Types of Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries in a Car Accident

April 2, 2022
Types of Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries in a Car Accident

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries Can Still Impair Function and Sensation

When a driver or passenger sustains a forceful impact in a crash, damage to the vertebrae or spinal cord can result in what is known as a spinal cord injury. The most common cause of a spinal cord injury is car accidents, accounting for about 40% of the 17,810 cases each year. Spinal cord injuries can also be sustained in workplace slip-and-fall accidents or while engaging in recreational activities. Car accidents are most often to blame because the forces involved in these accidents tend to be particularly powerful, cracking or crushing the vertebrae that keep your skeleton upright and protect your spinal cord.

Recovering Compensation for an Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

Even incomplete spinal cord injuries can induce permanent paralysis in multiple limbs. An incomplete spinal injury has the potential to cause significant loss of sensation and potentially prevent you from holding a job in your field which can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills alone.  If the actions of a negligent driver caused you to injure your spine in a car accident, you should seek out a personal injury attorney to recover damages in a lawsuit. You may be eligible to be compensated for the cost of a wheelchair, physical therapy, car repairs, lost earning potential, and medication in a car accident or spinal cord lawsuit.

What is an Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury?

Cleveland Clinic describes the distinction between a complete spinal cord injury and an incomplete spinal cord injury as whether some function or sensitivity is retained below the affected area, allowing “the body and brain… [to] communicate along certain pathways.” 

Understanding Incomplete Spinal Injuries

Different portions of the spine are responsible for protecting key arteries that link the spinal cord and brain to the rest of the body, so when one artery becomes compromised, it can have repercussions for other parts of the body's communication system.  The first warning signs may be pain or pressure in your head or along your back, incontinence that may persist, weakness, and loss of sensation or tingling in your extremities. Depending on the site of injury and degrees of damages, an incomplete spinal injury may present in one of the following ways. 

Anterior Cord Syndrome

Anterior Cord Syndrome is a result of a lack of blood flow to the front of the spinal column, often decimating motor function below the injury, but sparing some sensory input like fine touch sensations and awareness of other body parts. Car accident victims with this type of incomplete spinal injury will likely be unable to walk or detect pain or shifts in temperature below the injury, according to the NIH. This may make it infeasible for you to live alone, return to your job, or transport yourself to and from doctors' appointments. 

Central Cord Syndrome

Unlike an anterior cord injury, central cord syndrome primarily impacts the motor function of the arms or hands when the spinal cord becomes compressed in the neck. Sensory perception may be limited. It is also distinct in that victims may recover function, especially once the swelling subsides.   In a car accident, this can occur if the head is jerked backward unexpectedly, as in a rear-end collision. Central cord syndrome may initially be mistaken for whiplash by the victim, but it is distinguished by weakness in the limbs, especially the arms. 

Posterior Cord Syndrome

Posterior cord syndrome is an incomplete spinal cord injury that describes damage to the back of the spine. It is more commonly experienced by people with degenerative diseases and is generally rare. In a car accident, this may happen if you were jolted or pinned in your vehicle and the arteries responsible for carrying blood in the posterior column were blocked. It typically manifests as incontinence, stifled reflexes, and impaired motor skills on both sides of the body, resulting in a lack of balance. Victims often lose their ability to perceive vibration, but maintain their capacity to feel pain, detect temperature, and even walk, albeit unsteadily. 

Brown-Sequard Syndrome

Brown-Sequard incomplete spinal injuries are rare, and affect both sides of the body in different ways. In most cases, one side of the body is paralyzed and is unable to recognize touch, while the other side may maintain motor function but loses temperature and pain perception.  This can put victims at risk for further injury; they can still move, but they are deprived of the sensory input that the body depends on to safely navigate the world. Victims may also have incontinence. The good news is, many people are able to regain most of their lost function and sensation, provided that treatment and diagnosis are administered quickly.

Cauda Equina Lesion

Cauda equnia lesions are usually caused by a disc applying pressure on a small bundle of nerves towards the base of the spinal cord. These nerves allow the brain to communicate with the bladder and bowels, as well as establishing function in the legs. Victims may be unsteady, experience pain, and have uncontrollable bowel movements. This can be treated with better success with surgery in the first 48 hours. Of course, surgery is often pricey and comes with the inherent risk of infection. If victims are unable to seek prompt treatment following a car accident, they may jeopardize their chances of a complete recovery.

Negligent Drivers May Be Liable in a Spinal Cord Lawsuit

Many victims of spinal cord injuries experience significant economic damages, to say nothing of the pain and suffering many endure due to a brutal recovery period and the loss of activities they enjoyed. A driver's choice to speed, drink, or simply ignore the road can cause a lifetime of hurt for an innocent victim.  However, spinal cord injury victims should not despair. If a negligent driver's actions can be connected to your injury and the associated costs, they can be found liable in a personal injury lawsuit That means their insurance company will be expected to cover things like the cost of mobility aids such as wheelchairs and canes, home remodeling to install ramps, put bars in the shower, and widened doorways to accommodate a wheelchair, to say nothing of hospital bills and lost wages An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to best advise you of the range of damages you should seek in a spinal cord lawsuit. 

How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Me in a Car Accident Claim?

The average age of someone who suffers a spinal cord injury is 43, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center. At that age, a victim could easily be married with children to support, but not far enough along in their career to simply retire. It is critical to account for damages like lost earning potential as well as common medical complications that may arise, such as skin sores or  respiratory diseases like pneumonia, a known killer of spinal cord injury victims. 

Seeking the Full Range of Damages in a Lawsuit

Because spinal cord injuries can be incredibly expensive, insurance companies will attempt to reduce costs wherever they can to safeguard their profits and avoid setting the precedent of large settlements. However, spinal cord injury victims often require life-long care or support. Unfortunately, spinal cord injuries can become worse than they initially appear, and long-term consequences should always be factored into the damages sought in a personal injury lawsuit. An attorney can aid you in negotiating a fair settlement, review insurance policies, respond to bill collectors on your behalf, and inform you of all of the possible damages you may be eligible to recuperate.  

Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Car Accident Lawsuit

Perhaps one of the most frustrating costs of a spinal cord injury is the loss of independence many victims experience. One day they went out to the store, and an hour later they can no longer walk. Our attorneys have aided many victims in the complicated claims process, and we know how important it is to provide victims with a sense of agency in their case. At Dolman Law Group, not only will you have our support, you'll have our expertise and resources. Our former clients will validate our policy of making you a priority, unlike settlement mills that are already looking for the next big case. Recovering from a spinal cord injury can be a life-long endeavor, and taking on a personal injury lawsuit without backup can deprive you of a fair settlement. At Dolman Law Group, our spinal cord attorneys will work tirelessly to help you reclaim your losses and chart a new path forward. Contact us at (833) 55-CRASH for auto accidents. You can also send us an email on our contact us page.  

Matthew Dolman

Clearwater Personal Injury and Insurance Attorney

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess or $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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