Last Updated on January 23, 2024

What Is Spinal Cord Damage and How Do These Injuries Happen?

Spinal cord injuries can completely disrupt and devastate lives in an instant. From vehicle crashes to falls and work accidents, the forces involved can crush, sever, or tear this vital bundle of nerves with catastrophic and lifelong consequences.

Paralysis, loss of sensation, chronic pain, and reduced life expectancy are just some of the challenges victims face. When negligence or unsafe conditions are to blame, holding responsible parties accountable can provide vital resources for victims facing monumental lifestyle changes, accessibility costs, and more.

If you or a family member has been involved in a spinal cord accident in New York, call the Porter Law Group at 833-PORTER9 or email us at

Understanding the Spinal Cord and Nervous System

Components and Function

The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves and supportive tissue that runs through the vertebral column. It carries nerve signals between the brain and the rest of the body. Key spinal cord components include:

  • Vertebrae – the bones that make up the spine and protect the spinal cord
  • Disks – pads between the vertebrae that cushion the spinal cord
  • Spinal fluid – acts as a shock absorber around the spinal cord
  • Nerves – carry signals for movement, sensation, organ function, etc.

The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system with the brain.

Location in Body

The spinal cord connects to the peripheral nervous system and passes through the spinal canal in the vertebral column from the neck to the lower back. Signals travel between the spinal cord nerves and the brain through this canal.

Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

Complete vs Incomplete Injuries

Doctors classify spinal cord injuries as either complete or incomplete based on whether messages can still pass at the injury site:

  • Complete – The spinal cord is fully cut or damaged at the injury site. No nerve signals can travel past this point.
  • Incomplete – Some spinal cord pathways remain intact despite the damage. Some nerve signals and messaging can still traverse the injury site.


Another way spinal cord injuries are categorized is by the location of paralysis:

  • Paraplegia – Paralysis in the legs, potentially also impacting trunk/torso control. This is caused by damage in the thoracic or lumbar regions.
  • Quadriplegia – Paralysis in both arms and legs due to cervical spinal injuries higher up in the neck.

Nerve Damage

Other effects of spinal cord injury involve:

  • Numbness or complete loss of sensation below the injury site
  • Loss of reflexes and potential muscle spasms/spasticity
  • Chronic pain or unpleasant sensations

Common Causes and Accident Types

1. Motor Vehicle and Traffic Accidents

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of spinal injury requiring hospitalization. According to data from the NY DMV, over 300,000 police-reported traffic accidents occur annually in the state. High-speed collisions can cause severe trauma to vehicles' occupants. Sudden deceleration forces often throw drivers/passengers forward or sideways, while vehicle damage can pin or crush the spine.

2. Slip, Trip, and Fall Accidents

Slip, trip, and fall accidents also frequently prompt spinal cord injury cases. Falling from heights, ladders, and staircases can generate enough force when landing to fracture vertebrae or damage discs. Pursuing legal options around unsafe property conditions or negligence may be possible after these accidents.

3. Workplace and Construction Accidents

Manual labor jobs with risk of falling objects, debris, heavy machinery, etc., pose dangers of impact and crush injuries to the spinal column. The construction industry's high injury rate stems largely from its dynamic, ever-changing worksites, where multiple teams with shifting duties often occupy the same hazardous zones. Failures of safety policies, improper training, and negligence may provide legal avenues for those harmed.

4. Acts of Violence

Violent assaults involving firearms and knives can also cause spinal damage, often with life-long effects. Pursuing claims against perpetrators or building owners for failing security duties may cover rehabilitation costs. Support groups assist many through trauma recovery and disability adjustment as well.

Living with a Spinal Cord Injury

The effects of spinal cord damage are life-altering and present ongoing physical, social, and emotional challenges. Resources are available to assist with major lifestyle adjustments:

  • Adaptive and accessibility tools (wheelchairs, lifts, driving aids, environmental controls, etc.) allow for maximizing independence
  • Accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act require accommodations for mobility limitations in public spaces and housing
  • Ongoing rehabilitation and medical care aid recovery and secondary health complication prevention
  • Mental health support addresses emotional trauma, PTSD, stress, depression, and other psychological impacts connected to coping after a spinal cord injury

Seeking Legal Help and Just Compensation

Spinal cord injury victims can seek just compensation through legal representation by personal injury attorneys in New York. Reputable firms like the Porter Law Group build strong negligence claims and lawsuits so clients can focus on recovery.

Common damages covered through successful verdicts and settlements aim to ease the financial burdens facing those harmed by negligence or unsafe conditions, including:

  • Medical expenses from initial emergency transport, diagnostics, surgery, doctor visits, medications, and follow-up rehabilitation/therapy.
  • Income replacement for reduced working capacity or lost careers.
  • Costs of accessibility remodels, adapted vehicles, and assistive equipment like wheelchairs, lifts, or respirators.
  • Awards for pain, suffering, and reduced quality of life.

If you or your loved one suffered spinal cord damage in an accident caused by another's negligence, the Porter Law Group can help protect your rights. Our personal injury attorneys build strong legal cases to ensure maximum compensation for victims facing high medical bills, lost wages, reduced mobility and lowered quality of life.

We operate on a contingency basis with no upfront fees. Our dedicated team focuses fully on documenting negligence evidence, proving liability, demonstrating long-term impacts, and recovering the maximum damages you deserve.

To learn more about how we can help maximize your settlement after spinal cord injuries, contact us at 833-PORTER9 or email for a free consultation.

Written By
Michael S. Porter
Personal Injury Attorney
Originally from Upstate New York, Mike built a distinguished legal career after graduating from Harvard University and earning his juris doctor degree from Syracuse University College of Law. He served as a Captain in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, gaining expertise in trial work, and is now a respected trial attorney known for securing multiple million-dollar results for his clients while actively participating in legal organizations across Upstate NY.
Legally Reviewed on January 10, 2024
Eric C. Nordby
Personal Injury Attorney
Eric, with nearly three decades of experience in personal injury litigation, holds a law degree with honors from the University at Buffalo School of Law and a Bachelor's Degree from Cornell University. His extensive career encompasses diverse state and federal cases, resulting in substantial client recoveries, and he actively engages in legal associations while frequently lecturing on legal topics.
This Article Was Professionally Reviewed
This page was Legally Reviewed by Eric C. Nordby on January 10, 2024. Our experts verify everything you read to make sure it's up to date. For information on our content creation and review process read our editorial guidelines. If you notice an error or have any questions about our content please contact us.
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