What are spinal cord injuries?
Spinal cord injuries are typically life changing injuries with potentially profound, long term effects on the victim’s life and financial wellbeing, and that of their family. These types of injuries, as the name suggests, affect the spinal cord.
The spinal cord is a long, fragile, tube like structure beginning at the bottom of the brain stem which continues down almost to the bottom of the spine. It carries message between the brain and the body – and this is why an injury to the spinal cord can be so physically and mentally devastating.
How do spinal cord injuries happen?
The vast majority of spinal cord injuries occur as a result of trauma; for instance, in car or cycling accidents, accidents in the work place, from violent assaults, sporting accidents, accidental falls or household accidents. However, they can also be caused by various medical conditions ranging from tumours, to developmental disorders, neurodegenerative diseases and other conditions. There have also been cases of spinal injuries resulting directly from surgical or medical errors, meaning potential medical (clinical) negligence claims could be made.
Every day in Britain, according to the Spinal Injuries Association, three people are permanently paralysed by damage to their spinal cord; and the largest group of people to sustain an SCI are men between 45 and 49 years of age.
How serious are spinal cord injuries?
Spinal cord injuries can vary dramatically in terms of seriousness. On one end of the scale there may be minor neurological or physiological symptoms such as gall bladder or renal stones, sexual malfunctions and bladder problems. At the other end of the scale, a spinal cord injury can result in permanent disability, such as paralysis.
Typically, the location in the spine where the injury occurred determines the extent of the disability and/or effects. Injuries are usually classified according to their location as follows: (1) cervical; (2) thoracic; and (3) lumbar and sacral.
Unfortunately, spinal cord injuries cannot be repaired. This means many victims will not be able to enjoy the life they led before the injury was sustained, and some may never work again.
Where can I get information and help for spinal cord injuries?
Due to the severity of many spinal cord injuries, support is vital. There are several government, local authority and private bodies that exist to provide support, care and other resources to victims of spinal cord injuries and their families.
The Spinal Injuries Association is a leading charity and information clearing house for spinal cord injury victims. On their site and other non-profit sites, one can find a lot of information and resources pertinent to the needs of spinal cord injury victims.
Claiming benefits and compensation
A victim of a spinal cord injury who is disabled can apply for benefits from the Government under the Disability Living Allowance. Other benefits may also be available, such as Constant Attendance Allowance (CAA), Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance and Reduced Earnings Allowance (REA).
If your spinal injury was caused by someone else’s negligence, such as a reckless driver or unsafe working conditions, you may be able to claim personal injury compensation.
For more information on:
- Claiming compensation
- What’s the future for the treatment spinal cord injuries?