Though statistics on the number of spinal cord injuries resulting from a motor vehicle accident are difficult to quantify, researchers at The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) at the University of Alabama Birmingham labored greatly to find this out not long ago. In 2014, after reviewing many non-NSCISC databases to come up with the most plausible and logical estimate to date, they arrived at a formula.
The Center estimates that each year in the U.S., 12,500 people survive a vehicle accident but suffer some kind of spinal cord injury (SCI). Males account for approximately four out of every five vehicle-related SCI injuries. The NSCISC also finds that vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of SCI, trailing falls, and followed by acts of violence (primarily gunshot wounds) and sports/recreation activities
The reason why car accidents lead to such serious spine injuries is rather simple. Human backs and necks are not designed to sustain the force of an impact like those associated with vehicle accidents. The violent and oppositional forces that pull on a body from opposite directions cannot compare to most other injuries. And no safety feature on any vehicle can completely protect us from these forces or eliminate the risk of a serious back or neck injury.
So when any serious vehicle wreck happens, the back muscles and ligaments are put under tremendous stress by gravitational (G) forces. What little “shock absorbing value” that we all have in our necks and spines is literally overwhelmed by these G-forces and cannot absorb blows often associated with serious vehicle accidents.
More recent research involved a one-day snapshot of data about vehicle accident-related SCIs, with information coming from multiple hospitals. Published by the Asian Journal of Neurosurgery in April 2017, it determined that the lumbar vertebral zone (the lower back) was the most commonly injured area of the spine in 64 percent of all SCIs sustained by accident victims in the study. They also found that the majority of SCI injury victims were the vehicle drivers (86.8 percent), even when there were multiple victims traveling in the same vehicle. To put these numbers into perspective, there were 91 total admissions for spinal injuries after a car accident during this single day, representing 29.9 percent of the total 304 spine injury cases which were recorded.
Most people who suffer a vehicle accident-related SCI will likely need extensive medical care and also rehabilitation, especially if they suffer permanent lack of function of their legs (paraplegia) or legs and arms (quadriplegia). Most sufferers of serious SCIs have limited (if any) ability to work after their injury.
The NSCISC research also found that about one of three people with vehicle-related SCIs are re-hospitalized at least once in any given year after their injury. Since the Center maintains that four out of five SCI injury victims are male, it’s not unusual that researchers discovered that those who are re-hospitalized suffer from male-related afflictions, most notably to one of their genitourinary organs (colon, bladder, prostate, or testicles). Other afflictions to the skin, respiratory, digestive, circulatory or musculoskeletal systems follow. The average re-hospitalization stay for SCI survivors is about 22 days.
The percentage of suicides by SCI victims is noticeably higher than in the general population. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), of the 2,304 newly admitted cases of SCI between 1991 and 2010, by the end of 2014 there were 533 deaths, of which 4.2 percent were by suicide, with 91 percent of those suicides occurring within the first 10 years of their SCI.
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury and want to learn more about your legal options, we encourage you to contact Billy Johnson to schedule a free consultation.