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San Diego Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer

A spinal cord injury is a devastating condition that can lead to life-altering changes. This type of bodily harm can be caused by a variety of factors, from automobile accidents to slip and falls. Symptoms may vary depending on what particular segment of the spine has been affected.

This diagnosis can take a financial and emotional toll on the injured person. If you or someone you know is suffering from a spinal cord injury due to someone else's negligence, you may be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit against them to seek compensation.

At West Coast Trial Lawyers, our team is readily available to offer services to those who need legal representation. We have over 150 years of collective experience in handling personal injury cases, and are confident that we will deliver quality services that will meet your expectations.

We run on a contingency-fee basis, meaning that you owe us nothing until we settle your case. To schedule a free consultation with one of our top-rated San Diego spinal cord injury attorneys, we welcome you to reach out to us by calling (619) 789-4494 or completing our easy online contact form.

Woman in activewear at a park holding her lower back in pain.

What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?

A spinal cord injury is when the spine is damaged by an external or internal force. Complications will differ depending on which particular bones have been harmed. Damage done to the top part of the spine may result in paralysis in most of the body, whereas in the lower area, it may impact the hips and legs.

San Diego Spinal Cord Injury Statistics

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), an estimate of 18,000 spinal cord injury cases are reported each year. About 79 percent of those who experience this form of bodily damage are men, and the average age is 43. The following is a list of other additional spinal cord injury statistics that have been reported:

  • Roughly 302,000 people live with a traumatic spinal cord injury.
  • A majority of spinal cord injuries occurred due to motor vehicle accidents (37.6 percent) and falls (31.5 percent). Following behind is violence (15.4 percent), sports (8.3 percent), and medical procedures (3.6 percent).
  • Recently, incomplete tetraplegia has been the most common diagnosis.
  • Less than one percent of patients will have a complete neurological recovery by the time they are discharged from the hospital.

Common Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

There are various types of spinal cord injuries a person may develop. Below, we will go over each one, and what signs to look out for.

Cervical Spinal Cord Injury

A cervical spinal cord injury may lead to severe conditions, like permanent damage or partial sensory impairment. Given the situation, you are expected to undergo extensive medical treatment and partake in rehabilitation activities to improve your quality of life.

Thoracic Spinal Cord Injury

The seriousness of a thoracic spinal cord injury will vary based on the type of nerve damage you sustain. You may experience pain spreading into your arms, legs, rib cage, and/or anterior chest. The following symptoms have been reported for this type of spinal cord damage:

  • Substantial weakness in the legs,
  • Loss of sensation,
  • Shortness of breath, and
  • Numbness or tingling.

Lumbar Spinal Cord Injury

The lumbar spine is made of five bones and is located on the lower portion of your back. If damage is done to this particular area, you may experience:

  • Loss of bladder or bowel control, and
  • Some loss of function in your hips and/or legs.

Sacral Spinal Cord Injury

A sacral spine is found between the lumbar spine and the coccyx. Injury caused to this part of the spine may result in different reactions. For instance, damage done to your:

  • S1 nerves will tamper with your hips and groin area.
  • S2 nerves may target the backs of your thighs.
  • S3 nerves can impact your medical buttock area.
  • S4 nerves will affect your perineal area.

Forms of Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis

A close-up shot of a man wearing blue jeans and a light blue buttoned shirt in his wheelchair.

A spinal cord injury can lead to partial or complete paralysis. In the following sections, we have provided specific details covering certain types of spinal cord injury impairment, and the symptoms people are expected to encounter.


Paraplegia affects the lower part of your body. This may restrict you from functioning your legs, feet, and in some cases, your abdomen. Symptoms that are known to occur with this condition include:

  • Numbness in the lower body,
  • Weight gain,
  • Chronic pain, and
  • Sexual function complications.


Tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia, impacts the arms and legs. It is viewed as one of the most severe types of paralysis since it targets all four limbs. Certain individuals may also experience issues with other parts of the body, like the chest, abdomen, and back.

Symptoms of tetraplegia may consist of:

  • Muscle spasms,
  • Sensory impairment,
  • Difficulty breathing, and
  • Pain caused by nerve damage.

What Are the Common Causes of a Spinal Cord Injury in San Diego?

A spinal cord injury can be triggered by several elements. Below, we will go over each common cause and what you can do to prevent one from happening.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

A motor vehicle accident is a major contributing factor to a spinal cord injury. Drivers who are involved in one may experience distinct reactions. If brute force is directed to the back area, chances of a spinal cord injury are highly likely to occur. Getting ejected out of the vehicle and landing on the ground is another potential risk you may face.

To lessen your likelihood of getting into a collision, you should consider doing the following:

  • Wear a seat belt while in a moving vehicle,
  • Keep your focus on the road, and
  • Avoid driving while under the influence.

Slip and Fall Accidents

A fall-related spinal cord injury is known to occur amongst elderly people. According to a 2023 study conducted by Numaira Obaid, a postdoctoral researcher within SFU's Surrey-based Neurospine Biomechanics Lab, 71 percent of spinal cord injuries that happen with older adults is due to low injury falls. This type of damage can cause the neck and cervical spine to excessively bend backwards.

This can be avoided if you:

  • Use handrails when walking up or down the stairs, and
  • Install handlebars in bathrooms and showers.

Acts of Violence

It is reported that 12 percent of spinal cord injuries occur due to physical confrontation that involves gunshot wounds or knife stabbings. To reduce the possibility of a violent encounter, you should:

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times,
  • Not walk in dangerous neighborhoods, and
  • Disassociate yourself from someone who is exhibiting aggressive behavior.

Sports Injuries

Recreational activities, like high-impact sports and diving, contribute to nearly 10 percent of spinal cord injuries. Since players are aware of the risks associated with sporting events, legal consequences can be difficult to implement. However, if they committed certain actions that are in violation of the sport, a lawsuit can be filed against them.

Although these activities involve a lot of physical contact, you can still protect yourself from sustaining a spinal cord injury by:

  • Using the right safety gear, and
  • Complying with the gameplay guidelines.

What Is Life Like for Someone With a Spinal Cord Injury?

Two women examining a spinal cord model.

Major life adjustments are expected for people who are diagnosed with a spinal cord injury. You will need surgical procedures and physical therapy to improve your well-being. Since the spine controls different functions of the body, you may be left with either a complete spinal cord injury or an incomplete spinal cord injury.

Complete Spinal Cord Injuries

A complete spinal cord injury may trigger a permanent disability. You will experience a loss of sensation and motor function in the affected areas. If such bodily damage results in paraplegia, the lower parts of your body will be impaired, whereas with tetraplegia, both your arms and legs will be immobilized.

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

An incomplete spinal cord injury involves partial paralysis, meaning that some messages can still be sent to or from the brain. Those who have this condition may notice:

  • Weakness
  • Muscle stiffness,
  • Bladder and bowel control issues, and
  • Changes in sensation.

How Is a Spinal Cord Injury Treated?

Once a spinal cord injury has occurred, urgent medical attention must be provided to reduce the likelihood of a head or neck injury. Emergency personnel will use a rigid neck collar and carrying board to cautiously immobilize the spine and transport the injured person to the hospital.

Admitted patients will then receive the appropriate level of care needed, and will be presented with a treatment plan that may include:

  • Routine check-ups,
  • Medication,
  • Procedures,
  • Rehabilitation therapy,
  • Mobility aids, and
  • Assistive devices.

These approaches will help "promote nerve cell regeneration or improve the function of the nerves that remain after a spinal cord injury."

What to Do After a San Diego Spinal Cord Injury Accident

Accident victims with serious spinal cord injuries in San Diego may be entitled to pursue legal action against the negligent individual or entity at fault. To strengthen your personal injury claim, you should consider doing the steps sectioned below.

Contact the Police

Once you call local authorities, they will arrive at the scene and conduct a police report. You may request a copy of this written documentation and use it in your case. Paramedics will also be present to administer medical treatment and take you to the hospital.

Seek Medical Treatment

After you have been discharged, you will need ongoing medical care to maintain your condition. Although a spinal cord injury is not curable, the course of treatment you will receive may help better your quality of life. Your doctor visits, procedures, and medication prescriptions will be saved on file and can be used proof that you were harmed as a result of the other party's negligence.

Gather Evidence

You should obtain as much evidence as you can to incorporate into your spinal cord injury lawsuit. This includes:

  • Photographs of your injury,
  • CCTV footage,
  • Witness statements,
  • A copy of the police report and your medical records, and
  • A journal or diary entry explaining your perspective of the incident.

Spinal Cord Injury and Wrongful Death

Rows of headstones with pink flowers in front of them.

Fatal spinal cord injury victims can have their estate or surviving family sue the liable party to seek damages. Under California's wrongful death "one-action" rule, only one claim can be submitted. This is done to prevent multiple identical cases from being filed against the opposing side, and to allow the court to handle the situation in a timely manner.

Compensation that is usually awarded in a wrongful death settlement include:

  • Medical costs,
  • Funeral and burial expenses,
  • Loss of financial support, and
  • Pain and suffering.

Statute of Limitations to File a San Diego Spinal Cord Injury Lawsuit

The statute of limitations to file a San Diego spinal cord injury lawsuit is two years from the date of when the incident occurred. Be sure to gather evidence soon after the event, and to find legal representation from the right spinal cord injury attorney. Failing to fulfill these duties prior to the deadline will take away your opportunity to obtain compensation for the losses you endured.

What Is the Value of a San Diego Spinal Cord Injury Case?

The value of a San Diego spinal cord injury case will vary based on:

  • The extent of your injuries,
  • The amount of damages you encountered, and
  • The percentage of negligence committed by all parties involved.

Once these elements have been considered, the court will determine what amount of compensation should be owed and distribute it accordingly. Typically, economic damages and non-economic damages are awarded.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are financial losses you experienced as a result of your spinal cord injury. This includes:

  • Past and future medical expenses,
  • Lost wages, and
  • Loss of earning capacity.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are intangible costs that are not easily measured in monetary terms, such as:

  • Emotional distress,
  • Loss of enjoyment of life, and
  • Pain and suffering.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are rarely given in personal injury cases. Courts apply this in about 5 percent of verdicts. The intent is to punish the wrongdoer for their egregious behavior by enforcing them to provide additional pay, and to prevent similar misconduct from occurring in the future. To receive punitive damages, you will need to prove that the defendant committed malice, fraud, or intentional harm towards you.

Our San Diego Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers Are Here to Help

Accident victims who sustain spinal cord injuries due to someone else's negligence may file a personal injury lawsuit against them. At West Coast Trial Lawyers, our legal team is available 24/7 to represent you. We will assess the situation based on the evidence provided, guide you through the filing process, and get you full and fair compensation.

To schedule a free case evaluation, you can get in touch with us by calling (619) 789-4494 or filling out our quick online contact form.

More Resources

Spinal Cord Injury, Treatment, and Recovery

Determining the Severity of a Spinal Cord Injury

Lower Back Pain and Spinal Cord Injury

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