Quadriplegia, also called tetraplegia, causes paralysis in all four limbs. Paralysis can sometimes affect the chest, abdomen, and back. In severe cases, paralysis can even affect breathing, urination, and bowel control.
Quadriplegia is one of the most severe injuries you can suffer. It can also necessitate ongoing medical treatment, physical and mental therapy, and constant assistance and care. These expenses can quickly overwhelm the finances of an accident victim.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the nature of quadriplegia injuries and the kinds of compensation that you can seek for such injuries.
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How Do Quadriplegia Injuries Happen?
Quadriplegia happens when the spinal cord suffers from an injury in the cervical spine region.
The cervical spine represents the top eight vertebrae. These vertebrae run from your skull down your neck. Doctors number these vertebrae C1 through C8, with C1 being directly below your skull.
Nerve damage that occurs in or near the first seven vertebrae can cause quadriplegia. The location of the damage will determine the extent of the paralysis. This happens because nerves in the spinal cord branch off at different locations.
An injury closer to the skull will affect all of the nerves in the spinal column, whereas an injury lower in the neck will affect fewer of these nerves.
What Are the Different Types of Quadriplegia Injury?
Injuries to the neck generally break down as follows:
C1 and C2: The nerves that control breathing pass through C1 and C2. When an injury severs the spinal cord at C1 or C2, the accident will usually cause death.
C3: The nerves in C3 help the nerves in C1 and C2 to control head and neck movement. They also provide the brain with sensations from the face and head. A C3 injury will cut off the sensation and movement of the entire body.
C4: The nerves that move the shoulders and the diaphragm pass through C4. A spinal cord injury at C4 could preserve head, shoulder, and neck movement and allow unaided respiration.
C5: The nerves that control some of the upper arm muscles branch off at C5. An injury below C5 might permit arm movement, but hand movement and movement below the shoulders would likely disappear.
C6: The nerves that pass out of C6 help to control the wrists and biceps. They also carry sensations from the forearms.
C7: The nerves that control the triceps pass out of C7. This muscle causes the arm to straighten at the elbow. The nerves also cooperate to control the wrists and carry sensations from the back of the arm.
C8: The nerves at C8 help to provide motion and sensation in the hands.
In addition to the location of the spinal cord injury, the degree of damage will also determine the severity of the effects.
Complete and Incomplete Quadriplegia
Complete quadriplegia happens when the spinal cord cannot carry signals from the brain to the body below the injury. Complete quadriplegia leaves almost no hope for recovery because the connections between the body and brain no longer exist.
Incomplete or partial quadriplegia occurs when the injury severs some, but not all, of the connections between the brain and the body. In some patients, incomplete quadriplegia provides a path for recovering some neural function.
The nervous system can reroute nerve signals using a brain characteristic called neuroplasticity. If connections between the body and brain remain intact, the brain can reprogram itself to use the remaining nerves to regain some control that was lost due to the severed nerves.
What Are the Risk Factors for Quadriplegia Injuries?
Quadriplegia can sometimes happen as a result of disease. For example, a tumor in the spine can press on the spinal cord, causing quadriplegia.
However, most quadriplegia cases result from trauma. An injury to the neck between C1 and C7 can lead to loss of motion and sensation in the legs, abdomen, and chest. You could also lose some or all of the motion and sensation in your arms, shoulders, neck, and head, depending on the location of the injury.
Some accidents that increase the risk of quadriplegia include:
Car accidents frequently cause neck injuries. Seat belts restrain your body, and an airbag can save your head from an impact. But in some cases, your neck will still whip back and forth.
In minor cases, this will lead to whiplash, muscle strains, and slipped or damaged discs. In severe cases, the neck vertebrae can fracture and sever the spinal cord, leading to quadriplegia.
Injuries from slipping, tripping, and falling from a height commonly occur in the workplace. In most cases, these workplace accidents cause bumps, bruises, or bone fractures. In some cases, a workplace accident can cause quadriplegia.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Accidents
A vehicle hitting an unprotected body can cause severe damage to the victim’s back and neck. In a bicycle accident or pedestrian accident, the impact of the vehicle will cause some injuries, while the subsequent impact with the pavement may cause additional injuries.
How Are Quadriplegia Injuries Treated?
Doctors cannot repair severed nerves. If nerves are severed, complete quadriplegia will likely remain with you for the rest of your life.
Physical therapy can help people who have incomplete quadriplegia. Exercise training and muscle relaxants can encourage the brain to rewire itself to use the remaining nerve connections.
Most of the treatments for quadriplegia are directed toward controlling pain and other complications. For example, muscle spasms can result from a lack of motor control.
Similarly, quadriplegia can increase the risk of pneumonia because a patient might have trouble swallowing, coughing, or clearing their throat.
What Kind of Compensation Can I Recover for Quadriplegia?
Damages for a quadriplegia injury can include medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. Quadriplegia could require extensive medical treatment and ongoing care; you may have huge medical expenses.
Lost income includes your diminished earning capacity. If quadriplegia prevents you from working again, you may have lost all earning capacity.
Quadriplegia can lead to physical pain and mental anguish. When faced with quadriplegia, you may lose the ability to participate in many of the activities you once enjoyed. You may require continuous assistance with daily care.
All of these factors mean that you can claim substantial compensation after suffering a quadriplegia injury.
Contact a Houston Personal Injury Lawyer for Help
Our Houston personal injury lawyers will provide a free, no-obligation case review to help you determine your best legal options to move forward from your injury.