Spinal Cord Injuries Caused by Car Accidents

Most people who regularly drive our nation’s highways and roads are probably not constantly thinking about the possibility of sustaining a serious injury while driving, but the truth is that statistics indicate that if you do sustain an injury, it’s likely to have been inflicted in a car accident.  Most people probably think that because they wear a seat belt, don’t drink and drive and because they drive safely that they will somehow be spared and protected.  Unfortunately hundreds of thousands of Americans are injured every year in all kinds of car accidents, many of them seriously.  One kind of serious injury that can be sustained is spinal cord injury.

Spinal Cord Injuries Are Often Caused by Car Accidents

A spinal cord injury often begins with a sudden, severe or traumatic blow to the spine that fractures and/or dislocates vertebrae.  The damage begins when displaced bone fragments, disc material, or ligaments bruise, tear, crush or damage spinal cord tissue.  Almost all injuries to the spinal cord do not result in a severed cord.  Usually what happens is that the injury fractures and compresses the vertebrae, which then crush and destroy axons, which are extensions of nerve cells that carry signals up and down the spinal cord between the brain and the rest of the body.  An injury to the spinal cord can damage anywhere from a few to all of these axons.  Some injuries will completely resolve or heal.  More serious injuries result in complete paralysis and/or breathing problems.  Respiratory complications often indicate a severe spinal cord injury   

Paralysis and Loss of Function Caused by Car Accidents

Serious spinal cord injuries can mean paralysis or severe loss of function to the parts of the body below the area of the spinal cord that has been damaged in a car accident.  Voluntary muscles can become no longer under conscious control and the damage can affect organs such as the bladder, bowels and lungs.

The worst case scenario is tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia; a condition in which the entire body below the neck loses all feeling and voluntary control.

Incomplete and Complete Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries are classified as complete or incomplete.  An incomplete injury is one where the spinal cord can still convey messages to or from the brain.  People with incomplete injuries have some motor or sensory function below the point of injury.  

A complete injury is present where all sensory and motor function below the level of injury is gone.  No pain or movement below the point of the injury is possible.


Proper emergency care for people who have sustained a spinal cord injury as well as aggressive treatment and rehabilitation can minimize damage to the nervous system and even restore limited abilities.  

About one-third of those with a spinal cord injury to the neck will require respiratory support. The steroid drug methylprednisolone often seems to reduce swelling and damage to nerve cells especially if it is given within the first 8 hours after injury.  

Rehabilitation programs combine physical therapies of exercise and stretching with skill-building activities which are focused on bringing the patient back to their full complement of abilities.  Electrical stimulation of nerves by neural prosthetic devices may restore specific functions, including bladder, breathing, cough, and arm or leg movements.  Appropriateness for use of these devices depends on the level, type and severity of the spinal cord injury.


People who survive a severe spinal cord injury will usually have life-long complications.  Chronic pain is probably the most common problem.  Bladder and bowel dysfunction as well as susceptibility to respiratory and heart problems are also often encountered.

Surgery to relieve compression of the spinal tissue caused by broken bones or dislocated tissue near the injury is often necessary.  Optimal timing of the surgery is being investigated by a recent prospective medical trial called STASCIS (Surgical Timing in Acute Spinal Cord Injury Study).  The question being explored is whether or not performing decompression surgery less than 24 hours following injury is more likely to improve outcomes for patients with tissues pressing on the spinal cord.

Successful long term recovery depends upon how well and early emergency care is rendered, how chronic conditions are handled day to day and the emotional state and level or rehabilitative participation is employed by the injured person.

Contact a Lawyer if You Have Sustained a Spinal Cord Injury in A Car or Motor Vehicle Accident

If you are injured in a car accident and it was not your fault, then you should contact a car accident and personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident. This is especially true if you have suffered from a spinal cord injury or any other kind of injury.

The Future of Spinal Cord Injuries

While not all damage to the spine is irreversible, damage to nerve fibers often does not heal.  There is some hope in the future that stem cell research will result in surgeons being able to stimulate nerve cells into healing and reproducing but these modalities are only hoped for at this time.

Spinal Cord Injuries Caused by Negligent Drivers Often Require Enormous Compensation

Anybody with serious spinal cord injuries will experience severe changes in the way they live; they will often become dependent on members of their family and others for a very long time, if not for the rest of their lives.  Furthermore, enormous expenses are often incurred well into the future such as home modification, ongoing medical and rehabilitative treatment and large medical bills necessitated by susceptibilities to infections, requiring life care plans and money to fund them. 

It is vital, in these types of catastrophic situations, that the accident victim obtain a satisfactory settlement in compensation for their full injuries, usually from the insurance company for the driver who was responsible for the accident, as caring for individuals with spinal cord injuries requires enormous amounts of money. Hiring a dedicated and experienced car accident and personal injury attorney is necessary for a person with spinal cord injuries so that a full and final settlement can be negotiated or obtained at trial.

Contingent Fees – We Don’t Get Paid until We Recover for You

If you, or a loved one, has been injured in a car accident or any other kind of accident, and your spinal cord is damaged or you have sustained some other life threatening injury you should get advice from an attorney experienced in your type of case, as soon as possible.

Adrian Crane and Associates works with its clients on a contingency fee basis, so no payments are ever made to us before a case is resolved. Legal fees, court costs (if any) and expenses are paid from any settlement or judgment proceeds that we may be able to obtain for you.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident, learn how to protect your rights with a free case evaluation and consultation with an attorney at The Law Offices of Adrian Crane.  You can reach us by calling or contacting us through this website by using the case evaluation form.

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