A spinal cord injury can be a devastating, disabling, and often permanent personal injury. There are about 12,000 new cases of spinal cord injury each year in the U.S. and about 250,000 people living with a spinal cord injury in the United States. Spinal cord injuries result in a decrease or absence of sensation, a decrease or complete loss in the ability to move, and a decrease or complete loss of body organ function below the level of the injury. Spinal cord injuries are the result of damage to the vertebrae, ligaments, the discs of the spinal column, or the spinal cord itself. These injuries are a common cause of permanent disability in both children and adults.

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Spinal cord injuries can permanently prevent someone from being able to continue working and may require lifelong medical treatment and care that could eventually total several million dollars. A traumatic spinal cord injury may be caused a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes, or compresses one or more of the vertebrae. The spinal cord, nerve roots or peripheral nerves may also be injured as the result of surgical mishap.

The disabling injuries may be the result of spinal cord or nerve root compression, the shearing of a nerve or even the severing of a nerve or even the spinal cord itself. Often times a spinal injury is not immediately realized. It may occur in the subsequent days or weeks because of bleeding, swelling, inflammation, and fluid accumulation in and around the spinal cord. If you suffer a traumatic spinal injury, it is important that you seek immediate medical attention so the proper specialists may be brought in to render care.

If you or a member of your family has suffered a spinal cord injury in the Chicago area due to another person’s negligence, speak at once with experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer Joseph M. Dooley. With over 25 years of experience working with victims of personal injury, Joseph Dooley can discuss your rights and options, evaluate your case, and fight aggressively for justice on your behalf. When someone is injured by another person’s negligence in Illinois, the injury victim is entitled to complete reimbursement for all past, present, and future medical treatment and rehabilitation, all lost wages including loss of future earning capacity, disfigurement, past and future pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.

HOW DOES THE SPINAL CORD WORK?

The spinal cord is comprised of soft tissue and is surrounded by bones called vertebrae. These vertebrae function to stabilize the spine and to protect the spinal cord. The spinal cord extends downward from the base of the brain. Nerve cells and groups of nerves called tracts run from the spinal cord to the various parts of the body.

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The lower end of the spinal cord stops above the waist in the region called the conus medullaris, just above a group of nerve roots called the cauda equina. Tracts in the spinal cord carry messages from the brain to the rest of the body and back. Motor tracts carry signals from the brain to control muscle movement. Sensory tracts carry signals regarding heat, cold, pressure, and pain from the various body parts back to the brain. The tracts function as an information grid network throughout the body. If these nerves are injured, the consequences can be devastating.

WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON CAUSES OF SPINAL CORD INJURIES?

A spinal cord injury affects the nerve fibers in the injury area and may impair all or part of the corresponding muscles and nerves below the injury location. A chest (thoracic) or lower back (lumbar) injury can impact the torso, legs, bowel and bladder control, and sexual function. In addition, a neck (cervical) injury can affect the movements of the arms, and in some cases, an injury victim’s ability to breathe freely and painlessly can also be impaired. An injury to the vertebrae does not necessarily mean that the spinal cord itself has been damaged. Likewise, damage to the spinal cord itself can happen without fractures or dislocations of the vertebrae. The most common causes of spinal cord injuries in the United States are:

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  • Traffic accidents: Automobile, truck, and motorcycle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, and account for more than a third of all new spinal cord injuries every year.
  • Falls: For those age 65 and above, slipping or tripping and falling is the most common cause of a spinal cord injury. Overall, falls cause more a quarter of all spinal cord injuries.
  • Crime: According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, about fifteen percent of spinal cord injuries are caused by violence involving gunshot or knife wounds.
  • Recreational and sporting injuries: Athletic activities such as team sports and diving in shallow water cause about nine percent of all spinal cord injuries.
  • Alcohol abuse: Alcohol abuse is a factor in about one out of every four spinal cord injuries, including many of the injuries that happen in traffic accidents.

WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR SPINAL CORD INJURY?

Although a spinal cord injury is usually the result of an accident and can happen to anyone, certain demographic and statistical factors may predispose some people to a higher risk of sustaining a spinal cord injury. Those factors include:

  • Being male: Spinal cord injuries are suffered by a disproportionate number of men. In the United States, women account for only about one in five traumatic spinal cord injuries.
  • Being between ages 16 and 30: You are statistically most likely to sustain a traumatic spinal cord injury if you are between the ages of 16 and 30.
  • Being older than 65: Seniors are also at a high risk for spinal cord injury, primarily from falls.
  • Risky behavior: Diving into shallow water or playing sports without the proper precautions or safety gear puts anyone at serious risk for a spinal cord injury.
  • Having a bone or joint disorder: If you suffer from pre-existing arthritis or osteoporosis, for example, even a relatively minor injury can become a serious spinal cord injury.

WHAT IS YOUR RECOURSE IF YOU’RE INJURED?

There is genuine hope for spinal cord injury victims. Recently, researchers using electrode therapy have been successful at stimulating patients’ spinal cords while manipulating their paralyzed limbs. For now, however, if you or someone you love suffers a spinal cord injury in the Chicago area because of another person’s negligence, it is imperative to retain the counsel of an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible. If you have sustained a spinal cord injury in Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois, don’t wait another day to make the call. Contact Attorney Joseph Dooley by email at [email protected] or call 312-236-7282. Nothing is more important than your health and your future.