The spinal cord is one of the most important parts of the human anatomy. Not only does our spinal cord help to provide us with stability, balance, and structural strength, it also connected to your brain as a key component of the central nervous system (CNS). It’s often said that if the brain is your body’s “command center,” the spinal cord is the dispatcher which relays signals and impulses from brain to body and vice versa. Because the spinal cord acts as the critical bridge between body and brain, when the spinal cord is injured, the physical, mental, emotional, and financial consequences can be debilitating.
If you or someone you love has wrongfully suffered a spinal cord injury in Berks County, you may be entitled to seek financial damages by filing a personal injury claim.
At the law offices of The Reiff Law Firm, our spinal cord injury attorneys have over 34 years of experience helping men and women from communities across Berks County obtain the justice and compensation they deserve. Over our many decades practicing personal injury litigation in Pennsylvania, we have recovered more than $200 million for our clients. In some cases, we have obtained awards for our clients in excess of $1 million. We are aggressive, experienced, and effective: that’s our bottom line. With a Berks County spinal cord injury attorney from The Reiff Law Firm behind you, you can feel confident you are in good hands.
Spinal Cord Functions
The spinal cord, along with the brain, is part of the central nervous system. The CNS works together with the peripheral nervous system (your nerves) to help control and regulate three main functions in the human body:
- Motor Functions
- Sensory Functions
- Autonomic Functions
Motor functions refer to muscle movements, which are made consciously and by choice, or voluntary muscle movements. For example, you see your cup of coffee sitting six inches away from you, and deliberately reach our your hand to lift the cup to your mouth and swallow. That is a voluntary muscle movement. Other examples include walking, running, sitting, standing, jumping, opening doors, pushing buttons, typing — just about any movement you choose to make with your body.
Sensory functions refer to physical sensations. However, this is not restricted to what we think of as “the five senses” of touch, taste, hearing, sight, and sound. Sensory input also includes your ability to recognize feelings of pressure, pain, pleasure, and temperature.
Autonomic functions refer to involuntary, unconscious movements, the opposite of motor functions. For example, while you may choose to drink a mouthful of coffee by reaching, grabbing, lifting, and swallowing, you do not consciously “choose” to digest the coffee once it has entered your body. Autonomic functions include your heart beating, your body temperature, and increases or decreases in blood pressure.
As you can see, these three categories encompass just about everything the human body is able to physically do. When your spinal cord is injured, any of these functions can be compromised, changing an injury victim’s life forever.
Different Types Of Spine Injuries
A spinal cord injury occurs when there has been a traumatic event or impact, which results in damage to cells within the spinal cord. In extreme circumstances, an impact can sever the nerve tracts that relay signals from the brain to other areas of the body. The most common types of spinal cord injuries include contusions and compression injuries. Other types of injuries to the spine include lacerations and central cord syndrome. In addition damage to certain areas of the spine can cause the following:
The vertebrae are grouped into sections. The higher the injury on the spinal cord, the more dysfunction can occur.
- High-cervical nerves – which are the c1 to c4. Injuries to this area of the spine tend to be the most severe injuries. These injuries often result in paralysis to the arms, hands, trunk, and legs. These injuries generally require complete assistance with daily life activities
- Low cervical nerves – an injury to this area of the spine can cause various degrees of injury. This can include paralysis to the hands, trunk, and legs.
- Thoracic Nerves t1- t5 – damage to this area of the mid back can affect corresponding nerves in the upper chest, mid-back and abdominal muscles. Injuries usually affect the trunk and legs also known as paraplegia.
- Thoracic Nerves T6-T12 – damages to this area of the spine usually affect muscles of the trunk, which includes the abdominal and back muscles.
Severe spinal cord injuries often cause paralysis and loss of sensation and reflex function below the point of injury, including autonomic activity such as breathing and other activities such as bowel and bladder control.
Spinal Cord Injury Statistics
The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) issued a report outlining that every year, about 12,000 people will be affected by spinal cord injuries (SCI).
There are a significant number of people in the United States living with spinal cord injuries, as of 2013, (NSCISC) estimated the number of Americans suffering from as SCI at roughly 273,000 people.
Because of the huge impact that these injuries have, many people who have a spinal cord injury will incur massive medical costs and expenses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average yearly medical expenses for SCI per patient are between $15,000 and $30,000. Over the course of a lifetime, SCI can cost as much as $3 million to treat and manage. Even at the “low” end of the spectrum, the CDC estimates a lifetime cost of about $500,000.
While a spinal cord injury can happen to anyone, there has been a higher rate of males sustaining these injuries. Approximately 80% of all spinal cord injuries happen to men, and the remaining 20% happen to women. It is not only men who are impacted the most, but more often it is young men and younger individuals who suffer from a disproportionate amount of all spinal cord injuries. In the United States, with CDC estimates saying as much as 70% of SCI affects people aged 15 to 35 years old.
Because the spinal cord is relatively long, large, and close to the surface of the body, it can be particularly vulnerable to damage from a variety of accidents and injuries. The CDC reports that the most common causes of SCI include:
- Car Accidents (46%)
- Accidents Involving Falls (22%)
- Acts of Violence, e.g. Assault (16%)
- Sports Injuries (12%)
Our Berks County Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys Can Help
For a free case evaluation about your spinal cord injury with an experienced Berks County spinal cord injury lawyer, call the law offices of The Reiff Law Firm today at (215) 709-6940, or contact us online.