The Lifetime Cost of a Spinal Cord Injury: More than $10 Million

 In Personal Injury, Trucking Accident

Whenever a six-figure or multimillion dollar verdict in favor of a trucking accident victim makes local or national headlines, there are inevitably people who imagine the victim moving into a much bigger home or boarding a plane en route to an extended tropical vacation. The high dollar figures for these verdicts differ so much from the amounts of money that most individuals deal with on a day-to-day basis that people tend to assume anyone who receives such a sum must immediately become a wealthy person.

What most people don’t understand, however, are the incredible medical costs — over the course of a victim’s entire life — associated with a devastating injury. Fortunately, experts can quantify the lifetime costs for victims of paralyzing spinal cord injuries, and their estimates show that the extravagant fantasies many people associate with a large award or settlement have nothing in common with the challenging reality that injury victims face.

Simply put, these victims — who are often confined to a wheelchair for life, if they have mobility at all — often require tens of millions of dollars in compensation to pay others for the enormous medical bills, much less a lifetime of lost wages and their post-injury pain and suffering. Such compensation can restore some sense of anxiety-free peace to their daily lives as they and their loved ones face the struggles and challenges of coping with their new day-to-day reality, even if it can never make them fully whole.

About Spinal Cord Injuries

Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of spinal cord injuries (SCIs), and wrecks involving large trucks are especially likely to cause these severe injuries due to the devastating amount of force that a large tractor-trailer, delivery truck, or other commercial truck can generate in a crash.

Spinal cord injuries often result in partial or complete paralysis because the spinal cord plays a critical role in communicating messages from the brain to various body parts. One common misconception regarding SCIs is that the spinal cord must be severed in order for paralysis to occur. In fact, many SCI victims experience a loss of sensory and motor function even when the spinal cord remains intact.

Although members of the public tend to use the term “paralysis” to refer to loss of function, doctors and medical experts will usually use more specific medical terms based on the area affected:

  • Tetraplegia (also sometimes called quadriplegia) involves partial or total loss of function in all four limbs and the torso.
  • Paraplegia is a partial or total loss of function in the lower extremities (below the waist).
  • Monoplegia is a loss of function in one limb or region of the body.
  • Hemiplegia is a loss of function in one side of the body.

Doctors also tend to classify spinal cord injuries according to which vertebrae are affected. The human vertebrae in the neck are numbered C1 through C8, with C1 being closest to the brain and C8 being closest to the shoulders. A spinal cord injury usually results in a greater loss of function if it is closer to the brain, which means that a C1 injury generally causes more severe long-term consequences compared to a similar C8 injury. Damage to the thoracic and lumbar spine can also result in paralysis.

Lifetime Costs for SCIs Frequently Reach in the Tens of Millions

As you can probably imagine, the recovery process for victims who are suffering from tetraplegia or paraplegia is often extremely long and intensive. Immediately following a spinal cord injury, the victim will usually go through a period of intensive care during which they will undergo dozens of diagnostic tests and one or more surgeries.

After intensive care comes a longer period of aggressive physical therapy and rehabilitation, and many victims will need additional long-term therapy and medication to manage the physical and mental effects of their injury for the rest of their lives.

RELATED: The Most Wanted Safety Improvements in Trucking

Besides being exhausting and sometimes frightening, the barrage of medical interventions that accompany a spinal cord injury can be staggeringly expensive. First-year medical costs for high tetraplegia (C1-C4) victims often exceed $1 million, after which point yearly maintenance expenses frequently total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In addition to the direct medical costs, there are scores of “hidden” costs that accompany paralysis. These can include:

  • Mental health issues
  • Reproductive assistance
  • Long-term health issues such as respiratory infections, contractions, and pressure sores, all of which are more prevalent among victims of SCIs
  • Home modifications; the average person moves 11 times in their lifetime, and SCI survivors must extensively modify their home to meet their needs
  • Eating out due to the time spent for healthcare visits as well as the cost of specially-modified diets
  • Additional time spent on normal activities; SCI survivors often take much longer to accomplish routine tasks and errands due to their mobility impairments
  • Travel companions for assistance with travel needs
  • An alarm system in case of any emergency
  • Specialized wheelchairs for exercise and recreation such as swimming, skiing, or racing
  • Costs associated with the ability to take advantage of future advances in medicine

On top of all these costs, an SCI victim has to endure enormous physical and emotional hardship throughout their ordeal. Once you begin to consider all of the direct and hidden expenses as well as pain and suffering, it becomes clear why the amount required to address these victims’ costs frequently reaches into the tens of millions of dollars.

In fact, for one recent client of the Truck Wreck Justice team who suffered a C6 partial tetraplegia, an expert estimated that the lifetime cost of the victim’s medical care plan alone would total $14.7 million.

Many people also don’t realize that when an injured victim who has health insurance receives a settlement or award from a personal injury claim, they generally have to pay back their health insurer for some or all benefits that the insurer paid related to that injury. Therefore, a personal injury award or settlement for a person living with tetraplegia, paraplegia, or another devastating injury has to fully address their lifetime medical costs in order for the victim to live without worrying about how they’ll pay for future medical treatment.

In light of these facts, large verdicts and settlements for the victims of devastating truck wrecks begin to look exactly like what they really are: restitution in an attempt to make the victim and their loved ones whole again after a costly catastrophic injury due to someone else’s carelessness. In many cases these verdicts, though seemingly large, leave the SCI victim without sufficient funds after they’ve paid extraordinary expenses.

Contact the Truck Wreck Justice Team Today

If you or a loved one has been injured or lost a loved one in a crash involving a large truck or bus, the Truck Wreck Justice team at Truck Wreck Justice is ready to fight for compensation on your behalf. We have years of experience representing the victims of devastating truck wrecks as well as their loved ones, and our founding attorney Morgan Adams has received national recognition for his achievements in the field of trucking accident litigation.

Our firm handles cases on a contingent fee basis, which means that you won’t pay for fees or case expenses unless we make a recovery on your behalf. Please contact Truck Wreck Justice at (866) 580-HURT (4878) or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free initial consultation today.


Spinal cord injury. (2014, October 8). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from

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