Spinal Cord Injury FAQs

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Practice at Mayor Law

If you or a family member has been involved in an Oregon spinal cord accident or sustained a spinal cord injury because of the fault or actions of someone else, then you may be entitled to seek compensation in a court of law. Portland spinal cord injury attorney Travis Mayor is committed to providing individual service to accident victims who need it most. If you have any questions about a recent accident or need help in thinking about your options for recovering fair compensation, please call (Local 503-444-2825, or Toll-Free 800-949-1481) or simply email us to request a free consultation.

What is a Spinal Cord Injury?

Answer: A spinal cord injury involves damage to the nerves contained within the spine. A spinal cord injury (SCI) is divided into two main categories: “Complete” injury and “Incomplete” injury. Complete injury means there is no function (i.e. feeling and movement) below the level of the injury. An incomplete injury means there is some function below the level of the injury. Think of the spine as a protective conduit containing nerves bundles which connect the brain to the various extremities of the body (arms, fingers, toes, bladder, lungs, etc.). These nerve bundles conduct signals to and from the brain which control the body’s functions. These signals control your ability to grip a coffee cup, walk, run, control urination, etc. As you progress down the spine (from your neck down) the Cervical nerves are distributed outward to your arms, organs, and lower legs.

Damage to the spine, and hence the nerves, may interrupt these signals causing paralysis. Damage to the high cervical nerves, C1 – C4, is the most severe spinal cord injury. An injury to these nerves usually means the patient will experience paralysis in the limbs, may not be able to breathe on their own, and require 7/24 hour care. Damage to the lower cervical nerves will result in less paralysis, but usually has no control of their bowel or bladder, and require 7/24 hours care. Damage to the thoracic nerves in the middle of the back, referred to as T1 – T12, usually affect the body trunk and legs. If the damage is limited to the lower portion of the spine, a thoracic spine injury, then you might not be able to control your lower extremities (legs, feet, toes). This is referred to as Paraplegia or a paraplegic injury. If the damage is to the lowest portion of the spine it will affect the lumbar and sacral nerves. Injury to the patient is not as severe as a cervical spine injury or thoracic spine injury, with some loss of function in the hips and legs, and bowel and bladder control.

Almost any injury to the spine will require extensive medical treatment, but more importantly, spinal cord accidents require life-long support and care.

What are the treatment options for spinal cord injury?

Answer: In spite of the many medical advances in the treatment of spinal cord injury there is no current method of reversing damage to the spinal cord and regenerating nerve cells. Once the patient is stabilized and no longer in need of acute medical care, the rehabilitation process can focus on achieving specific outcomes such as maintenance and strengthening of existing muscle function, redeveloping fine motor skills and learning adaptive techniques to accomplish day-to-day tasks. There are no “quick fixes” that can restore the spine’s functionality, only professional rehabilitation programs which can help you learn to live independently. Because the success of any rehabilitation program is different for each individual, predicting current and future expenses needed to provide the best rehabilitation program is complex. This is where an experienced personal injury attorney can help you recover the financial resources needed to pay for the long-term care and medical treatments.

What are the leading causes of spinal cord injuries?

Answer: Typical types of accidents that most frequently result in spinal cord injuries include:

  • Industrial accidents — 28%
  • Car accidents — 24%
  • Sports / recreation accidents — 16%
  • Falling accidents — 9%
  • Violent personal assaults — 4%
  • Other causes — 19%

How can car accidents result in spinal cord injury?

Answer: The spine can be damaged in many ways other than a complete severing of the spinal cord. If you are involved in a car accident and experience a sudden forcible forward movement of the head, like an accident whiplash injury, this can result in a cervical spine injury. If you are involved in a car side impact crash, then the spine is susceptible to rotation forces creating a cervical or thoracic spine injury. Compression injuries occur from car accidents or falls where the impact force is transmitted through the head or base of the spine causing fragments to fracture into pieces and damage the spinal cord. Hyperextension injuries occur from falls or car accidents where the neck is forcibly extended in a backward direction and causes excessive stretching of the spinal column.

What is the cost of caring for individuals with a spinal cord injury?

Answer: Cost of caring for an individual with spinal cord injury varies substantially based on such factors as the type of injury (Complete or Incomplete paralysis), and the resulting injury severity such as the loss in functionality of 2 or 4 limbs (Paraplegic Injury vs Tetraplegic Injury), and the age and health of the individual affected. Below are average medical and personal care costs for an individual with a spinal cord injury:

Spinal Cord Injuries and the cost of care

As high as these costs are they do not include compensation for pain and suffering, loss of companionship, or lost wages, which may result in total compensation 2-4 times the cost of medical care. The costs for any spinal cord injury are substantial, which is why the insurance company for the person or company at fault will mount an aggressive defense before agreeing to any settlement or paying a jury verdict. To meet this challenge you need to engage an experienced personal injury attorney to represent your interests; one that understands the complexities of litigation, has the resources (both financial and time) to aggressively pursue the case, and who understands how to maximize the financial recovery for your current and future care.

Where can I learn more about understanding liability and accident insurance coverage?

Answer: No settlement will be able to “undo the damage and suffering” caused by a spinal cord injury, but you can obtain a settlement that will help you financially recover from your injuries and assist with future medical, care, and living expenses. The settlement process is never a quick or simple negotiation. Insurance carriers and their lawyers are skilled and experienced in tactics designed to limit their liability and minimize their costs. They are good at representing the at-fault party and their shareholders. On your side are laws, the legal system, and your legal team with the focused objective of obtaining fair compensation from the at-fault party. By law every driver in Oregon is required to maintain the following types of insurance:
• Bodily injury and property damage liability
• Personal injury protection (PIP)
• Uninsured motorist
There are required minimum amounts, but most policy limits can be much higher. In addition, other insurance policies such as homeowners insurance, “umbrella policies”, business owner’s insurance and corporate liability policies may be used depending on specific circumstances of the accident. The best way to understand potential insurance coverage is to talk to a personal injury lawyer and review the facts of the case.

You can read more about understanding car accident insurance coverage in our FAQs or download a free Car Accident Guide.

Do I need an Oregon personal injury attorney to represent me or can I deal directly with the insurance company in an SCI case?

Answer: Dealing with spinal cord injuries is NOT a simple process. Because the stakes are very high with damages potentially in the millions of dollars, insurance companies place a high priority on aggressively representing the at-fault party. No insurance company is going to write a million dollar check without first pursuing every legal avenue available. Defense strategies and tactics typically include:

Delay the process with the goal being to pressure or wear down the injured claimant and increase the cost of pursuing the settlement. Read more about insurance company delay tactics.
Switch responsibility for the accident away from the defendant toward the injured claimant or some other person in an attempt to “share” responsibility for the accident and hence reduce any award or settlement by the percentage of fault – comparative fault.
Minimize the damage amount by arguing the claimant’s injuries were not as severe or debilitating as claimed, or that future medical expenses and lost earnings are not as great as projected.
Prey on simple mistakes that diminish the value of your case. To read more about these mistakes read “8 Mistakes Insurance Companies Are Hoping You Make!

This type of case is not one that can be successfully resolved by dealing directly with the insurance adjustor. Our recommendation is to always speak with an experienced Personal Injury Attorney to evaluate your specific case factors, your situation, and the appropriateness of retaining a lawyer. Remember, when you deal directly with an insurance company, you are dealing with a large, corporate entity, specifically staffed with lawyers and specialists trained in techniques to minimize the value of your claim. They utilize many techniques that are very effective in reducing the value of their offers to you. You can read about numerous examples of case results were settlement offers increased by a factor of ten or more when clients have legal representation. Do not give up your only leverage in dealing with an insurance company; your right to legal representation and due process. We provide an initial free consultation and personal injury case evaluation for all potential clients and will give you an honest assessment of the case including a potential value and strategy to win your case.

Where can I find more SCI Resources?

For more medical information about spinal cord injuries, recovery options, and living with SCI visit these great resources.

– Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation >> 

– National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NSCIA) >> 

– Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC))

Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer, Travis Mayor at Mayor Law

Personal_Injury_Attorney_Travis_MayorContact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation and case evaluation. At Mayor Law, LLC, an Oregon Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer will fight for justice for spinal cord injury victims and we fight to win! You pay nothing up front and nothing unless you win your spinal cord injury case. Visit our Mayor Law FAQs to learn more about why you should choose Travis Mayor to represent you.