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Everything you need to know about spinal cord injury and claiming compensation

If you have sustained a spinal cord injury, you don't have to go through the recovery process alone. You may be able to claim compensation to help with associated costs. Here is everything you need to know about spinal cord injuries and claiming compensation.

What is a spinal cord injury?

The spinal cord is a long, tubular structure made up of nervous tissue that sends incoming and outgoing messages to the brain and other areas of the body. It starts at the bottom of the brain and ends at the base of the spine. It is found in the vertebral column of the spine. When this fragile tissue is damaged, it can affect the body in numerous ways, here are some of them:

  1. Complete or partial paralysis
  2. Reduced sensation
  3. Loss of strength
  4. Nerve sensitivity
  5. Incontinence
  6. Pins and needles
  7. Sexual disfunction
  8. Muscle spasms
  9. Difficulty breathing and coughing

Different types of spinal cord injuries

Spinal cord injuries are typically categorised as either a complete or incomplete spinal cord injury. A complete spinal cord injury is when the person cannot move voluntarily or feel sensation below the injured area, this is because the brain cannot send signals to this region of the body. An incomplete spinal cord injury means you can still have some movement, sensation or may be able to move one side more than another.

  1. If damage has occurred in the upper part of the spinal cord, around the C1 or C2 vertebrae, movement from the neck down may be lost.
  2. An injury in the T1 region can lead to loss of movement from the chest down. Any injury between the T1 and T8 vertebrae can lead to no movement in the trunk of the body but movement in the hands.
  3. If the lower end of the spinal cord is damaged, loss of function in the hips and legs is common.
  4. If the C5 vertebrae is affected, this can cause loss of function in the wrist or hand. While movement in the bicep and shoulder typically remains unaffected.
  5. C6 vertebrae injuries result in loss of movement in the hand.
  6. If the C7 or T1 area is damaged, arms can usually be straightened; however, hand movement is restricted.

How are spinal cord injuries caused?

Most spinal cord injuries are caused by high-impact trauma, and they can be sustained from a motor vehicle accident, serious workplace incidents, or a significant personal injury. The spinal cord can be damaged in many ways, it can be severed, bruised, pinched, or compressed. The injury can be caused by an accident, your own negligence or someone else's, or you may be partially at fault as well as another party.

Some things you may be able to claim for

Medical expenses

Treating an injury can be expensive, it's not only the initial expenses that need to be considered but also the ongoing ones. Claiming compensation for a spinal cord injury can help with all costs associated with your injury. Including transport, medication, specialists, x-rays, equipment, carers, and anything else that is needed to help promote optimal health outcomes for you post-injury.


When it comes to injuries, the ISV Scale is used to determine the severity. 1 being minor and 100 being the most serious. Typically, the higher your rating, the more compensation you will receive as it's going to affect your life long-term. You can also claim for pain and suffering, and this includes the impacts it's placed on your enjoyment of life and your overall mental and emotional wellbeing.

Surgery costs

If you need surgery at any point, you can claim compensation for this. This includes theatre costs, the surgery itself and hospital fees.

Rehabilitation expenses

You'll likely need rehabilitation after your injury and surgery (if needed). The requirements of this are vast, and it can include things such as physiotherapy/hydrotherapy, aids, equipment, home alterations and more.

Loss of income or future income

Depending on the type of work you do and the severity of your injury, you may be off work for some time and when, and if you do return, your injury may prevent you from doing your usual role or your regular working hours may no longer be attainable. You can claim for loss of income and loss of future income if this is the case. This can also include your inability to pay or accumulate superannuation too.

Ongoing help

Sustaining an injury like a spinal cord injury affects many aspects of your life, and what you may have once been able to do, you may now need some help with. This is where home help and care steps in. Things such as house cleaning, gardening, lawns, personal care, and carers can all be claimed for through compensation.

How much compensation will I receive?

It's difficult to give a definitive answer to this question when everyone's situation is very different. Some factors that can influence the monetary figure you receive can include, the extent of your injury, whether it is life-limiting or not, your age, your level of activity before your injury, the impacts it's placed on your psychological well-being, loss of enjoyment of life, and the impact it has on your ability to make money now and into the future.‍

For most, the unfortunate reality is a spinal cord injury comes with lifelong complications. Unlike many other areas of the body, the spinal cord cannot heal itself. It's considered a serious injury, and if you have found yourself in this situation and it occurred at your workplace, in a car/roadside accident or from another means, you must have the right legal representation on your side to ensure you receive the compensation you are entitled to. Contact our expert team of senior personal injury solicitors here at South East Injury Lawyers.