Can a car accident paralyze you?

As you drive the Tennessee roads and highways this spring relishing the greening of winter's end, be sure to keep your mind on your drivings so as to avoid becoming an accident victim. You undoubtedly realize that car accidents happen all too frequently in our state and that you could suffer catastrophic injuries should you become involved in one of them. But do you realize that a back injury could put you in a wheelchair for the rest of your life?

The Mayfield Clinic points out that your spinal column, consisting of your spinal cord, 33 vertebrae and the nerves that connect your brain to the rest of your body, is divided into the following five regions:

  1. Cervical region containing the seven vertebrae found between the bottom of your brain and the end of your neck
  2. Thoracic region containing the 12 vertebrae found between the end of your neck and your waist
  3. Lumbar region containing the five vertebrae found between your waist and the end of your lumbar curve in your lower back
  4. Sacral region containing the five fused vertebrae found in your lower back
  5. Coccyx region containing the five fused vertebrae that make up your tailbone

Injury to any of these five regions could deprive you of all movement and feeling below the point of injury.

The two types of paralysis

Spinal cord injuries result in one of two types of paralysis: paraplegia and tetraplegia, also called quadriplegia. Both types of paralysis make it impossible for you to walk, consigning you to a wheelchair for the remainder of your life. Paraplegia affects your legs and feet, as well as your lower torso, and results from an injury to your back's lumbar region. Most paraplegics cannot move their lower bodies at all or feel anything there. In addition, they cannot control either their bladder or their bowel.

Tetraplegia results from a spinal cord injury to your back's cervical or thoracic region. The higher up your injury, the less of your body you will be able to move or feel. Tetraplegia paralyzes your arms, hands and fingers as well as your legs and feet and the greater part of your torso. Most quadriplegics must rely on others to help them do such simple things as get in and out of bed and their wheelchair, eat, bathe, dress and undress, comb their hair, etc. If the spinal cord injury occurs in your cervical region, you may only be able to breathe by means of a mechanical ventilator.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.

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