A spinal cord injury is one of the most catastrophic injuries you can sustain because it changes your life forever. One minute you’re fine, the next you’re injured and can’t feel or move parts of your body.
You can suffer an SCI in numerous types of accidents, including the following:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Falls and other premises liability accidents
- Acts of violence
- Workplace accidents
- Swimming and boating accidents
- Sports accidents
Spinal Cord Anatomy
To understand how and why SCIs cause the damage they do, you need to understand a little bit about what goes on in your back.
Your spinal cord runs down the middle of your back from the base of your skull to your lower back, just below your rib cage. It’s your “neurological highway” that contains the nerves that carry messages back and forth between your brain and the rest of your body.
Your spinal column consists of 33 bones called vertebrae that surround your spinal cord and protect it. Medical experts divide these bones into the following five sections:
- Cervical: Seven vertebrae in your neck
- Thoracic: 12 vertebrae in your upper back
- Lumbar: Five vertebrae in your lower back
- Sacral: Five vertebrae fused together in your pelvic area
- Coccyx: Four vertebrae fused together in your tailbone area
Sensory and Movement Levels
Each section of your spinal cord and column allows you to move and feel sensation in specific parts of your body as follows:
- The cervical section controls your ability to move and feel your head, arms, wrists and hands.
- The thoracic section controls your ability to move and feel your torso.
- The lumbar section controls your ability to move and feel your hips, buttocks, urinary and anal regions, and the front parts of your legs.
- The sacral section controls your ability to move and feel the back parts of your legs and your ankles, feet, heels and toes.
When you suffer an SCI, it breaks the connection between your brain and the parts of your body below your injury site, causing paralysis and lack of sensation to these body parts.
Complete Versus Incomplete SCIs
Your SCI can be complete or incomplete. A complete SCI, which thankfully doesn’t happen very often, means that your spinal cord has been cut all the way through. You cannot recover from a complete SCI, and will never again be able to feel or move the parts of your body below your level of injury.
An incomplete SCI, on the other hand, offers you hope of some recovery of function and feeling because your spinal cord is not completely severed, but bruised or otherwise damaged. The extent to which you can recover, however, depends on a myriad of things, including the amount of the damage, your physical therapy regimen, your overall health, etc.
Paraplegia and Quadriplegia
Paraplegia is the term applied to an SCI located in your lumbar or lower thoracic area. As a paraplegic, you likely will be paralyzed from your waist down and unable to feel or voluntarily move your legs and feet. Consequently, you will be unable to walk and need to use a wheelchair to transport you from place to place. You may also lose some or all control of your bladder and bowel functions.
Quadriplegia, also called tetraplegia, is the term applied to an SCI located in your cervical or upper thoracic area. As a quadriplegic, you likely will be paralyzed from your shoulders down and unable to feel or voluntarily move virtually your entire body. You consequently will not be able to care for yourself and will need constant care from others to perform such daily functions as the following:
- Getting in and out of bed
- Brushing your teeth
- Combing your hair
- Shaving your face if you’re a man
- Getting dressed
- Removing the wastes from your body
You may even need mechanical ventilation to keep you breathing.
The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center estimates that somewhere between 250,000 and 368,000 people in the U.S. live with a spinal cord injury, with upwards of 18,000 new cases reported each year.
Once you sustain an SCI, you can expect to remain hospitalized for at least 31 days, followed by spending a minimum of 31 days in a rehabilitation facility. Unfortunately, however, the story doesn’t end there.
About 30% of SCI victims must be re-hospitalized, some more than once, in any given year following their injury. These hospital stays average around 18 days and are necessitated by such things as the following:
- Urinary tract infections and other genitourinary conditions
- Decubitus ulcers and other skin conditions
- Respiratory problems
- Digestive problems
- Circulatory problems
- Musculoskeletal degeneration
Your life expectancy decreases after you receive a spinal cord injury. Assuming you survive for 24 hours afterward, you can expect to live for the following number of years based upon the age at which you sustained your SCI:
- Age 20: 44.7 years as a paraplegic or 39.5 years as a quadriplegic, as compared to 59.4 years without an SCI
- Age 40: 29.6 years as a paraplegic or 24.7 years as a quadriplegic, as compared to 40.7 years without an SCI
- Age 60: 16.0 years as a paraplegic or 13.0 years as a quadriplegic, as compared to 23.3 years without an SCI
SCI Lifetime Costs
You face enormous financial and other costs after you receive a spinal cord injury. Data from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center reveal the following lifetime costs:
- $2,494,338 as a paraplegic beginning at age 25
- $3,727,066 as a quadriplegic beginning at age 25
- $1,636,959 as a paraplegic beginning at age 50
- $2,292,479 as a quadriplegic beginning at age 50
The above figures represent your actual costs in 2019 dollars and do not include your indirect costs, such as lost wages, productivity and fringe benefits, estimated to average $77,701 annually in 2019 dollars, regardless of your age at the onset of your disability.
Covering Your Costs
With catastrophic costs like these staring you in the face after suffering a debilitating spinal cord injury in Utah, you need an experienced, knowledgeable and compassionate Utah spinal cord injury lawyer to help you receive the compensation you deserve to cover these costs. That’s exactly what we do here at Siegfried and Jensen.
Our team of dedicated personal injury lawyers is known for our relentless pursuit of our injured clients’ claims, both at the negotiation table and in the courtroom. We see it as our duty and our privilege to obtain the maximum compensation the law allows for each client, many of whom, like you, suffered a spinal cord injury and resulting paralysis. Since our founding in 1990, this has resulted in a 97% success rate for the 15,000 cases we’ve handled, for a total of $1.2 billion recovered.
While we recognize that a lawsuit isn’t always possible, if someone’s negligence or wrongdoing caused your SCI, by all means, contact us right away at one of our four convenient Utah locations to find out how we can potentially help you to recover not only your actual economic damages, including present and future medical expenses and loss of income, but also your noneconomic damages, such as for your physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering.
You Need An Attorney Who’ll Fight For Fairness
Our accident and injury attorneys understand how to fight insurance companies and can help you protect your rights and get the settlement you deserve.
All too often, insurance companies refuse to take long-term medical needs seriously and don’t treat victims and their families fairly.
If you’ve suffered a spinal cord injury as the result of someone else’s negligence and you’re not being treated fairly, you need an experienced injury attorney to sort out your case and protect your rights. When you work with us, you can expect professional assistance:
- We’ll answer your questions and address your concerns throughout the entire process.
- We’ll pull together the information needed to build your case, including medical records, accident reports, insurance policies, expert testimony, etc.
- We’ll make sure that everybody plays by the rules and treats you fairly.
- We’ll help you get what you need to move forward with your life.