The spinal cord is a vital part of our bodies and is incredibly complex. Along with the brain, the spinal cord is your body’s central nervous system, controlling all your bodily movements and functions. It is essentially a bundle of nerves around 18 inches long which transmits nerve impulses between the brain and the rest of your body. Injuries to the spinal cord are serious, typically causing permanent damage. A spinal cord injury is an injury or damage caused to any part of the spinal cord. If the spinal cord is damaged, the results can be mild or, in the worst cases, the impact can be catastrophic.
So-called ‘complete’ injuries involve the spinal cord being completely severed. Incomplete spinal injuries are still serious, though not quite so catastrophic as complete injuries.
Damage to the spinal cord can be caused by diseases and degenerative conditions such as polio and spina bifida; and it can also be caused by avoidable incidents, such as workplace accidents, car and motorbike accidents, medical negligence and accidents in a public place.
If you or a loved one have suffered any form of spinal cord injury and it wasn’t your fault, an experienced and sympathetic legal adviser can take you through the first steps of making an injury claim. You can get in touch with an adviser for free by calling 0800 234 6438, or simply enter your name and number into the form on this page to request a call back.
How much you may win for a back injury in the UK depends on a range of factors, but the most serious cases deserve significant amounts of compensation.
The spinal cord is housed and protected by the spinal canal, which is a type of ‘tunnel’ made of the vertebrae. The effects of spinal cord injury are invariably serious and long-lasting. Unfortunately, the higher up the spinal cord injury, the more serious the damage done.
Spinal cord injuries are not the same as back injuries – you can, for instance, break your back but the spinal cord can remain intact and unaffected. Spinal injuries can heal relatively quickly, unlike spinal cord injuries.
If you have sustained a spinal cord or other form of back injury, contact an injury lawyer to see how you can recover compensation.
Most spinal cord injuries are the result of accidental damage, such as car and sporting accidents, and falls. We’ve all heard the stories of young people who have dived off cliffs and rocks into water to cool off, only to break their necks in shallow waters – suffering life-long injuries. In the UK, the most likely causes of spinal injury are:
Any incident that involves someone’s neck or spine being compressed beyond its natural limits is highly likely to result in significant damage to the spine and spinal cord.
Anyone who has been injured as a result of an accident that was someone else’s fault is able to claim compensation. So if you’ve sustained a spinal injury or spinal cord injury through no fault of your own, it is really important to start a claim as early as possible because of the likely significant impact on your life.
Most accidents happen because of negligence or a breach of someone’s duty of care towards the injured person. If your spinal injury is the direct result of negligence or breach of duty, an expert injury solicitor can help you on the path to claiming the compensation you deserve. If you are a worker or employee or a member of the public, you should be able to make a claim.
While money can never undo the damage done, it can go a long way to making your recovery and future life easier for you and your family.
Injuries to the spine, particularly to the spinal cord, can cause immediate and significant damage and physical disability that may well be lifelong. For these reasons, compensation levels for spinal injuries can be significant – and rightly so. You deserve to be compensated for the extent of your suffering and pain, as well as any costs involved in making your rehabilitation smooth and comfortable. How much spinal injuries are worth depends on a number of factors in your case. This includes the nature and extent of the injury itself and the longer-lasting effects of the injury on your body.
However, while it is very difficult to give guidelines figures for your spinal injury so early on, there are official guidelines for compensation which lawyers follow. These suggest, for example:
Feel free to try our online compensation calculator for a rough, initial estimate of how much you could win – but bear in mind it should only be treated as a guide, and it doesn’t cover compensation for financial losses (such as loss of earnings) as these will vary from person to person. Your specialist solicitor can discuss this with you in more detail.
General damages may also cover an amount for psychological trauma. Spinal injuries can be devastating and cause mental trauma as well as physical disability, and it’s only right that you should be able to claim an additional sum to compensate you for psychological impact of your injuries.
In addition to these general damages, your solicitor will also be able to claim for your actual financial losses – past and future. These are called ‘special damages’ and are intended to ensure you’re not left out of pocket. Special damages covers items such as:
It is important to keep all receipts, invoices and payslips of losses to date to pass onto your solicitor in due course. These will be used to build your claim for special damages.
There is no average spinal or back injury so there’s no average settlement figure that you can take as a ballpark figure. You and your injury, and its effects on your life, are unique – it really does depend on your own situation.
That’s why it’s vital to discuss your injury with a specialist lawyer to ensure you recover the right amount that you deserve. They will take full details from you, particularly the existing nature of your injuries and any disability, any other symptoms you are experiencing and the future prognosis.
This information, along with medical evidence, will be vital to enable your lawyers to negotiate a fair settlement.
Sadly, a significant proportion of victims of spinal injury can no longer work in their usual capacity while some people with spinal cord injuries cannot work at all. In the most serious cases, victims of spinal cord injury are permanently disabled, often paralysed, face having to rely on carers.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured, you may also be facing the prospect of having to reconfigure your home to make it accessible. You may also need to make adaptations such as a downstairs wet room, a wheelchair-friendly kitchen and a stairlift. Such items cost significant amounts of money.
Thankfully, your compensation claim can include amounts for any such costs that are reasonable in the circumstances, to ensure you can live life with your injuries as comfortably as possible.
That said, in many cases, it can take months and sometimes a year or more for medical experts to give an accurate prognosis – your solicitor will not advise settling your claim until it is known what the long term impact of your injuries is likely to be.
Fortunately, you should be able to obtain interim compensation to help you before the claim finally settles. This can only happen if the other side has admitted liability. If they admit responsibility for your injury, an initial compensation payment can be made by the insurer to enable certain costs to be met. This will then be deducted from the final settlement once agreed.
If you are unable to work but need money to help you return home, it is important to discuss this with your solicitor urgently. They will be able to discuss your immediate and short term needs with you and negotiate an interim payment if responsibility has been accepted.
Spinal injury rehabilitation is a crucial part of recovering from a spinal cord injury and learning to live with the long term impact of your injury. Without the support of your dedicated spinal injury rehabilitation team, you will be unlikely to reach your full potential following your injury. Dependent on your injuries, ‘step down’ rehab in adapted accommodation may be the next step once you’re ready to leave hospital. This can be a first step to enable longer term independent living. This type of rehab can include physiotherapy treatment and other forms of physical therapy to help in your recovery. The costs of this should be met by the defendant’s insurance company as part of your compensation claim.
Other forms of spinal injury rehab includes orthotics, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, neuropsychology and counselling, and art therapy. These service are expensive but necessary for your recovery and the costs can be claimed as part of your overall compensation claim.
Spinal cord and serious back injury claims are, by their very nature, more complex than most other types of injury claim. Even if the other side admits liability, it can take a long time to investigate and gather all the information required to enable your solicitor to make begin informed negotiations to reach a fair settlement.
In many cases, it can take months and sometimes a year or more for medical experts to give an accurate prognosis following your injury. You need to know that your solicitor will not advise settling your claim until it is known what the long term impact of your injury is likely to be.
For these reasons, it could take a long time to conclude your claim so it’s important to begin early. Thankfully, most claims are settled before court action becomes necessary but if court becomes a possibility, your solicitor will talk you through the processes.
The particular challenge with spinal injuries is that the full extent of how they affect your bodily functions and movement can take a long time to become apparent. Expert medical evidence from a specialist doctor will become necessary – your solicitor will arrange this for you when the time comes. The specialist will look into the full background of your injury, examine you carefully and discuss your ongoing physical limitations and symptoms.
The expert will then write a detailed report setting out his or her view on your injury and the longer-term prognosis. Your lawyers will rely on this to negotiate a fair settlement for ‘general damages’ to compensate you for your injury, pain and suffering.
If you or a family member have suffered a spinal cord injury or other spinal injury as a result of someone else’s negligence or carelessness, you should be able to make an injury claim. It’s important to get early advice from specialist lawyers, so contact an expert legal adviser for free on 0800 234 6438 and they can help you make a no win no fee injury claim.
If the injury happened at work, make sure it has been formally logged in the employer’s/organisation’s accident logbook and that it has been reported to the Health & Safety Executive under RIDDOR.
It is also wise to keep a diary to record changes, such as deterioration in feeling and movement, as well as the wider impact on your life.
All this information will be crucial in helping your solicitor build the strongest possible case on your behalf, enabling you to recover maximum compensation.
An adviser will give you free guidance as to how you they can help you make your injury claim. We understand it must be a very distressing time for you and your family but you can be assured that an adviser will speak sensitively and compassionately with you, so that they can understand the impact on you and the level of advice you need.
You have three years from the date of the accident to start legal proceedings for compensation. After three years, you may be ‘time barred’ from making a claim, which could be disastrous in the event of a spinal cord injury. However, there are some exceptions to this rule – for example, under 18s have until their 21st birthday to start a claim, or the three year time period can start from when you first become aware that your injury was the result of negligence.
To find out if a solicitor can help you make a claim, get in touch as soon as you can and speak with a legal adviser on 0800 234 6438, or arrange a call back using the claim form on this page.
Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.
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