Are spinal cord injuries covered by workers’ compensation benefits?

A spinal cord injury (SCI) can dramatically change a person’s life. Aside from pain and suffering, the condition can affect the patient’s day-to-day activities and interfere with his work and relationships.

Workers in North Carolina who are involved in accidents that injure the spinal cord may lose their life’s savings to expensive treatments. This is true for those who don’t know their rights and fail to consult the right workers’ compensation specialist.

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), there are 17,730 new cases of SCIs every year and approximately 291,000 Americans are living with the problem. These patients lose an average of $76,327 yearly due to lost wages, fringe benefits, and productivity.

Who’s at risk?

No one is immune to SCIs. They can affect people from all walks of life, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or income. The NSCISC said that the average age of victims has increased from 29 in the 1970s to 43 today.

This condition affects the spinal cord, which is part of the central nervous system. The former transmits signals from the brain to the entire body and is protected by the vertebrae — bones that run vertically along your back.

If the spinal cord is damaged, this may affect a person’s sensory, motor, and other body functions controlled by the injured site. The Mayo Clinic said that a higher injury in the spinal cord usually results in more damage.

Causes of spinal cord injuries

Any damage in any part of the spinal cord can lead to SCIs. These may result from a sudden, hard blow in the spine. NSCISC has reported that automobile accidents (39.3%) are the leading cause of SCIs followed by falls (over 31.8%), and acts of violence (13.5%), all of which can occur in the workplace.

Symptoms of SCIs include the following:

  • Difficulty in breathing or coughing
  • Loss of movement (paralysis)
  • Loss of the ability to feel heat, cold, and touch
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Changes in sexual function and fertility
  • Intense pain caused by damaged nerve fibers in the spinal cord

Depending on how bad the injury is, the patient may suffer from some form of paralysis below the point of injury. The Mayo Clinic said paralysis is classified as: (1) complete, if all feeling and the ability to control movement are lost below the injury; or (2) incomplete, if the patient can feel or move below the injury site.

If the upper part of the spinal cord is injured, the patient may experience tetraplegia or quadriplegia. This type of paralysis affects the arms, hands, trunk, and legs. If the lower part is affected, this is called paraplegia where the legs, trunk, and pelvic organs are paralyzed, but the person can still use his arms and hands.

Getting help from a specialist

Depending on the severity and location of the injury, a person who suffers from an SCI will require a range of treatments and physical therapy and may have to fully or partially rely on the help of a carer or assistive devices to carry out activities of daily living.

Whether temporary or permanent, SCIs can cripple a person both physically and financially. The NSCISC said a severe tetraplegia injury can cost the patient up to a billion dollars in the first year. For the succeeding years, the average cost of treatment is almost $200,000.

If your SCI is due to a work-related incident in North Carolina, you may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits to help in your care and recovery. These benefits may also cover job training if your injuries prevent you from going back to work.

To get the full benefits of the law, be sure to contact a Board-Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist in North Carolina. An experienced lawyer like Maggie Shankle of Shankle Law Firm, PA can fight for your rights and help you file a case against the person or company that injured you. With Maggie at your side, you’ll get the compensation you deserve.

Maggie specializes in workers’ compensation cases and also handles personal injury law and social security disability. She and her hardworking staff have been serving the entire state of North Carolina since 2008. Know your options by consulting Maggie at Shankle Law Firm today.