Quadriplegia is a spinal cord injury that causes total or partial paralysis from the neck down. At its most severe, quadriplegia can leave you unable to move or even breathe without assistance.
This catastrophic injury will leave you at least partially disabled. You will need to quit working or change jobs. You will lose the ability to participate in many of the activities you love. You might even need a caretaker to help you meet your daily needs, like showering, dressing, and eating.
Read on to learn about quadriplegia injuries and the compensation you can seek from an at-fault party for the effects of quadriplegia.
The Central Nervous System
Your central nervous system (CNS) includes your brain and spinal cord. The brain controls everything in your body. It sends control signals to your muscles and organs to keep them working. Your brain prompts your stomach to digest food, your heart to pump blood, and your muscles to raise your arm.
Your brain also receives sensory signals from your sense organs. Your skin sends signals to your brain representing temperature, pressure, texture, and pain, so it knows how to control your body. These signals cover a range of functions, from helping you find the keys in your pocket to avoiding getting burned by a flame.
The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that travels through your spine. All the signals that pass from your brain to any organ or muscles below your neck travel along the spinal cord.
The spinal cord has several layers of protection. The nerves sit inside protective membranes called meninges. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) cushions the nerves. The nerves, meninges, and CSF run through a passage in the spine called the spinal canal.
Each vertebra includes a solid body and several wing-shaped processes. The gap between the bodies and processes forms the spinal canal.
The bones surrounding the spinal cord can prevent injuries. But the spine includes gaps so that you can bend and twist. At each gap, the spinal cord is exposed to potential injuries.
How Quadriplegia Injuries Happen
Quadriplegia happens when the spinal cord gets severed in the neck. All the nerves that run to the body go through your neck. As a result, the nerves running to your arms, legs, and chest could get damaged.
Traumatic quadriplegia can result from several types of injuries, including:
An object that pierces the spine can sever the spinal cord. This might happen during an assault with a gun or knife. The bullet or blade can penetrate the spine between the vertebrae. Once inside, the object tears or cuts the nerves in the spinal cord.
A penetrating injury can also result from workplace accidents. A sharp object could get thrown into your spine. You could also fall onto a sharp object. In either case, the object could pierce a disc between your vertebrae and reach the spinal cord.
A broken neck happens when you fracture one of the seven top vertebrae in your spine. The fractured vertebra can produce bone fragments that enter the spinal canal and sever important nerves in the spinal cord.
A broken neck can happen in almost any accident. Elevated falls as well as slip and falls can fracture your vertebrae when you hit the ground. And the whipping forces you experience in a car accident can crush the vertebrae in your neck, causing them to fracture.
A vertebra can dislocate when the spinous process gets fractured. The processes of a vertebra provide anchor points for ligaments and tendons. When a process fractures, the tendons and ligaments cannot keep the vertebra in place. It may dislocate into the spinal canal, severing the nerves inside.
Symptoms of Quadriplegia
You might think that quadriplegia always causes the same symptoms. But it can produce different symptoms depending on your injury type and where it happens.
Type of Quadriplegia Injury
Quadriplegia injuries can take two forms. A complete quadriplegia injury happens when all the nerves in your spinal cord get severed. This injury will cause total paralysis below the injury.
An incomplete quadriplegia injury happens when certain spinal cord nerves get severed, but not all. This injury causes partial paralysis. Partial paralysis happens when your limbs suffer weakness and partial motor loss or when you have total paralysis in your legs but partial paralysis in your chest and arms.
Level of Quadriplegia Injury
As your spinal cord runs through your spine, it branches at each vertebra into nerve roots. The higher your injury, the more nerves and nerve roots get affected. Conversely, lower injuries damage fewer nerves and nerve roots and cause less severe paralysis.
The vertebrae in your neck are numbered C1 through C7. An injury at C1 or C2 often causes death. These injuries can sever the nerves that control your chest walls and diaphragm. You will stop breathing instantly when these nerves get severed.
An injury at C3 or C4 will paralyze your arms, legs, and chest. You might need a ventilator to assist your breathing. If you have a C4 injury, therapy might help you regain the ability to breathe on your own again.
An injury at C5 or C6 could leave you with some function in your shoulders and arms. But you will probably have little or no function in your hands and fingers. You will also have no function in your lower limbs. You will probably breathe on your own.
An injury at C7 will probably allow you to move your shoulders and arms. You will have limited function in your hands and fingers, and therapy might help you regain some of the dexterity you had before the accident. You will still have no function in your lower limbs.
Getting Compensation for Quadriplegia
You can pursue compensation for your losses when your accident resulted from someone else’s negligence. Negligence means that someone fails to exercise reasonable care. This could happen when a driver violates traffic laws, or a store manager fails to clean up a spill.
If you prove negligence, you can get compensation for economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses include the financial costs of your injuries, such as medical expenses and lost income. Non-economic losses include non-financial costs, such as pain and suffering.
You may be entitled to significant damages if someone else is responsible for your quadriplegia injury. To discuss the compensation you can seek for your quadriplegia, contact our M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation at (877) 300-4535. Our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers are standing by to help.