ClickCease Complete vs Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury

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Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

What is the Difference Between a Complete and Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury?

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A complete spinal cord injury is classified as no longer having sensation or motor control below your injury. This may result in a diagnosis of paraplegia or tetraplegia. Paraplegia is triggered when damage is done to the thoracic, lumbar, or sacral section of the spinal cord. Tetraplegia emerges when damage is done to the cervical section of the spinal cord. Symptoms for complete spinal cord injury include:

  • Complete loss of motion below the injury.
  • Losing sensation below the injury.
  • Struggling to control the bladder or bowel movements.
  • Difficulty breathing, if the injury is located around the cervical area.

An incomplete spinal cord injury is defined as when an individual has some feeling below the level of their injury. Their spinal cord is still capable of sending messages between the brain and the body. This injury could be classified as partial paralysis. Symptoms for incomplete spinal cord injury include:

  • Retaining some sensation every now and then below the injury.
  • Capability of moving muscles below the injury. The extent of muscle movement varies depending on how severe the injury was.
  • Chronic pain below the injury.


There are several factors that may cause a spinal cord injury. This includes:

  • Motor vehicle accidents. This is the most common cause of spinal cord injury. Since vehicles are large and heavy, they could have intense contact with a driver’s spine.
  • Sport injuries. There are many sports-related activities that require individuals to tackle each other down. Football and hockey are commonly known for having players experience spinal cord injury due to the level of physical contact that is implemented in both sports.
  • Diseases. Certain types of diseases have the effect of making bones weaker, thus making individuals have a higher chance of experiencing spinal cord injury. Diseases include, but are not limited to, osteoporosis, osteopenia, or arthritis.
  • Physical violence. Violent acts, such as gunshots or knife wounds, could result in the individual becoming injured. This will most likely happen if the bullet or knife goes through the spinal canal and fractures the pedicles and facets.

It is not possible to determine which of these causes will result in a complete or incomplete spinal cord injury. It all depends on how intense the contact to the spine was to determine which of the two will occur.

Treatment and Recovery

An individual suffering from an incomplete spinal cord injury generally has a faster recovery compared to complete spinal cord injury. Since incomplete spinal cord injury still makes it possible for the individual to have some type of function over their body, they will have an easier time regaining strength and relearning basic movements.

However, there are many factors that come into play for an individual to recover from a spinal cord injury. These include:

  • The area of the injury. If the injury is located in the higher section, where the cervical area is, then it is highly unlikely for the individual to make a full recovery.
  • The individual’s health status. If the individual has a health condition, other than a spinal cord injury, it could affect the recovery process. Infections could tamper with the injured area by increasing the swelling.
  • Dedication to physical therapy. If the individual goes to physical therapy sessions to heal their injury, then they will start to notice effective results.
  • Medical care. Receiving medical care from physicians and nurses will help the patient with their recovery process.

Overall, each individual has a different experience when it comes to overcoming their spinal cord injury. Some may start to notice results quickly while others may not be able to recover due to intense damage done to their spine. It is important to check in with a medical expert to learn about accessible treatment plans that are suited for their condition.

Available Damages

Accidents happen. If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Below is a brief explanation of damages. Damages are a type of monetary award that is determined by a court of law to help compensate an aggrieved individual for any losses or injuries sustained as a result of someone’s negligence.

Economic Damages
Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses that a dollar amount can readily be attached to. Economic damages are calculated by determining the amount of out-of-pocket losses an aggrieved individual has or will expect to incur as a result of their injuries.

A few examples of economic losses include:

  • Loss of Earning Capacity
  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages

Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out-of-pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Punitive Damages
The third type of damages a California court may award are known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended as punishment and are only awarded when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful. Punitive damages are relatively rare and in fact were only incorporated in 5 percent of all verdicts.

Furthermore, there is no real set standard for calculating and awarding punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded at the court’s discretion and will vary depending on the specific circumstances of a case.

Limitations for Damages in California 
For the most part, there is no real cap on compensatory damages following a personal injury claim. This means that courts are able to award any amount they feel is appropriate and reasonable.

However, the only exception is regarding medical malpractice cases. In these cases, the limit for pain and suffering and other non-economic losses is $250,000.

West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here to Help 

If you have suffered a complete or incomplete spinal cord injury due to negligent acts committed by another individual, West Coast Trial Lawyers has experienced personal injury attorneys that have handled personal injury cases relating to spinal cord injuries. We will help you recover maximum financial and emotional compensation for your losses. This includes medical bills, emotional distress, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.

No fees are charged until your case has been settled. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation with the attorneys at our firm. Reach out to our friendly legal team 24/7 by calling (213) 927-3700 or emailing [email protected].


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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