A spinal injury can be one of the most devastating injuries a person can suffer. Depending upon the nature and location of the injury, as well as its severity, it can affect every part of the body’s functioning. That is why, if you have suffered a spinal injury through the fault of someone else, you need a specialist personal injury lawyer to guide you through the process of claiming compensation.
A specialist personal injury lawyer will ensure that not only do you receive the full amount of compensation the law will allow without things being missed, but they will also arrange rehabilitation as a priority to ensure that your recovery is maximised.
In order to understand the many types of spinal injury and how they can affect a person, a short anatomy lesson will help!
Anatomy of the spine
The spinal cord runs from the brain stem at the top to the lower back and it contains millions of nerves which takes messages to and from the brain.
The spinal cord is surrounded by the spinal column which consists of 33 bones called vertebrae.
Starting from the top of the spinal column, the vertebrae are as follows:-
- Cervical – numbered C1 to C7
- Thoracic – numbered T1 to T12
- Lumber – numbered L1 to L5
- Sacrum – numbered S1 to S5 but with all 5 vertebrae being fused together
- Coccyx – often called the tail bone consisting of 4 vertebrae all fused together
The spinal nerves branch off from the spinal cord and pass through holes in the vertebrae and from there they branch out to control all parts of the body. Where the nerves branch off from the spinal cord determines what they control as follows:-
- Cervical nerves – there are 8 pairs (confusingly as there are only 7 cervical
vertebrae), which control breathing, feeling and movement to the head, neck, shoulders, arms and hands.
- Thoracic nerves – 12 pairs in the upper back for feeling and movement in the back, chest and abdomen.
- Lumber nerves – 5 pairs for controlling the lower back, thighs and legs.
- Sacral nerves – 5 pairs for controlling bladder, bowel, sexual function and some parts of the legs and feet.
Types of spinal injury
A spinal injury is termed medically as complete or incomplete.
A complete spinal cord injury involves damage across the whole width of the spinal cord which means a complete loss of function below the level of that injury.
The most severe complete spinal cord injury is complete tetraplegia which results from complete damage to the spinal cord in the neck. Depending upon which of the cervical nerves C1 to C8 are damaged, determines the effects but all are extremely serious.
Damage to C1, C2 or C3 will lead to complete paralysis of the arms, body and legs. The ability to move the head and neck will be very limited indeed and in nearly all cases the person injured will not be able to breath without a machine.
Injuries to cervical nerves C4 to C8 might still allow movement of the head and neck and some use of the arms.
If the complete spinal cord injury is below the neck so in the thoracic, lumbar or sacral regions it is called a complete paraplegia which will involve loss of movement and feeling in the legs and most likely the trunk but arms and hands will be largely unaffected. The higher in the spinal column the injury occurs the more of the body that will be affected.
Where the spinal cord is not damaged across its whole width, this is called an incomplete spinal cord injury and some sensation, feeling and movement will remain. Thankfully incomplete spinal cord injuries are by far the most common spinal injuries. Just as for complete spinal cord injuries, the nature and type of symptoms depends upon where the partial cord injury is suffered.
A solicitor who specialises in spinal injury claims will have the required understanding of the medical details to know how best to maximise your compensation claim.
Who will be involved in my claim?
Your specialist personal injury lawyer will engage various experts to deal with your claim, both for rehabilitation and treatment but also as expert witnesses. The types and number of experts will vary depending upon the type and severity of the injury but you can routinely expect to be seen by the following:
- Spinal injuries Consultant
- Case Manager to assist you and your family in every aspect of post-accident life
- Care expert
- Occupational Therapist, dealing with aids and equipment
- Architect to deal with accommodation requirements
- Assisted technology expert to identify equipment to maximise your independence and quality of life
- Speech and language therapist
- Recreation Therapist
- Employment consultant
Not all of the above will always be required and, in some cases, more than this list will be required. Every spinal cord injury is serious and different and it cannot be dealt with in the same way as a minor personal injury claim which is why you need a specialist solicitor.
By knowing what to look for, what to investigate and instructing the relevant people to do so, every way in which a spinal injury may affect you throughout your life will be considered and built into your compensation claim.
What might a spinal injury be worth?
Spinal injury compensation claims can be many millions of pounds. However, the largest part of these multi million pound claims is not compensation for the injury itself but for the financial consequences of it.
It often surprises people how little injuries are worth in English law. Even complete tetraplegia will rarely be worth more than £300,000 for the injury itself. The reason awards run into millions of pounds is because of the financial costs that the spinal injury gives rise to. These include:
- The need for specialist housing, either by adaptation or building from scratch.
- Aids and equipment
- Care – the cost of hiring personal carers for life
- The cost of private therapy, including physio, speech therapy and occupational therapy
- Increased transport costs
- Loss of earnings
Contact a Specialist Spinal Injury Lawyer
If you have suffered a spinal injury of any kind, call to speak with our experts in spinal injury claims today.
Bray & Bray has three main offices in Leicestershire. Contact us to speak to a specialist personal injury lawyer today, using the links below:
Leicester call us on 0116 254 8871.
Hinckley call us on 01455 639 900.
Market Harborough call us on 01858 467 181.