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Spinal cord injuries (SCI) are among the most serious and catastrophic conditions an individual can suffer. According to Science Direct, approximately 250,000 Americans have some type of spinal cord injury or disorder that significantly impacts their lives. And each year, another 11,000 new spinal cord injuries occur. There are a number of reasons why these types of injuries happen, and many of them are preventable.

The spinal cord performs many crucial functions. It is the primary gateway for transmitting information between the brain and the nerves that lead to various muscles, organs, skin, and glands. Damage to the spinal cord can result in a disruption of movement, function, and sensation in different parts of the body. This disruption can be partial or complete, and in many cases, the victim never fully recovers.

Spinal cord injury sufferers can end up with permanent disabilities that range from restricted movements in the toe and foot to full paralysis from the neck down. This type of injury can be devastating for victims and their families. Lifetime medical expenses can easily top seven figures, and oftentimes, the victim is not able to return to work or participate in any type of gainful activity. This can take a major physical, emotional, and financial toll on everyone in the household.

At Garmo & Garmo, LLP, we have more than 20 years of experience representing clients who have suffered spinal cord injuries and other types of serious and catastrophic injuries in San Diego and throughout Southern California. Our lawyers have in-depth knowledge of California personal injury law, and we have a successful track record with even the most complex cases.  When someone suffers a severe injury such as a SCI, it is difficult to deal with the legal aspects of the situation when you are trying to focus on recovering from the injury and putting your life back together. We understand what you are going through, and we work closely with you to help ensure that the legal process is smooth and seamless.

In many of these cases, the insurer who represents the responsible party will try to minimize the value of the case in order to pay out as little as possible. We routinely go up against well-funded adversaries such as large insurance companies, and we know the common tactics they use. We are skilled litigators and strong negotiators. Whenever possible, we seek to negotiate a settlement for full and fair compensation without the need for litigation. If the other side is not willing to negotiate in good faith, however, we are ready and able to aggressively pursue full damages at trial.

Damages for Spinal Cord Injury Sufferers

Compensation for those who have suffered an SCI may include:

  • Medical Costs: Costs for hospitalization, surgeries and other types of medical treatment, rehabilitation, ongoing medical care, and any other health-related expenses.
  • Lost Wages: Reimbursement for days missed from work because of the injury.
  • Loss of Earning Capacity: In many cases, spinal cord injury sufferers are no longer able to work. When this occurs, they should be a reimbursed for their lost earning capacity.
  • Physical Pain and Suffering: The physical pain of an SCI can be excruciating. While no amount of money can make up for that, victims should still receive some type of compensation.
  • Emotional Distress: Anxiety, depression, and similar feelings are other intangible losses that are hard to assign a dollar figure to.
  • Diminished Quality of Life: This is compensation for the inability to participate in certain activities you once enjoyed, such as running and swimming.

In rare instances in which the victim sustains a spinal cord injury because of willfully egregious conduct on the part of the responsible party, punitive damages may be awarded.  Punitive damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer and help deter them (and others) from committing similarly outrageous acts in the future.

What Causes Spinal Cord Injuries?

As mentioned earlier, there are thousands of new cases of SCI each year, and they are typically caused by some type of traumatic event. This injury occurs most often among individuals between the ages of 16 and 30, and 82% of those who suffer spinal cord injuries are male.

Some of the most common causes of SCI include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents: Automobile crashes cause over 40 percent of spinal cord injuries annually. Motor vehicle and traffic-related events are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the United States. The impact of a crash, particularly one that occurs at a high speed, can severely jolt a vehicle occupant, causing them to be thrown wildly back and forth. Motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians are also at high risk of sustaining a spinal cord injury when they are in an accident with a motor vehicle.
  • Slips and falls: Falls are the second leading cause of SCI in the U.S., and the leading cause among individuals over the age of 45. Those who are age 65 and older are particularly susceptible to serious injuries from a slip and fall accident, because their bones are more fragile and brittle. Across all age groups, falls are the reason for over 25% of spinal cord injuries, and the risk and rate of injury rises after age 65. Many of these injuries happen in nursing homes because of elder neglect and/or abuse.
  • Violence: Each year, over 15% of spinal cord injuries take place due to gunshots, knife wounds, and physical altercations such as fistfights. Violence is the third leading cause of spinal cord injuries, and by some recent measures, they have overtaken slips and falls to move into the number two slot. Examples of acts of violence that can result in SCI include gunshot wounds and assault with various types of weapons.
  • Sports accidents: Sports and recreational activities are the fourth leading cause of SCI. These more commonly occur in high-impact or extreme sports, such as football, skiing, and diving. Diving accounts for approximately 2/3 of all sports-related spinal cord injuries.
  • Others: Other events that can cause spinal cord injuries include workplace accidents, drugs/alcohol induced injuries, and diseases such as osteoporosis and arthritis.

Types of SCI

Spinal cord injuries can be broken down into two general categories:

  • Incomplete/Partial: This indicates a partial severing of the spinal cord in which the patient retains some functionality in the area which is affected. The amount of functionality varies with each individual case, depending on the severity of the injury and other factors. Approximately 60% of all spinal cord injuries are incomplete.
  • Complete: This means that the spinal cord is totally severed. With a complete SCI, the patient loses all functionality over the areas that are affected. There is a possibility of regaining some functionality over time with the proper treatment, physical therapy exercises, and other types of rehabilitation. But sadly, some patients never regain functionality.

How a Spinal Cord Injury Will Impact Your Life


Initially, you may be daunted by the changes in your bodily functions due to a spinal injury. But the medical team in-charge of your rehabilitation would provide professional support to deal with these changes. Spinal cord injuries can lead to the following potential complications:

Weak Bowel Control

After a spinal injury, your intestines and stomach will work like before. However, it could affect control over your bowel movements. In regulating bowel movements, a high-fiber diet can be helpful. You will learn more techniques to enhance your altered bowel function during your rehabilitation.

Poor Bladder Control

The urine from your kidneys will continue to be stored in your bladder. However, spinal cord damage may cause the brain to lose control of the bladder as the brain can no longer transmit messages via the spinal cord.

Issues in Circulatory Control

Various circulatory problems, such as swelling of extremities and lower blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension), can develop due to a spinal injury. Such changes in circulation can increase the possibility of blood clotting.

Muscle Tone Loss

Spinal injury patients experience one or two types of challenges with their muscle tone. These difficulties include muscle movement or spasticity (uncontrolled tightening) or soft and limp muscles without any muscle tone.

Breathing Challenges

A spinal cord injury can make it hard to cough and breathe if the abdominal and chest muscles are affected. The injury could impact the abdominal and chest muscles, in addition to the diaphragm.

Loss of Skin Sensation

You might lose partial or complete skin sensation beneath the neurological aspect of the injury. The injury may cause the skin to lose the ability to transmit messages to your brain when it is injured due to prolonged pressure, cold, or heat.

Wellness and Fitness

Following a spinal cord injury, muscle atrophy and weight loss are common aftereffects. A sedentary lifestyle occurs due to limited mobility, causing a risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.


Some individuals experience pain, such as muscle or joint pain, due to the overuse of particular muscle groups. After a spinal cord injury, nerve pain is a common occurrence, particularly if the patient experiences an incomplete injury.

Sexual Dysfunction

A spinal cord injury can have an adverse effect on sexuality, fertility, and sexual function. In males, these changes occur in erection and ejaculation, while women may experience changes in lubrication. Medical professionals with specialization in urology or fertility will provide options to patients for the treatment of these concerns.


Depression can occur in spinal cord injury victims as they try to cope with the changes after the injury while simultaneously managing the discomfort and pain.

Ongoing Medical Care

Once the initial surgery is undertaken and the patient’s condition is stable, medical practitioners focus on preventing further issues that may arise, such as de-conditioning, bladder and bowel problems, pressure ulcers, blood clots, and muscle contractures.

Speak with an Experienced La Mesa Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer

If you or someone close to you has suffered an SCI, you need strong legal counsel by your side advocating forcefully for your rights and interests. For a free consultation with one of the skilled personal injury attorneys at Garmo & Garmo, LLP, call our office today at 619-441-2500, or send us a message through our online contact form. We will meet with you at your home, hospital room, or were ever is most convenient if you are not able to come to our office.

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Garmo & Garmo, LLP office update (January 4, 2021)

Garmo & Garmo, LLP’s physical office is open to assist you with your legal needs.  We are following the strict guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), State of California and County of San Diego.  Unless necessary, in-person meetings will not be held in our office.  Our office can conduct phone meetings or video meetings with clients/visitors.  Please note the local San Diego courts are open for most business operations. 

Please consider the following if you must come to our physical office:

  1. All clients/visitors must wear facial coverings at all times while in our office.
  2. All clients/visitors must practice social distancing while in our office.  This includes maintaining a minimum of six feet from our staff and others.
  3. For the safety of our staff and others, all sick clients/visitors may not enter our office.
  4. All clients/visitors will have their temperature taken when they enter our office.
  5. Please do not enter our office if you have any of the following symptoms:

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We are closely monitoring the latest advisories from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), State of California, County of San Diego and the local court system. We will update our policies as we receive new information.

We appreciate your patience and confidence in Garmo & Garmo, LLP’s ability to serve you.