One of the most catastrophic injuries you can suffer in an accident is quadriplegia. Quadriplegia causes partial or total paralysis in all four of your limbs. Additionally, your brain might lose the ability to control the muscles that help you breathe, clear your throat, and empty your bowel and bladder.
As a result, you will likely need doctors, therapists, and full-time caretakers for the rest of your life. And while some people with quadriplegia can still earn a living, most cannot.
If you or a loved one has sustained a quadriplegia injury, it is essential to understand more about this serious condition and what you can do to pursue compensation for its effects.
What Does Your Central Nervous System Do?
Your central nervous system includes your brain and spinal cord. Your brain controls every muscle and organ in your body and collects information from your senses. When your brain does not function correctly, you can experience cognitive, physical, and even emotional symptoms.
Your spinal cord connects your brain to your body. Your brain controls everything below your neck using the connections formed by the spinal cord.
This bundle of nerves travels through the spinal canal in your back. The spinal canal is formed from a passageway through the vertebrae that make up your spine. These bones protect your spinal cord from minor injuries.
At each vertebra, the spinal cord branches into nerve roots, which provide connections to a region of your body. For example, a nerve root in your lower back carries nerves that control your left hip, leg, foot, and toes.
The nerve root also gathers sensory information from nerve endings in the same region. These sensory signals provide information about temperature, pressure, and texture to the brain.
Nerve cells, also called neurons, communicate with each other using a combination of chemistry and electricity. When nerves get stretched or severed, the nerve cells cannot communicate with each other. Nerve signals get garbled or lost while trying to travel along the damaged nerve.
There are three types of nerve signals:
- Autonomic signals
- Sensory signals
- Motor signals
What symptoms you experience after nerve damage depends on the nerve signals that are lost or misfired. If you sever the nerve, you will lose all autonomic, sensory, and motor signals traveling on the severed nerve.
What Can Cause a Quadriplegia Injury?
Quadriplegia happens when a traumatic injury severs the spinal cord in your neck. As a result, nerve signals cannot travel below the site of your injury. This results in paralysis and loss of sensation in all four of your limbs.
Quadriplegia usually results from:
A foreign object can pierce your spine and sever your spinal cord. This can happen from an assault. For example, a bullet or knife blade can slide through the discs between your vertebrae and sever the nerves.
It can also happen during an accident. During a motorcycle accident, you could slide into a piece of broken metal that could sever your spinal cord.
Falls can also cause quadriplegia. If you fall from a height onto a piece of rebar in a construction accident, the rebar could pierce your spine.
Quadriplegia can also result from a broken neck. The vertebrae in your neck can fracture under force. A blow to your neck in a slip and fall accident or the whipping forces your neck experiences in a car accident can break the bones protecting the spinal cord.
A vertebra can dislocate after it fractures. Alternatively, bone fragments can break off and float into the spinal canal. In either case, the bone can sever some or all the nerves in the spinal cord.
What Types of Quadriplegia Injuries Can Occur?
Quadriplegia injuries can take two forms:
In a complete injury, trauma severs all the nerves in the spinal cord. As a result, you have no connections between your brain and your body below the level of your injury.
With no nerve connections remaining, you will have no control over the muscles and organs below the level of the injury. And your brain will not receive any sensory signals from below the injury.
In an incomplete injury, some but not all the nerves of the spinal cord get severed. As a result, you will still have some nerve signals that travel between your brain and your body.
You might retain control over some muscles and receive some sensory signals. For example, you might have control and feeling in your arms but lack dexterity and strength.
What Are the Symptoms of a Quadriplegia Injury?
The symptoms you experience depend largely on the location of your injury. You have seven cervical vertebrae in your neck. You also have nerve roots above and below each vertebra. This means you have eight nerve roots, numbered C1 through C8, that branch above and below the seven vertebrae in your neck.
A quadriplegia injury at each of these nerve roots will produce different symptoms. Injuries higher in your neck will cause more severe symptoms than injuries lower in your neck.
C1 and C2 Injuries
Injuries to the C1 and C2 nerve roots often cause death. These nerves control the muscles that expand the chest. Without these nerves, you will stop breathing.
C3 and C4 Injuries
These injuries will often result in paralysis in all four limbs. Patients with injuries at these levels will probably need a ventilator to assist breathing and will have no bladder or bowel control.
At the C5 level, the patient can often control their shoulders. They may also raise their arms and bend their elbows. But they will probably lack control over their hands. They may need a ventilator initially but might breathe independently with therapy.
C6 Through C8 Injuries
At these levels, the patient will probably have some control over their wrists, hands, and fingers. But they will have some loss of dexterity and fine control. They will usually breathe independently and may have limited bladder and bowel control.
What Compensation Can You Recover for a Quadriplegia Injury in Nevada?
Under Nevada law, you can recover compensation when someone else’s negligence injures you. You can seek compensation for financial losses and the diminishment in your quality of life.
Quadriplegia patients will require medical treatment, physical therapy, and assistance with daily activities. To discuss the compensation you can seek for these and other effects of a quadriplegia injury or any other type of personal injury, call (702) 570-9000 to contact Battle Born Injury Lawyers and schedule a free consultation.