Spinal Cord Injuries FAQ

What Is A Spinal Cord Injury?

The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that attach nearly every part of the body to the brain. When the spinal cord becomes damaged, the body’s ability to function properly is compromised. A spinal cord injury can be loosely defined to mean any damage to the spinal column and connected nerve tissues.

The symptoms and specific injuries that you will encounter after a spinal cord injury will depend on which part of your spinal cord is affected. In most cases, the part of the body below the level of injury will be affected. As a result, injuries higher on the spinal column affect larger portions of the body.

What Are The Different Types Of Spinal Cord Injuries?

The spinal cord is divided into four distinct regions:

  • Cervical
  • Thoracic
  • Lumbar
  • Sacral

Cervical injuries: The cervical spine is located at the very top of the spinal cord, forming the primary connection between the spinal column and brain. The cervical spine is responsible for communication with the neck, shoulders, arms, hands and torso. Cervical injuries can affect any region of the body below the level of injury. In many cases, cervical injuries result in quadriplegia (paralysis of both arms and legs).

Thoracic injuries: The thoracic spine is located just below the cervical spine. Since it is protected by the rib cage, injuries to the thoracic spine are less common. The thoracic spine is responsible for communication with the lower back and lower torso. Injuries to the thoracic spine can result in paralysis of the lower part of the body.

Lumbar injuries: The lumbar spine is located beneath the cervical region near the bottom of the spinal cord. It is primarily responsible for communication with the genitals, buttocks, abdomen and some parts of the legs. Injuries to the lumbar spine can result in paraplegia (paralysis of the legs).

Sacral injuries: The sacral spine is located beneath the lumbar region at the base of the spinal column. It is responsible for communication with the legs, feet and genitals. Injuries to the sacral spine can result in paraplegia and sexual dysfunction.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Spinal Cord Injury?

The spinal cord is responsible for most of our major bodily functions. When the spinal cord cannot effectively communicate directions from the brain, our bodies cannot work properly. If you experience any of the following symptoms after an accident, it is important to seek medical attention immediately:

  • Numbness or tingling in the limbs or extremities
  • Loss of sensation or feeling
  • Complete or partial paralysis
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Loss of the control of your bladder or bowels
  • Infertility
  • Chronic pain
  • Difficulty regulating body temperature

Have you experienced any of these symptoms? They may indicate that you have suffered a spinal cord injury. Seek medical attention and contact our experienced personal injury attorneys at 949-652-2604 as soon as you can.

What Compensation Is Available To Spinal Cord Injury Victims?

Injuries to the spinal cord can be devastating. Victims may require extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation, suffer from chronic pain for the rest of their lives and be faced with a life-long disability. The consequences of a spinal cord injury can be financially, physically and emotionally draining. In California, spinal cord accident victims may be entitled to compensation if another person is responsible for their injury. Compensation is typically paid through an award of compensatory and noneconomic damages.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages (also known as economic damages) are awarded to spinal cord injury victims to help with the financial costs that are related to their accident and injury. Damages can be awarded to compensate for any actual or reasonably anticipated expenses. Examples of compensatory damages can include:

  • Hospitalization
  • Surgery
  • Medication
  • Transportation
  • Medically necessary assistive devices (e.g., wheelchair)
  • Alterations to the home (e.g., purchase of a wheelchair ramp or lift)
  • Rehabilitation
  • In-home nursing care
  • Nursing home facility costs
  • Disability

Noneconomic Damages

Noneconomic damages are awarded to spinal cord injury victims to compensate for injuries that may not have a specific monetary value. These injuries can be difficult to value and, as a result, can vary significantly from case-to-case. Examples of noneconomic damages can include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Chronic pain
  • Suffering
  • Disfigurement
  • Embarrassment
  • Loss of sexual relations

What Is The Statute Of Limitations For Spinal Cord Injury Cases?

If you have suffered an injury to your spinal column, it is important to speak with an attorney immediately. California limits the amount of time you have to file a claim for damages. If you do not file a claim within two years of the date of your accident, you will be prohibited from getting the money you need to recover.

Extending The Statute Of Limitations

There are limited situations when the statute of limitations can be extended. If any of the following extenuating circumstances apply, you may be able to file a claim more than two years after your accident:

  • The defendant cannot be located
  • The defendant is incarcerated
  • The victim is under the age of 18
  • There is a reasonable delay in the discovery of the injury

Claims Against The Government Are Accelerated

In some cases, Orange County or a local city government agency will be (at least partly) responsible for your spinal cord injury. In order to recover damages from the government, you must file an administrative claim with the at-fault agency within 180 days of your accident. If the government denies your request for damages, you will have six months to file a formal civil complaint in an Orange County court. Call the Law Offices of John Rapillo at 949-652-2604 today for a free consultation to learn more about spinal cord injury claims. You may also reach out to us online.