Spinal Cord Injuries Related To Car Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the following facts:

  • Motor vehicle accidents cause 46% of spinal cord injuries.

  • Using a seatbelt can reduce the chances of spinal cord injury in an automobile accident by 60%.

  • Seatbelt and air bag use combined can reduce the odds of motor vehicle accident spinal cord injury by 80%.


  • The average medical cost of spinal cord injury is $15,000 to $30,000 per year.


  • Depending on the severity of the injury, the estimated lifetime cost of a spinal cord injury ranges from $500,000 to more than $3 million.

spine injury after car accident stats

Car Accidents and Spinal Cord Injuries in New York

A spinal cord injury results from damage to the spinal cord itself or to the ligaments, disks, or vertebrae of the spinal column. A car accident can cause a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that crushes, compresses, dislocates, or fractures one or more of the vertebrae. Additional injury can occur in the days or weeks following the accident due to inflammation, swelling, fluid accumulation, and bleeding around the spinal cord.

The trauma from the accident can damage the nerve fibers that pass through the injured area and impair all or a portion of the nerves and muscles below the level of the injury. Lumbar (lower back) or thoracic (chest) injuries can affect the torso, bowel and bladder control, sexual function, and the legs. A neck injury can affect the ability to move the arms and hands, and possibly the ability to breathe.

Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injury

The use of the limbs after spinal cord injury depends on two issues:

  1. The location of the injury on the spinal cord
  2. The severity of the damage.

Paralysis occurs below the level of the spinal cord injury. It can be complete – no sensory or motor function below the injury, or incomplete – leaving some feeling and ability to control movement below the level of the injury.

When paralysis affects the arms, hands, trunk, pelvic organs, legs, and feet, the condition is known as quadriplegia (or tetraplegia). With paraplegia, part of the trunk, the pelvic organs, the legs, and the feet are affected.

Any type of spinal cord injury may cause all or some of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of ability to move parts of the body
  • Loss of feeling, including the sensations of heat, cold, and touch
  • Spasms or exaggerated reflexes
  • Intense stinging or pain resulting from damage to nerve fibers
  • Difficulty breathing, coughing, and clearing out the lungs
  • Loss of control over bowels or bladder

What to Do After an Accident that Injured the Spine

Time is of the essence when an automobile accident results in spinal cord damage. The time that passes between the injury and medical treatment can be a critical factor in the degree of recovery and the extent of complications.

In a study reported in Journal of Neurosurgery, increased recovery of neurological function was seen at 6 weeks, 6 months, and 1 year after injury in patients treated with methylprednisolone within 8 hours of injury.

If you or someone you love was involved in a car accident and their back is injured, it is important to take the right steps so the victim is not injured further:

  • Do not move the victim. If you do, it could cause serious additional injury.
  • Call 911 or emergency ambulance service immediately.
  • Keep the injured person still.
  • Prevent movement of the injured person’s head and neck by either holding the head or placing heavy towels or similar items against both sides of the neck.
  • Stop any bleeding, administer basic first aid, and make the victim as comfortable as you can –without moving the head or neck – until the ambulance arrives.

Legal Help for Victims of Spinal Cord Injury Caused By Car Accidents

The costs of spinal cord injury are astronomical for the victim in economic terms, as well as in the level of pain and suffering and the loss of quality of life. If you have sustained a serious spinal cord injury through the fault of another driver, you deserve the maximum compensation that can be recovered to help you meet the lifetime of challenges ahead.

Hecht Kleeger & Damashek, P.C.

At Hecht Kleeger & Damashek, P.C., we will always pursue the maximum compensation possible, and we are relentless in the pursuit of justice for those we represent. We feel strongly, on a personal basis, that victims of catastrophic injuries should have access to the financial resources to have the best possible quality of life after a spinal cord injury. Although the majority of cases will be settled out of court, our experienced car accident attorney will not hesitate to take your case to trial and battle fiercely for your rights when necessary.


World Health Organization: Media Center: Spinal Cord Injury http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs384/en/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Spinal Cord Injury (SCI): Fact Sheet http://www.cdc.gov/TraumaticBrainInjury/scifacts.html
Mayo Clinic: Diseases and Conditions: Spinal Cord Injury           http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/spinal-cord-injury/basics/causes/con-20023837
PubMed.gov, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1727165