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Types of Spinal Cord Injuries and Treatments

4 Spinal Cord Areas That Can Become Injured After an Accident

A spinal cord has four sections that an individual could damage when they suffer a spinal cord injury.

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  • Cervical spinal cord. This is located on the top portion of the spine. It consists of seven vertebrae in the neck (C1 to C7). Since the cervical spinal cord is close to the brain, any impact or force onto this area can result in a severe injury. This will create an “absent” feeling below the shoulders or neck. If an individual gets a cervical spinal cord injury, then they will be at risk of having permanent or partial loss of sensory function. This injury may also be fatal. Once swelling decreases and the patient undergoes surgery, the recovery process will commence. The recovery process of a cervical spinal cord injury consists of:
    • Stabilizing the injured section of the spinal cord.
    • Consuming steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs to help with the swelling. A common drug that individuals typically take is methylprednisolone.
    • Rehabilitation to help the individual re-learn how to move their body.
    • 24/7 care for the rest of their lives. This primarily happens to those who suffered a severe spinal cord injury and have no chance of making a full recovery.
  • Lumbar spinal cord. This is located in the second lowest section of the spinal cord. It consists of five vertebrae (L1 to L5) under the thoracic portion. This spinal cord is capable of carrying the most weight out of all the other sections, thus having the largest vertebrae. If an individual suffers an injury in the lumbar spinal cord, they will experience some loss of function around the hips and legs. Furthermore, the individual could have a lack of control over their bowel or bladder movements. There is no impact done to the upper body. The recovery process for a lumbar spinal cord injury depends on which nerves were affected and the level of severity of the injury. Even though all spinal cord injuries are considered severe, the lumbar spinal cord rarely has situations where the damage is fatal. Individuals who are seeking help for their recovery process generally go to a rehabilitation center to regain their mobility with the help of therapists and mobility-assisting equipment or technology.
  • Thoracic spinal cord. This is located in both the upper and middle sections of the spinal cord. It consists of twelve vertebrae (T1 to T12). Each of these numbers correlates with the nerves found in that section of the spinal cord.
    • T1 to T5 nerves. This will impact the muscles, mid-back, abdominal muscles, and upper chest. These nerves maintain the rib cage, diaphragm, lungs, and muscles to help the individual breathe.
    • T6 to T12 nerves. This will affect the back and abdominal muscles. The nerves in this section help the individual with their balance and posture.

    If an individual suffers from a thoracic spinal cord injury, they can possibly get diagnosed with paraplegia. However, their arms and hand movement will not be affected. Another problem that could arise is having a lack of control over bowel or bladder movements. For the individual to recover from this injury, they must get it checked out by a medical expert. They will prescribe instructions that need to be followed to make the recovery process easier. Once the individual has already met with the doctor, they may begin their self-care treatment at home. This only applies for those who did not suffer extreme damage to their thoracic spinal cord. During recovery, the individual must:

    • Move slowly and be cautious of their surroundings.
    • Avoid lifting heavy objects.
    • Apply ice or heat to the injured area. The medical expert may recommend ice to decrease the pain and swelling. Heat will help decrease muscle spasms. The method of doing this treatment varies based on what the doctor thinks would be best.
    • Use a back brace to keep the injured area stabilized.
    • Continue attending physical therapy sessions to regain strength.
  • Sacral spinal cord. This is located in the lowest section of the spinal cord. It is below the lumbar section and above the tailbone. It consists of five bones that are combined together to form triangle-shaped nerves (S1 to S5). Each nerve affects a different area of the body.
    • S1 nerves. Impacts the hip and groin area.
    • S2 nerves. Impacts the back area of the thighs.
    • S3 nerves. Impacts the buttock area.
    • S4 and S5 nerves. Impacts the perineal area.

    It is rare for an individual to have a sacral spinal cord injury. It usually happens during a serious fall or trauma that directly affects the sacral. If the sacral does get damaged, then the individual may experience a loss of function in the hips and legs. They might not be able to have control of their bowel or bladder functions. However, the individual may still have the ability to walk. The recovery process for a sacral spinal injury cord varies depending on how severe the damage is. Regardless of the outcome, it is still important to see a doctor. They will create a treatment plan that will help during the recovery process.

Caring for Yourself After a Spinal Cord Injury

  • Leave a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes. Do this every 1 to 2 hours for 3 days. Make sure that you put the ice or cold pack in a washcloth before placing it on your skin.
  • Do not sit on a hard surface. Try to place the injured area on a soft surface to prevent pressure from arising on the tailbone area.
  • Eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans in your diet to have high fiber. You should also drink a lot of water.

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.

Contact Us

If you suffered a spinal cord injury due to the negligent acts committed by another individual, West Coast Trial Lawyers has spinal cord injury attorneys that have extensive experience with handling personal injury cases. We will help you get financial and emotional compensation for your losses. This includes medical expenses, emotional distress, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.

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

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