The most common cause of spinal cord injury is trauma, and nearly half of all spinal cord injuries are caused by motor vehicle accidents.
Other types of trauma resulting in spinal cord injuries are falls from heights, sporting injuries, and violence (gunshot wounds to the spine or stabbing). A spinal cord injury can also be the result of compression of the spinal cord due to infection, inflammation, or a tumor. Statistically, traumatic spinal cord injuries are most common among young, white men, and the annual incidence of spinal cord injury in the United States is 40 cases per million, or 12,000 new cases annually.
Paraplegia Injury vs. Tetriplegia Injury
Of course, the actual costs related to a spinal cord injury depend on the level and extent of the injury. A spinal cord injury can be either complete or incomplete. In a complete spinal cord injury, the spinal cord is unable to send nerve signals below the injury level. With an incomplete injury, some movement and sensation are left below the injury level.
Tetraplegia is paralysis which causes total or partial loss of the torso and limbs, while paraplegia leaves the arms unaffected by the paralysis. The average stay in a rehabilitation unit for either paraplegia or tetraplegia is 37 days; after this time, approximately 90 percent of all individuals with a serious spinal cord injury are discharged to a private home, while about 6 percent are discharged to nursing homes.
The True Costs of Living with a Spinal Cord Injury
The spine controls every single movement the body makes; therefore, spinal cord injuries can be life-altering, devastating, and permanent. When a person is no longer able to function in the same ways they did prior to the accident, everything in their life changes. Many spinal cord injury victims are forced to change jobs—or stop working altogether. Relationships with friends and loved ones change as the patient suffers physical and emotional changes.
The staggering financial costs of a spinal cord injury can sometimes be so overwhelming that they may take precedence over the physical and emotional costs. Even those patients with health insurance may be left responsible for 20 percent of astronomical medical bills. Even worse, patients who had health insurance through their employment may have lost that health insurance because they were unable to return to work. Either scenario has devastating financial consequences. According to a study conducted by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, the “average” cost across the United States for an individual living with a spinal cord injury is from $334,000 to more than one million dollars during the first year alone.
The first year costs include ER services, surgical interventions, and intensive care following the accident. Following this first year, the annual costs for an individual living with a spinal cord injury is between $40,000 and $172,000. This same study placed the lifetime costs of a person aged 25 who suffers spinal cord injuries between $1.5 million and more than $4 million. These costs include a variety of medical interventions as well as modifications to the home, physical, and occupational therapy and rehabilitation.
Essential Measures to Assist the Person with a Spinal Cord Injury
In order for the person with a spinal cord injury to fully participate in his or her own life, it is necessary that a physically accessible home, school, workplace, hospital, and transportation are available. Discrimination against those with spinal cord injuries in the employment and educational settings must be eliminated, and vocational rehabilitation must be available in order to optimize employment opportunities. Necessary home modifications can bring high financial costs, as can continuing education or vocational training.
Victims of a spinal cord injury, which was the result of negligence on the part of another person or entity, should consider speaking to a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who can assess the facts of the case. An experienced attorney may be able to recover damages for the victim, which should cover medical expenses, rehabilitative services, necessary changes to the home, and even educational expenses.
Contact Our Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawyers
If you or someone you love has sustained a serious spinal cord injury in an accident, the experienced Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers at McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C., can help. Our team of lawyers consists of some of the best personal injury attorneys in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and we will fight aggressively for you throughout the legal process.
The personal injury attorneys at McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C., have more than 68 years of experience representing injured accident victims and their families across Philadelphia, Berks, Bucks, Dauphin, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Montgomery, and Northampton counties. We are also proud to serve injured accident victims throughout the State of New Jersey. Contact us today at 215-568-1510 or fill out our confidential contact form to learn more about your legal options.