Spinal Cord Injuries – Car Accidents


Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) are one of the biggest concerns in car accidents. When an emergency medical technician (EMT) arrives at the scene of an accident they immediately check for SCI. The reason for this is that they know the importance of identifying these injuries right away.

Healthcare professionals recommend that people involved in a car accident don’t move if they suspect a back injury. The first responders, both fire and EMT, carry back boards specifically for these injuries. They prioritize these injuries in the emergency room, but often times the surgeries are left for days until swelling goes down. A new study now shows that this may not be the best policy.

“The differences that we are seeing with early decompression surgery are very significant and the results have a major impact on a person’s life,” Toronto neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Fehlings said.

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Study

In a study published last week in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers found that of 313 patients with cervical-spinal-cord injury involved in the study, nearly 20% of those who had decompression surgery on their spine within 24 hours showed marked improvement in function compared to fewer than 9% of those who had surgery later.

The joint Canadian-U.S. study said that getting upper-spinal-cord injury victims into the operating room for decompression surgery sooner can reduce the likelihood of permanent paralysis for some patients.

“These are patients who have a very severe injury of the spinal cord,” said Dr. Fehlings, medical director of the Krembil Neuroscience Centre at Toronto Western Hospital, who led the study.

Researchers focused cervical spine, the area that accounts for 30% of all spinal-cord injuries and can lead to a person becoming a quadriplegic. The cervical spinal cord is encased in seven bony vertebrae that begin at the nape of the neck. Immediately below are the thoracic vertebrae, followed by those in the lumbar region that end in the tailbone.

“Traumas that cause upper-spinal- cord injury often occur from falls, sports injuries or motor vehicle accidents,” said Fehlings. “In most cases, there is a fracture of the cervical spine that results in either a dislocation of the vertebrae or a crush of one of the vertebra. In some cases, patients who have pre-existing narrowing of the spinal canal due to degenerative disc disease or arthritis can have blunt-trauma injury to the cord without an actual fracture.”

These types of surgeries often require a specialist and a lot of careful preparation such as x-rays and other expensive but essential scans. The operation involves releasing the pressure on the injured spinal cord and then stabilizing it. Without the careful hands of a specialist, this can result in tragedy.

In rare cases, and depending on the severity of the injury, a patient who otherwise would likely have been paralyzed was able to walk.

“The timing for a spinal-cord injury matters. In other words, it’s like a stroke or a heart attack. Both stroke and heart attack (are) medical emergencies… The same is true for spinal-cord injury,” said Fehlings.

Spinal Cord Injuries and Personal Injury Lawsuits

There are approximately 8000 spinal cord injuries every year in the US and almost 40% of them are caused by car accidents. When victims suffer a spinal cord injury in a car accident they can often spend long periods in the hospital, but they can potentially spend the rest of their lives rehabilitating. Not only that, studies have shown that there’s a risk that SCI can shorten your life.

However, it is hard to focus on the long-term consequences when the short-term consequences involve astronomical hospital bills of up to a half a million dollars. Long-term care can range in the millions involving:

  • Surgeries
  • Hospice Care
  • Physical Therapy
  • Psychological Therapy
  • Wheelchair Transition Services and Maintenance
  • Home Renovation
  • In-Home Care
  • Professional Retraining

These expenses can mount over a lifetime and it is the responsibility of the negligent party that caused the injury to accommodate and compensate the victim. That why it is important to get an experienced attorney to seek justice for the victim so that they can at least lead a life of dignity and regain some of their former life despite their injuries.

Some of the compensation an attorney will seek for the victim is:

  • Quality of Life
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Lost Wages

Washington Spinal Cord Injury Attorney

Phillips Law Firm is a full service law firm with a substantial track record of success Personal Injury Litigation. We take the time to fully assess the injured party’s case in order to assure that the victim receives the compensation they deserve. Call our Personal Injury Attorneys today for a free consultation.