Car crash victims can be injured in a number of different ways, but the most devastating injuries often involve damage to the spinal cord. Depending on their severity, these types of injuries can leave victims partially or totally paralyzed for the rest of their lives, susceptible to other serious illnesses, depression, or unable to earn a living.
Spinal Cord Basics
The spinal cord is made up of a collection of nerves that extend from the brain down through the spinal canal. These nerves allow the brain to send commands to the muscles, heart, and lungs, so even minor damage can have devastating consequences. The spinal cord is divided into four basic regions, which include:
- The cervical spinal cord, which is made up of eight vertebrae and is located where the spinal cord meets the brain and where the neck connects to the back;
- The thoracic spinal cord, which forms the middle portion of the spine and contains 12 vertebrae;
- The lumbar spinal cord, which makes up the lower region of the spinal cord where the back begins to bend and contains five lumbar vertebrae; and
- The sacral spine, which is made up of five vertebrae and a series of nerve roots that exit the spine.
Finally, the tail bone, which consists of one vertebrae, makes up the base of the spinal cord.
The severity of an injury suffered by a car crash victim depends largely on which part of the spine sustained the most trauma. For instance, damage to the cervical spinal cord usually has the most severe results and produces paralysis in both the arms and the legs. Symptoms increase in severity the higher up the damage occurs. Injuries to the thoracic spinal cord, on the other hand, usually only affect sensation and movement in the lower half of the body. Injuries below the lumbar portion of the spinal cord do not usually cause loss of feeling or function, although they can cause severe nerve pain and muscle weakness.
Most spinal cord injuries occur when a person’s spine is compressed, stretched, or pulled sideways. This is often the result in car crashes where a victim’s head and neck snap forward and backward upon impact or when the back is twisted after a traumatic blow. This trauma can cause spinal fractures and dislocations, which can bruise or tear the spinal cord tissue, resulting in paralysis.
Spinal cord injuries manifest differently depending on the severity of the injury as well as the health and age of the victim, although there are some common symptoms that are indicative of spinal cord trauma, including:
- Weakness or loss of control of the limbs;
- General loss of muscle function;
- Muscle spasms;
- Inability to speak; and
- Difficulty breathing.
The results of many spinal injuries are permanent, although there are treatments that have helped some injured parties regain partial movement or feeling, such as:
- Surgery, which can relieve pressure on the spinal cord or stabilize the vertebrae;
- Routine physical therapy; and
- The use of prescription steroids to reduce inflammation in the spinal cord.
Unfortunately, all of these treatments are extremely expensive and beyond the ability of some patients to cover even when they have insurance. Collecting compensation from the parties responsible for an accident can make all the difference in an injured party’s ability to obtain the best medical treatment available.
Often, in an effort to avoid surgery and its negative side effects, physicians may first prescribe steroids to reduce the swelling around a patient’s spinal cord. If this produces no effect or the injury is particularly severe, a patient may be required to undergo surgery to remove bone fragments, fuse broken bones, or realign dislocated vertebrae. These surgeries can help decrease compression by relieving pressure on the spinal cord or can increase the spine’s stability through the insertion of screws, rods, and plates. Although surgery, physical therapy, and medication can help an injured party regain movement and feeling, it also poses serious risks, including:
- Various infections;
- Chronic pain;
- Blood clots;
- Kidney disease;
- Pressure sores; and
- Muscle spasms.
After undergoing surgery, many patients are equipped with a spinal traction device, which requires them to wear a metal brace that keeps the spine immobile. Others must undergo intensive physical therapy, which can be both painful and frustrating. Many car crash victims also suffer from chronic pain or struggle with depression. This can take a significant emotional toll on not only victims, but also their families who may need to help with transportation to and from doctor’s appointments, assist with administering medications, and help with daily tasks, such as bathing, dressing, and eating. Many spouses and partners are also required to take time off from work to help the injured party through the recovery process, which can cut even further into a family’s finances. This makes it especially important for those who have suffered spinal cord injuries as a result of another driver’s negligence to collect compensation for their losses, which could include the following types of damages:
- Medical expenses;
- Lost wages;
- Loss of future income;
- Property damage;
- Pain and suffering;
- Mental anguish;
- Disfigurement; and
- Loss of consortium.
Collecting compensation for these losses can be instrumental in an injured party’s ability to obtain the appropriate level of medical care and support that are necessary to recovery.
How a Dedicated Columbus Car Crash Lawyer Can Help
Sustaining spinal cord damage can permanently change the course of a person’s life. Obtaining treatment can be expensive and painful and may not be able to restore a person to his or her pre-injury physical condition, making it especially important for victims to have access to additional funds to make up for lost wages and pay medical bills, so if you live in or near Columbus and were injured in a car accident, please contact Ohio Car Accident Lawyers by sending us a message containing your name, email address, and phone number and a member of our legal team will contact you to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our determined Columbus auto accident attorneys.