Every year, about 17,700 people experience catastrophic spinal cord injuries. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, car accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injury, but spinal cord injuries can also be caused by falls, violence, medical malpractice, or sports accidents. No matter how an accident occurred, spinal cord injuries can lead to significant expenses because they commonly involve paralysis. During a lifetime, a spinal cord injury can cost a victim millions.
Paying for Medical Expenses
Medical expenses following a spinal cord injury add up quickly, depending on the extent of the injuries and the level of care required for treatment. Expenses may include:
- Trauma care initially following the accident. Trauma care may involve the use of a ventilator immediately following the accident, the cost of hospitalization, and any immediate medical care.
- Surgical procedures are common for patients with spinal cord injuries. Surgical procedures may attempt to improve mobility or decrease pain in patients with spinal cord injuries.
- Medications are often a long-term expense associated with spinal cord injuries. Not only do injured parties often need painkillers as part of their daily routine, they may need long-term antibiotics to help prevent or treat infections. Urinary tract infections, for example, are highly common in patients with spinal cord injuries.
- Rehabilitation costs can add up fast following a spinal cord injury. Most people think first of physical therapy when they consider rehabilitation, but after a spinal cord injury, you may also face the need for occupational therapy to relearn how to perform common tasks, speech therapy to relearn how to speak properly, and mental health therapy to help cope with all of the changes in your life following the accident.
- Long-term care may also be an added expense after a spinal cord injury. In some cases, you may need to live in a care facility immediately following your accident. In others, you may need in-home care to help you perform normal self-care and home maintenance tasks following your injuries. The expense of long-term care can add up fast—and depending on the extent of your injuries, this may be a long-lasting expense.
The medical expenses associated with spinal cord injuries are most significant in the first year after the accident. According to the Christopher Reeve Foundation, expenses in the first year for a patient with high tetraplegia can total an average of $1,064,716. Patients with paraplegia may face a first-year expense of around $518,904. After the first year, expenses decrease: patients with high tetraplegia face an average cost of $184,891 each year after the first, while patients with paraplegia may face an average cost of around $68,739 for treatment.
Equipment and Other Expenses
After a spinal cord injury, your entire life changes. Victims often need special equipment to help make possible things that, not so long ago, were easy for them to complete. This may include:
- Wheelchairs and other needed mobility equipment: These items are necessary to allow you to move around, get places, and deal with common, everyday tasks. Wheelchairs, crutches, and communication devices may all become a normal part of life after a spinal cord injury.
- Home modifications may be necessary in order to make it possible for you to live in your own home. This may include installing ramps, widening doorways, or even installing elevators to make it possible to access all the floors of your home. You may also need to modify the bathroom to make it easier to bathe or modify your kitchen so that it is accessible from a wheelchair.
- Wheelchair-accessible vans can make transportation easier after a spinal cord injury. These vans may include special lifts that make it possible for you to more easily move into the vehicle as well as extra room for your wheelchair and other equipment. Specialty vans can also be designed to make it possible for you to drive in spite of partial paralysis.
- Exercise and therapy equipment can help maintain bone density and protect the mobility you have. A standing frame, for example, is designed to help maintain bone density—but it costs around $2,700. Therapy equipment can significantly improve quality of life and make recovery easier, but it's also an expensive proposition.
- Fertility treatments aren't usually necessary for women following a spinal cord injury, but men may find that they are necessary in order for them to have children. Fertility treatments can be incredibly costly, ranging from special equipment to IVF treatments that make it possible for men with spinal cord injuries to have families. In some cases, women with spinal cord injuries may have complications or additional health problems that make it necessary for them to pursue surrogacy or adoption in order to grow their families.
Lost Wages and Earning Potential
Some people with spinal cord injuries are able to return to work, but find that they are unable to work in the same capacity that they once did or that they struggle to receive promotions or raises. Others may find that their injuries make it impossible for them to work in the industry where they were once employed—or even that their injuries prevent them from working altogether. Even those who are eventually able to return to work may find that in the first year, when expenses are highest, it is difficult or impossible to maintain a normal work schedule. In many cases, lost wages and lost earning potential can be the most daunting financial difficulty associated with a spinal cord injury: not only is money pouring out fast as you try to cover your expenses, but you don't have any money coming in to help cover those expenses
Seek Legal Help to Get Compensation After Your Spinal Cord Injury
If you've sustained a spinal cord injury, you likely have a lot of expenses ahead of you. By working with an attorney, you may be able to identify who was responsible for your injury and recover compensation that will help pay for some of the expenses associated with your injury. Email Ivan Diamond today at (718) 588-2000 to learn more about how he might help.