Traveling from the base of the skull down to the tailbone, the spine is one of the most vital parts of the human body. When it is damaged — in a motor vehicle collision, a fall, or a sports-related accident — the consequences can be life-altering… and life-ending.
The spine is composed of small bones, called vertebrae, which are stacked on top of one another. They are generally thought of as being in three sections: the cervical spine, from the skull to the upper chest; the thoracic spine, from the upper chest to the middle back; and the lumbar vertebrae, from the middle to the lower back.
The vertebrae create a channel for the spinal cord, which carries messages from the brain throughout the body.
Between the vertebrae are flexible disks which act as shock absorbers and contain many nerve endings, as well as facet joints which assist in movement.
Muscles and ligaments are necessary to provide support and keep the spinal column in proper alignment. Trauma to any one of these parts of the spine can hamper natural movement, cause extreme pain and disability, and impair one’s earning ability and enjoyment of life.
The Indianapolis spine injury lawyers of the McNeely Stephenson law firm have helped many accident victims recover compensation for back injuries caused by the negligence of others. Call 1-855-206-2555 for a free consultation.
Spinal Cord Injury
Car accidents account for nearly half of all spinal cord injuries (SCI), and this type of injury causes significant and life-long disability. Each year there are about 12,000 new cases of spinal cord injury in the U.S., and currently there are approximately 256,000 Americans living with an SCI.
Spinal cord injuries are categorized as complete or incomplete, and the degree of disability varies accordingly. Generally, the closer the injury is to the head, the more dysfunction the person will experience. When trauma occurs to the high cervical nerves (C1-C4), the following impairments are typical:
- Paralysis in arms, hands, trunk and legs; if all four limbs are affected, this is known as quadriplegia.
- Inability to breathe on his or her own, cough, or control bowels or bladder
- Speech impairment
- Requires complete 24-hour care, including assistance in eating, dressing, bathing, and transferring
- May be able to use powered wheelchairs
- Will not be able to drive a car on their own.
Obviously, the medical and personal care expenses following a spinal cord injury are enormous, both immediately after the accident and for the rest of the patient’s lifetime.
At McNeely Stephenson, we vigorously assert our clients’ right to sufficient compensation for both past and future expenses, relying on analysis from medical experts and life planners.
In addition to doctor and hospital charges, adequate financial compensation for a spinal injury victim also includes expenses such as:
- Home health care
- Durable equipment and assistive devices
- Psychological counseling
- Lost income, present and future
- Travel expenses
- Household assistance.
Other Spine Injuries
Accidents can also cause injuries that are less severe than spinal cord injury but are still very painful and disabling. One of the most common injuries sustained in highway collisions is whiplash, caused by quick and jarring movement of the neck.
The bones of the spinal column may be fractured by a forceful impact. Spinal fractures may be treated non-surgically with a brace or may require surgical procedures and the insertion of metal screws, rods and cages. In addition to the risk of spinal fluid leaks, these surgeries are subject to the same complications as other surgical procedures, including blood clots and infection.
Sudden traumatic force may also cause injury to the material between vertebrae, or herniated disks. The pain associated with a herniated disk ranges from slight to debilitating, is usually intensified by movement, and typically occurs along the sciatic nerve, down the back of the leg. A herniated disk may also cause numbness, muscle weakness and paralysis.