The leading cause of spinal cord injury in the U.S. is auto accidents. The spinal cord injuries are frequently the result of high-impact collision, vehicle rollover, or ejection from the vehicle. Other factors can also result in spinal cord injury. Approximately 12,000 new cases of spinal cord injury occur each year (not including those who die as a result of spinal cord injury at the accident site). Vehicle crashes cause roughly 39 percent of all spinal cord injuries in the U.S.
Spinal Cord Injuries are often life changing, and may be truly devastating. Those who sustain spinal cord injuries typically face both physical and emotional effects, both short term and long term, that may include loss of movement and of other bodily functions. The costs of treatment and rehabilitation are high and during treatment most lose wages. Spinal cord injuries also affect the families of those injured, often altering the future for an entire family.
Spinal Cord Injury Due to Vehicle Accidents
Both drivers and passengers may experience spinal cord injury in a vehicle accident. High-impact crashes can cause injury to the spine. Many of the most serious spine injuries result from ejection from the vehicle and from collapse of the roof of the vehicle during a rollover crash.
Several additional factors in passenger vehicles contribute to or exacerbate injuries sustained in these crashes.
- Tire tread separations cause drivers to lose control of a vehicle, resulting in a collision, rollovers, and spinal injuries.
- Vehicle suspension defects affect steering of the vehicle, causing drivers to lose control. In a number of cases, these suspension defects cause rollovers and the severe injuries that often result.
- Seat back collapse is another factor that contributes to the severity of spinal cord injuries in vehicle crashes. In these events, a faulty seat back will collapse due to impact and will cause the seat occupant to be ejected from the vehicle.
- Roof collapses typically occur when a vehicle rolls over. As the vehicle roof makes contact with the ground, it collapses due to the force of impact, and compresses the heads of the occupants of the vehicle, causing serious head and spinal cord injury.
- Power windows, at least in the U.S. do not include a safety feature that causes the window to retract upon contact with an object. Although this is a particular danger for young children, impact of the head with a window can cause spinal injury to people of all ages.
- Seatbelts sometimes fail. Design defects can cause them to tear apart, to not fit tightly enough, or to unlatch upon impact. In these instances, occupants of the vehicles may be ejected.
- Non-sedan cars roll over more often than sedans. In fact, the chance of a spinal cord injury resulting from a rollover crash is ten times higher in SUVs. In single-vehicle crashes, the likelihood of spinal cord injury is five times higher in SIVs than sedans.
Protect Yourself and Your Legal Case
If you or a loved one is involved in an auto accident that could result in a spinal cord injury, it is important to protect yourself from additional damage to the spine and to protect your legal case against the party responsible for the crash. If you witness a crash in which someone might have sustained a spinal cord injury, you can help the injured party by ensuring that the appropriate steps are taken at the accident scene.
Keep in mind that every spinal cord injury does not cause symptoms immediately. The rush of adrenaline and other factors may mask symptoms at the time of the crash. Thus, if there is a chance of a spinal cord injury, protect yourself.
First, do not move; remain as still as possible.
Second, do not allow a bystander to move you unless there is a risk of vehicle fire. Moving you in the wrong way could cause further harm. If you are able, inform emergency personnel that you are concerned about spine injury. Insist upon appropriate tests to evaluate and to prove the spine injury and its extent.
Third, if you can do so, ask a bystander to take pictures and to make notes about the accident and your injuries. These will be important in evaluating and building your legal case.
Fourth, contact your insurance company as soon as possible.
Fifth, insist that all parts of the vehicles involved be photographed and retained for your attorney to review when building a case.
Sixth, call your attorney.
Every spinal cord injury is potentially life changing and should be taken seriously. Do not assume that you are not injured or that your injury is minor. Get thoroughly checked out by emergency physicians.
If you or a loved one sustains a spinal cord injury in an auto accident or due to another cause, through no fault of your own, call the experienced spinal cord injury attorneys of Altizer Law, P.C. During your free initial consultation, we will review the details of the crash with you and assess the apparent liability issues. If you are injured and you cannot come to our office, we will come to you as quickly as possible. With their recognized compassion and care, Bettina and Terri will help you and your family as you recover and as we work together to build your legal case.