If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, it probably seems as though every part of your world has changed.
The spinal cord is an intricate, sensitive structure that is about 18 inches long and about as big around as your little finger. It’s surrounded and protected by the vertebrae that run down your back. Contained within it is a network of nerve cells that communicate messages of movement and feeling throughout the body from the neck down.
When the spinal cord is injured, the results can be profound and devastating, both physically and psychologically. Basically, the brain’s communication system with the body has been disrupted. An injury can mean temporary or permanent paralysis and lack of sensation (such as pain, temperature and touch) everywhere beneath the location of the injury. Spinal cord injuries are classified by location, sensory level, motor level and neurological level; injuries are further classified “complete” or “incomplete” depending on the level of preservation of any of these functions.
A spinal cord injury can happen anytime there is significant trauma to the head, neck or back. The Mayo Clinic says an injury “may stem from a sudden, traumatic blow to your spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes or compresses one or more of your vertebrae. It also may result from a gunshot or knife wound that penetrates and cuts your spinal cord.” Symptoms can worsen over the days and weeks following the injury due to swelling, bleeding, or fluid accumulation. This kind of trauma can result from events like:
- a car, motorcycle, bicycle or pedestrian accident;
- a dive or jump into a body of water;
- a trampoline accident;
- a serious fall;
- being shot or stabbed;
- an industrial accident;
- an injury at birth;
- a sports injury.
According to Johns Hopkins University, about 12,000 new spinal cord injuries happen each year in the United States, and about 250,000 people total are living with such an injury. While many hospitals now have specialized centers for spinal cord injury care, and while research continues on possible ways to repair spinal cords, regenerate spinal cord cells, or restore function to paralyzed patients, the reality is that life with a spinal cord injury often barely resembles a person’s life before the event.
Actor Christopher Reeve is perhaps the most well-known spinal cord injury patient; he was paralyzed after a horse riding accident in 1995, and died in 2004. The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation estimates that the cost of a spinal cord injury in the first year can range from $300,000 to over $1 million. After the first year, annual costs can range from $42,000-$200,000, depending on the injury itself and the treatment needed; lifetime costs can range from $1.5 million to $5 million if a person is injured at age 25, to $1.1 million to $2.6 million if a person is injured at age 50.
With numbers like this, it’s clear that few families could suddenly bear the expenses associated with a loved one’s spinal cord injury. This is why it’s important to contact an experienced attorney soon after the event happens if there is any question about whether there might be some entitlement to compensation. Medical expenses are only one part of the financial burden; a person’s earning potential also is affected, and compensation for emotional pain and suffering may be appropriate as well.
The attorneys at Mazzeo Law, LLC are Las Vegas personal injury attorneys with over 29 years litigation experience. Peter Mazzeo has extensive experience in the areas of personal injury, medical malpractice, product liability, traffic accident injuries and criminal defense. We don’t just negotiate; we litigate cases for our clients to obtain the maximum compensation possible. If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, we urge you to call.
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