A spinal cord injury can have devastating and life-changing consequences. In the UK, the number of people diagnosed with a severe spinal cord injury is 2,500 per year, or one every four hours.
The term spinal injury describes any damage to the spinal cord, a long strand of nerves that connects the brain to the rest of the body. Symptoms vary significantly depending on the injured area and severity and range from muscle weakness and tingling to loss of bowel and bladder control and paralysis.
Spinal injuries can be due to many different circumstances, including road traffic accidents, accidents at work, violent crimes, military accidents and sports. If your injury was due to someone else’s negligence, you might be able to make a spinal injury claim.
Spinal injury compensation covers the physical pain and suffering you endured because of your accident, psychological and emotional trauma, and any related financial losses and future expenses.
To find out if you have a valid claim, enter your details into our online claim form or call 0800 678 1410 to speak to a spinal injury solicitor. If you have a fair chance to win compensation, they will offer you a no win no fee agreement, so you will not lose a single penny if your case is unsuccessful.
Can I make a spinal injury claim?
Anyone who has been injured in an accident that was someone else’s fault is eligible to make a spinal injury claim. If you feel you may have a valid case, you should contact a solicitor as soon as possible after your accident. They will ask you some simple questions to determine if you have reasonable grounds to claim compensation for spinal injury, such as:
- Was someone else at least partially at fault for your accident?
- Did you suffer a spinal injury and other damages as a result?
- Did that person owe you a duty of care?
- Did your accident happen in the last three years?
Spinal injury solicitors have great expertise in the field and can help you identify who may be liable to pay you compensation. You do not have to worry about proving a duty of care, as your solicitor will refer to the relevant legislation to establish liability. Your claim could be against:
- A road user, if you were hurt in a road traffic accident;
- Your employer, if you suffered an accident at work or you developed a spinal injury due to manual handling;
- The local council, if your spinal injury was due to a pavement accident or poorly maintained road;
- A business owner or operator, if you suffered a spine injury due to an accident in public;
- The Motor Insurer’s Bureau, if you were the victim of a hit and run accident or traffic collision with an uninsured driver;
- The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), for spinal injury claims related to a violent crime such as an assault;
- The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS), if you sustained an injury while serving in the military.
What is a spinal injury?
Spinal injury is a term used to describe any damage to your spinal cord. The spinal cord is a strand of nerves and tissue that runs from the back of the skull down to the lower back. It carries nerve signals from the brain to the body and vice versa to help you move and feel sensations.
The spinal cord is divided into four distinct regions essential for understanding the diagnosis and treatment of your spine injury. The four regions of the spinal cord are:
- The cervical region consists of the first eight vertebrae, commonly known as C1-C8, which form the human neck. The higher the injury, the most severe the potential outcome, including death. Most injuries to the cervical occur near the C4/C5 levels.
- The thoracic spinal cord contains twelve vertebrae numbered T1-T12, located in the middle of the spine. Thoracic spine injuries are severe and may affect one or both sides of the body. Although the long-term prognosis is usually good, early treatment is critical. Severe cases may, however, be fatal.
- The lumbar region consists of five vertebrae numbered L1-L5 contain nerves that control communication between the brain and the nerves. Injuries to the lumbar spine are not life-threatening but may result in loss of sensation, mobility and lack of bowel and bladder control.
- The sacral spine is the lower spinal region, also made of five vertebrae known as S1-S5. This region contains no actual spinal cord and is made up of nerve roots that originate in the lumbar region. Damage to the sacral spine is less common than other spinal injuries.
Spinal cord injuries are usually a medical emergency and may be life-threatening. While some people may recover within months, others need years of physical therapy and still make little to no progress. The outcome depends on the nature of the injury, the quality of medical care, your psychological health and countless other factors.
A partial list of some of the most common spinal cord symptoms includes:
- Weakness in the arms or legs
- Decreased sensation in the arms or legs
- Difficulty breathing
- Unusual lumps along the spine
- Problems with bladder and bowel function
- Severe pain or pressure in the neck or back
- Chronic muscle pain
- Loss of sexual function
- Changes in mood or personality
A spinal cord injury may be devastating and lead to long-term or permanent debilitating symptoms. If another person was responsible for your accident, you might be entitled to claim spine injury compensation.
What are the different types of spinal injuries?
The spinal cord is designed to relay messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Based on its severity and location, a spinal cord injury may cause the body to lose essential functions like bladder control and mobility. There are two major categories of spinal cord injuries: complete and incomplete.
- A complete spinal cord injury is the most severe and is due to the severing of the spinal cord. As a result, the brain can no longer send signals below the injury site, usually resulting in paraplegia or tetraplegia.
- An incomplete spinal cord injury refers to partial damage to the spinal cord and may result from compression or damage. The function of the spinal cord is only partially compromised, causing symptoms that can vary drastically from person to person. Some incomplete injuries may result in triplegia, the loss of sensation and movement in one arm and both legs.
Incomplete spinal cord injuries can be further divided into:
- Anterior cord syndrome describes an injury to the front of the spinal cord and damages the motor and sensory pathways in the spine. You will usually struggle with movement while retaining some sensation.
- Central cord syndrome damages the nerves that carry signals from the brain to the spine and usually causes loss of fine motor skills, arm paralysis and partial impairment in the legs. It could also lead to various degrees of bladder and bowel function loss.
- Brown-Sequard syndrome is damage to one side of the spinal cord and may cause paralysis on one side of the body and no symptoms on the other.
Based on the affected body parts, spinal cord injuries may be classified into:
- Tetraplegia is the most severe injury and produces varying degrees of paralysis of all limbs;
- Paraplegia occurs when sensation and movement are affected only in the lower half of the body;
- Triplegia is characterised by the paralysis of three limbs, usually both legs and one arm;
- Hemiplegia or unilateral paresis refers to weakness or paralysis of one side of the body.
The type and degree of injury you suffered will determine how much compensation you could receive in a spinal injury claim. Usually, the compensation award increases with the degree of pain and disability caused by your injury.
What are the most common causes of spinal cord injuries?
You could suffer a spinal injury in many different ways, from slips and trips to car accidents and medical negligence. As long as another person was at least partially responsible for your accident, you might be able to take legal action against them.
The most common causes leading to a spinal injury claim include:
Road traffic accidents
Road traffic accidents are the most common cause of spinal injury claims. The most severe injuries are sustained by pedestrians hit by a car, cyclists and motorcycle riders. According to data from the Royal London Hospital, 46% of the patients who suffered a spinal cord injury in 2018 were victims of a road accident, with a mortality rate of 37%.
Accidents at work
Many spinal injuries at work are due to slips and trips, falls from height, machinery accidents or manual handling. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and other relevant legislation, employers must take all reasonable measures to prevent workplace injuries. This includes carrying out risk assessments, providing adequate training and protective equipment to employees and keeping a clean workplace.
As Ministry of Defence employees, military personnel are entitled to a safe working environment and reasonable precautions to prevent a spinal injury. If you had a military accident while serving in the Royal Air Force, Army, Navy, or Reserve Forces, you might be able to claim spinal injury compensation. This may include off-duty accidents such as road traffic collisions or sporting injuries.
The Consumer Protection Act 1987 allows you to make a spinal injury claim if you were hurt due to a faulty product, such as a chair, bicycle, trampoline, or safety equipment. In a product liability claim, you do not have to prove that a manufacturer acted negligently. You only have to show that their product was defective and caused you a spinal injury.
Accidents in public
Local councils and business owners have duties under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 and Highways Act 1980 to keep all public premises in good working order and safe for customers and visitors. Common accidents that may lead to a spinal cord injury claim include slips, trips and falls, falls from a height and being hit by falling objects.
Horse riding accidents
Horse riding and working with horses can be exciting and rewarding but also puts you at risk for severe spine injuries. Common causes of horse riding accidents include inadequately fitted horse tack, unsuitable riding surfaces, poor training and unpredictable horses. You could bring a claim against the horse owner, the owner of a riding school or the organiser of an equestrian event who has acted negligently.
Gunshot, knife wounds and other penetrating trauma caused by a violent assault can cause a wide range of spinal cord injuries. Besides the physical damage, a criminal assault can lead to severe psychological trauma such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which may change your life forever. Blameless victims of violent crimes can usually claim compensation for spinal injury through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
There is always some degree of risk for spinal injuries when practising certain sports such as snowboarding, skiing, gymnastics or football. Usually, they are nobody’s fault, but accidents sometimes occur due to inadequate training, poor ground conditions or faulty equipment. If someone else was responsible for your injury, you might be entitled to compensation.
If a healthcare professional fails to provide a reasonable standard of care, causing you avoidable harm, you might be able to make a spinal cord injury claim. You could claim against the NHS or a private healthcare provider if you suffered unnecessary harm due to a misdiagnosis, surgical mistakes, prescription errors or a birth injury. Cauda equina is one of the most common spinal injuries caused by medical negligence.
Regardless of the type of accident, if another person was at least partially responsible for it, you might be able to claim spinal injury compensation. To find out if you have a valid claim, you can enter your details into our online claim form or call 0800 678 1410 to speak to a legal adviser.
How do I make a spinal cord injury claim?
If you believe that someone else was at fault for your accident and you want to make a spinal injury claim, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced solicitor. If your case has merit, they will offer you a no win no fee agreement and guide you through the claims process.
As a first step, your solicitor will help you gather relevant evidence to support your spinal cord injury claim. The evidence you may need to claim and should try to secure after your accident includes:
- Medical records and documents related to your injury and any treatments you received;
- Photographs of the accident scene and any visible injuries or damage to your property;
- The names and contact details of any witnesses who could provide statements of how the incident occurred;
- Contact details of any individuals involved in the accident and their insurance details;
- CCTV or camera phone footage from the scene of the accident;
- An accident report, if you suffered a spinal injury at work or in a public place;
- Police reports, if you were hurt in a hit and run or due to a violent crime;
- Financial statements and documents related to the economic losses you incurred due to your injury.
Once you have all the relevant detail about the case, your solicitor will send a letter of claim to the other party, informing them of your intentions to claim spine injury compensation. The defendant has 21 days to acknowledge your claim and another three months to investigate your allegations.
In the meantime, your solicitor will consider how your injury affected your life to calculate a fair compensation award for your pain, suffering and financial losses. This may involve a free consultation with a medical expert to assess any long-term effects and special needs caused by the injury.
If the defendant admits liability for your accident, you may start to negotiate suitable compensation for your spinal injury. If they deny responsibility for your damages, you may have to issue court proceedings and argue your case before a judge. Almost all claims settle without a trial, so it is unlikely you will have to go to court.
How much spinal injury compensation could I receive?
The amount of compensation awarded in a spinal injury claim differs from case to case and depends on several factors, including:
- The type and severity of your injury
- The related financial losses and expenses
- How the spinal injury affected your life and family
- The circumstances of your accident
- Whether you were partially at fault for your injury
- Whether you make a claim under civil law or through an organisation such as the CICA
If your spinal cord injury claim is successful, you will receive compensation for both the physical injury and the financial losses you suffered due to the negligence or accident. Your solicitor will consider how the injury impacted your day-to-day life to calculate a suitable settlement, which will include:
Special damages or compensation for economic losses such as:
- Medical expenses such as prescription costs, hospitalisation and surgery
- Lost wages, bonuses and overtime during recovery
- Loss of working capacity
- Rehabilitation costs and physical therapy
- Cost of medical equipment such as mobility aids
- Cost of care and assistance with daily tasks
- Adaptations to your home or vehicle
General damages or compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity, including:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Physical and mental impairment
- Psychological trauma and emotional distress
- Loss of amenity
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of prospects and enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium or companionship
It is essential to keep all receipts, payslips and invoices related to your financial losses and pass them on to your spinal injury solicitor. They will use these to work out your claim for special damages. The spine injury compensation for general damages is calculated based on the guidelines published by the Judicial College. According to them, you could receive:
- £10,450 to £23,210 for moderate back injuries that cause some degree of disability
- £30,910 to £55,590 for spine fractures resulting in chronic pain and reduced mobility
- £59,120 to £70,490 for damage to nerve roots causing loss of sensation and mobility or impaired bowel and bladder function
- £52,390 to £104,370 for severe fractures or spinal disk damage in the cervical spine
- Around £124,030 for neck injuries leading to incomplete paraplegia and long-term loss of neck mobility
- £205,000 to £380,000 for paralysis, depending on the nature and extent of the disability
How long do I have to make a spinal injury claim?
Under section 11 of the Limitation Act 1980, the time limit to bring a spinal injury claim is three years after the accident that caused your injury. If your injury developed over time or did not become immediately apparent after an accident, the three years begin to run from the discovery date.
In certain circumstances, the court may use its discretion to override the three-year limitation period. This would depend on the length and reason for your delay, the duration of any disability caused by your injury and several other factors.
The three-year time limit does not apply to all spinal cord injury claims. For example:
- Claims on behalf of minors can be made by a parent acting as their litigation friend at any time before the child turn 18. Afterwards, they would have another three years to handle their case if a claim has not already been made on their behalf.
- There is no time limit to claim spinal injury compensation if the victim cannot conduct legal proceedings due to:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- An intellectual disability such as Down syndrome
- A learning disability
- A mental health condition such as schizophrenia
- Dementia or another neurodegenerative disorder
- A stroke or traumatic brain injury
- In these circumstances, the time limit is suspended whether the victim suffered from a pre-existing condition or lost mental capacity in the accident leading to the spinal injury claim.
- There is a two-year time limit to claim spine injury compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) following a violent crime.
- If you were injured while serving in the military, you have seven years to claim through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS). You have the standard three years to pursue compensation under civil law.
- If a loved one passed away due to a spinal injury, you could claim on their behalf within three years after the date of death.
As a general rule, the earlier you seek legal advice, the easier it is for spinal injury solicitors to gather evidence to support your claim. If you have a valid case, your solicitor may also be able to help you get access to cutting-edge treatments that are not always available through the NHS.
Will spinal injury solicitors provide a no win no fee service?
Spinal injury solicitors usually work on a no win no fee basis. If your case has merit, your solicitor will work to secure your spinal injury compensation without asking for any upfront fees.
No win no fee, also known as a conditional fee agreement, was introduced to give everyone the chance to pursue compensation for a personal injury, regardless of their financial situation. It is the preferred way of funding a claim because it offers many advantages, such as:
- You can make a spinal injury claim without taking on any financial risks
- You can be sure you have a valid claim, and you are not wasting your time
- Your solicitor will handle all the legal aspects of your case so you can focus on recovery
- If you do not win spine injury compensation, you do not have to pay your solicitor at all
After the Event insurance is essential in any no win no fee claim. Your solicitor will purchase it on your behalf at the beginning of your claim so that you do not have to pay any legal fees if your spinal cord injury claim is unsuccessful. If your claim is lost, the insurance policy covers things like:
- The other side’s solicitor fees
- Court and counsel fees
- The cost of expert witnesses
- Medical and police reports
- Barrister fees
- Transportation costs
- Any other disbursements incurred in the claims process
If you make a spinal injury claim on a no win no fee basis, you only have to pay anything if you win compensation for your damages. You will keep the entire compensation award minus:
- The cost of the After the Event insurance policy
- A success fee to your solicitor
The success fee aims to compensate your spinal injury solicitors for the risk taken by providing you with a no win no fee service. The success fee cannot exceed 25% of your compensation award, which will be thoroughly discussed from the outset.