The law considers spinal injuries as serious or “catastrophic” injuries in terms of personal injury law. Personal injury attorneys – referred to also as “spine injury attorneys” – try these cases. In the even of a spine injury, immediately contact an experienced spine injury attorney with trial experience.
Spinal cord injury (SCI) can be caused by several kinds of spine injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, acts of violence, and accidents due to unsafe or negligent circumstance at work or in public such as a slip and falls. When the spinal cord is injured, the brain’s ability to communicate with the rest of the body is compromised. Depending on the location and severity of the injury, the brain may not be able to “tell” the limbs to move, the bowels and bladder to function, or even the lungs to breathe. The average age of an SCI case used to be 15 to 30 or 35. In recent years, the onset age has risen to 40.
Life expectancy for spinal cord injury victims in general has also increased at a steady rate over the years. The first year following a severe spine injury is when the probability of death is the highest. After surviving the first year, the age of the patient, the degree of injury, and the previous state of physical and mental health all play a role in determining how long the SCI survivor might expect to live.
- Age of patient and degree of injury: A compilation of data from two recent studies estimated the average life expectancy to be 35 years for onset of quadriplegia at age 20 years, and an average life expectancy 45 years with paraplegia for that same 20 year old. The average life expectancy for a 40 year-old patient with paraplegia was averaged at 27 years with a 20-year life expectancy for the 40 year-old with quadriplegia. The average life expectancy for a 60 year-old patient with quadriplegia was just 8 years and a 13-year life expectancy for the 60 year-old who is paraplegic.
- Previous state of physical and mental health: Another study discovered that paraplegics and quadriplegics who suffered previously from bedsores and/or other infections, amputations, major depression, or hospitalization for any reason in the year prior to the spinal injury, all had decreased life expectancy at approximately the following rates: chronic bedsores and/or infections: 50% less life expectancy, prior amputation: 35% less life expectancy, hospitalization during the year prior to the SCI: 19% less life expectancy, and having been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder: 18% less life expectancy.
There are approximately 900 deaths each year in the US from acute SCI. The National Spinal Cord Injury Database reports that the main cause of death for the average spinal cord injury victim has changed in the past four decades since the database began its’ collection of data in 1973. In past years, kidney failure caused the largest numbers of deaths. Currently, the respiratory complications of severe pneumonia and pulmonary emboli have now become the prominent reasons for death. This change may be attributed to the remarkable progress in the specialties of Urologic care. For patients who are younger than 25 years old, suicide is also a major cause of death.
10 to 20% of spinal cord injury patients don’t even survive long enough to even get to the hospital emergency room. About 3% of those who do make it to the emergency room die while receiving acute treatment in the ER or in the intensive care unit.
The number of years a patient who suffers from a spinal cord injury will expect to live, will be of paramount interest to the families and loved ones of the SCI victim in seeking compensation for a spine injury lawsuit resulting from a motor vehicle accident, act of violence, and slip and fall accidents due to unsafe or negligent conditions. A spine injury attorney is qualified to assist families in estimating the lifetime cost a spinal cord injury patient will need for optimal care for the remainder of their life.
R. Klettke is a freelance writer. He writes about personal injury and medical malpractice law and other matters of jurisprudence.
Important Advisory: This article is not intended to provide legal advice upon which you or anyone else should rely in making any decisions regarding the instituting or prosecuting of a legal claim. Laws and rules relating to the bringing of a claim vary widely from state to state. You should always contact a personal injury attorney to obtain information as to the rules and the laws pertaining to any claim you might have.