California Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys
A spinal cord injury is a form of catastrophic injury which can have a devastating and life-changing impact on an individual. This form of major trauma can leave a victim with permanent paralysis from the neck down. In the most severe cases, it can even destroy that person’s ability to speak or breathe without help, and some victims will require full-time care for the rest of their lives.
If you or a loved one have suffered such an injury, you may be looking for help, information, and the services of a top-quality California spinal cord injury attorney. You can turn to Bisnar Chase for help. Our expert lawyers make it their mission to ensure clients get the compensation and justice that they deserve.
Read on for all the information you need about spinal injuries, or jump ahead to learn how to take legal action with the best spinal cord injury lawyer for your case.
What is a Spinal Cord Injury?
A spinal cord injury (SCI) refers to a specific form of back damage which can impact a person’s entire body.
The spinal cord is one of the most important elements of the human body. It is essentially a long tube which contains a bundle of nerves. It runs from the base of the skull to a person’s waist, connecting the brain to all other parts of the body through ‘nerve branches’.
This tube (shown in yellow in the image, left) is a key component of the central nervous system, transmitting signals from the brain to all other parts of the body. This is what allows you to move.
The spinal cord is so important that it has its own protection system. It is surrounded by the spinal column – the backbone itself. This solid column of vertebrae bones encases the spinal cord tube, protecting it from harm.
A spinal cord injury refers to this vital tube being damaged. As the cord is responsible for sending signals from the brain to the body, a spinal cord injury can result in temporary or permanent paralysis, depending on its severity.
Damage to the spinal cord cannot be fixed. Contusions and tears to the cord will leave a permanent impact on the body.
How Common are Spinal Cord Injuries?
The number of new SCI cases occuring each year is rising all the time. The most recent research by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center shows that there are about 17,700 new cases in the United States every year.
The figures also show that there are between 247,000-353,000 (estimated to be about 288,000) people living with an SCI in the U.S. already.
While they are treated as fairly rare, an SCI is extremely serious and can have a devastating and permanent effect on a person.
What are the Most Common Spinal Cord Injury Causes?
The five most common SCI causes account for a huge 96.5% of all spinal cord injuries. They are:
According to the latest research, car crashes and other assorted vehicular incidents are responsible for nearly 39% of all spinal cord injuries. This category includes everything from motorcycle accidents to truck crashes, and everything in between. This is the most common cause of spinal injuries.
The second most common cause of spinal injuries is a victim suffering a fall. Anyone can slip or trip, and a fall-related accident can have devastating consequences. This accounts for just over 31% of all SCIs. Falls are also the leading cause of spinal cord injuries for people aged over 45.
Instances of violence provide the third leading cause of spinal cord injuries. This is a wide term which can encompass all kinds of altercations. However, the primary source of such injuries in the United States is gunshot wounds. Acts of violence are responsible for 8.2% of all cases.
Sports injuries make up 4.6% of all SCIs. These usually occur in high-impact contact sports, such as football and hockey. However, they can also be caused by solo sports involving great falling potential, such as horse riding or snowboarding.
Medical or surgical
Rounding out the top five is the medical and surgical incident category. This accounts for just 3.5% of all spinal cord injuries, and can include medical conditions and treatment issues, such as surgical complications.
Anyone can suffer a spinal cord injury. Sometimes an SCI might be the result of a one-off accident through no fault of the victim, such as a high-impact car accident. The chance of a person damaging their spinal cord is greatly increased if they take part in potentially-dangerous sports or activities.
While a devastating injury can hit anyone, the statistics (compiled from 2015-2018) show that certain demographics are at greater risk than others.
- About 78% of all victims in new spinal cord injury cases are men.
- The average age of SCI victims (at the time of the injury) is 43. This is a huge rise over the past few decades. In the 1970s the average was 29-years-old.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
There are four main types of spinal cord injury. They are:
- Cervical spinal cord injury
- Thoracic spinal cord injury
- Lumbar spinal cord injury
- Sacral spinal cord injury
Vertebrae and spinal nerves are grouped into sections. Each of these four injury types relate to damage to a different area of the spine.
The different nerve groupings have labels which allow doctors to pinpoint the exact area of spinal damage. The grouping labels are:
- C1-C8 (Cervical)
- T1-T12 (Thoracic)
- L1-L5 (Lumbar)
- S1-S5 (Sacral)
When it comes to spinal injuries, location is everything. It can dictate the injury victim’s prognosis.
In general, paralysis may occur from the point of the spinal cord damage downward. This means that an injury to the upper regions of the spinal cord have the potential to provide bigger problems.
For instance, a C1 spinal cord injury is the most severe diagnosis possible. In comparison, an injury to the S5 nerve, while still serious, carries the least severe long-term effects.
Read on for the spinal cord injury symptoms associated with each area of the back.
Cervical Spinal Cord Injury
No one wants to hear that they have a cervical SCI. A cervical spinal cord injury occurs at the top of the back and is the most serious type of damage possible. It refers to any injury in the C1-C8 section of spinal nerves.
- Cervical injury could result in paralysis to a person’s hands, arms, legs, and torso.
- May compromise ability to support their own head/neck.
- Victims may be unable to breathe on their own.
- A cervical injury may prevent a person from being able to talk.
- Likely to compromise control over bodily functions, such as bowel and bladder function.
- A person suffering C5-C8 damage might be able to talk and breathe unaided, but their breathing may still be weakened.
- Victims usually have to wear stabilizing devices.
- Loss of sensation and problems with body temperature regulation.
Thoracic Spinal Cord Injury
The thoracic area is the largest portion of the spinal cord, making up the middle section of a person’s back. Injuries to this region are likely to have slightly less severe effects than a cervical injury.
- Thoracic spinal cord injuries are likely to result in paraplegia. Arm and hand mobility are usually unaffected, but a victim will often suffer a loss of function in their legs.
- Victims could also lose control of their chest, back, and abdominal muscles.
- Loss of control over bodily functions.
- Most injury victims will wear a brace to support and stabilize their bodies.
- Thoracic injuries are rarer than some other areas, as the rib cage offers additional protection.
Lumbar Spinal Cord Injury
The lumbar section of the spine covers the lower back area, and any damage to the spinal cord in this area is likely to result in lasting effects on the lower body.
- Likely to result in extreme weakness or complete paralysis in a person’s legs. Will probably have to use a wheelchair.
- Can also affect movement and function of the hips.
- Loss of feeling and lack of control over bodily functions.
- Arms, hands, and upper torso are usually unaffected.
- Loss of control over muscles and organs below the waist.
- Usually requires surgery and supportive braces or equipment.
Sacral Spinal Cord Injury
The sacral region is the very bottom part of the back, right where the spinal cord ends at the waist. Injuries to this area are least likely to result in permanent paralysis, but can still be life-altering.
- Sacral SCIs usually cause a loss of mobility or paralysis in legs and hips.
- Victims may still be able to walk after suffering an injury, depending on the severity.
- Bodily functions such as bladder and bowel control can be impacted. This may be managed with specialist equipment.
- Compromises signals to lower parts of the leg.
Complete vs Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries
Whether a spinal cord injury is complete or incomplete refers to how permanent the effects are.
Spinal cord damage cannot be reversed. However, in the case of an incomplete spinal cord injury, the damage is not total. The brain will still be able to send signals through the spinal nerves, though they may be weaker. This means that some feeling and mobility will still be possible below the level of an incomplete injury.
In contrast, a complete injury will mean that no signals can reach the nerves due to the extent of the spinal cord damage. This results in complete paralysis and loss of sensation below the point of injury.
How Common are the Different Types of Spinal Damage?
The most common diagnosis in new cases of spinal cord injuries is incomplete
The next most common diagnosis is an incomplete form of
Less common are complete forms of tetraplegia and paraplegia, where the victim is left with no function or feeling at all. This is because the level of trauma required to completely sever the connection between the brain and nerves is extreme.
No matter what form of damage has been suffered, the California spinal cord injury attorneys of Bisnar Chase can help.
Costs for Spinal Cord Injury Victims
Everyone knows how expensive medical treatment and rehabilitation costs are. These costs mount even higher for spinal cord injuries, which result in major trauma that requires specialist care.
The average length of hospital stay after a spinal cord injury is currently 11 days. This number was close to 30 days in the 1970s, but is dropping thanks to medical advances.
In addition, about 30% of all SCI victims have to be admitted to hospital again in the year following their injury. The average length of this second hospital stay is 22 days.
Aside from medical care, the costs of living with a spinal cord injury are astronomical. From specialist equipment to surgery and rehabilitation costs, the expenses are huge.
Average Annual Costs by Type of Spinal Cord Inury
|Injury Type||Year 1||Each Following Year|
|Tetraplegia (C1-C4 damage)||$1,102,403||$191,436|
|Tetraplegia (C5-C8 damage)||$796,583||$117,437|
Lifetime Costs Based on the Age at which a Spinal Cord Injury is Sustained
|Tetraplegia (C1-C4 damage)||$4,891,398||$2,688,229|
|Tetraplegia (C5-C8 damage)||$3,573,960||$2,198,305|
These costs look solely at the dollar amount associated with spinal cord injuries. They do not take into account the impact on a person’s quality of life, and how they are affected on a day to day basis. These factors are just as important as money.
Spinal Cord Injury Diagnosis and Treatments
For someone who has suffered a spinal cord injury, the first step will be diagnosing the problem. Tests that could be carried out to identify the source and severity of the spinal damage include:
- CT scan
Most people with an SCI will be checked into intensive care at a hospital. The type of treatment suggested for an injury victim will depend on the kind of damage they have suffered. Unfortunately for anyone sustaining a spinal cord injury, there is no treatment which can completely cure this kind of damage.
There are some spinal cord injury treatment options which can help though. These are:
- Stabilization – Doctors may use equipment such as neck collars and body braces to immobilize the body and prevent further damage.
- Surgery – While surgery cannot fix a damaged spinal cord, it can be used to help with other signs of the traumatic injury, such as fractured vertebrae or herniated discs. This can reduce pain and prevent more problems developing.
- Experimental treatments – Researchers are constantly working to develop new treatment methods. One new method being tested includes inducing hypothermia for a short period to prevent inflammation causing more damage to the body.
What Happens After a Spinal Cord Injury?
After an injured person is stabilized and has undergone any initial treatments available to them, the next step is rehabilitation.
The type of rehabilitation a person undergoes will depend on the type and severity of their injury and prognosis.
Sometimes it might involve specific exercises to work on strengthening muscles, helping to compensate for any lost function elsewhere. In other cases, a patient might work on redeveloping their motor skills, such as hand and finger movements.
Rehabilitation may also include learning how to use technological aids. New technology is constantly in development for people who have suffered major spinal injuries.
Some of the devices available include:
- Hi-tech wheelchairs – The latest electronic wheelchairs can feature stair-climbing capabilities, along with other hi-tech advancements.
- Computer software – Computers can be fitted with an extraordinary range of software, include voice-activated controls for those without the use of their hands, and even software controlled by eye movements for those with extreme levels of paralysis.
- Electronic aids – Functional electrical stimulation systems are in development which allow people with spinal cord injuries to use their weakened muscles more effectively.
Spinal Cord Injury Lawsuits: Who is Liable?
Most spinal cord injuries are catastrophic. They can leave lives in ruins, with victims facing huge costs, potential paralysis and long-term care. These are tough circumstances to face for anyone.
While a lawsuit cannot mend a damaged spinal cord, it can ease the financial burden of such an injury, as well as holding those responsible accountable.
Liability in spinal cord cases will depend on the circumstances of a specific injury. If you have suffered a personal injury to your spinal cord as a result of the actions of another person, you may be able to take legal action.
If the actions of the other party were negligent, careless, reckless, or malicious, they can be sued for compensation.
For instance, if a person suffers a spinal cord injury in a car crash, another driver could be liable if they are found to be at fault.
If someone sustains a spinal injury as a result of a fall, it would depend on the cause and conditions. If the fall is a result of unsafe conditions, there may be a premises liability case, with the owners or operators of the location at fault.
In some cases, an injury may occur due to a faulty product, such as a failed seatbelt or airbag. This may result in product liability, with a manufacturer being found at fault.
The same principle applies to a range of catastrophic and irreversible conditions, such as brain injuries and complex regional pain syndrome.
It is always worth getting legal advice from the experienced attorneys of Bisnar Chase to find out if you have a case. Our California spinal cord injury lawyers are specialists, and can help take your case forward.
Spinal Cord Injury Compensation
If you pursue an SCI lawsuit and someone is found to be liable for your injury, what kind of compensation can you expect? As always in personal injury cases, there is no set answer to this question.
Spinal cord injury compensation will depend on a range of factors. These include:
- Medical expenses for immediate care and additional surgeries
- Costs related to ongoing specialist treatments
- Potential costs for full-time care, depending on the severity of the injury
- Lost earning potential
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional cost
- The cost of equipment and devices, such as wheelchairs
- Home expenses, such as making it wheelchair accessible or adding voice-activated technology
The serious nature and consequences of a spinal cord injury are far-reaching. They impact every aspect of everyday life, from simple tasks that most people take for granted, to jeopardizing relationships and career aspirations.
Due to the colossal costs involved with SCI treatment and care, there is a huge scope in the compensation that can be claimed.
However, it is also important to remember that a spinal cord injury lawsuit is not just about the money. It is also a chance to hold the culprit accountable for the actions that led to the injury, and to see justice done.
Trust Bisnar Chase with Your Case
Spinal injuries can change everything. The spinal cord injury lawyers of Bisnar Chase are dedicated to helping victims who have suffered catastrophic injuries. We know how big an impact this may have had on your day-to-day life, and our law firm wants to help.
Bisnar Chase has established an outstanding 96% success rate over 40 years in business, with more than $500 million won. Our team is made up of fearless trial lawyers who have a great track record of securing the best possible outcome for their clients. We value results, but we also believe in providing a personal touch through a superior attorney-client relationship.
With Bisnar Chase, if we don’t win, you don’t pay. Take advantage of our ‘No Win, No Fee’ guarantee, and make sure you get the compensation and justice that you deserve for a spinal cord injury. Call (800) 561-4887 for a free consultation if you or a loved one have suffered a spinal cord injury in California.
Spinal Cord Injury Resources
- American Trauma Society
- United Spinal Association
- UAB Spinal Cord Injury Information Network
- Help Hope Live
- Office of Disability Employment Policy - United States Department of Labor