Every year thousands of Americans experience spinal cord injuries. These are among the most devastating of all injuries, causing physical and emotional anguish, as well as high ongoing medical costs and loss of income. In the United States, about 12,000 people suffer spinal cord injuries every year. There are over a quarter of a million Americans living with spinal cord injuries.

The percentages of the causes of spinal cord injuries are:

42.1 % motor vehicle accidents

26.7% falls

15.1% violence

7.6% sports incidents

8.6% other or unknown

Many of these injuries are caused by negligence on someone’s part, and are therefore the basis of many civil lawsuits. Serious spinal cord injuries can result in paralysis, the extent of which depends on the location and severity of the injury.

People who have suffered severe spinal cord injuries often become paraplegic, when the injury affects the lower part of the spine and paralyzes the body from the waist down, or quadriplegic (tetraplegic), when the injury is in the upper part of the spine and results in paralysis of both arms and both legs. Paraplegics maintain use of their arms but cannot move either of their legs. Quadriplegics often become dependent on a ventilator because the chest and abdominal muscles are also affected, causing coughing and breathing problems.

A spinal cord injury may be either complete or incomplete. If it is complete, the victim lacks all movement, function, and feeling below the point of injury, and both sides of the body are affected equally. In an incomplete spinal cord injury, there may be some limited movement, of feeling below the point of injury.

Clearly, people with these kinds of severe spinal cord injuries will need a great deal of help and care for the rest of their lives. Because of the incalculable costs of meeting the long-term care requirements of a spinal cord injury victim, it is essential for both victim and family that they recover the maximum amount possible in a legal action involving this kind of injury.

Below are some of the economic damages frequently associated with spinal cord injuries:

• Medical costs, which include emergency medical treatment, post-acute care, costs of hospitalizations, surgeries, and post-operative care, projected future surgeries and procedures.

• Future and current rehabilitation services, including physical, occupational, and psychological therapy.

• Cost of making arrangements for medical treatment or rehabilitative therapy, including transportation costs and childcare expenses.

• Lost income, including compensation for future lost income when the injury prevents the victim from working.

• Costs of renovating a household to meet disability needs, such as installing wheel chair ramps.

• Cost of outfitting a vehicle to accommodate the needs of the victim.

And these non-economic damages:

• Physical pain and suffering from injuries.

• Mental anguish, emotional distress, and other psychological considerations.

• Disfigurement, loss of mobility, or disability.

• Lessened quality of life.

Because of the many facets of spinal cord injury damages, lawsuits should only be handled by attorneys experienced in comparable cases involving this type of catastrophic injury. Investigation into the circumstances of the accident should begin immediately to make sure the facts of the case are documented and that all available evidence is documented. An oversight at this early stage of the case could harm the value of the plaintiff’s claim.

The attorney will obtain official reports from the police and EMTs, interview witnesses, take photographs, and collect information about the facts of the accident and the victim’s injuries. Medical reports, bills, and employment records will be requested to help document the plaintiff’s damages. At some stage of the case, the attorney will usually need to present expert medical witnesses to testify as to the long term, or more often permanent disability of the plaintiff.

Although nothing can return the old life to the victim of a serious spinal cord injury, with the help of an experienced and competent attorney, life will go on.