What are the Different Types of Spinal Injuries?

Understanding your spinal injury can be complicated. Doctors categorize spinal injuries in several different ways, and many types of spinal injuries have similar or overlapping symptoms. However, understanding your spinal injury is extremely important, as you need to make sure that both: (i) you have realistic expectations; and, (ii) you know what you need to do in order to maximize your recovery.

Bakersfield spinal cord injury lawyer Mickey Fine has been helping accident victims for more than 30 years. He has extensive experience helping injured people obtain the justice and compensation they need to move forward with their lives.

Degenerative Spinal Injuries vs. Traumatic Spinal Injuries

Broadly speaking, a spinal injury can either be categorized as “degenerative” or “traumatic”. A degenerative spinal injury is one that results from wear and tear over time. Some degenerative conditions are also hereditary in nature.

Most spinal cord injuries result are classified as traumatic. A traumatic injury is usually an acute spinal cord injury that results from an accident. This could be a vehicle accident, a bicycle accident, a fall, a collision with an object or another person, or any of a variety of other types of traumatic events.

Causes of Traumatic Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries can have devastating and life-altering consequences. They often result from traumatic events, many of which may involve negligence, recklessness, or unsafe conditions. As a personal injury law firm representing accident victims, we handle many cases involving traumatic spinal cord injuries. Here, we delve into some of the common causes of these injuries.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents, including car, motorcycle, and truck accidents, are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries. These incidents can result in severe injuries due to high-speed impacts, rollovers, and collisions. If another party’s negligent driving contributed to the accident, they could be held legally responsible.


Falls, particularly from significant heights or in unsafe conditions, often lead to traumatic spinal cord injury. These falls can occur in various settings, including construction sites, homes, and public places. Property owners or employers may be held liable if they failed to maintain a safe environment or neglected their duty of care.

Acts of Violence

Violence, such as gunshot wounds or knife attacks, can cause spinal cord injuries. In these cases, the perpetrator can be held responsible both criminally and civilly. Even if a criminal case does not result in a conviction, victims can still pursue a civil case for damages.

Sports and Recreational Activities

High-impact sports and recreational activities like football, skiing, diving, or gymnastics can result in spinal cord injuries, especially if appropriate safety measures are not taken. Liability can rest with negligent coaches, event organizers, or equipment manufacturers.

Medical Malpractice

Spinal cord injuries can also be a result of medical malpractice, such as surgical errors, improper management of spinal cord diseases, or misdiagnosis. Medical professionals can be held accountable if their negligence directly resulted in injury.

Remember, if you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury due to someone else’s negligence, you have the right to seek legal remedy. Our experienced personal injury attorneys are dedicated to advocating for victims and their families, fighting for justice, and securing the compensation you need for medical expenses, loss of income, and pain and suffering.

Generally speaking, the options for recovering financial compensation for a degenerative spinal injury are limited (although there are options, for example, if you got hurt at work). On the other hand, individuals who suffer traumatic spinal injuries in serious accidents will often have claims for just compensation.

Spinal Cord Injuries Described By Region

Doctors also categorize spinal injuries based on the region of the spine in which an injury occurs. There are four regions of the spinal cord:

  • Cervical Spine – The cervical spine is the uppermost portion where the brain connects to the spinal cord. It consists of eight vertebrae, which are labeled C1-C8 from top to bottom.
  • Thoracic Spine – The thoracic spine is located in the middle back below the cervical region. It consists of 12 vertebrae, which are labeled T1-T12.
  • Lumbar Spine – The lumbar spine is located in the lower back below the thoracic region. There are five lumbar vertebrae, which are labeled L1-L5.
  • Sacral Spine – While technically not a part of the actual spinal cord (rather, the spinal column), injuries to this region are commonly included in the diagnosis of spinal cord injuries. The sacral spine sits below the lumbar region and above the tailbone. It also consists of five vertebrae, which are labeled S1-S5.

Complete vs. Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

Next, doctors will generally describe spinal injuries as either “complete” or “incomplete.” Some doctors also classify spinal injuries according to the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) grading scale.

Complete Spinal Cord Injuries

Complete spinal cord injuries result in the total loss of function below the level of the injury. A complete spinal cord injury is often severe and typically involves the full width of the spinal cord being damaged or affected, causing permanent paralysis and loss of sensation in the body areas controlled by the sections of the spinal cord below the injury site. In medical terminology, complete injuries are classified as American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) grade A.

ASIA A – Complete Spinal Injury

ASIA A grade is assigned to complete spinal cord injuries where no sensory or motor function is preserved in the sacral segments S4-S5. This classification indicates a complete injury, suggesting that the patient has lost all feeling and the ability to control movement below the level of the injury. Rehabilitation and management strategies for these patients primarily focus on improving their quality of life and adaptation to the new physical limitations.

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

Incomplete spinal cord injuries result in only partial damage to the spinal cord, which implies that there is some level of function or sensation below the injury site. The degree of function can vary significantly from almost normal function to severe impairment. Incomplete injuries are further classified into ASIA B, C, and D grades.

ASIA B – Incomplete Spinal Injury with Sensory Preservation

ASIA B is an incomplete spinal cord injury classification where there is a complete loss of motor functions, but sensory functions are preserved below the neurological level, including the sacral segments S4-S5. Patients may be able to feel touch, pressure, or a change in temperature, but they are unable to control movement.

ASIA C – Incomplete Spinal Injury with Some Motor Function

ASIA C grade is given to spinal cord injuries that result in a significant degree of preserved motor function. In this case, less than half of the muscle groups are able to perform an anti-gravity movement, which involves the ability to lift up against the force of gravity with a full range of motion. This indicates that while motor function is affected, some degree of control still exists.

ASIA D – Incomplete Spinal Injury with More Motor Function

ASIA D is classified as an incomplete injury where more than half of the muscle groups below the neurological level are able to perform anti-gravity movements. This means that patients with ASIA D have preserved motor function, but it varies in its effectiveness. Despite the injury, these individuals have a better chance of regaining more function with appropriate therapy and rehabilitation.

Specific Spinal Injury Diagnoses

Finally, a doctor may also identify a patient’s spinal injury based on the patient’s specific diagnosis. There are numerous possible diagnoses, some of which may be categorized as complete or incomplete, and others of which may fully heal with treatment, rest, and rehabilitative therapy. Some of the more common spinal injury diagnoses include:

Bulging Disc

Bulging discs are generally degenerative spinal injuries. They are characterized by stiffening of the cartilage in the disc, which causes the disc to stiffen and potentially to protrude or prolapse outside of the vertebrae.

Herniated Disc

Herniated discs occur when the outer layer of cartilage cracks, or “ruptures.” For this reason, they are also commonly known as ruptured discs. Herniated discs can result from wear and tear or from accident-related trauma.

Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain can be symptomatic of a wide range of spinal injuries. While not strictly an “injury” but more of a symptom, lower back pain is among the most common complaints among accident victims and individuals who perform repetitive tasks or sit or stand for prolonged periods at work.

Nerve Damage

Nerve damage in the spinal cord can cause pain, weakness, numbness, paralysis, and lack of motor or sensory function. Many victims of severe accidents suffer nerve damage; in many cases, these injuries impact the rest of their lives.


Paralysis is defined as, “loss of strength in and control over a muscle or group of muscles in a part [or parts] of the body.” Depending on the location and severity of a person’s spinal injury, paralysis can either be total (quadriplegia) or partial (monoplegia, hemiplegia, diplegia, or paraplegia).

Cervical Spine Injuries

Cervical spinal cord injuries involve damage to the seven vertebrae in the neck area, which are known as C1 through C7. These types of injuries can have serious consequences, given that the cervical spine is responsible for transmitting nerve signals from the brain to the rest of the body. Injury to the cervical spine can affect the function of the arms, legs, and middle of the body, and in severe cases, it can interfere with breathing and other critical functions.

Spinal Cord Injury Treatment and the Role of Legal Support

Spinal cord injuries require a multi-faceted approach to treatment that may include immediate emergency care, surgery, medications, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other long-term rehabilitative interventions. The goal of these treatments is to prevent further injury, manage symptoms, improve functionality, and enhance the quality of life. However, these treatments can be extraordinarily expensive, and having access to appropriate financial resources is crucial.

Treatment Modalities and Associated Costs

Emergency Care: Initially, medical professionals stabilize patients to prevent further damage. This may involve medications, immobilization, and sometimes immediate surgery. The cost of emergency care can be substantial, particularly if the injury is severe.

Surgery: Depending on the nature of the injury, surgery may be required either to remove fragments, repair herniated discs, or stabilize the spine. Surgical intervention can range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Medication: Medications such as corticosteroids or other drugs might be used to manage inflammation, pain, or secondary complications. The cost of these medications can add up over time, particularly for long-term usage.

Rehabilitation: Spinal cord injury rehabilitation, including physical and occupational therapy, is crucial for managing spinal cord injuries. These therapies help patients regain as much function as possible, relearn essential skills, and adapt to new ways of doing tasks. This can cost thousands of dollars per week.

Equipment and Home Modifications: In cases of severe injury, patients may need wheelchairs, modified vehicles, or home adaptations. These can cost tens of thousands of dollars, if not more.

The Role of a Lawyer in Securing Financial Compensation

Given the high cost of treating and managing spinal cord injuries, many individuals are not in a financial position to bear these expenses themselves. If your spinal cord injury was caused by the negligence or intentional actions of another party, a personal injury lawyer could help you secure financial compensation. A lawyer can:

  1. Evaluate your case: They can help determine the merits of your case, estimating the potential compensation based on factors such as the severity of the injury, degree of negligence, and costs incurred.
  2. Gather evidence: Lawyers can compile the necessary evidence to establish the other party’s liability. This might involve medical records, accident reports, witness testimonies, and expert opinions.
  3. Negotiate with insurance companies: Insurance companies often attempt to minimize payout amounts. A lawyer can negotiate on your behalf to secure a fair settlement.
  4. Litigate in court: If a fair settlement cannot be reached, your lawyer can take your case to court and advocate for your rights before a judge or jury.

By securing a fair compensation package, you can have access to the necessary treatment and resources to cope with the injury, regain function, and improve your quality of life.

Talk to Bakersfield Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Mickey Fine

Bakersfield spinal injury lawyer Mickey Fine has decades of experience helping California residents recover just compensation for accident-related and work-related injuries. If you’ve been injured and would like to learn about your legal rights, please call 661-333-3333 or contact us online to arrange a free consultation.

Spinal Cord Injury
by Mickey Fine Law
Last updated on - Originally published on