Paraplegia, Quadriplegia, & Tetraplegia

Spinal cord injuries

Spinal cord injuries (SCI) result from damage to the vertebrae, ligaments and/or disks of the spinal column, or to the spinal cord itself

Traumatic SCI may be caused by a sudden, catastrophic blow to your spine that fractures, dislocates, crushes, or compresses one or more of your vertebrae: or it can result from a gunshot or knife wound that penetrates and severs your spinal cord.  According to a 2008 publication by the Mayo Clinic, the following are the most common causes of spinal cord injuries.

  • Motor vehicle accidents. Auto and motorcycle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, accounting for more than 35 percent of new spinal cord injuries every year.
  • Spinal cord injury after age 65 is most often caused by a fall. Overall, falls cause more than 25 percent of all SCIs.
  • Acts of violence. Around 15 percent of spinal cord injuries result from violent encounters, such as gunshot and knife wounds, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSPISC).
  • Sports and recreation injuries. Athletic activities, such as impact sports (football, soccer, basketball and baseball) and diving in shallow water, cause almost 10 percent of all SCIs.
  • Alcohol use is a factor in about 1 out of every 4 spinal cord injuries.
  • Cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis and inflammation of the spinal cord also can cause SCIs.

Spinal cord injury survivors are medically classified as quadriplegics, tetraplegics and paraplegics. But even though, in effect, quadriplegia and tetraplegia refer to the same condition (quadri and tetra both mean “four” in Greek), there are subtle differences in their conditions and quality of life. A quadriplegic’s SCI is usually in the C1 or C2 vertebrae (the closest to the brain stem), which can affect motor skills to all limbs as well as some bodily functions.  However, a tetraplegic’s injury to the same area is often so severe that even simple bodily functions – like swallowing and the ability to feel in areas above the injury, like the scalp – are effectively blocked.

With time, technology and rehabilitation, quadriplegics can function and move around relatively normally. But tetraplegics are completely non-functional and bedridden, and they need 24/7 care for the rest of their lives.

If you have been injured in a catastrophic accident and face a lifetime filled with any sort of paralysis, you need the assistance of an experienced spinal cord injury attorney. You are encouraged to reach out to the Johnson Injury Law Firm of Eastern Kentucky for personal and legal counsel during this time of trouble in your life, and that of your family.

Living with any Form of Paralysis Costs Injured Victims Millions of Dollars

The amount of money an SCI victim must pay throughout his or her lifetime is staggering indeed, though it depends on the severity of the injury and the age of the victim when the injury occurs. The statistics below are based on SCI Facts and Figures at a Glance, a factsheet published in 2015 by the NSPISC. Data for the factsheet was gathered from 2010 to 2014.

The Most Common Spinal Cord Injuries 

For the purposes this fact sheet, the NSPISC combines quadriplegia and tetraplegia together and refers to this combination as tetraplegia.  So by the Center’s standards, there are FOUR classifications – or degrees – of paralysis. Tetraplegia (or quadriplegia) is the most frequent neurological category for SCI, followed by incomplete paraplegia (leg sensation but no function), complete paraplegia (no leg function) and complete tetraplegia.

Since 2010, the percentages of SCIs by category are:

  • Incomplete Tetraplegia: 45 percent
  • Incomplete Paraplegia: 21 percent
  • Complete Paraplegia: 20 percent
  • Complete Tetraplegia: 14 percent

Less than one percent of people who were diagnosed with any SCI achieved complete neurological recovery by the time they were discharged from the hospital, according to the NSPISC.

Average yearly costs

The NSPISC’s expense computations (health care costs and living expenses) and estimated lifetime costs directly associated with SCI significantly vary, based on education, neurological impairment, and pre-injury employment history. The estimates below do not include any indirect costs, such as lost wages or fringe benefits and productivity (although these indirect costs averaged $71,961 per year in 2014 dollars).

Severity of Injury                 First Year           Each Subsequent Year
High Tetraplegia (C1-C4) ASIS ABC                 $1,064,716           $184,891
Low Tetraplegia (C5-C8)                    $769,351           $113,423
Paraplegia                    $518,904           $68,739
Incomplete motor function (any level)                    $347,484           $42,206

Estimated lifetime costs

Severity of Injury      25 Years Old                50 Years Old
High Tetraplegia (C1-C4) ASIS ABC      $4,724,181                $2,596,329
Low Tetraplegia (C5-C8) ASIS ABC      $3,451,781                $2,123,154
Paraplegia ASIS ABC      $2,310,104                $1,516,052
Incomplete motor function (any level) ASIS D      $1,578,274                $1,113,990

Contact Our Firm

Spinal cord injuries can also be caused by medical malpractice, including birth injury. But regardless of the cause, even if you were injured on the job, spinal cord injury can have devastating effects. If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, you should immediately seek the advice of attorneys who have experience in the complexities of these cases. Call Southeast Kentucky’s Johnson Law Firm at 606-437-4488, or fill out this online form to learn how we can help you.

Attorney Billy Johnson

William “Billy” Johnson grew up in the Dorton area of Pike County, Kentucky, and early on decided to stay in the beautiful Appalachian mountains. Like many others in Eastern Kentucky, Billy’s dad worked as a coal miner, a hard job but one that taught his son how to meet challenges head on and persevere. Attorney Billy Johnson has years of experience helping injured clients with claims such as car, truck, and motorcycle accidents, wrongful deaths, work injuries, and more. [ Attorney Bio ]

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