The most common serious injury suffered by the victim of an auto, truck, boat, motorcycle or other vehicle accident in Georgia is a back or spinal cord injury.
Spinal cord injuries are extremely serious and require immediate medical attention. The symptoms depend on the severity and location of the trauma. A “complete spinal cord injury” is defined as an injury where the nerves are not functional at any point below the injury, where with a “partial spinal cord injury” there is some nerve function below the injury.
The human body has 24 movable vertebrae: 7 cervical, 12 thoracic and 5 lumbar. The spinal nerves wind through the spinal canal. The cervical vertebrae are in the area of the neck, the thoracic center around the upper back and the lumbar are associated with the lower back. The vertebrae are numbered in sequential order with #1 at the top, so C1 would be the top cervical vertebra and C7 the bottom cervical vertebra and the one above T1. An injury occurring higher up the spinal cord results in relatively more paralysis than one affecting the lower vertebrae.
A complete spinal cord injury in the C1 region is considered a catastrophic spinal injury and could affect a victim’s breathing and result in quardraplegia, paralysis of all limbs. A compete injury of the thoracic or lumbar vertebrae might result in paraplegia, or paralysis of the arms or legs. Other symptoms of spinal cord injuries could include: stiffness or spasticity of the affected arms or legs, loss of bowel or bladder control and sexual dysfunction.
Treatment of the injury for spinal cord usually consists of 3 distinct phases:
1. Stabilization of the injury and minimization of further injury to the spinal cord;
2. Rehabilitation of the injury so that the patient can function at maximum mobility;
3. Coping with the injury and the life changes associated with any permanent impairments.
More than 10,000 American suffer serious spinal injuries each year. Most of these occur in automobile wrecks and trucking accidents. Motorcycle accidents and boating crashes are other common causes. If you are injured in an accident, even if you don’t necessarily feel seriously hurt, seek medical attention immediately. If the injury is a complete spinal cord injury, you will likely have no choice. However, even with a partial spine injury, wait for the ambulance. Adrenaline may cause you to feel stronger and less injured than you really are. You can make the injury worse if you don’t stop moving immediately.
I represented a man with a partial spinal injury who exacerbated the injury by his unrestrained movement after the fact. Not only was he more severely injured than he should have been, but he also could not seek damages for the exacerbation caused by his post-accident movement, as it was not caused directly by the wreck. Don’t let this happen to you. And, by the way, wear your seatbelt in your vehicle and your helmet on your motorcycle because a severe head or brain injury is not just devastating, it’s likely fatal.
Hire a lawyer who is experienced in cases involving spinal cord and head injuries. The medical details can be confusing, and you don’t your lawyer to learn on the job when so much is at stake.