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The Cost of Living with a Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury is one of the most serious types of damage the body may experience. The nature of this catastrophic injury not only demands acute treatment but long-term care as well. It can also lead to complications that require future hospitalization and the need for constant in-home care. These factors combine to make spinal cord injuries one of the most expensive to treat—and to live with.

As of 2021, the cost of living with a spinal cord injury may range from about $1.2 million to $5.1 million, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC)’s latest data sheet: Spinal Cord Injury Facts & Figures at a Glance. It is important to note, however, that these figures do not include indirect losses like lost earnings. They only account for the healthcare costs and living expenses directly associated with spinal cord injuries.

Spinal Cord Injuries: Healthcare Costs & Living Expenses

The specific cost of living with a spinal cord injury will depend on the age of the patient and his or her overall expected outlook for recovery, plus the location of the spinal cord injury and the severity of neurological impairment. The majority of expenses will occur in the first year following the injury.

The approximate costs of healthcare and living expenses for the first year are:

  • $1.16 million for high tetraplegia (quadriplegia) affecting the C1-C4 vertebrae.
  • $840,600 for low tetraplegia affecting the C5-C8 vertebrae.
  • $567,000 for paraplegia.
  • $379,700 for loss of motor function at any level.

As of 2021, the lifetime costs of living with a spinal cord injury are:

  • $5.16 million for high tetraplegia in a 25-year-old patient.
  • $2.84 million for high tetraplegia in a 50-year-old patient.
  • $3.77 million for low tetraplegia in a 25-year-old patient.
  • $2.32 million for low tetraplegia in a 50-year-old patient.
  • $2.52 million for paraplegia in a 25-year-old patient.
  • $1.66 million for paraplegia in a 50-year-old patient.
  • $1.72 million for any loss of motor function in a 25-year-old patient.
  • $1.22 million for any loss of motor function in a 50-year-old patient.

Why are these figures so high? They reach into the millions of dollars, even though the life expectancy of a person with a spinal cord injury may be reduced significantly based on the severity and location of trauma to the spine. This is because specialized care, physical therapy, assistive devices, medication, and rehospitalization are all common in spinal cord injury patients. In fact, about 30% of patients with spinal cord injuries are rehospitalized within the first year following the injury. The risk for infection and other complications is high, and treatment is expensive. Every expense must be taken into account to create an accurate cost of living with a spinal cord injury.

Other Consequences of Spinal Cord Injuries

The NSCISC’s latest data sheet also included some interesting—and saddening—statistics about the other consequences of spinal cord injuries. For example, about 68% of people who experience spinal cord injuries are employed at the time of their injury. Only 18% are employed at 1-year post-injury, and just 25% are employed 10 years post-injury. 8.7% of spinal cord injury patients are divorced at the time of their injury. This percentage increases to 19.3% at 10-years post-injury and 21.8% at 20-years post-injury.

The financial, physical, and psychological impact of a spinal cord injury should never be underestimated. Divorce rates increase, employment rates decrease, and the cost of living with a spinal cord injury is astronomical. This is why we at Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC believe so strongly in helping our clients recover the full and fair costs of their ongoing care and the lifelong costs of spinal cord injuries. Whether we’re handling workers’ compensation claims for work-related injuries, personal injury lawsuits for auto accidents, product liability matters for defective and dangerous products, or any other type of injury claim, we fight for what our clients need to achieve stability and an improved quality of life.

To learn more, contact our Pennsylvania spinal cord injury lawyers at (888) 498-3023. Your initial consultation is free and confidential, and if we take on your case, you pay no upfront costs or legal fees unless we win.

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