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Facts About Spinal Cord Injuries

Approximately 11,000 new spinal cord injuries (SCIs) occur in the United States each year. SCIs are devastating: Of those who have suffered an SCI, 52 percent are considered to be paraplegic and 47 percent are considered to be quadriplegic.

What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?

An SCI is any injury to the spinal cord that causes a loss of function or a loss of mobility. Contrary to popular belief, a loss of function can occur even if the spinal cord is not severed. In fact, the spinal cords of most people who suffer SCIs remain intact, but damaged. It is also possible for someone to break the bones in his or her neck or back and not suffer any loss of function.

What Are the Effects of SCI?

The effect of a spinal cord injury depends upon the type and level of the injury. Neck injuries occurring above the fourth cervical vertebra, for example, usually result in quadriplegia (also known as four limb paralysis) and muscle paralysis requiring a ventilator. Injuries occurring at the thoracic level and below, however, usually result in paraplegia (paralysis affecting the legs).

Paralysis may also be complete (i.e., complete and permanent loss of function and feeling below the location of the injury) or incomplete (i.e., any partial loss of function; the effects of incomplete paralysis vary widely among individuals). Because the effects of SCI depend on many factors, prognosis is often difficult.

The Causes and Costs of Spinal Cord Injuries

The overwhelming majority of spinal cord injuries — 37 percent — occur as a result of motor vehicle accidents. On average, those suffering an SCI require hospitalization for at least 15 days after injury and incur initial hospitalization costs approaching $140,000. Depending on the extent of the injury, first-year medical costs can approach $500,000. And, unfortunately, those suffering SCIs will continue to incur substantial medical costs for the rest of their lives.

Contact Experienced Legal Counsel

If you or someone you love has suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident, fall or other accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney, like those at Greenberg Stone and Urbano A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can evaluate your case and may be able to help you recover compensation for medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering. To learn more, visit us at

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