Do you know the lifetime costs of a spinal cord injury?

Spinal cord injuries, such as spinal cord fractures, can have a major effect on a person’s physical, mental, and financial state. Recovering from such an injury is never easy and can leave the victim and their family feeling hopeless. Fortunately, accident victims may be eligible to file a claim for compensation. Before they accept any settlement offer, they should consider the lifetime costs of a spinal cord injury.

How expensive is a spinal cord injury?

Spinal cord injuries are very expensive. According to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, on average, the first year will cost:

  • Over $347,000 for any level of incomplete motor function
  • $518,904 for paraplegia victims
  • $769,351 for low tetraplegia
  • Over $1 million for victims with high tetraplegia


Note: These 2014 cost estimates are only for health care and living expenses.

The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation reports that only one percent of spinal cord injury patients have fully healed before they leave the hospital. The reality is that spinal cord injury victims often require months of treatment and rehabilitation, lengthy hospital stays, and home and vehicle modifications. These costs really add up; victims may be looking at millions of dollars in lifetime costs.

In fact, according to the Foundation, the average lifetime costs for a:

  • 25-year-old with incomplete motor function are over $1.5 million
  • 50-year-old with incomplete motor function are over $1.1 million
  • 25-year-old with paraplegia are over $2.3 million
  • 50-year-old with paraplegia are over $1.5 million
  • 25-year-old with low tetraplegia are approximately $3.45 million
  • 50-year-old with low tetraplegia are around $2.1 million
  • 25-year-old with high tetraplegia are $4,724,181
  • 50-year-old with high tetraplegia are $2,596,396

What types of expenses and losses do I need to consider?


The treatment costs for a spinal cord injury vary depending on the age of the patient at the time of the accident, the severity of the injury and how soon after the injury the patient sought help. According to the National Health Institute, patients benefit greatly from receiving medical attention as soon as possible after the accident. Health care professionals can quickly immobilize the spine, therefore minimizing the level of trauma to the head or neck.

Accident victims with spinal cord injuries may undergo surgery to remove anything compressing the spine. Medications can also help manage pain and treat muscle tightness. Doctors may also use traction to help stabilize and align your spine.


People suffering with spinal cord injuries may see significant improvements as they progress with rehabilitation. Rehabilitation aims to restore body function and help victims regain some independence.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy will attempt to improve mobility, communication and muscle strength. Patients will also learn to use wheelchairs, walkers and other devices that assist with mobility. Occupational therapy and other techniques will help injury victims develop fine motor skills and learn how to care for themselves to the best of their abilities. Vocational therapy can be particularly useful for people who would like to return to work after their injury.

Various technologies, such as electrical stimulation devices and computer adaptations, allow people to regain control of their lives by improving mobility.

Nursing Care

While some spinal cord injury patients can eventually regain their independence, many patients will continue to require additional assistance. In-home nursing care may be necessary to help patients get through the day. In-home nursing care can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars a day.

Modifications to Home and Vehicle

Spinal cord injuries may leave patients unable to move as they used to. In order for them to get around, modifications to the house and vehicle may be necessary. Installing ramps and lifts can make it easier for patients to access the home. Modified vehicles may include hand controls and other technology that makes it possible for patients to drive.

Pain and Suffering

It is no surprise that those suffering from spinal cord injuries will experience a great deal of physical and emotional pain throughout the recovery process. In addition, the victim’s family members will likely undergo frustration and mental anguish, both of which are compensable.

Inability to Work

Severe pain, as well as the inability to move like before, may prevent spinal cord injury victims from returning to work. Those that do return may find that things are much more challenging than they used to be. The inability to work may cause financial troubles for the victim and their family.

The lifetime costs above did not factor in indirect costs, such as lost wages. The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation found that in 2014, indirect costs averaged $71,961 per year.

Next Steps

All of the above are very expensive and can leave a family financially devastated, but fortunately they are all compensable in an injury claim. If you or a loved one suffered a spinal cord injury due to another person’s negligence, you may be eligible to file an injury claim and recover compensation for your losses.

The personal injury attorneys at Max Meyers Law PLLC help injured Washington residents get the money they need and deserve. Contact Max to discuss your case today: 425-399-7000.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.