A serious spinal cord injury usually results in lifelong complications. You won't be able to earn a living as you did before (if you can work at all), and you will likely need medical care the rest of your life.
As you adjust to the physical and emotional aspects of your condition, you may begin to take a hard look at what the financial impact of your condition is now and in the future. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center provides some eye-opening data on the monetary impact of a paralyzing injury.
The severity of the spinal cord damage makes a difference
It may not surprise you to know that the most common causes of traumatic spinal cord injury are car accidents (38 percent) and falls (30 percent). It may not surprise you that 81% of new cases are males. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center also notes that the average age of these injuries is 42, compared to age 29 in the 1970s.
The lifetime cost depends largely on the nature of the injury. An incomplete spinal cord injury means you retain some sensation and movement below the injury site. A complete injury means you do not retain any sensation or movement below the injury site.
- Tetraplegia (quadraplegia) refers to paralysis in both your arms and your legs. Tetrapleia
- Paraplegia refers to paralysis of the legs but not the arms and upper body.
The higher on the spine the injury, the greater the degree of paralysis. An injury to the lower back might result in paraplegia, while a complete spinal cord injury in the cervical area (neck) may result in paralysis of all limbs and possibly the need for machine-assisted breathing.
The financial realities of a spinal cord injury
In light of the information above, let's look at what only your care could cost over your lifetime. These numbers reflect medical treatment and nursing care only and do not include loss of income or other damages. For a 25-year-old victim:
- If you retain some motor function, researchers project your lifetime health care to still cost at least $1.6 million.
- For a paraplegic injury, the lifetime costs increase to at least $2.3 million.
- If doctors classify the injury as a low tetriplegic injury, meaning in the lower part of the cervical spine, the projected costs rise to $3.5 million.
- For a high tetraplegic injury (upper cervical), the estimated care over a lifetime are $4.8 million.
Of course, these numbers do not account for inflation or rising medical costs as the years pass.
If your injury resulted from the negligence or recklessness of another party, you may already have considered accepting a settlement out of fear that you could end up with nothing. However, most initial settlement offers often fall well below what you will actually need and what you really deserve.
Before accepting any settlement offer, it would be in your best interests to discuss the matter with a Texas attorney who can help you determine what you really need moving forward not only for your care but also for the loss of your income and other damages you sustained as a result of the accident.