Understanding the Cost of Spinal Cord Injuries

Posted By The McClellan Law Firm || May 19, 2016

At The McClellan Law Firm, we are passionate about providing dedicated legal advocacy to victims of accidents who have suffered spinal cord injuries, because we know just how costly they can be. Not only will victims suffer loss of function, but they will also likely face mental and emotional battle and an ever-growing medical tab.

If you or someone you love has suffered a spinal cord injury, we want you to understand just how costly these devastating injuries can be. We also want you to know that we can help. With more than 25 years of experience practicing personal injury law in San Diego, our attorneys can fight to ensure that you receive the care you need and the justice you deserve.

Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries require intensive initial care to help the victim learn to cope with new limitations. The amount of care and rehabilitation required depends upon the severity of the injury and how well the victim can function independently. For some, personalized care may be required for the rest of their lives.

The higher up on the spine that the injury occurred, the more severe the symptoms. Spinal cord injuries are classified according to the affected nerve group: sacral, lumbar, thoracic, and cervical. Each nerve group controls a different set of muscles, which results in varied symptoms accordingly. Most patients experience some level of paralysis, including paraplegia (of the legs) or tetraplegia/quadriplegia (partial or total paralysis in all four limbs).

S1-S5: Sacral Nerves

  • Loss of function in legs and hips
  • Little to no control of bladder or bowel movements
  • Generally able to walk

L1-L5: Lumbar Nerves

  • Loss of function in legs and hips
  • Little to no control of bladder or bowel movements
  • Generally able to walk with assistance of braces
  • May require a wheelchair

T6-T12: Thoracic Nerves

  • Paralysis of legs
  • Abdominal and back muscles affected
  • Able to balance and control upper body while sitting
  • Little to no control of bladder or bowel movements
  • Able to move independently with manual wheelchair
  • Able to operate an adapted vehicle
  • May be able to stand, or even walk with assistive equipment

T1-T5: Thoracic Nerves

  • Paralysis in legs and trunk
  • Abdominal, back, and upper chest muscles affected
  • Generally can move independently with manual wheelchair
  • Able to operate an adapted vehicle
  • May be able to stand, or even walk with assistive equipment

C8: Low-Cervical Nerve

  • Paralysis of legs and trunk
  • Difficulty with hand movement
  • Little to no control of bladder or bowel movements
  • Can perform most daily tasks independently, but may require assistance
  • May be able to operate an adapted vehicle

C7: Low-Cervical Nerve

  • Paralysis of legs and trunk
  • Difficulty with elbow and finger extension
  • Little to no control of bladder or bowel movements
  • Can perform most daily tasks independently, but may require assistance
  • May be able to operate an adapted vehicle

C6: Low-Cervical Nerve

  • Tetraplegia/Quadriplegia of trunk, legs, and hands
  • Difficulty with wrist extension
  • Weakend breathing
  • May be able to move from wheelchair to bed with equipment
  • May be able to operate an adapted vehicle
  • Little to no control of bladder or bowel movements

C5: Low-Cervical Nerve

  • Tetraplegia/Quadriplegia of hands, wrists, legs, and trunk
  • Can bend elbows and raise arms
  • Weakened breathing
  • Requires care for most activities
  • Can move independently with assistance of a power wheelchair

C1-C4: High Cervical Nerves

  • Tetraplegia/Quadriplegia in all four limbs and trunk
  • May require assistance with breathing
  • May not be able to control bladder or bowel movements
  • Impaired speech
  • Patient is completely dependent and requires 24-hour care
  • Unable to operate a vehicle

Recovery Prognosis

There is no known cure for spinal cord injuries. Treatment comes in the form of rehabilitation therapy, which aims to help victims to become as self-serving and independent as possible. Individuals who have suffered a serious spinal cord injury will likely need some kind of personal assistance for the rest of their lives.

Rehabilitation may also require therapy to help victims cope with the emotional and psychological symptoms of spinal cord injuries. It is not uncommon for spinal cord injuries to cause depression and other mental disorders, as victims come to terms with the long-term consequences they face.

Suffering from a spinal cord injury can have the following negative psychological affects:

  • Dependence and loss of control
  • New social barriers
  • Strained relationships
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of ability to work

Estimated Financial Costs

The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) publishes a regularly updated data sheet on the facts and figures of spinal cord injuries in the United States. These statistics include data from 2016 regarding the average yearly and estimated lifetime costs of health care and living, which are broken down below. These statistics do not reflect the living wages lost by victims of spinal cord injuries who are unable to continue working.

Average Yearly Costs:

  • Loss of motor function: About $348,000 in the first year, and $43,000 subsequently
  • Paraplegia: About $520,000 in the first year, and $70,000 subsequently
  • Low Tetraplegia: About $770,000 in the first year, and $114,000 subsequently
  • High Tetraplegia: About $1,066,000 in the first year, and $185,000 subsequently

Lifetime Costs:

  • Loss of motor function: About $1,580,000 for ages 25-50, and $1,115,000 for ages 50 and older
  • Paraplegia: About $2,313,000 for ages 25-50, and $1,518,000 for ages 50 and older
  • Low Tetraplegia: About $3,456,000 for ages 25-50, and $2,126,000 for ages 50 and older
  • High Tetraplegia: About $4,730,000 for ages 25-50, and $2,600,000 for ages 50 and older

The McClellan Law Firm: Fighting For Justice

Our San Diego personal injury lawyers know that spinal cord injuries are catastrophic and have profound effects on the lives of victims. We are proud to provide compassionate and effective legal counsel to help mitigate the stress and financial strain of coping with a disability. You have suffered enough; let us help you move forward.

For more information, contact The McClellan Law Firm online or by phone today.

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