The Average Medical Cost of SCI from a Car Accident

Robert Yaniz Jr. | June 20, 2016

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Most people may not realize just how often individuals are forced to contend with the debilitating condition that is a spinal cord injury. Reportedly, 250,000 people are currently dealing with the reality of a spinal cord injury.

The short-term and long-term effects on the body’s functionality and the patient’s quality of life cannot be underestimated, and while the cause behind spinal cord injuries varies greatly, by far the most common of them all is car accidents.

Research indicates that vehicular accidents comprise roughly 39 percent of spinal cord injuries, with those involving cars taking up nearly 27 percent alone. That such an everyday practice can result in disaster is certainly a terrifying thought, but the resulting medical expenses that are often required to recover from such an incident make the reality even more troubling.

A Crash Course in Car Accidents

Take a quick drive around, and chances are, you’ll come across a car accident or two more often than not. Although some of these are likely minor incidents that result in little to no injuries, studies indicate that 2.3 million people are injured in car crashes every year, and 30,000 of these collisions tragically claim lives. Of the deaths caused by vehicular incidents, nearly half -- 45 percent, to be exact -- correspond with passengers who failed to wear a seatbelt, and nearly a third of them can be attributed to speeding.

It’s disheartening to consider that such a widespread cause of death -- and one that commonly leads to devastating effects such as spinal cord injuries -- is largely preventable. In fact, the mere act of texting boosts the likelihood of a crash by as much as 23 times. In addition, even though alcohol impairment is four times more common at night, the majority of car accidents take place between 3pm and 6pm within 25 miles of one’s own home.

The best way to avoid the medical expenses that will undoubtedly arise from a collision, of course, is to limit the role these factors play in your time behind the wheel. However, let’s delve a bit more into the car accident cost that such an individual might face.

The Price You Pay

Motor vehicle crashes generally rack up an estimated annual economic cost of $277 billion, but what can patients expect when it comes to the medical expenses tied to spinal cord injuries? Granted, the extent of of the damage and the exact circumstances surrounding the incident will determine the exact details.

Speaking generally, however, the length of inpatient care typically extends to around 59 days, including 15 days of initial hospitalization in acute care units and a 44-day stay in designated rehabilitation units. Right from the start, the bills start to pile up, as initial hospitalization after a spinal cord injury clocks in at $140,000.

The total just keeps going up in the subsequent months, as the treatment and recovery plan continues. For the first year after a spinal cord injury, the average cost in medical expenses reaches an average of $198,000. In the case of paraplegics, expenses average about $152,000 in the first year, but for quadriplegics, that figure skyrockets to a whopping $417,000.

Spinal cord injuries lay a tremendous burden on those affected, but incidents severe enough to leave patients as paraplegics and quadriplegics are particularly draining, as the average lifetime medical costs reach $428,000 and $1.35 million, respectively.

In many cases, patients lack adequate insurance to provide any tangible financial assistance with the mountain of expenses being thrust upon them, and due to the debilitating nature of their injuries, it’s common for spinal cord patients to be unable to properly function in the workplace. This can ultimately lead to professional difficulties and even unemployment, eliminating the patient’s most reliable means to fend off the medical costs independently.

Not the Only Culprit

Given the sudden impact and deadly force involved, it’s easy to see how vehicle collisions account for the vast majority of spinal cord injuries. However, this particular situation is far from the only major cause of this condition. Here’s a breakdown of some of the other most common causes of spinal cord injuries:

  • Slips and falls: Although not every slip or fall will result in serious injuries, sometimes a particularly nasty spill can be directly responsible for a devastating spinal cord injury. In fact, 29.54 percent of such injuries result from some kind of fall, though the exact reason for the tumble varies greatly based on the specific circumstances.
  • Gunshot wounds: More than most other causes, gunshot wounds can be attributed to an external force, whether through some kind of accident or criminal intent. These incidents comprise 13.01 percent of spinal cord injuries and can inflict irreversible damage to the body’s nervous system.
  • Sports and recreational activities: In 8.39 percent of spinal cord injuries, sports and recreational activities -- including, most commonly, diving -- are responsible. Considering the physical nature of numerous contact sports, it’s no surprise that such activities feature some form of risk.
  • Medical and surgical complications: Ironically enough, 4.7 percent of incidents resulting in spinal cord injuries are tied to medical and surgical complications. In some situations, medical malpractice may be to blame for such a turn of events, but regardless, it’s important to note that some spinal cord injuries begin this way.

Hope Still Persists

Despite the car accident cost involved in the aftermath of a spinal cord injury, patients do have reason to remain optimistic about their options. Oftentimes, the fault of such a life-changing event lies elsewhere -- whether by a negligent action or the role of a faulty product -- and it’s worthwhile to consider the possibility of launching a personal injury lawsuit to help offset the staggering medical expenses.

After all, this medical care and subsequent rehabilitation is necessary to limit and hopefully reverse the damage that has been inflicted. After enduring such a traumatic event, patients may naturally be hesitant to pursue assistance as vigorously as they should, but don’t forget that time is a critical factor when it comes to spinal cord injuries. Now is the time to make things right.

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Topics: Spinal Cord Injury, Accidents

Robert Yaniz Jr.

Written by Robert Yaniz Jr.

Robert Yaniz Jr. has been a professional writer for more than a decade, including print and online publishing. His experience includes writing various materials for the marketing communications department of a global law firm.

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