Experienced Richmond Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys
Helping SCI victims throughout Virginia receive the compensation they deserve
Spinal cord injuries often cause long-term or permanent changes in sensation, strength, and the ability to move. Suffering a spinal cord injury can affect almost every aspect of your life – physically, emotionally, and socially. At Phelan Petty, our Richmond spinal cord injury lawyers help victims and their families move forward. Our lawyers have represented the catastrophically injured throughout Virginia for decades, securing millions of dollars on behalf of our clients. When you are hurt, we can help. Contact us in Richmond to learn more.
What are the types of spinal cord injuries?
Cervical spinal cord injuries
The cervical spine consists of seven vertebrae in the neck, C1 – C7. Injuries to the spinal cord in the area of the cervical spine are often devastating. Cervical spine injures can result in paralysis and/or loss of feeling below the neck and shoulders, referred to as quadriplegia or tetraplegia.
Lumbar spinal cord injuries
There are five vertebrae located in the lumbar portion of the spine. They are designated as L1 – L5. Injuries to this section of the spinal cord usually result in some or total loss of function in the legs and hips, but not in the upper body. SCI to the lumbar spine also can cause voluntary control of the bladder or bowel.
Thoracic spinal cord injuries
There are 12 vertebrae positioned in the thoracic spine, covering the middle and upper portion of the back. These vertebrae are identified as T1 – T12. Nerve injury in the area of T1-T5 commonly affects the legs, lower back, and abdominal muscles, usually resulting in paraplegia – meaning the patient cannot walk but retains use of the hands and arms. An injury in the area of T6-T12 can cause not only paraplegia, but loss of bowel and/or bladder function as well.
Sacral spinal cord injuries
The sacral spine – or sacrum – is located above the tailbone (or the coccyx) and below the lumbar spine. This triangular-shaped sacrum consists of five bones fused together – they are numbered S1 – S5. An injury to the spinal cord in the sacrum can cause some degree of loss of function in the legs and hips and may also cause loss of voluntary control (partially or wholly) of the bladder or bowel Persons with injuries to the sacrum are usually able to walk, with varying degrees of impairment.
Complete vs. incomplete spinal cord injuries
Spinal cord injuries are categorized as complete or incomplete. A complete injury involves total loss of motor and sensory function below the point of the injury. An incomplete injury is one in which the spinal cord is still partially able to transmit messages to or from the brain. The patient retains the ability to feel some degree of sensation and may be able to perform some movements below the level of the injury.
What causes spinal cord injuries?
The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center at the University of Alabama-Birmingham performs research on spinal cord injuries throughout the year and publishes a compendium of statistics on spinal cord injuries. There are nearly 18,000 spinal injury cases per year. Men sustain almost 8 in 10 of them.
The leading causes of spinal cord injury in descending order are as follows:
How is a spinal cord injury treated?
In the event of a trauma leading to a spinal cord injury, the first few hours of care are critical.
The level of spinal injury determines the course of the treatment: the higher the injury, the more severe the impairment. Doctors use a dermatome map to determine the patient’s loss of sensation, and the ASIA Impairment Scale (AIS) to determine loss of motor function. This information helps doctors determine a course of medications and rehabilitative therapies for SCI victims. Therapy, along with medications, will be used to treat both the injury and its effects.
In the long-term, patients with spinal cord injuries will require rehabilitation; some people will need these treatments for the rest of their lives. According to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPMR), physiatrists – doctors who specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation treatments – may lead a multi-member team of specialists, nurses, and doctors to treat their patients. AAPMR lists the following potential rehabilitative treatments for patients:
- EMG/Nerve Conduction Studies
- Ultrasound guided procedures
- Fluoroscopy guided procedures
- Injections of spine
- Discography, Disc Decompression and Vertebroplasty/Kyphoplasty
- Nerve Stimulators, Blocks and Ablation procedures—Peripheral and Spinal
- Injections of joints
- Spasticity Treatment (Phenol and Botulinum toxin injections, intrathecal baclofen pump trial and implants)
- Nerve and Muscle Biopsy
- Manual Medicine/Osteopathic Treatment
- Prosthetics and Orthotics
- Complementary-alternative medicine (i.e. acupuncture, etc.)
Which damages are recoverable in a spinal cord injury claim?
Compensation available in these cases can include loss of earnings (past and future); medical and life care expenses (past and future) including medical treatments, home modifications, adaptive vehicles, wheelchairs, and assistance in the home; and compensation for past and future human losses (pain and suffering), including mental and physical suffering, physical impairments, disfigurement, anxiety, inconvenience, emotional distress, humiliation, and loss of enjoyment and/or quality of life