoms seen in spinal cord injuries:
- Autonomic dysreflexia
- Bladder and bowel problems
- Circulatory problems
- Neurogenic pain
- Pressure sores/ulcers
- Sexual function
- Spasticity and muscle tone
Scientists continue to investigate new ways to better understand and treat spinal cord injuries. There is currently no way to reverse spinal cord damage, and for this reason, immediate medical attention is important following any head or neck trauma. Current research is focused on advancing our understanding of four key principles of spinal cord repair:
- Neuroprotection – protecting surviving nerve cells from further damage
- Regeneration – stimulating the regrowth of axons and targeting their connections appropriately
- Cell replacement – replacing damaged nerve cells
- Retraining central nervous system circuits to restore body functions
The average lifetime cost of treating a spinal cord injury is more than $1 million in health care costs and living expenses. The first year of treatment alone can range from $300,000 to $1 million depending on the severity of the injury. Each subsequent year of treatment ranges in cost from $40,000 to $200,000. These figures do not include indirect costs, such as lost wages, that average approximately $70,000 per year.
If you or a loved one are suffering from a spinal injury because of someone else’s negligence, contact our team at McEldrew Purtell today by filling out our form or by calling (215) 545-8800 because you may be eligible for compensation. We are hard-working lawyers for hard-working people.