What Happens if You are Paralyzed in a Car Accident?

Spinal cord injuries are some of the most devastating types of car accident injuries. In 2019, a 7-year-old became critically injured in a car accident when a drunk driver hit her vehicle, resulting in a spinal cord injury and a traumatic brain injury. She was in critical condition after the car accident, and doctors informed her mother that she would be paralyzed and require a breathing machine for the rest of her life. After a year of rehabilitation, her family has over $1,000,000 in medical bills. This tragic case demonstrates how devastating paralysis caused by car accidents can be for families.

How Do Car Accidents Cause Paralysis?

Spinal cord injuries can happen in a number of ways, but car accidents are the number one cause of spinal cord injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), car accidents cause 46% of spinal cord injuries in the United States every year. In some cases, the force of the impact causes the victim’s spine to flex beyond its normal range of motion. This flexion can cause severe damage to the spinal cord. In other cases, an occupants’ head or neck will collide with part of the vehicle or a piece of debris, such as metal or glass.

When a victim is not wearing a seatbelt and flies through the windshield, the impact with the hard asphalt can cause a spinal cord injury. Spinal discs are a spongy layer between vertebrae that helps cushion the spinal cord nerves when it flexes. In traumatic events such as car accidents, one or more discs can become damaged. This flexing can cause herniated discs in which the disc bulges out, causing pain and nerve damage. When the force is great enough, the vertebrae themselves can become broken.

Paralysis caused by car accidents typically occurs when a spinal cord nerve becomes severely damaged. Spinal cord nerves control arm muscles, and when the nerves become severely damaged, victims experience a loss of function in one muscle or multiple muscles. Most paralysis victims lose their sensation and feeling in the affected body parts.

Types of Paralysis

The severity of a victim's paralysis depends on the location of the spinal cord nerve damage. The nerves in a victim’s cervical spine control the functioning of the upper half of the body. When the spinal cord damage is to the cervical spine, the victim will likely become paralyzed from the chin downward. When the nerves in the victim's lumbar spine become damaged, he or she may experience lower-body paralysis. There are four main categories of paralysis:

  • Monoplegia occurs when one limb becomes paralyzed
  • Hemiplegia occurs when the leg and arm on one the same side of the body become paralyzed
  • Paraplegia occurs when both legs and part of the lower body become paralyzed
  • Tetraplegia occurs when the legs and arms become paralyzed. This is also sometimes referred to as quadriplegia.
Spinal Cord Injury Symptoms

Every spinal cord injury is unique. The symptoms experienced by the victim depend on the location of the nerve damage. However, some symptoms are common among all spinal cord injury victims who become paralyzed. It is crucial that anyone who suspects a spinal cord injury should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible so that the injury does not worsen and cause even more serious problems. The main symptoms of spinal cord damage include the following:

  • Loss of movement
  • Tingling sensation
  • Numbness
  • Loss of sensation in the feet, hands, legs, or arms
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control
  • Exaggerated reflexes and spasms
  • Respiratory problems including trouble breathing and coughing
  • Changes in sexual function
Treatment for Paralysis

Unfortunately, even though we have made significant medical advances in the last 50 years, doctors are still struggling to find a cure for paralysis. The spinal cord is one organ that does not tend to heal itself automatically. When the spinal cord becomes bruised or damaged, it will stay that way. Once a spinal cord nerve becomes damaged, or is beyond repair, there is no way to replace it. Most doctors focus on treating the victim’s symptoms and trying to help them live as they can and give them the best quality of life possible.

Contact a Charlotte Paralysis Lawyer Today

Spinal cord injuries require extensive and costly medical treatment. If you have been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today to schedule your free initial consultation by calling 855.370.2828.

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