Spinal cord injuries resulting from a car accident can affect every part of the body, causing permanent damage or paralysis and impeding the ability to perform daily activities.

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Every year, 17,500 Americans sustain injuries to their spinal cords. These can be the result of a sports injury, a bad fall or another type of injury, and it is often due to a car accident. Injuries to the spinal cord can result in the loss of function of arms, hands, shoulders, trunk or legs. The location of the injury on the spine determines the level of weakness or paralysis. The four groups of vertebrae in the spine each relate to specific body functions.

Car Accidents Can Cause 4 Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

1. Cervical Spinal Cord Injury C1-C8

The cervical area of the spinal cord controls signals to the back of the head, neck, shoulders, arms, hands and diaphragm. Cervical level injuries cause weakness or paralysis to both arms and legs, leading to quadriplegia (also known as tetraplegia). The cervical area of the spine is divided into high-cervical nerves (C1-C4) and low-cervical nerves (C5-C8). According to spinalinjury101.com, the specific levels of injury include:

High-Cervical Nerves (C1-C4)

  • Most severe of the spinal cord injury levels, causing paralysis in hands, arms, trunk and legs
  • Quadriplegia, also known as tetraplegia, occurs when arms and legs are affected
  • Patients may not be able to breathe on their own, cough or control bladder and bowel functions
  • Patients’ ability to speak is reduced or impaired
  • Patients require complete care for daily activities such as bathing, dressing and eating
  • Patients can achieve possible movement on their own using specially designed wheelchairs
  • Patients will not be able to drive a car

Low-Cervical Nerves (C5-C8)

  • These cervical nerves control arms and hands
  • Patients may be able to speak normally and breathe on their own
  • C5 injury
    • Patients can raise their arms and bend their elbows
    • Most likely will have total paralysis wrists, hands, trunk and legs
    • Are able to speak and breathe but most likely will be weakened
    • Need assistance with daily activities but are able to move independently with specialized wheelchairs
  • C6 injury
    • Nerves affect wrist extension
    • Patients have paralysis in hands, trunk and legs
    • May have the ability to bend wrists back
    • Can speak and breathe on their own, but with a weakened ability
    • Can move in and out of bed with assistive equipment
    • May be able to drive an adapted vehicle
    • Most likely do not have voluntary control over bladder and bowel
  • C7 injury
    • Nerves control extension of the elbow and some extension of fingers
    • Patients can straighten arms and have control of shoulders
    • Have the ability to do most daily tasks
    • May have the ability to drive an adapted vehicle
    • Little or no control over bladder and bowel
  • C8 injury
    • Nerves control some hand movement
    • Patients should have the ability to grasp and release objects
    • Are able to do most daily activities but may need assistance with more complicated tasks
    • Are able to drive in an adapted vehicle
    • Have little or no control over bladder and bowel

2. Thoracic Spinal Cord Injury T1-T12

Injuries to the thoracic spinal cord are less common due to the protection of the rib cage. Thoracic injuries usually do not affect arms and hands, mostly causing paralysis to the legs (paraplegia) and loss of control of bowel and bladder.

Thoracic Nerves (T1-T5)

  • Nerves affect muscles, upper chest, mid-back, and abdominal muscles
  • Injuries usually affect trunk and legs (paraplegia)
  • Patients’ arm and hand muscles are usually unaffected
  • Most likely can use a manual wheelchair
  • May be able to drive a modified car
  • May be able to stand with a standing frame or walk with braces

Thoracic Nerves (T6-T12)

  • Nerves affect muscles of the trunk, abdominal or back (depending on the level of injury)
  • Injuries usually result in paraplegia
  • Patients’ upper body movement is not affected
  • When patients are seated, fair to good control and balance of trunk
  • If abdominal muscles are intact, are able to cough productively
  • Have little or no control of bladder and bowel
  • Are usually able to use a manual wheelchair
  • Are usually able to drive an adapted vehicle
  • May be able to stand with a standing frame or walk with braces

3-Lumbar Spinal Cord Injury L1-L5

Lumbar level injuries typically involve paralysis or weakness of the legs (paraplegia) and loss of sensation, control over bladder and bowel, and sexual dysfunction. Shoulders, arms and hands are usually unaffected.

Lumbar Nerves (L1-L5)

  • Injuries generally result in loss of function in hips and legs
  • Patients have little or no voluntary control of bladder and bowel, but can manage on their own with special equipment
  • May need a wheelchair and may be able to walk with braces

4-Sacral Spinal Cord Injury S1-S5

Sacral level injuries typically result in loss of control of the bladder and bowel, as well as sexual dysfunction. Some loss of function of the hips and legs is also possible.

Sacral Nerves (S1-S5)

  • Injuries generally affect the functioning of hips and legs
  • Little or no control of bowel and bladder
  • Most likely will be able to walk

Spinal Cord Injuries Resulting from Car Accidents are Costly

When victims of a car crash sustain spinal cord injuries, the costs can be astronomical. Medical bills and the cost of daily living while missing work can pile up quickly, and damages to the body resulting from a spinal cord injury tend to be permanent. Securing a tough and experienced legal team can help recover these costs.

Personal Attention from Professional Attorneys

If you or someone you love has injured their spine in a car accident, speak with the professional attorneys at Karpe Litigation Group today. They are experts in injury law, winning the most challenging cases and helping those in need for 20 years and counting. There is no fee until we win for you. Committed to making things easy for you, we are happy to meet by appointment on evenings and weekends, and travel to you when needed. Give us a call today at 1-888-228-7800 or fill out our contact form to schedule your free initial consultation.