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Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are among the most devastating consequences of car accidents. The damage to the spinal cord can leave victims with partial or complete paralysis, chronic pain, and a range of life-altering complications. If someone else’s negligence caused your SCI, here are a few thoughts from a car accident lawyer serving Bryan, TX to help you understand the compensation you might be entitled to and how compensation can ease the financial strain of such a life-changing injury.

Understanding Compensation for Spinal Cord Injuries: Thoughts from a Car Accident Lawyer Serving Bryan, TX

Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

There are several different types of spinal cord injuries: complete, incomplete, tetraplegia (quadriplegia), and paraplegia. A complete SCI means there is total loss of motor function and sensation below the injury site. An incomplete SCI means the victim retains some degree of feeling or movement. 

The tetraplegia (or quadriplegia) type of SCI affects the cervical spine (neck), resulting in paralysis of all four limbs. Paraplegia refers to the spinal cord injury that affects the lower portions of the spine, resulting in paralysis of the legs and sometimes parts of the trunk.

The High Cost of Spinal Cord Injuries

The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) provides startling figures about the lifelong costs of SCIs. Depending on the severity and level of injury, these costs can range from hundreds of thousands to many millions of dollars, due to the many expenses associated with SCIs. Initial costs of course start with emergency care, from ambulance transport to emergency room treatment, imaging, and surgeries. Hospitalization and rehabilitation come with additional costs, from lengthy hospital stays to rehabilitation centers and physical/occupational therapy. Necessary medical equipment is an additional expense: wheelchairs, modified vehicles, assistive devices, and home modifications, to name a few. A need for ongoing medical care is also often needed, which means costs from doctor visits, specialists, medications, and treatment for complications arising from the SCI. Depending on the SCI’s severity, the victim may need to hire home care or attendant care for assistance with daily living tasks. There is also a strong likelihood that a spinal cord injury will mean lost wages and reduced earning potential. The inability to work or return to the same field may result in significant financial loss over a lifetime.

Types of Compensation Available

When a car accident leads to an SCI due to the negligence of another driver, you could be entitled to two main categories of compensation: economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages cover tangible financial losses directly related to the SCI, such as those outlined above (medical care, lost wages, equipment, etc.). Compensation for non-economic damages is for the intangible effects of the injury, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and changes in relationships due to disability.

Factors Affecting the Amount of Compensation

The value of a settlement in an SCI case is highly individualized and depends on several factors, including the severity of the injury, the long-term prognosis, liability, and the insurance coverage of the other driver.

Severity of the Injury

Generally, the more severe the SCI and its complications, the higher the potential settlement. The higher the injury occurs on the spinal cord, the greater the extent of likely paralysis. Cervical spine injuries (resulting in tetraplegia) lead to the most significant loss of function, often requiring extensive caregiving and assistance. 

This translates to higher medical expenses, greater need for home modifications, and a more profound impact on the victim’s earning potential, all of which factor into compensation. Complete SCIs, where there’s a total loss of sensation and movement below the injury, generally result in higher settlements than incomplete injuries.

Long-Term Prognosis

When a spinal cord injury results in permanent disability, the compensation awarded needs to account for a lifetime of implications rather than just the immediate aftermath. A long-term prognosis directly influences the settlement since your attorney will consider the ongoing costs related to the injury. Permanent spinal cord injuries often necessitate extensive, ongoing medical care far beyond the initial hospitalization and rehabilitation. This can include regular doctor’s visits and specialist consultations; medications for pain management, bladder/bowel control, spasticity, etc.; physical and occupational therapy for strength and mobility maintenance; treatment of potential complications, including surgeries; and mental health services to cope with psychological and emotional trauma.  Permanent SCIs also often require significant lifestyle changes, which usually need physical adaptations to the new reality. These potential physical adaptations can include home modifications to accommodate wheelchairs and ensure accessibility; specialized vehicles with adaptive equipment; and ongoing costs for wheelchairs, specialized beds, and a wide range of assistive technology to help with daily living.

Long-Term Wage Loss and Expense

In addition, your attorney will take into account wages lost through a victim’s expected working life due to the loss of functional abilities as well as reduced earning potential. Depending on the severity of the injury, many individuals cannot return to their previous jobs. Some cannot return to any job at all. This translates to a reduction in future earning capacity as well as a potential loss of benefits, pensions, or retirement plans.

Severe SCIs also create a need for regular assistance with daily tasks, which often means in-home care and personal attendants. This care, whether from family members or hired professionals, comes with a significant cost. Help with bathing, dressing, eating, and other activities of daily living (ADLs), transportation to doctor’s appointments or out into the community, household chores and errands, and other daily tasks that for SCI victims can no longer be done independently. Someone else must be paid to do these things.


Establishing clear liability on the part of the at-fault driver is crucial for recovering damages. Insurance companies will fight hard to reduce their liability or shift blame onto the victim. To build a strong case, your attorney will need to prove that the other driver acted negligently. This could involve demonstrating that the other driver was texting while driving, speeding, driving under the influence, or violating other traffic laws.

Insurance Coverage

The limits of the other driver’s insurance policy may affect the amount you can recover. Unfortunately, many drivers carry only the minimum insurance coverage required by their state. If your damages exceed the available coverage limits, your options become more limited. An experienced attorney can help you explore additional avenues for compensation, such as investigating your own underinsured motorist coverage or potentially pursuing a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

The Importance of an Experienced Attorney

Navigating the complexities of an SCI car accident settlement is extremely challenging. Insurance companies will aggressively work to reduce their payouts, which is why having an experienced attorney on your side is essential. A car accident injury lawyer understands the full extent of damages associated with SCIs and will fight to protect your rights and obtain the maximum compensation that you deserve. If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury due to a car accident, contact Brian Gutierrez, Car Accident Injury Lawyer, today for a free consultation. Our team has the knowledge and resources to guide you through the legal process and fight for the compensation you need to rebuild your life.

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