Spinal cord injuries (SCI) are life-changing, and often permanent. There is not yet a cure for SCI and the treatments which offer the best chance of recovery are often new or experimental. Victims of severe spinal cord injuries require extensive care for the rest of their lives, have shortened life expectancies and suffer with secondary conditions often resulting in the need for frequent medical treatment.
The Cost of Spinal Cord Injury
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), the lifetime cost of SCI ranges from a little over $1 million to over $4.5 million. That is just for expenses, and does not include any lost income. High tetraplegia, injury at the level of C4 or above, can generate over $1 million in the first year alone.
Adequately estimating your lifetime expenses, and presenting that convincingly, is one of the most important parts of your spinal cord injury claim. Experienced personal injury attorneys use experts to project the lifetime costs, and provide testimony which backs up the estimate.
Consequences of Spinal Cord Injury
The likelihood of recovery from SCI depends on the severity of the injury, and the type of impairment depends on the level of the injury. Recovery from complete spinal cord injury is rare. Impairment occurs from the level of injury down. Although we tend to associate SCI with a loss of function and sensation, it can also cause chronic pain. Consequences of SCI can include:
- Quadriplegia (also called tetraplegia)
- Loss of autonomic functions such as breathing, bowel control, and bladder control
- Loss of the ability to speak
- Loss of motor function
- Loss of sensation and reflex
- Sexual dysfunction
- Chronic pain
- Muscle spasms
- Poor coordination
- Secondary conditions such as bed sores, pneumonia, bladder infections, and malnutrition
- Early death
SCI mortality rates are highest during the first year after injury. Pneumonia and septicemia are the most common causes of early death in SCI survivors. The level of injury, and corresponding impairments, has a very significant impact on life expectancy. So does age at the time of injury.
Of those who survive the first year after injury, 20-year-olds whose SCIs result in paraplegia live, on average, for another 45.4 years. That time is cut nearly in half for 20-year-old SCI victims who are ventilator-dependent. The average post-injury life expectancy for 60-year-olds who survive their first year is 13.2 years for paraplegics and 3.8 for those who are dependent on ventilators.
If you have a spinal cord injury claim, it is important to meet with an experienced injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident to ensure the best chance of recovery for your personal injury claim.