Spinal Cord Injuries Following a Car Accident
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Spinal cord injuries are among the most serious injuries sustained in a motorcycle or car accident. These catastrophic injuries can lead to paralysis and permanent disability, but they can also be the hardest personal injury cases to settle because the current and future medical expenses alone can top $1 million without considering pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life.
There are about 10,000 new spinal cord injuries in the United States every year, but the most common cause is a traffic accident. Nearly 40% of all new spinal cord injuries are due to auto accidents followed by violence (20%), falls (19%), and recreational activities (12%).
Understanding Spinal Cord Fracture Injuries
Most spinal injuries involve a blow to the spinal cord that dislocates or fractures the vertebrae. These injuries are categorized by the type of fracture, location of the fracture, and severity of the fracture.
The most common locations for a spinal cord fracture include:
— Anterior column, or the front part of the vertebra facing the body that supports the intervertebral discs.
— Middle column, or the back part of the vertebra that supports the discs and improves spinal stability. These fractures often cause nerve damage and instability.
— Posterior column, which is the back side of the vertebra closest to the skin.
Cervical (or neck) injuries are most likely to cause partial or full quadriplegia, but the severity and location of the injury has a major impact on how much function the victim can retain:
— C1, C2, and C3 injuries can lead to complete loss of sensory and motor function of the arms and may result in an inability to breathe on your own
— C4 injuries can lead to significant loss of use of the shoulders and upper arms.
— C5 injuries can potentially lead to loss of use of the shoulders and upper arms with complete loss of function of the hands and wrists.
— C6 injuries can cause some loss of wrist control but total loss of function of the hands.
— C7 and T1 injuries can result in loss of dexterity of the fingers and hands but some use of the arms.
Injuries that are at or below the thoracic level can result in paraplegia, but function of the neck, arms, hands, and breathing are usually not damaged.
Injuries to the lumbosacral part of the spinal cord can lead to reduced function of the hips and legs as well as reduced bladder control and sexual function.
Types of Spinal Fractures
In addition to classifying spinal cord injuries by the location of the injury, there are several types of fractures.
- Burst fractures are severe compressions that cause the vertebral body to become crushed in several areas. This can cause bone fragments to go into the spinal cord or through nerve roots and cause paralysis or neurological damage.
- Flexion distraction fractures caused by a sudden, severe forward motion that places too much stress on the spine.
- Compression fractures are caused by collapsing or compressing the vertebral body. Minor compression fractures heal on their own, but serious fractures can lead to spinal instability and require surgery to prevent paralysis.
- Fracture dislocation which causes significant movement of the spine. This can happen when there are fractures in all three vertebral columns. These fractures have a high risk of severe neurological damage.
If you have suffered a spinal cord injury in an auto accident and you believe the other driver was at least partially at fault, it’s important to seek legal counsel from an experienced personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles. Victims of catastrophic injuries have the right to compensation for medical expenses, rehabilitation, nursing care, a handicap-accessible vehicle, home modification expenses, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, and more. An experienced injury lawyer can serve as your advocate to hold the responsible party accountable and seek fair compensation for your damages. Contact the Law Office of Tawni Takagi today for a free consultation with a Los Angeles spinal cord injury lawyer to discuss your case.