Spinal injury solicitors

Making a claim for spinal injury compensation requires specialist solicitors who can deal with all aspects of a spinally injured client’s needs. There is no substitute for experience as this enables a holistic approach to be taken to ensure all the client's needs are met. 

 

£275,000 compensation for man with Cauda Equina Syndrome

Boyes Turner’s medical negligence specialists have negotiated a £275,000 settlement...

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Road traffic accident passenger gets £45,000 compensation

Boyes Turner specialist serious road traffic injury lawyers recently dealt with a claim by a...

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£28,500 settlement following a road traffic collision

We have represented Mrs X in respect of pursuing a claim against the defendant for damages for...

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£400,000 compensation recovered after delay in diagnosis of cauda equina syndrome

Jayne began experiencing worsening back pain, and couldn’t tolerate sitting down. The...

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Spinal Injuries Association approved firm

We are a leading specialist spinal injury law firm with over 25 years experience of helping clients with complex and devastating spinal injury. We have a dedicated team of injury lawyers who are able to provide advice and assistance informed by our legal expertise and links with spinal injury associations and those providing spinal cord injury rehabilitation and spinal injury support.

Our clients are safe in the knowledge that the lawyers who support them are leading experts in this area. Our priority is to work closely with the injured person and to advise throughout the claim on how we can not only establish liability and obtain compensation but also arrange early compensation payments to deal with rehabilitation costs, nursing care, accommodation needs, disability aids, specialist equipment, transport costs and funds to replace lost income.

Why choose Boyes Turner?

Spinal injuries have a devastating effect on lives. A significant period of readjustment and support is required to adapt to the life changing event. At a distressing time, our specialist spinal injury lawyers can offer straightforward and clear advice and assistance. There is no cost to our clients, should the claim be unsuccessful, and our approach is to work with our client and their family as necessary to ensure maximum compensation to help rebuild their lives.

The service provided was first class. You were understanding, caring and professional

David Froud

How can we help?

Please get in touch 0800 029 4802

Or we are happy to call you back at a time that suits you

Office open Mon - Fri: 08:30 - 18:00

Causes of spinal injury

The spine is the central nerve communication channel of the body. When the bones of the spine are damaged there will generally be healing, but damage to the spinal cord surrounded by and usually protected by those bones can be irreversible.

The most common cause of spinal cord injury or myelopathy is a traumatic injury leading to a broken back or broken neck. Damage to the bones of the spinal column that surround the spinal cord can result in damage to the nerves of the spinal cord inside.

Traumatic spinal cord injury may be caused by road traffic accidentsaccidents at work, sports injuries, accidents abroad and medical negligence such as surgical errors.

Spinal cord injuries can also be caused by "non-traumatic injury". Non-traumatic spinal cord injuries include medical negligence issues of delays in diagnosis and treatment of cauda equina syndrome, delay in diagnosis and treatment of spinal tumours, post surgical haematomas, or slow changes to the vertebrae. 

Our expert solicitors are experienced in bringing claims for compensation for all types of spinal cord injuries.

Types of spinal injury

Injuries to the spinal cord in the neck area (the cervical region) have the most extensive effect. Neck injuries usually result in full or partial tetraplegia or quadriplegia (paralysis of all 4 limbs). Some function may be possible depending on the exact location of the injury but normally there is complete paralysis.

Damage further down the spine often causes injury and paralysis to the lower limbs. This is known as paraplegia.

The effect of a spinal cord injury depends on the type and level of the injury.

In a complete injury there is no function below the level of the injury. There is no sensation or muscle control below the level of the injury. Both sides of the body will be affected equally.

In an incomplete injury some sensation is possible below the level of the spinal injury. An individual may be able to move one limb more than another or may have sensation in some parts of the body and other parts of the body may not be able to move. Bowel and bladder function will often be affected as will sexual function. Involuntary function such as breathing may be lost.

The level of the injury on the spinal cord (lesion) is vital in assessing what parts of the body may be affected by paralysis and loss of function. The levels are groups of nerves along the spine. These are divided into 4 areas: CervicalThoracicLumbar and Sacral.

  • Injury to C3 vertebrae and above often results in loss of diaphragm function. A ventilator may be required to breathe.
  • Injury to C4 vertebrae may result in some use of biceps and shoulders but weaker than C5 and lower.
  • Injury to C5 vertebrae may result in function in shoulders and biceps but not in wrists or hands.
  • Injury to C6 vertebrae may result in some wrist control but loss of hand function.
  • Injury to C7 and T1 vertebrae generally means that the injured person can straighten their arms but will have dexterity problems with hands and fingers.
  • Injury to T1 - T8 will result in some hand control but lack of abdominal muscle control.
  • Injury to T9 - T12 will mean that there is some trunk (body excluding head, neck, arms and legs) and abdominal muscle control.
  • Injuries to the lumbar (lower back and sacral) usually results in loss of control in the legs, hips and anus.

Side effects of spinal injuries

Loss or reduction in limb use may also be accompanied by: 

  • Spasticity - feelings of stiffness and involuntary muscle spasms.
  • Sexual dysfunction - impotence, pain during sex and loss of desire can all impact upon personal relationships.
  • Muscle atrophy - the wasting or loss of muscle tissue. This can be caused by disuse following a reduction in physical activity. Neurogenic atrophy occurs where there is damage to a nerve that connects to the muscle.
  • Neuropathic pain - known as neuralgia this is a chronic or long term pain that can result from damage to the spine which is part of the nervous system that transmits pain signals. It does not have the protective role of acute pain and must be properly diagnosed and treated.
  • Gall bladder and renal stones - these can be caused by spinal cord injury which has resulted in urinary incontinence.
  • Osteoporosis - a condition that affects the bones, causing them to become weak and fragile and more likely to break or fracture.

Spinal injury rehabilitation

Spinal injuries generally require extended hospital treatment. As a guide, paraplegics will expect to be in hospital for around 5 – 6 months, tetraplegics will generally have to stay in hospital for around 6 – 8 months.

After discharge from hospital there will be many months of rehabilitation to help the individual adapt to their life after the spinal injury.

Through our experience we aim to improve the quality of life for our clients by focusing on early rehabilitation and training. We have access to case managers to ensure that practical assistance is given as soon as possible and we can arrange for interim payments to be made to deal with any pressing financial needs, or purchase any equipment that is necessary.

There are many exciting developments in the treatment of spinal cord injury and stem cell combination therapies to promote regeneration of new axions within the spinal cord are being clinically trialled all over the world. 

Spinal injury FAQs

Q. What is the spinal cord?

A.  The spinal cord is a part of the vertebrate nervous system that is enclosed and protected by the spinal column.

Coming off the spinal cord are 31 pairs of spinal nerves. These nerves within the spinal cord are called upper motor neurons. The spinal nerves that branch out from the spinal cord to the other parts of the body are called lower motor neurons.

Q. What is a spinal cord injury?

A.  A spinal cord injury or myelopathy is a disturbance of the spinal cord that results in loss of sensation and mobility. The two common types of spinal injury are trauma and disease.

Q. How common is a spinal cord injury?

A.  The spinal cord does not have to be severed completely for loss of function to occur. In most cases of spinal cord injury the spinal cord remains intact.

A common cause of damage to the spinal cord is when the cord swells and is then damaged in the narrow space in the vertebrae. This damage results in the formation of scar tissue that prevents the formation of new nerve pathways, making the paralysis that has occurred permanent.

It is possible to have a broken back or broken neck without being paralysed. This happens when the vertebrae are damaged but the spinal cord is unharmed.

Q. What are the main causes of a spinal cord injury?

A.  The most common cause of spinal cord injury or myelopathy is a broken back or broken neck. This can result in damage to the nerves of the spinal cord inside the spinal column. This is known as "traumatic injury".

Traumatic spinal cord injury may be caused by road traffic accidents, accidents at work, sports injuries, accidents abroad and medical negligence.

Spinal cord injury can also be caused by "non-traumatic injury". This includes an inflammation or infection of the spinal cord, tumours pressing on the spinal cord and diseases of the nervous system and degenerative conditions.

Q. What support is there for people with a spinal cord injury?

A.  Our priority is to work closely with the family of the injured person. We can help to obtain early payments to deal with rehabilitation costs, nursing care, disability aids, specialist equipment, transport costs and money to replace lost income. Organisations such as the Spinal Injuries Association work with injured people and their families to help them adapt to their circumstances.

Q. What is the Spinal Injuries Association?

A.  The Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) is the national charity for people with SCI and their families. It is run by people who are living with SCI every day.

The experts at Boyes Turner are approved solicitors for the Spinal Injuries Association.

Q. Is there a cure for a spinal cord injury?

A.  Although great advances have been made in the treatment of spinal cord injury, for most people, the injury will have a catastrophic effect on the victim and their family.

Whilst many parts of the body can repair themselves after they are injured the central nervous system cannot. Early immobilisation and treatment are important factors in recovery. There is no cure however and research continues into repair and regeneration of nerve cells and neural circuits.

Q. Why should I make a claim for a spinal injury?

A.  Making a spinal injury claim will ensure accountability of the person or organisation responsible for your injury. This will help prevent the same mistake from happening again.

Making a claim will also secure the payment of compensation. Compensation is important especially in more complex spinal injury cases and where long term specialist care and assistance is required.

Spinal injury definitions

The language associated with spinal injury can be complicated and difficult to understand. We have identified some of the key terms in use every day in relation to spinal injuries.

A

Anterior cord syndrome

Anterior cord syndrome is an incomplete lesion when only the front of the spinal cord is damaged, almost always at the cervical level.

Arachnoiditis

Arachnoiditis describes the thickening and scarring of the membranes which surround and protect the nerve roots. Cysts or adhesions develop, causing pressure on the cord, back pain and/or additional loss of nerve function. Arachnoiditis can be caused by diseases such as meningitis and tuberculosis of the spine. More commonly it develops in people with spinal cord injury, or who have had operations on the spine.

Autonomic

Autonomic is a 'vegetative' nervous system which is separate from but linked to that of the spinal cord. It controls the bladder and bowels, blood circulation and sweating.

Autonomic dysreflexia

Autonomic dysreflexia describes a sudden increase in blood pressure to which tetraplegics are especially prone because their autonomic nervous system is disrupted. Commonly caused by an over-full or infected bladder or bowel, it produces sweating and a blinding headache. It is a medical emergency, and if untreated can cause death.

B

Brown-Sequard syndrome

Brown-Sequard syndrome occurs when one side of the spinal cord is damaged, common when injury is caused by a stab wound. On the injured side of the body there are decreased reflexes, while on the opposite side there is a loss of sense of pain and temperature.

C

Cauda equina

Cauda equina or the "horse's tail" is a three inch bundle of fine nerves leaving the lower end of the spinal cord, below the level of the second lumbar vertebra.

Central cord syndrome

Central cord syndrome is an incomplete lesion usually at the cervical level. Feeling is less affected than movement, but bladder and sexual function are often only slightly affected and some people will be able to walk to some extent.

Cervical

Cervical describes the neck area. The cervical section of the spinal cord contains 8 nerve roots which control neck movement, breathing and the shoulders, arms and wrists.

Cerebro-spinal fluid

Cerebro-spinal fluid or CSF is a colourless liquid within the skull and the spinal canal which nourishes the brain and spinal cord and acts as a water cushion.

Cystic myelopathy

A cystic myelopathy is a spinal cyst. See syringomyelia.

D

Discs

Discs are pads of gristle which separate the spinal vertebrae and surround and cushion the spinal cord.

Dysesthesias

Dysesthesias are painful sensations experienced below the level of lesion following spinal cord injury. Often described as burning, numbness, pins and needles or tingling.

L

Lesion

A lesion is a cut, sore or injury. Often used to describe the site of injury to the spinal cord.

Lodosis

Lodosis describes a backwards curvature of the spine.

Lumbar

The Lumbar is the lower back area. The lumbar section of the spinal cord contains 5 nerve roots which control the muscles of the legs.

M

Meninges

Meninges are the silky linings of the skull and spinal cord which protect the brain and spinal cord.

Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the linings of the skull and spinal canal. Usually caused by a virus, and sometimes fatal, especially in children. Meningitis serosa circumscripta or arachnoiditis is a rare condition that affects some people with spinal cord injury.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive technique of body scanning which produces very good images without side effects. Used to examine the spinal cord i.e. to detect syringomyelia.

Myelogram

A myelogram is an x-ray of the spine after injection of an x-ray opaque dye into the spinal column, to examine the spinal cord i.e. to detect syringomyelia.

Myelopathy

A myelopathy (or spinal cord injury) is a disturbance of the spinal cord that results in loss of sensation and mobility.

P

Paraplegia

Paraplegia is the paralysis caused by injury or damage to the spinal cord below the neck.

Q

Quadriplegia

Quadriplegia - see tetraplegia .

Paraplegia is the paralysis caused by injury or damage to the spinal cord below the neck.

S

Sacral

Sacral is used to describe the area at the base of the spine, where the five sacral vertebrae are fused together. The five sacral nerve roots control the bladder and bowel.

Sacral Anterior Root Stimulator (SARS)

A Sacral Anterior Root Stimulator (SARS) is a surgical implant which restores bladder control in some paraplegics.

Scoliosis

A scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine.

Sub-Perception Electrical Stimulation (SPES)

Sub-Perception Electrical Stimulation (SPES) is a technique which applies minute electrical currents to the body to help control pain.

Spina bifida

Spina bifida is an abnormal split or opening in the spinal column, normally caused by a genetic defect and present from a nearly stage of the development of the foetus in the womb.

Syringomyelia

Syringomyelia is a condition affecting some able-bodied as well as some people with spinal cord injury. A cavity in the spinal cord fills with cerebrospinal fluid. The resulting pressure further enlarges the cavity and damages the nerve tissues in the cord. In SCI people this tends to occur above the level of the original injury, causing pressure on nerve roots and pain or further loss of sensation in upper limbs.

Syrinx

A syrinx is a cavity in the spinal cord. See syringomyelia .

T

Tetraplegia

Tetraplegia is the paralysis caused by injury or damage to the upper or cervical section of the spinal cord.

Thoracic

Thoracic describes the chest area. The thoracic section of the spinal cord contains 12 nerve roots which control the muscles of the ribs, chest and abdomen.

U

Upper motor neurons

Upper motor neurons are spinal nerves coming off the spinal cord, they carry messages back and forth from the brain to the spinal nerves along the spinal cord. The sensory and motor parts of the spinal cord are located within the upper motor neurons and carry messages to the brain about sensation and to initiate actions such as muscle movement.

We are here to help

For more information or to speak to one of our experts, please call 0800 029 4802