Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries can have a devastating impact on the life of victims and those who care for them. A spinal cord injury is often caused by trauma to the spinal cord that causes a fracture or damage to the nerves in the spinal canal. Different types of spinal cord injuries have different outcomes, ranging from total permanent disability to various degrees of motor limitations.

Understanding Spinal Cord Injuries

The spinal cord is an 18-inch long bundle of nerves that extends from the base of the brain down the back. These nerves send impulses to and from the brain and the rest of your body. They are protected by the circular bones of the spine, or vertebrae. When you injure your spinal cord, the extent of the damage depends on what level of the spinal cord was affected.

Spinal Cord Injury Types

  • Complete Spinal Cord Injury typically results in a loss of movement and sensation below the injured area.
  • Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury may allow the patient to retain some ability to move and feel their extremities below the point of injury.

Specific Spinal Injuries

Spinal Cord Injury Categories

Spinal cord injuries, sometimes referred to as lesions, fall into four categories, based on the vertebra that was injured.

Cervical (C1 – C8) Injury

Neck injuries that result in quadriplegia are in the cervical or neck area. The cervical nerves in this area of the spine control the head/neck, diaphragm, biceps, deltoids, wrist, triceps, and hands.

Injury to C1 – C4 result in complete paralysis of arms, body, and legs. If the diaphragm is affected, the patient will not be able to breathe on their own, and will require a ventilator to keep oxygen flowing throughout the body. There are many challenges with quadriplegia, including the lack of bodily control, and the inability to communication without assistance. Many people with injuries to C1-C4 require 24-hour care.

Patients with C5-C8 injuries are usually able to speak and breathe on their own, and may have limited abilities to move their arms and hands.

Thoracic (T1 – T11) Injury

Injuries in the thoracic area of the spine result in paraplegia, a complete paralysis of the lower body. However, patients usually have normal arm, hand, and upper-body movement. This means they could use a manual wheelchair, and possibly, stand in a standing frame, or walk short distances with braces. They may be able to drive a modified car.

T-1 through T-5 nerve injuries affect the hands and fingers, upper chest, mid-back, and abdominal muscles.

T6 through T-12 injuries affect the abdominal and back muscles, which affect balance and posture.

Lumbar (L1 – L5) Injury

L1 – L5 are in the lower back or lumbar area. The nerves in this area control the lower back, abdomen, and buttocks. Injury to this area of the spine causes decreased movement in hips and legs , but does not affect the functionality of the upper body.

People with L1-L5 injuries may have difficulty with bowel and bladder control, but can manage on their own with special equipment. They may need a wheelchair and may also be able to walk with braces.

Sacral (S1 – S5) Injury

S-1 to S-5 are fused together make up the triangle-shaped sacrum, located just above the tailbone, or coccyx. These nerves affect the hips and groin (S1), the thighs (S2), the buttocks (S3), and the perineal area (S4).

People with a sacral spinal cord injury may have some loss of function in the hips and legs, but may be able to walk. This injury may also affect the pelvic organs, including the bladder, bowel, and sex organs, meaning there may be bowel or bladder control issues, but again, people with this injury can manage on their own with special equipment.


Those with spinal cord injuries may also suffer from impaired immunity system that leaves the victim more susceptible to infections and diseases. For instance, pneumonia is a leading cause of death among paraplegic persons. Infections from bedsores (“decubitus ulcers”), caused by sitting or lying in one position too long, are common in those with quadriplegia and paraplegia.

Compensation for Your Spinal Cord Injury

Depending on the circumstances surrounding your injuries, you may be eligible for compensation for your damages. As mentioned above, spinal cord injury patients require a great deal of medical treatment, including rehabilitation and therapy, as well as a host of specialized equipment – these costs, past, present, and estimated needs for the future, are all considered damages, or costs for which you are entitled to compensation.

Other damages may include your lost wages and earning capacity, past and future, and your pain and suffering. In addition, you may be awarded punitive damages, if the behavior of the person who caused your injury acted with malice or conscious disregard for your safety. Oftentimes, this punitive damage award is as big or bigger than the compensatory damages.

Although no amount of money can make up for the lifelong effects of a spinal cord injury, these awards will ease the financial burden and force the at-fault party to bear some responsibility.

Spinal Cord Injury Causes

Legal Help for Spinal Cord Injury

If you or a loved one have suffered a spinal cord injury, you need a law firm that understands the magnitude of your injury’s impact on your life, your future, and your family. TorkLaw attorneys have the skill and experience to find all sources of recovery and causes of action to compensate you for a lifetime of care.

TorkLaw – Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys

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