Understanding Types of Spinal Cord Injuries After a Car Accident: New York City Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Explains

Related posts

xray 1080x675.2209301607550

Motor vehicle accidents are one of the most common ways that people suffer personal injuries.  According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), each year in the United States approximately 2.7 million people are injured and 36,000 people are killed in traffic accidents.  In just New York City this year up to September 2021, according to the New York City Police Department there have been approximately 10,000 accidents resulting in almost 5,000 injuries and over 20 deaths.  That equates to over 1,100 people injured each month in motor vehicle accidents.  While our New York City car accident lawyer knows that most of these injuries are broken bones, soft tissue injuries, and lacerations, some injuries may be catastrophic such as spinal cord injuries (SCI) after a New York motor vehicle accident.

The World Health Organization reports that 250,000 to 500,000 people suffer a spinal cord injury each year, with one of the leading causes being road traffic crashes.  In the United States, statistics from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistics Center (NSCISC) reveal that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of all types of spinal cord injuries (38.2%), followed by falls (32.3%), violence (14.3%), and other causes.  The American Association of Neurological Surgeons reports that an estimated 17,000 new spinal cord injury cases occur each year in the United States due to trauma such as motor vehicle accidents.

Many individuals suffering from spinal cord injuries after a New York motor vehicle accident will face a prolonged recovery and likely will have permanent damage.  At Keith D. Silverstein & Associates, P.C., our NYC car accident lawyers know how devastating it can be for an individual and for a family to move forward after a traffic accident causes significant and catastrophic disability from an SCI.  This is why our law firm offers FREE consultations to advise victims and their families of their rights.  If you or a loved one were seriously injured and suffered a spinal cord injury after a car accident, schedule your free consultations by dialing (646) 813-3922.

What is a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)?  NYC Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Explains Anatomy

A spinal cord injury, or SCI, is damage to the spinal cord which originates at the base of the skull and extends to the lower back.  The brain and spinal cord are known as the central nervous system or CNS.  The spinal cord itself is a soft, thick gelatinous structure that is composed of tightly bound cells and nerves.  These cells and nerves operate as a messenger superhighway sending and receiving signals between the brain and the rest of the body. 

Signals sent to and from the body along the spinal cord are received from the peripheral nervous system (PNS).  The PNS is a complex network of nerve branches that originate from the spinal column and extend to the tips of the fingers and toes.  Nerves are the thickest closest to the spinal cord, and thinnest as they get farther away from the body.  The PNS nerves are responsible for several important functions, including muscle movement, strength, function, and sensation of temperature, pressure, moisture, pain, and other feelings.

When the spinal cord is damaged, it can affect what signals and sent between the PNS and the brain.  This could cause the weakening of muscles, decreased sensation, pins, needles or burning, and other odd sensations or neurological harm.  If the damage is severe to the spinal cord, some signals may not be sent between the brain and the rest of the body.  This results in a type of paralysis.

Types of Spinal Cord Injuries After a Car Accident

There are two main types of SCI that could be caused after any personal injury accident, especially a motor vehicle crash.  The type of SCI depends on the several of the injuries.  Certain injuries will result in damage affecting the rest of the body below the injury site.

The two main types include the following:


Also known as a partial SCI, an incomplete SCI is when there is damage to the spinal cord in a manner that affects sensation and motor control to an extent, but not entirely.  This allows a victim to still have some sensation and movement below the injury to the spinal cord.  That means that signals from the rest of the body to and from the brain will still be sent passed the injury location.


Also known as a total SCI, a complete SCI is where the damage to the spinal cord is in a manner that completely affects sensation and motor control.  This is because the spinal cord is either severed or extremely damaged in a manner where no signals can be sent passed the damaged location.  That means signals from the brain cannot be sent to parts of the body below the injury, resulting in paralysis.


Paralysis is the inability to move, sense, or otherwise control the function of a part of the body.  Paralysis can be temporary or permanent, often debilitating and resulting in long-term disability.  Oftentimes this means that an individual will have difficulty for the rest of his or her life, greatly affecting his or her ability to work and perform daily or customary activities.  Paralysis undoubtedly affects the entire family.  This is why any type of paralysis from a motor vehicle crash in New York City should be handled by an experienced NYC car accident lawyer.

There are two main types of paralysis due to SCI, which are the following:


This is a type of paralysis that affects the lower part of the torso and lower legs.  This is due to damage to the lower part of the signal column, meaning damage to the SCI only affects the bottom of the spinal cord itself.  There are two types of paralysis:

Incomplete Paraplegia

This type of SCI is where the damage to the spinal cord is partial and allows some messages to be sent back and forth between the body and the brain below the damage.  However, it may mean that individuals are weaker in the legs, have less control move moments, there may be incontinence issues, individuals may have less sensation, and have other related disabilities from the SCI.  Individuals with an incomplete paraplegia injury may be able to walk without assistance or may need walkers, braces, canes, or other devices—depending on the extent of their injury and how well they are handling their disability.

Complete Paraplegia

This type of SCI is where the damage to the spinal cord is total and complete, severing the spinal cord and preventing messages to run past the damaged area.  Individuals with total paraplegia and those who have no sensation below the injury site and no motor function.  These individuals likely need a wheelchair or other mobility assistance device to ambulate.


Also known as tetraplegia, quadriplegia is an SCI that is higher on the spinal column and usually in the neck region.  As a result, this means that more of the body is affected by the injury because fewer signals can be sent below that damaged site and the rest of the body.  Therefore, quadriplegia affects most of the body from the top of the chest/shoulders down, limiting sensation or function in all four extremities.  There are two types of paralysis:

Incomplete Quadriplegia

This type of SCI occurs when the damage to the spinal cord in the neck is partial, allowing signals to be sent passed the injury location between the brain and the rest of the body.  This means that individuals with an incomplete quadriplegic injury may still have some function and sensation below the injury location.  Individuals may need a walker, cane, wheelchair, or other assistance devices to get around.

Complete Quadriplegia

This is often said to be the worst type of SCI because the damage to the spinal cord is total and complete.  This means that no signals can be sent below the location of damage from the neck down.  As a result, all four extremities and the majority of the torso will have no sensation or function.  Individuals with this type of injury will have to rely on assistance from others to get around because they are often bedridden or must use an advanced type of wheelchair.


There are many ways that SCI could occur in a motor vehicle accident occurring in New York City.  Most of the common ways are completely preventable if motorists exercise reasonable care under the circumstances in the use or operation of their motor vehicle.  Unfortunately, our NYC car accident lawyers know that far too many individuals fail to do that.

Some of the most common causes of SCI that may entitle a victim and his or her family to recover compensation include the following:

  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Drunk driving or drugged driving
  • Improper left turns
  • Hitting a pedestrian or cyclists
  • Following too closely
  • Unsafe driving in inclement weather
  • Improper U-turns
  • Unsafe lane changes or merges
  • Mechanical errors
  • Running a red light or stop sign
  • Failure to yield
  • Unsafe passing or illegal passing, and
  • Many other types of serious motor vehicle crashes or accidents in New York.

Did You Suffer a Spinal Cord Injury After a Car Accident?  Call Our New York City Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer and Personal Injury Law Firm for Help

If you or a loved one were seriously injured and suffered from a spinal cord injury after a car accident, call our experienced NYC spinal cord injury lawyer at Keith D. Silverstein & Associates, P.C. to learn how we can help you.  We offer FREE consultations and only get our attorney’s fees paid from a percentage of what we recover for you—and only after we recover it for you.  This means there is no upfront cost or out-of-pocket expense to begin working with our experienced personal injury lawyers.  Learn more by dialing (646) 813-3922 or by sending us a private message on our “contact us” page available here.