Injuries to the spinal cord can be serious and life-altering. If you’ve sustained a spinal cord injury in an accident, you may be confused about what to do next, especially if you feel that someone else was at fault for your injury. Read on to learn more about what causes spinal cord injuries, what the symptoms are, and what steps you should take next.
Facts About Spinal Cord Injuries
Our spinal cords give our body structure and house the body’s nerve pathways, which carry signals from other parts of the body to the brain. It extends from the base of our brain down to our waist. If you sustain an injury to your spinal column, it can damage your nerves too, which can lead to long term problems like numbness, paralysis, and loss of feeling in your limbs. When damage to nerves occurs, people can lose sensation in parts of their body, meaning they can’t feel temperature or touch. Many people lose function below the level where the injury occurred, so injuries to the lower spine can lead to paraplegia, while injuries higher up can lead to quadriplegia. These types of injuries that result in either full or partial paralysis are called complete spinal cord injuries.
Incomplete spinal cord injuries happen when the injured person retains some function below the damaged area. They still may be able to move a limb or may still retain feeling in the affected area. Spinal cord injuries are often sustained during car accidents, slip and fall accidents or while playing sports, and should never be taken lightly. Spinal cord injuries will often lead to lifelong disability, and can affect the quality of your life. If you acquired a spinal cord injury during an accident, you may be entitled to compensation.
What Causes Spinal Cord Injuries?
At its most basic, a spinal cord injury happens when damage occurs to any part of your spine, from the top of your neck down to your waist. These types of injuries characteristically result in a loss of function in parts of your body and can occur due to accidents, illness, or congenital disease. If only the vertebrate around the spinal column gets injured (like in the case of conditions like whiplash or a herniated disc), there is often lasting pain, but these are not considered spinal cord injuries, as they usually do not cause a loss of function.
Spinal cord injuries usually happen unexpectedly as a result of a collision with a vehicle like a car, motorcycle, or boat. This can be the result of a driver who is negligent or is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. An accident like this can eject someone from the car and cause them to hit a hard surface, resulting in spinal cord damage.
When a building owner or manager doesn’t keep the area clean or free of spills and debris, someone can slip or trip, fall, and land in a way that damages their spine. Many spinal cord injuries can also be sustained in a workplace that isn’t properly maintained (i.e. construction sites, factories, and warehouses).
Spinal Cord Injury Symptoms
When someone sustains a spinal cord injury, the symptoms aren’t always immediately apparent. Any time you experience a severe blow to your back, you should always seek a checkup from your doctor to make sure that your spinal cord wasn’t damaged. In some cases, spinal cord injuries aren’t caused by direct damage to the spinal cord. Instead, they take time to develop after the damage was caused to the spinal structure or the tissue surrounding the spine. This can sometimes put pressure on areas of the spinal cord that causes the condition to advance.
Anyone who has suffered an injury to their back should keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath after injury
- Extreme pain or pressure in your head, neck, or back
- Tingling or numbness in hands, feet, fingers or toes
- Trouble staying balanced when walking or standing
- Trouble with bowel or bladder incontinence
- Weakness or trouble moving any part of your body
- Twisted back or neck
Partial or full paralysis is relatively common among those who sustain a spinal cord injury, and in some cases, the ability to move or function is totally lost.
What Are The Long-Term Consequences Of A Spinal Cord Injury?
One of the most serious things to consider when dealing with a spinal cord injury is that the injury can potentially cause lifelong symptoms. Some people who sustain a spinal cord injury will never regain movement in their limbs, or may permanently suffer from weakness, numbness, and tingling throughout their body. These are lifelong impairments that, over time, can lead to other long-term mental and physical consequences.
A sudden spinal cord injury and its resulting symptoms can come as a shock for many people. One day you were able to participate in all of your favorite activities, and then next, you’re permanently disabled and may need to use a wheelchair to get around or a ventilator to breathe. You’ll need assistance to do everything that you once did with ease. You may need to leave your job and rely on family members or a caretaker to help you perform basic functions. And in some cases, you may even need to move into a nursing an assisted living facility. It’s no wonder that this type of injury often leads to comorbid conditions like anxiety, depression, or decreased quality and enjoyment of life. Spinal cord injury victims can lose a lot of the activities they once took pleasure in.
Spinal cord injuries will impair your bodily functions and can put undue pressure on other parts of your body that still retain function. Joint or nerve pain is common, and you may have ongoing muscle spasms. In the months following an injury, there is a chance that you may regain some function, and with advances in medicine and technology, this is becoming more common. However, there is no cure or treatment for spinal cord injuries that will totally reverse the damage, and any function regained is usually minimal.
Spinal cord injuries put you at a greater risk of dying from illnesses like pneumonia, and infections like bedsores become more common. Because those with spinal cord injures often lose feeling in parts of their body, it’s difficult for them to tell when they have a sore or infection. They don’t feel the pain associated with it.
Another long-term consequence of a spinal cord injury is the cost of ongoing care and medical treatment. When you lose many of the abilities you once had, basic care tasks become difficult. Cleaning your home, cooking meals, getting around, and taking care of personal hygiene can be an ongoing problem for those with spinal cord injuries. Hiring an in-home caretaker might be necessary. You’ll also likely need ongoing care from a doctor, and in most cases, working full time can be difficult. And sometimes, it just makes more sense to move into an assisted living facility. This all leads to a potential financial burden that will last for the rest of your life.
Who Is At Fault For Your Spinal Cord Injury?
If you’ve sustained a spinal cord injury in an accident that wasn’t your fault, or due to someone else’s negligence, you may be able to file a claim or lawsuit and receive money to help pay for your treatment. For example, if someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol hits you head-on in a car accident, you can potentially file a lawsuit against the person driving the car and the owner of the vehicle.
And if you sustained that injury on someone else’s property, like in the instance of a trip or fall, you may be able to file a suit against the property owner. You’d need to collect evidence that shows that the owner didn’t properly maintain the property, knew that conditions weren’t safe, and your accident occurred as a result of that negligence. Collecting this evidence and understanding your rights as a victim can be difficult, which is why it is a good idea to contact a spinal cord injury lawyer.
A Florida Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Can Help
In the days, weeks, and months after your accident, you’re likely overwhelmed with the pain of your accident and the treatment involved. However, if someone was at fault for the accident, you must contact a spinal cord injury lawyer as soon as you can to help you get the compensation you deserve. You’ll likely travel a long and expensive road to get back on your feet, and having legal representation on your side can help ensure that the financial burden of your accident falls on the party who was at fault.
The Shiner Law Group is happy to fight for you when you are injured in an accident. As premiere Florida spinal cord injury lawyers, we have the experience and knowledge necessary to help you make your case and walk away with the compensation you need. While spinal cord injuries often have lifelong consequences, you shouldn’t have to live with that financial burden, too. Call us 24/7 for a free consultation.