What is a Spinal Cord Injury?

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, an estimated 17,700 people suffer a spinal cord injury every year. To date, there are more than 300,000 people living with some degree of spinal cord injury in the United States. Overwhelmingly, the majority of spinal cord injury victims are men.

The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that runs from your brain down your spine. Its main responsibility is to relay information between the brain and the muscles and organs in the body. A spinal cord injury is defined as any type of damage to the spinal cord. When the spinal cord is damaged, the flow of information between the brain and the body stops. This prevents you from moving, stops any sense of feeling or touch, and sometimes even stops you from breathing.

In general, there are two types of spinal cord injuries: complete and incomplete.

  • Complete Spinal Cord Injury – These injuries occur when there is a complete loss of communication between the brain and the body. It is a permanent injury that results in a total loss of motor and sensory function below the injury.
  • Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury – These injuries occur when there is a partial loss of communication between the brain and the body. It is not always a permanent injury. However, many are. It results in the partial loss of motor and sensory function below the injury. There are varying degrees of incomplete spinal cord injuries.

Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injury

There are many causes of spinal cord injuries. Due to the delicate nature of the spinal cord, when the body suffers extreme forces of any kind, the spinal cord can suffer damage. The most common causes of spinal cord injuries include:

Motor vehicle accidents account for nearly half of all spinal cord injuries. Falls from high places account for 31 percent of all spinal cord injuries. Sporting injuries and violence make up the majority of the remaining cases of spinal cord injury.

Sadly, alcohol is a contributing factor in as many as 25 percent of all spinal cord injuries. This includes drunken assaults, falls from high places when drunk, and drunk driving.

Signs and Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injury

The symptoms of a spinal cord injury depend on two factors: the site of the injury and the severity of the injury.

  • Paraplegia – Accident victims who suffer an injury to the lower part of the spine (lumbar or lower thoracic) may still have full feeling and movement in their arms, hands, and torso. Their symptoms are confined to the lower portion of their body. This is known as paraplegia.
  • Quadriplegia – Accident victims who suffer an injury to the upper part of the spine (cervical or upper thoracic) may experience a loss of movement and sensation in their arms, hands, trunk, legs, and feet. They may also lose the ability to breathe on their own.


Spinal cord injury victims may suffer from many of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Loss of sensation in affected limbs
  • Loss of movement in affected limbs
  • Loss of bowel control
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Spasms
  • Pain or stinging sensations in nerves
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty coughing
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Difficulty with balance
  • Weakness in a part of the body

Diagnosis and Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury

It is important to know that a spinal cord injury is not always apparent in the first few hours following a car accident. As the inflammation and damage worsen, however, injured accident victims may begin seeing serious signs of injury. When this occurs, it is important to call 911 or head to your local emergency room immediately. Swift medical attention is the key to preventing more serious complications.

When you arrive in the emergency room, doctors will immediately stabilize your spine to prevent further injury. They will then perform a series of tests to detect a spinal cord injury. Some of these tests include X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans.

If you do have a spinal cord injury, the emergency room physician will admit you to the intensive care unit for treatment. You will work with a team of specialists, including neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, and therapists, to mitigate the damage as much as possible. This may include:

  • Medications
  • Immobilization
  • Surgeries
  • Experimental treatments
  • Rehabilitation

If recovery occurs, it typically begins a week to six months after the initial injury. However, some patients may see improvements for up to two years. Sadly, many spinal cord injuries are permanent, and even partial recovery is not always possible. If it is determined that you suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident, be sure to call or have a loved one call and speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. An experienced Arkansas personal injury lawyer will be able to walk you through the claims and compensation process, so you can focus on healing.

Compensation for Spinal Cord Injuries

The amount of compensation you need after a spinal cord injury is staggering. But where will that money come from? Fortunately, if the “at fault” driver had insurance, you will be able to collect damages from them for the accident, up to their policy limits.

As a spinal cord injury victim, you are eligible to seek compensation to help pay for:

  • Medical expenses (past and future)
  • Rehabilitation
  • Long-term care
  • Disability
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earnings

An experienced Arkansas spinal cord injury lawyer can work with your medical team to determine the full extent of your injuries and help you obtain the money you need to put your life back together again.

What to Do If You Think You Have a Spinal Cord Injury

If you think you have a spinal cord injury, it is important to seek medical help immediately. Call 911 and do not move. Try to keep calm and as stable as you can until the paramedics arrive. Once you are taken to the hospital, be sure to follow your doctor’s orders precisely.

If you are able, have a friend or family member go to the accident scene and take pictures of the crash site and any evidence there. Have them take pictures of the damage to the vehicles and your injuries. In addition, ask a family member to obtain a copy of the police report so you can be sure it is correct.

The very next step you should take is to contact an experienced Little Rock law firm. Your trusted Arkansas spinal cord injury attorney will be able to gather the necessary evidence to build your case. While insurance companies will be out to reduce their own liabilities, you can rest assured knowing your attorney is fighting for you. That way, you can focus your energy on your recovery.

Our Experience Matters

At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, our Arkansas spinal cord injury lawyers have the experience and resources needed to tackle spinal cord injury cases. We know that spinal cord injury victims need someone on their side to fight the large insurance companies and obtain the compensation they need during this difficult time. Our track record of success speaks for itself, and we are vigorous legal advocates for our injured clients. Here are just a few of the clients we’ve helped in their quest for justice.

  • $1 million – auto accident client with fractured vertebrae
  • $750,000 – auto accident client with a fractured back
  • $450,000 – auto accident client with fractured vertebrae

We work tirelessly for our injured clients

If you suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident in Arkansas or Tennessee, it is important to understand the full extent of your injury and how that injury could affect your life. At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, our Arkansas spinal cord injury attorneys fight aggressively for accident victims and their families. We know that spinal cord injury victims often need considerable compensation to help them repair and rebuild their lives.

With nine offices in Arkansas and Tennessee – Little Rock, Little Rock-Corporate Hill, Springdale, Conway, Hot Springs, Bryant, Jacksonville, Jonesboro, and Memphis – our personal injury lawyers are there whenever you need us.

We’re here to help.

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