SPINAL CORD ACCIDENT INJURIES SEVERITY LEVELS & CAUSES

Tryk Law - Fresno Accident Injury Attorneys that handle Spinal Cord Injury Cases
The body is a complex thing and this page aims to aid our current and potential clients with the information necessary to educate themselves about the injuries already diagnosed by treating physicians - Important Note - Our medical information by no means offers you medical advice. We are lawyers not doctors. We love the study of medicine as it is fascinating. We must understand the medical side of your your injuries to effectively represent you in your California Personal Injury Case. As always, your medical professional in this regard and they are always your first and best source for medical information.
Spinal Cord Accident Injury Lawyers - Tryk Law - Fresno California
Over the years, we have handled several cases in Fresno, the Central Valley and throughout the State of California involving injury to the Spinal Cord. Our firm consists of an extremely well educated medical-legal staff we are familiar with the anatomy of the spine and the varying mechanisms of injury required to sustain a mild to severe spinal cord injury.

Our firm does not employ persons that do not have a passion for studying the medicine involved in personal injury cases in addition to the law involved in assessing blame. We take great pride in the ongoing study of spinal cord injuries including the cutting edge therapy, treatment and developments in medicine relating to spinal cord injuries.
 
Anatomy of the Spine
The spine consists of 33 vertebrae, including the following:
  • 7 Cervical (neck)
  • 12 Thoracic (upper back)
  • 5 Lumbar (lower back)
  • 5 Sacral* (sacrum--located within the pelvis)
  • 4 Coccygeal* (coccyx--located within the pelvis)
  • By adulthood, the five sacral vertebrae fuse to form one bone, and the four coccygeal vertebrae fuse to form one bone.
 
Below covers the following topics and more:
  • Anatomy of the Spinal Cord
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Injury Classifications
  • Treatment of SCI
 
These vertebrae function to stabilize the spine and protect the spinal cord. In general, the higher in the spinal column the injury occurs, the more dysfunction a person will have.

Injury to the vertebrae does not always mean the spinal cord has been damaged. Likewise, damage to the spinal cord itself can occur without fractures or dislocations of the vertebrae.
What is an Acute Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)?
The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that carries messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Acute spinal cord injury (SCI) is due to a traumatic injury that can either result in a bruise (also called a contusion), a partial tear, or a complete tear (called a transection) in the spinal cord. SCI is more common in men and young adults.

There are about 12,000 new cases of SCI each year. The number of people in the U.S. in 2008 living with a spinal cord injury was approximately 259,000.

SCI results in a decreased or absence of movement, sensation, and body organ function below the level of the injury. The most common sites of injury are the cervical and thoracic areas. SCI is a common cause of permanent disability and death in children and adults.
What are the Types of SCI?
SCI can be divided into Two Classifications of Injury Type:

  1. Complete Injury - Complete injury means that there is no function below the level of the injury - either sensation and movement - and both sides of the body are equally affected. Complete injuries can occur at any level of the spinal cord.
  2. Incomplete Injury - Incomplete injury means that there is some function below the level of the injury - movement in one limb more than the other, feeling in parts of the body, or more function on one side of the body than the other. Incomplete injuries can occur at any level of the spinal cord.
What can cause an Acute Spinal Cord Injury?
There are many potential causes of SCI. The more common injuries occur when the area of the spine or neck is bent or compressed, as in the following:

  • Falls from Height;
  • Motor Vehicle Accidents - Including Truck Accidents, Motorcycle Accidents. These can be either when a person is riding as a passenger in the car or is struck as a pedestrians.
  • Sports Injuries - Football, skiing, rugby, gymnastics, swimming and diving, track and field (e.g., pole vaulting) and cheerleading.
  • Diving Accidents
  • Trampoline Accidents
  • Violence - This involves penetrating injuries that pierce the cord, such as gunshots and stab wounds.
An excellent article entitled, "Spinal Cord Injury Facts and Figures at a Glance", authored by The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center in Birmingham, Alabama on spinal cord injuries can found clicking here.
What are the Symptoms of an Acute Spinal Cord Injury?
Symptoms vary depending on the severity and location of the SCI. At first, the patient may experience spinal shock, which causes loss of feeling, muscle movement, and reflexes below the level of injury. Spinal shock usually lasts from several hours to several weeks. As the period of shock subsides, other symptoms appear, depending on the location of the injury.

Generally, the higher up the level of the injury to the spinal cord, the more severe the symptoms. For example, an injury at C2 or C3 (the second and third vertebrae in the spinal column), affects the respiratory muscles and the ability to breathe. A lower injury, in the lumbar vertebrae, may affect nerve and muscle control to the bladder, bowel, and legs.

SCI is classified according to the person's type of loss of motor and sensory function.
Main Types of SCI Classifications:
Quadriplegia (Quad Means Four) - This involves loss of movement and sensation in all four limbs (arms and legs). It usually occurs as a result of injury at T1 or above. Quadriplegia also affects the chest muscles and injuries at C4 or above require a mechanical breathing machine (ventilator).

Paraplegia (Para Means Two Like Parts)
- This involves loss of movement and sensation in the lower half of the body (right and left legs). It usually occurs as a result of injuries at T1 or below.

Triplegia (Tri Means Three)
- This involves the loss of movement and sensation in one arm and both legs and usually results from incomplete SCI.

Most common symptoms of acute spinal cord injuries. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include any of the following:
 
  • Muscle Weakness or Paralysis in the Trunk, Arms or Legs
  • Loss of Feeling in the Trunk, Arms, or Legs
  • Muscle Spasticity
  • Breathing Problems
 
  • Problems with Heart Rate & Blood Pressure
  • Digestive Problems
  • Loss of Bowel & Bladder Function
  • Sexual Dysfunction
 
The symptoms of SCI may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
Rehabilitation Potential with Varying Degrees of SCI
The following chart is a comparison of the specific level of SCI and the resulting rehabilitation potential. This chart is a guide, with general information only; impairments and rehabilitation potential can vary depending on the type and severity of SCI. Always consult your doctor for more specific information based on your individual medical condition and injury.
 
Level of Injury
  1. C2 - C3
  2. C4
  3. C-5
  4. C6
  5. C7
  6. C8
  7. T1 - T6
  8. T6 - T12
  9. L1 - L5
 
Possible Impairment
  1. Usually fatal as a result of inability to breathe.
  2. Quadriplegia and breathing difficulty.
  3. Quadrplegia with some shoulder and elbow function.
  4. Quadriplegia with shoulder, elbow, and some wrist function.
  5. Quadriplegia with shoulder, elbow, wrist, and some hand function.
  6. Quadriplegia with normal arm function; hand weakness.
  7. Paraplegia with loss of function below mid-chest; full control of arms.
  8. Paraplegia with loss of function below the waist; good control of torso.
  9. Paraplegia with varying degrees of muscle involvement in the legs.
 
Rehabilitation Potential
  1. Totally dependent for all care.
  2. Dependent for all cares; usually needs a ventilator.
  3. May be able to feed self using assistive devices; usually can breathe without a ventilator, but may need other types of respiratory support.
  4. May be able to propel a wheelchair inside on smooth surfaces; may be able to help feed, groom, and dress self; dependent on others for transfers.
  5. May be able to propel a wheelchair outside, transfer self, and drive a car with special adaptions; may be able to help with bowel and bladder programs.
  6. May be able to propel a wheelchair outside, transfer self, and drive a car with special adaptions; may be able to help with bowel and bladder programs.
  7. Independent with self-care and in wheelchair; able to be employed full time.
  8. Good sitting balance; greater ability for operation of a wheelchair and athletic activities.
  9. May be able to walk short distances with braces and assistive devices.
 
Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation
  • Level and severity of the SCI
  • Type and degree of resulting impairments and disabilities
  • Overall health of the patient
  • Family support
  • It is important to focus on maximizing the patient's capabilities at home and in the community.
  • Positive reinforcement helps recovery by improving self-esteem and promoting independence.
The goal of SCI rehabilitation is to help the patient return to the highest level of function and independence possible, while improving the overall quality of life--physically, emotionally, and socially.
Areas Covered in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Programs may include:
 
Example
  1. Feeding, grooming, bathing, dressing, toileting, and sexual functioning;
  2. Support of heart and lung function, nutritional needs, and skin care;
  3. Walking, transfers, and self-propelling a wheelchair;
  4. Ventilator care, if needed; breathing treatments and exercises to promote lung function;
  5. Speech, writing, and alternative methods of communication;
  6. Interacting with others at home and within the community;
  7. Work-related skills;
  8. Medications and alternative methods of managing pain and spasticity;
  9. Identifying problems and solutions for thinking, behavioral, and emotional issues;
  10. Assistance with adapting to lifestyle changes, financial concerns, and discharge planning;
  11. Patient and family education and training about SCI, home care needs, and adaptive techniques
 
Patient Need
  1. Self-Care Skills, including Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

  2. Physical Care

  3. Mobility Skills
  4. Respiratory Care

  5. Communication Skills

  6. Socialization Skills

  7. Vocational Training
  8. Pain and Muscle Spasticity (increased muscle tone) Management
  9. Psychological Counseling

  10. Family Support

  11. Education
 
Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Teams - What are they?
A spinal cord injury rehabilitation team usually revolves around the patient and family and helps set short-and long-term treatment goals for recovery. Many skilled professionals are part of a spinal cord injury rehabilitation team, including any or all of the following:
 
  • Neurologist/Neurosurgeon
  • Orthopedist/Orthopedic Surgeon
  • Physiatrist
  • Internist
  • Other Specialty Doctors
  • Rehabilitation Specialists
 
  • Social Worker
  • Physical Therapist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Speech/Language Pathologist
  • Psychologist/Psychiatrist
  • Recreation Therapist
 
  • Registered Dietitian
  • Vocational Counselor
  • Case Manager
  • Respiratory Therapist
  • Chaplain
 
Types of Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Programs
 
  • Acute Rehabilitation Programs
  • Sub-Acute Rehabilitation Programs
  • Long-Term Rehabilitation Programs
 
  • Transitional Living Programs
  • Day-Treatment Programs
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Programs
 
What Is a Spinal Cord Injury Worth By Settlement or Trial?
Spinal Cord Injuries vary wildly in severity and jury verdicts vary accordingly. One study indicates that 16% of the verdicts in spinal cord injury lawsuits exceed $1 million and 7% exceed $2.5 million. But there are also a lot of spinal cord injury accident cases in between. The median jury verdict in a coccyx or sacrum fracture case is only $68,000. In cases with multiple vertebrae fractures, the median verdict is $207,129. The reality is that these figures, while interesting for us to discuss in our office during our daily meetings, tell us little about individual spinal injury cases and the value.
Paraplegia Settlements and Verdicts
Paraplegia is an impairment in motor or sensory function of the lower extremities. It is usually caused by spinal cord injury or a congenital condition such as Spina Bifida that affects the neural elements of the spinal canal. The area of the spinal canal that is affected in Paraplegia is either the Thoracic, Lumbar, or Sacral Regions. If all four limbs are affected by Paralysis, Quadriplegia is the proper terminology. If only one limb is affected, the correct term is Monoplegia.

Paraplegia cases are among the very worst types of cases our attorneys handle, aside from wrongful death cases. These are the type of cases you don't forget. We are often wowed, for lack of a better term, by the strength our paraplegic clients demonstrate as they weather this storm. Frankly, seeing and meeting a person who has become paraplegic as a result of an incident, such as a car accident, premises liability incident, motorcycle accident or trucking accident, it puts things so far in perspective and reminds us that the job we do is not only important but critical.

For accident victims who suffer from paraplegia, this almost invariably life altering condition always comes out of left field, leaving them unprepared for a life that may alter their ability to work and care for their families. Our law firm provides compassionate, experienced representation for the victims of paraplegia.
Jury Verdicts & Settlements Ranges in Paraplegia Cases
Nationally, the average verdict in a paraplegia case is $13,854,040. The average verdict for spastic or incomplete paraplegia is 5,325,000. Of course, the key from the victim's standpoint is not necessarily how much the verdict is but how much can be collected from the defendant or the defendant's insurance company. The settlement value of a paraplegia case is going to depend in no small measure on the amount of available insurance and the assets of the defendant or defendant entities. Our law firm has the necessary experience to handle catastrophic injury cases and the insurance issues that come with them.

On several occasions, we have been extremely successful in locating additional insurance coverage by utilizing counsel specializing in insurance coverage issues in addition to exploring alternative creative causes of action, such as looking at various product manufacturers and other product issues.
If you have been a victim of a spinal cord injury or have a family member that has been injured resulting from the negligence of another person or company, do not hesitate to contact Tryk Law - Accident Injury Attorneys of Fresno. We can be reached at (559) 840-3240 or you can fill out our PERSONAL INJURY QUESTIONNAIRE.