Every time you take your car out on the road, there’s a risk of an accident and injury. Unfortunately, auto accidents and motorcycle accidents are a leading cause of a particularly severe form of injury—spinal cord injuries. Vehicle accidents cause 38% of these types of injuries each year. Car rollover crashes are particularly detrimental to the spine.
Other types of incidents can lead to spinal injuries as well. Acts of violence and sports and recreation are also common causes of these types of injuries. Overall, the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center reports there are 17,810 new cases a year and an estimated 294,000 people live with this type of injury in the U.S. Some types of injuries allow for complete recovery, while others result in partial or complete paralysis.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
A spinal cord injury happens when the function or the structure of the cord has been impacted. Two factors determine recovery after a spinal cord injury: where the injury has occurred along the spine and the severity of the injury to the spinal cord. The injury’s severity is often referred to as “the completeness.” It is considered “complete” if all feeling and ability to control movement below the spinal cord injury is lost. It is “incomplete” if the patient retains motor or sensory function below the injury point. Different patients will experience varying degrees of incomplete injuries.
Injuries that affect all four limbs are referred to as tetraplegia—this was previously called quadriplegia—while an injury that only affects the lower limbs is referred to as paraplegia. However, these injuries can affect much more than just the movement of a patient’s arms and legs. All body systems can be affected, from the circulatory system to the respiratory system.
When to Seek Medical Attention
According to the Mayo Clinic, spinal cord injuries may have one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
- Loss of movement
- Loss or altered sensation, including the ability to feel heat, cold and touch
- Unable to control bowel or bladder
- Exaggerated reflex activities or spasms
- Changes in sexual function, sexual sensitivity and fertility
- Pain or an intense stinging sensation caused by damage to the nerve fibers in your spinal cord
- Difficulty breathing, coughing or clearing secretions from your lungs
If anyone experiences a traumatic incident to the head or neck, it’s safe to assume they need immediate medical attention to screen for a possible spinal injury. Here are emergency signs and symptoms to look for after an accident:
- Extreme back pain or pressure in your neck, head or back
- Weakness, incoordination or paralysis in any part of your body
- Numbness, tingling or loss of sensation in your hands, fingers, feet or toes
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Difficulty with balance and walking
- Impaired breathing after injury
- An oddly positioned or twisted neck or back
Treatment of Spinal Cord Injuries
Treatment of serious injuries like these begin even before the patient reaches the hospital; emergency medical services personnel begin with carefully immobilizing the spine at the scene, which can impact recovery later. Depending on the type of injury, there may be non-surgical or surgical treatments available. For example, surgery may be an option in the event of a herniated disk, blood clot, or other lesion. Once a patient stabilizes, the focus moves to supportive care and rehabilitation.
What to Do Next
Of course, after an accident, make sure you or your loved one has received immediate medical attention. It’s wise to save all your hospital bills and information on your injury diagnosis and impacts.
After your immediate medical needs have been met, if you are a victim of a reckless driver, whether you were a pedestrian, cyclist, or another driver, it’s time to take action. Begin by choosing a personal injury attorney who will fight for the compensation you deserve. An experienced attorney can tackle the legal system, while you focus on recovering from your spinal cord injury. The right personal injury attorney will talk to insurance companies on your behalf and make sure they don’t deny you a rightful claim.
Then, begin the personal injury claim process. This process includes:
- Filing a personal injury claim with the insurance company
- Gathering information and evidence surrounding the accident and injuries sustained
- Pursuing all legal options available to make sure you receive fair representation and compensation for the damages
How Sanchez and Piñon Can Help
If you’ve recently sustained a spinal cord injury and are seeking a personal injury lawyer, contact Sanchez and Piñon, Rio Rancho’s auto accident and injury attorneys, for a free consultation. While other attorneys talk, we listen and provide a personal level of representation. We can discuss how to fight for the compensation you deserve.