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Spine Injury


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Auto Accident
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Spinal Cord Injury California Law Firm

Everything you as a victim need to know...

Automobile and motorcycle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the United States and account for almost half of all spinal cord injuries each year. For Americans over the age of 65, a fall is the most common cause of a spinal cord injury. These injuries can cause paralysis to legs and arms, the loss of bladder and bowel control, the loss of sexual function, the ability to breath, and death.


The spine, or backbone, is composed of bone discs called vertebrae. Between the vertebrae are discs of cartilage, and these cushion and protect the bones. The backbones form a column of bones, or the spinal column, and the spinal cord runs through the spinal column. The spinal cord begins at the bottom of the brain stem and ends at the lower part of the spine.

Cervical Spine

The cervical spine is generally the neck area. Beginning at the top of the spine, the cervical spine consists of vertebrae C1 – C8. Spinal cord injuries in the cervical spine are usually the most serious and can cause quadriplegia, or paralysis affecting both arms and both legs.

Thoracic Spine

The thoracic spine is generally the mid-back area and consists of vertebrae T1 – T12. Spinal cord injuries in the thoracic spine often cause bladder and bowel control loss. In many cases, sexual function is diminished. Thoracic spine injuries can also cause paralysis, though usually not as severe as cervical or lumbar spine injuries.

Lumbar Spine

The lumbar spine is generally the lower back area and consists of vertebrae L1 – L5. Spinal cord injuries to the lumbar spinal can cause paralysis of the legs and lower body and often cause loss of bladder and bowel control.

Sacral Spine

This is the bottom of the spinal column and consists of S1 – S5. Spinal cord injuries to the sacral spine can cause some level of paralysis, and people with sacral spine injuries often experience loss of sexual function.


A traumatic injury is one due to an acute, or sudden, blow to the spine. Such a traumatic injury can fracture, dislocate, crush, or compress the vertebrae. The injured area can then swell, bleed, and become inflamed, all of which cause additional damage to the spine and lead to spinal cord injury.

How Spine Injuries Are Diagnosed

  • X-RAYS. X-rays can be performed very quickly and will show fractures but they will not show injuries to the spinal cord.
  • CT SCANS. Computed tomography is generally considered the most accurate test to diagnose injuries to the spine.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging is generally considered the most reliable test for spinal cord injuries.
  • Prior to a CT scan, a dye is injected into the spinal fluid to find pressure on the spinal cord.

If the nerves appear to be injured, additional tests may be ordered:

  • Nerve Conduction Study. This will measure electrical nerve impulses when a current passes through the nerve.
  • Electromyography (EMG). This will measure the electrical activity of muscles when contracted and when at rest.

Treatment of Spine Injuries

  • Immobilization is crucial to prevent further damage to the spine. When emergency personnel respond to a suspected spine injury, they will typically place a rigid collar on the person’s neck and strap the person to a firm board to prevent movement. Any movement, however slight, of a vertebrae may put pressure on the spinal cord and increase the risk of paralysis and permanent damage.
  • Surgery is usually necessary following an injury to the spine. It is sometimes necessary for implants, such as steel rods, to be implanted to stabilize the spine.
  • Extensive rehabilitation is necessary following an injury to the spine. This can include not only physical therapy but occupational therapy, speech therapy, and emotional therapy.
  • Spinal Cord Stimulators may be necessary to manage chronic pain.


An injury to the spine can result in a ruptured disc, also called a herniated, bulging, or slipped disc. When this happens, the spinal column tears open and the disc protrudes outward and presses on nearby nerves. This injury can cause extreme pain and numbness to parts of the body, depending on which disc is injured. Trauma on the spine, such as from an automobile accident or a fall, can cause a disc to rupture. In addition, such trauma can cause an asymptomatic ruptured disc to become symptomatic; in other words, while the ruptured disc may have existed prior to the trauma, it only began to cause pain or affect the individual following the trauma.

Cervical Disc Rupture

A ruptured disc in the cervical spine can cause pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in an arm. In addition, it may limit the ability to move the neck without pain. A cervical disc injury often causes radicular pain, which is pain radiating from the neck through the shoulder, arm, hand, and/or fingers. A cervical ruptured disc can also lead to cervical radiculopathy, which is numbness and/or weakness in the shoulder, arm, hand, and/or fingers. The signs and symptoms of a cervical ruptured disc vary based on the nerve root that has been compressed.

Lumbar Disc Rupture

A ruptured disc in the lumbar spine typically causes sciatica, or pain along the sciatic nerve in the back of the leg. With a ruptured lumbar disc, the pain is usually worse in a leg than in the back itself. In addition to pain, there is often numbness and a “tingling” feeling in the leg or foot. The leg or foot may also feel weak due to the ruptured disc. At times, a ruptured lumbar disc can lead to “foot drop,” or difficulty lifting the foot.

Treatment for Ruptured Discs

  • Conservative Treatment. Most individuals with a ruptured disc will first undergo conservative treatment, including pain medication and muscle relaxers.
  • Physical Therapy. Physical therapy is usually attempted to try to alleviate pain by exercise.
  • Cortisone Injections. If medications and physical therapy do not alleviate the pain, a ruptured disc may be treated with cortisone injections. In this procedure, cortisone is injected into the affected nerve area.
  • If conservative treatment does not work, surgery may be necessary.


Ruptured Cervical Disc Surgeries

  • Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Spine Fusion (ACDF)

This is the most common surgery for treating a herniated disc in the cervical spine. A small incision is made in the front of the neck and the disc is removed. The goal is for adjacent vertebrae to grow together and fuse. In some ACDF’s, a plate has to be added to assist with fusion.

  • Artificial Cervical Disc Replacement

In this procedure, a small incision is made in the front of the neck and the herniated disc is removed, but then an artificial disc is implanted.

  • Posterior Cervical Discectomy

In this surgery, the incision is made from the back of the neck. This is sometimes necessary due to the type of herniation. This procedure is more complicated than anterior procedures where the incision is made in the front of the neck.

  • Cervical Laminotomy and Laminectomy

The lamina covers and protects the spinal canal. In a laminotomy, a part of the lamina is removed to relieve pain. In a laminectomy, the entire lamina is removed.

Ruptured Lumbar Disc Surgeries

  • Microdiscectomy or Endoscopic Microdiscectomy

In these procedures, small incisions are made and only the small portion of the disc that is pushing against a nerve root is removed. While this surgery is usually successful, some people will experience a recurrent disc herniation at the same level. This may happen within a few months but can also happen after several years. If this occurs, a lumbar fusion surgery is usually necessary.

  • Lumbar Spinal Fusion

The purpose of a spinal fusion is to connect two or more lumbar vertebrae and prevent any motion between them. During this procedure, a bone or bonelike material is placed within the space between two vertebrae and then hardware, including plates, screws, and rods, may be used to hold the vertebrae together.

  • Lumbar Laminotomy and Laminectomy

The lamina covers and protects the spinal canal. In a laminotomy, a part of the lamina is removed to relieve pain. In a laminectomy, the entire lamina is removed.


If you or someone close to you has suffered an injury to the spine due to the fault of another, you may be able to recover damages. Spinal injuries can result from many types of claims, including automobile accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, bus accidents, trucking accidents, and falls.


Economic Losses        

Economic damages are ascertainable monetary amounts, including lost wages and medical bills. Many spine injuries require medical treatment for the rest of a person’s life. To calculate the amount that this long-term care will cost, our firm may retain a specialist to prepare what is known as a “life care plan,” which is a plan that sets out medical and medically related care that will be needed over the remainder of the person’s life.

Non-Economic Losses

Non-economic damages include items such as emotional distress, mental pain and suffering, physical pain and suffering, disfigurement, and humiliation. A spinal injury can be life altering and traumatizing, and the law therefore permits the injured person to recover for more than just medical bills and lost wages.

In some situations, a spine injury can result in death. In such a case, the deceased’s family members, or wrongful death beneficiaries, may be entitled to recover the medical bills as well as the funeral and burial costs. The deceased’s loved ones can also recover for their own damages due to the loss of love and society of the deceased person.            


In California, the statute of limitations for filing most claims is two (2) years from the date of the injury. If, however, the claim is against a state or local governmental entity, the deadline to provide notice of your claim may be as little as six (6) months. For this reason, if you believe you or someone close to you may have a claim for damages, you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

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