Injuries to the spinal cord can be permanent and debilitating. These types of injuries can cause permanent changes in your strength, sensation, and other bodily functions in the affected area(s). The spinal cord is a critical part of the body, because it regulates information from the brain and relays it to the rest of the body during movement and motor function. A serious disruption in this cycle can cause partial or total paralysis which, in many cases, is irreversible.
Statistics show that spinal injuries are on the rise in the United States. According to estimates:
- There are approximately 17,500 new spinal cord injuries each year, not including individuals who are killed because of their injury;
- Somewhere between 245,000 and 353,000 Americans are thought to be living with a spinal injury;
- More than half of all spinal cord injuries occur among individuals ages 16 to 30;
- More than 81% of spinal injury survivors are men.
Symptoms of Spinal Injuries
The ability of an injury victim to control movements in their limbs after a spinal cord injury depends on the severity of the injury and the specific location (along the spinal cord) where it occurred. The severity of the injury is commonly referred to as its “completeness”. A spinal cord injury may be grouped into either of these two categories:
- Complete: Total loss of feeling and motor function in the affected area.
- Incomplete: Partial loss of feeling and motor function in the affected area, but with some ability to still control movements. There are varying degrees of completeness that may be classified as “incomplete.”
There are also various types of paralysis that may result from a spinal injury:
- Tetraplegia: Paralysis affecting the hands, arms, legs, trunk, and pelvic organs. This is also commonly referred to as quadriplegia.
- Paraplegia: Paralysis affecting part or all of the legs, trunk, or pelvic organs.
There are several symptoms that may indicate that someone has suffered a spinal injury:
- Difficulty breathing or coughing;
- Numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in the hands, fingers, feet, toes, and other parts of the body;
- Difficulty with balance and coordination;
- Total loss of movement;
- Loss of control of the bowels or bladder;
- Exaggerated reflex activities (e.g., spasms).
What Causes Spinal Cord Injuries?
There are numerous reasons spinal injuries occur, and many times, they happen because of someone else’s negligence or reckless actions. Some of the most common reasons for spinal cord injuries include:
- Motor Vehicle Accidents: Auto accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the United States, accounting for almost 40% of these types of injuries. Spinal injuries occur most often during serious vehicle crashes, and alcohol use is a factor in a large number of these cases.
- Falls: Falling is the second-leading cause of spinal cord injuries overall, but it is the leading cause among individuals over the age of 65. Falls often occur because of unsafe premises in which a property owner or caretaker fails to take reasonable steps to remove a hazard or alert visitors of its presence.
- Violent Acts: The third-leading cause of spinal cord injuries is violence. This can come in several forms, such as assault, knife and gunshot wounds.
- Sports Injuries: Sports activities that involve collisions or other dangerous acts are the fourth-leading cause of spinal injuries. Examples include helmet-to-helmet football collisions and diving into shallow water.
- Medical/Surgical: The fifth-leading cause of spinal cord injuries is medical/surgical factors. This may be certain diseases such as cancer or osteoarthritis, or various types of medical malpractice (such as surgical errors).
Speak with a Seasoned Alabama Personal Injury Lawyer
Spinal cord injuries can be debilitating and life-altering, often resulting in the loss of earning capacity and requiring ongoing medical care. These cases can be complicated and challenging to pursue, however, especially in a state like Alabama where the application of the contributory negligence doctrine can prevent an injury victim from recovering damages if they are determined to be even 1% at-fault for the incident that caused the injury. In such cases, you need skilled legal counsel in your corner advocating forcefully for your rights and interests.
At Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce & Thompson LLP, we have successfully represented countless personal injury victims in Alabama. We have extensive knowledge of this area of the law, and what it takes to overcome the state’s contributory negligence standard and ensure that responsible parties are held fully accountable. If you or someone close to you has suffered a spinal injury because of the reckless acts or omissions of another party, call us today at (334) 821-3892 for a free consultation. You may also send a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.