Can a car crash paralyze you?

On Behalf of | May 1, 2019 | Personal injury

Should you become the victim of a New York motor vehicle accident, one of the worst injuries you face is one to your neck or back. If that injury partially or completely severs your spinal cord, you could become unable to walk and have to spend the remainder of your life confined to a wheelchair.

To understand paralytic injuries, you need to understand your spinal cord and the functions it performs. The Mayfield Clinic explains that 33 vertebrae surround your spinal cord and are located in the following areas of your back:

  • Cervical region: goes from the base of your brain to the bottom of your neck and contains five vertebrae
  • Thoracic region: goes from the base of your neck to your waist and contains 12 vertebrae
  • Lumbar region: goes from your waist to your lumbar curve and contains five vertebrae
  • Sacral region: composes the rest of your lower back and contains five fused vertebrae
  • Coccyx region: composes your tailbone and contains four fused vertebrae

Where and how paralysis occurs

In addition to vertebrae, your spinal cord contains nerves that connect your brain to the rest of your body. When you want to walk, for example, your brain sends that message to your feet and legs by means of this neural pathway. If you partially or completely sever your spinal cord in your car crash, however, those messages cannot get through and you become paralyzed.

As you might expect, the higher up your injury occurs, the more paralysis your body will experience. A spinal cord injury to your lumbar region generally results in paraplegia, i.e., partial or complete paralysis of your legs and feet. Not only does paraplegia render you unable to walk, but it also renders you incapable of feeling sensation below your point of injury and incapable of controlling your bladder or bowel.

A spinal cord injury to your cervical or thoracic region results in tetraplegia, also called quadriplegia. If you become a quadriplegic, you will have little or no movement or sensation in your arms, hands and fingers, as well as in your legs and feet and much of your torso. Not only will you be confined to a wheelchair, but you will also need constant assistance from others in order to do such day-to-day things as brush your teeth, bathe, dress, comb your hair, eat, drink, etc. In the worst case scenario, you will not be able to breathe on your own and will require constant mechanical ventilation.

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