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Oakland Personal Injury Lawyer / Blog / Spinal Cord Injury / Accidental Spinal Cord Injuries: Complete Versus Incomplete

Accidental Spinal Cord Injuries: Complete Versus Incomplete


One of the most severe forms of trauma you can suffer in an accident is spinal cord injuries, which can include agonizing pain in the short term as well as complications and disability over time. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), the top causes include motor vehicle crashes, falls, and sports injuries, so the risks impact Californians of all ages. If you or a loved one was hurt, you may hear health care providers refer to your spinal cord injuries as being complete or incomplete. These terms are important for your treatment and understanding the long-term medical implications.

However, the complete versus incomplete nature of a spinal cord injury can also have a significant impact upon your legal rights. In general, the more serious the harm, the more you will incur as losses – which in turn affects your compensation. You can count on an Oakland spinal cord injury attorney for assistance, and an overview about the severity of back trauma is useful. 

Comparing Complete and Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

As you can probably guess from the terminology, a complete injury occurs when the spinal cord has been entirely severed. Messages from the brain, intended for the rest of the body, cannot be transmitted below the affected area. Symptoms include loss of sensation, complete loss of motion and movement, and lack of control over bladder, bowels, and associated systems. Complete spinal cord injuries are in the minority, at 35 percent of all back trauma.

Approximately 65 percent of victims who suffer spinal cord trauma are affected by incomplete injuries, in which the spinal cord has not been entirely severed. The tissues have been compressed, strained, or otherwise compromised, but some messages from the brain are able to get through to the rest of the body. A victim may retain some sensation or control, but chronic pain can be extreme. 

Other Factors That Impact the Severity of Spinal Cord Injuries

Aside from the complete versus incomplete nature of the harm, another key consideration is the location. The higher up on the spine, the more severe the consequences for the victim. Therefore:

  • The bottom end of the spine is the sacral and lumbar regions, where trauma can lead to loss of function in the hips and legs.
  • The thoracic spine is generally the middle of the back, so damage to the spinal cord in this region will likely leave the victim with lower body paralysis.
  • Toward the head and neck is the cervical spine, the most significant area to suffer trauma. With a complete spinal cord injury to the cervical spine, victims likely will not be able to move any limbs and may not be able to breathe on their own.

An Oakland Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Can Advise You on Legal Options 

As you can see from this overview, even an incomplete spinal cord injury can have monumental ramifications. When the trauma is complete, victims incur astronomical losses and diminished quality of life. For more information on your rights and remedies as a victim, please contact Venardi Zurada, LLP at our offices in Oakland or Walnut Creek, CA. We can schedule a no-cost case review to assess your situation and determine next steps.



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