Spinal Cord Injuries Caused by Car Accidents

Tennessee-wide car crash statistics from 2017 are available, and they’re particularly sobering.

Not counting the nearly 1,000 incidents that resulted in fatalities, more than 50,000 vehicle accidents led to driver or passenger injuries. Those numbers from the TN Department of Safety & Homeland Security don’t even consider crashes that occurred on private property or in parking lot venues.

Plus, as the Association for Safe International Road Travel indicates, more than 2.3 million people are injured annually on the nation’s roads. Many of those adults and children may have ties to Tennessee, even if their crashes occurred elsewhere in the country–or on international roads.

Even if a car, truck, or SUV accident takes place at low speeds, the human body cannot handle the stressors. Thus, all injuries can lead to serious harm, even if the crash seems minor at first glance. Back, neck, and general spinal cord injuries (SCI) are common outcomes and can lead to a lifetime of pain, medical bills, and disability.

Understanding SCI

Although the spinal cord is created to be protective and strong, it is not infallible. When trauma occurs (such as being in a car crash, sports accident, fall, violent altercation, or a similar event), the nerves of the spinal cord can suffer damage. The soft tissues around the spinal cord typically swell and bruise, compressing the area and interfering with the body’s natural processes. Additionally, the bones themselves may be crushed, broken, misaligned, or otherwise compromised, although this is not always the case.

Without properly “firing” nerves, the brain does not receive the information it needs to coordinate movement. To be sure, sometimes the nerves aren’t as damaged as they originally seemed to be. An “incomplete” SCI is one in which the spinal cord is damaged, but the nerves aren’t completely unable to “talk” to the brain. On the other hand, a “complete” SCI involves total breakdown between nerve-brain communications.

Depending upon where the injury occurred, such as at the cervical area (neck) or the lumbar region (lower back), the SCI may affect all the areas of the body directly below the injury. This can lead to partial or full paralysis of certain parts of the body, leading to the common terms “from the waist down” or “from the neck down” to describe the scope of the paralyzed individual.

Though immediate surgery can help alleviate the pressures and some problems caused by an SCI, surgery cannot always prevent long-term health issues. Occasionally, the damage is simply too widespread to completely fix. However, most people continue with extensive physical and occupational therapy after experiencing an SCI to push healing and the best possible outcome.

The hope, of course, is that someone with an SCI will eventually regain all or part of his or her mobility in the months and years after the traumatic event. Yet that doesn’t always happen.

Realizing the Full Cost of SCIs

Even people with exceptional healthcare insurance packages or a substantial family income level can struggle to pay for medical intervention and therapies after an SCI.

According to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, individuals and families in the United States spend more than $40 billion each year to treat their or a loved one’s SCI. In other words, the expense of living with an SCI is very real.

In addition to covering medical bills, those with SCIs may require special arrangements to continue leading as high a quality of life as possible. For instance, a child who is injured in an automobile crash and suffers an SCI may require a high-tech wheelchair.  Additionally, the family’s home may be in need of significant upgrades and remodeling to enable the child and family members to provide a solid level of care and comfort. Specialized vehicles to transport the child with an SCI can cost far more than typical vehicles.

Spinal Cord Injuries Caused by Car Accidents in Tennessee

According to statistics from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, about a quarter million people (with an average age of 42) are living with an SCI. Between 12 and 30 percent of those individuals are employed; however, average income levels are not available and fluctuate widely depending upon their physical and mental abilities.

Because the lifetime costs of having an SCI or taking care of someone who does can quickly exceed several million dollars, victims and their advocates should seriously consider pursuing legal damages if applicable. Visiting a compassionate personal injury lawyer with extensive experience — such as John R. Colvin in Tennessee — can give the individual and his or her family a basis for potentially pursuing a case to recover monies to help offset the mounting medical bills.

If you’re in the situation of having experienced spinal cord injuries that were caused by motor vehicle accidents, please contact our offices today for a free consultation.

Licensed to Practice in Tennessee & Alabama