Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries are not common. About 17,000 people suffer non-fatal spinal cord injuries every year in the United States. These injuries result from spine trauma that can be caused by car accidents, assaults, and sports injuries. Young men make up the demographic most likely to suffer a spinal cord injury.

Spinal cord injuries are devastating. These injuries happen when at least some of the nerves in your spinal cord get severed. This nerve damage, in turn, produces paralysis and loss of sensation below the level of your injury. As a result, you may need treatment, therapy, and assistance for the rest of your life.

How Does Your Nervous System Work?

How Does Your Nervous System Work?

Your nervous system includes two parts: the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. 

The central nervous system (CNS) includes the control and communication center of your body. 

The brain and spinal cord of the CNS:

  • Generate control signals
  • Receive sensory signals
  • Carry all signals between the brain and body

The peripheral nervous system connects to the CNS. It carries communications between the nerve endings in your skin to your spinal cord. It also connects the CNS to your muscles and organs.

The Spinal Cord

Your spinal cord is a bundle of nerves connected to your brain. It has 31 pairs of nerves where your spine connects to the base of your skull. At each vertebra, a pair of nerves branches away from the spinal cord.

You have seven cervical vertebrae in your neck. With a pair of nerves exiting below each vertebra and above the top vertebra, you have eight pairs of cervical spinal nerves.

You also have 12 thoracic vertebrae in your upper back connected to your ribs. These 12 pairs of thoracic spinal nerves exit below each of these thoracic vertebrae. 

In your lower back, you have five lumbar vertebrae. Five pairs of lumbar spinal nerves exit the spine below these bones.

At the bottom of your spine, six pairs of nerves remain. They exit the spine through your sacrum and coccyx, also called your tailbone.

Each of these nerve pairs controls a region of your body, with one nerve controlling each side. Thus, a nerve pair that exits your spinal cord in your neck has one nerve that controls your right arm and another nerve that controls your left arm.

The spinal cord runs through the spinal canal. This passageway is formed by gaps in the vertebrae that align to form a protected tunnel. The spinal canal is also protected by three layers of tough membranes called meninges and a reservoir of cerebral spinal fluid.

These layers of protection protect your spinal cord from the ordinary stresses it experiences. But the powerful forces in an accident can overcome these protective layers and cut the nerves of the spinal cord.

How Do Spinal Cord Injuries Happen?

Spinal cord injuries typically happen in three ways:

Penetrating Injury

A foreign object can pierce your spine and cut your spinal cord. This can happen during an assault involving a knife or gun. Even when a bullet misses the spine, it can hit a rib and send fragments of bone and metal into the spinal cord.

Penetrating injuries can also happen in workplace accidents. If you get hit in the back by a saw blade or workpiece propelled from a machine, it can cut into your spinal cord.

Blunt Force Injury

A blunt force injury can dislocate a vertebra, causing it to crush and tear the nerves of the spinal cord. For example, an elevated fall or a slip and fall accident can damage your spinal cord when you fall backward.

Fractured Vertebra

When you break your back, bone fragments can slice into the spinal cord. Each vertebra has a body and several processes. The body has a cylindrical shape that stacks on top of other vertebrae to support your weight. When it fractures, it can send fragments into your spinal canal.

The processes attach to ligaments holding the vertebrae together. They also attach to tendons for the back muscles. When a process fractures, the body is no longer held securely and can slip out of place. The pressure of the dislocated vertebra can rip the nerves of the spinal cord apart.

Types and Levels of Spinal Cord Injuries

The damage to your spinal cord can be incomplete or complete. When several nerves in the spinal cord get damaged, you have an incomplete injury. Incomplete injuries produce partial paralysis. You may also experience weakness, muscle spasms, and numbness in the areas that are not paralyzed.

When you sever all the nerves of the spinal cord, you suffer a complete injury. You will have total paralysis and complete loss of sensation. But the extent of the symptoms will depend on the location of your injury.

You will lose nerve function in the regions served by the damaged nerves. If your injury occurs in your cervical spine where very few nerves have branched out from the spinal cord, you will lose feeling and movement in all four limbs and your chest. An injury in your back will not affect your arms but will affect your lower limbs, abdomen, and hips.

What Compensation Can You Pursue for a Spinal Cord Injury?

When you suffer a catastrophic injury like paralysis, you could have significant financial needs. Your quality of life will suffer as well. You may be unable to work, participate in the activities you enjoy, or even care for yourself.

You can pursue accident compensation for spinal cord injuries caused by someone else’s negligence. Your compensation can cover your economic losses, such as past and future medical expenses and lost income. It can also cover your non-economic losses like pain, suffering, and disability.

A spinal cord injury can require medical treatment and physical therapy for the rest of your life. Contact the lawyers at Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys for a free consultation to discuss the compensation you can pursue for your spinal cord injury. Give us a call at (727) 933-0015 today.