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The Lifetime Costs of a Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are considered “catastrophic injuries” – severe and life-altering trauma that can result in permanent physical disability and a long-term recovery period. An SCI can affect the body in a number of ways. Any level of spinal cord injury can leave a patient with medical and psychological issues to contend with for the rest of their life, even if they’re able to recover some movement after treatment and therapy.

If you or a loved one have recently suffered a spinal cord injury, it’s important to understand not only what your injury physically entails, but also the long-term costs of your injury. The vast majority of SCIs result in lifelong medical issues, which means lifelong medical bills. If you’re considering a personal injury action regarding your SCI, there are many issues to consider. Victims of spinal cord injuries are often eligible for much higher settlements and awards, due to the catastrophic nature of their injuries.

With spinal cord trauma, the physical effects of an injury depend where on the spinal cord the injury occurred – these include quadriplegia and paraplegia. The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation estimate average yearly costs and expenses for spinal cord injuries of various severities. Depending on the patient’s age and life situation, of course, these numbers can vary widely from person to person. The following is a general outline of SCIs and their corresponding lifetime costs. Note that these numbers don’t include variables like lost wages and earning potential, or the initial costs of the injury.

High Tetraplegia

These injuries, from the C1 to C4 vertebrae, impair the ability to feel or move from the neck down. Also called total body paralysis, with these types of injuries, a patient typically needs assistance with breathing and bladder/bowel functions. Patients with high tetraplegia will also need help with their daily living activities. Lifetime financial costs for this type of injury average between $2,596,329 and $4,724,181.

Low Tetraplegia

Injuries to the C5 to C8 vertebrae may have partial movement in the shoulder, elbow or hands, but otherwise limited mobility and may still be unable to walk. They may be able to breathe unassisted but will likely need help with daily living tasks. Lifetime financial costs for this type of injury average between $2,123,154 and $3,451,781.


Paraplegia typically results from trauma to the thoracic or lumbar vertebrae. A patient’s upper extremities are usually unaffected, and the major impairment is below the waist. Some patients may be able to walk short distances with assistance like a walker, or move around with a wheelchair or other device. Lifetime financial costs for this type of injury average between $1,516,052 and $2,310,104.

And, an SCI that causes incomplete motor function at any level can have lifetime costs of between $1,113,990 and $1,578,274. Patients with any type of spinal cord injury should also be concerned about secondary health effects like kidney stones, bladder infections or even bedsores.

If you or a loved one suffered a spinal cord injury due to the negligence or recklessness of someone else, the catastrophic injury attorneys at Harris Lowry Manton LLP can help. We fight to ensure you’re compensated for your injuries and receive the maximum amount allowed by law. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team: 404-961-7650 in Atlanta, or 912-651-9967 in Savannah. You can also fill out our convenient contact form.

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