Our spinal cord carries messages from the brain to the rest of the body. Any disruption of these messages will also disrupt the way our body functions. For this reason, an injury involving the spine can be devastating, particularly where the diagnosis involves a severe spinal cord injury (SCI). A dedicated Sacramento spinal cord injury lawyer at John M. O'Brien & Associates can get you the compensation you deserve during this difficult time.

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

From the moment that a serious SCI occurs, the victim's life is greatly changed. Despite research on spinal cord repair and advances in assistive devices to replace lost function, the effects of SCI remain stubbornly permanent. Victims of severe SCI can often have shortened life expectancies and a lower quality of life.

If you or a loved one has suffered a severe SCI, you already know how important it is to obtain professional help with rehabilitation, assistive devices, and counseling. Perhaps you have also witnessed how quickly lost income or medical expenses can bring a family to the brink of poverty. If the SCI is the result of someone's negligence, an experienced personal injury lawyer should be part of the recovery process.

Causes and Victims of SCI


The most common cause of SCIs since 2010, as presented by National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, is motor vehicle accidents, accounting for more than a third of SCIs. The next most common causes registered in that period are:

  • Falls (28.5%)
  • Assaults, stabbings, shooting, and other violent acts (14.3%)
  • Sports (9.2%)

Many of the injuries are work-related falls and car accidents; the typical victim is young, male, and Caucasian, but people of all ages, genders, and races suffer these injuries. In any event, you may need a Sacramento spinal cord injury attorney on your side.

How SCIs Are Classified

The primary distinctions in SCI involve the severity of damage to the cord, the effect of the injury on the victim's limbs, and the level of the spine at which the injury occurs.

Severity is classified as either complete or incomplete. The complete injury destroys all function below the level of the injury while an incomplete SCI leaves some function below that level because some fibers of the cord are still functional.

The effect on limb function is described as either:

  • Tetraplegia (also called quadriplegia) if all limbs have lost function
  • Paraplegia if the victim retains arm function

The level of injury is simply the level of the spinal column, with C designating the cervical region (neck & upper back), T representing the thoracic region (mid-back), L the lumbar region (lower back), and S the sacrum region (tailbone). Each region is represented by numbers (C1 through C8, T1 through T12, L1 through L5 and S1 through S5).

Effects of SCIs

Essentially, the spinal cord and the spinal nerves, that branch off it, provide the body with motion, sensation, and a spectrum of autonomic functions like respiration, heart contractions, and other actions that occur without conscious effort. Accordingly, SCIs may cause:

  • Paralysis.
  • Loss of all sensation.
  • Disruption of any of the autonomic capacities necessary to maintain life.

The consequences may include loss of bladder and bowel control and altered or lost sexual function.

Long-Term Consequences

Apart from the direct physical effects just described, SCI victims tend to experience a variety of indirect consequences that diminish their lives. Some of the most important and detrimental are:

  • Psychological problems, which may be severe and drastically alter their personalities.
  • Trouble finding and retaining employment.
  • Shorter lives; people who suffer a severe SCI at age 20 reportedly live 6.5 years less, and a shocking 34 years less if the injury is so severe that a ventilator is needed.

The Legal Assistance You Require

In facing the lasting effects of a severe SCI, receiving the fair damages is crucial. Consider that the estimated lifetime cost of dealing with a severe cervical spine injury suffered at the age of 25 is over $3 million for injuries at C5-C8, and an astounding $4.6 million for injuries in the C1-C4 range. The costs of the injury build up rapidly and your effort to obtain compensation should be just as rapid.

The Sacramento area law firm of attorney John M. O'Brien is a highly rated, experienced California personal injury firm. We know how SCI victims and their families feel and the uphill battles they face. Call us today to start the recovery process.



Mr. O'Brien represented a man rendered quadriplegic (paralyzed) in a shooting. He obtained a judgment of $7 million against the responsible party.


Mr. O'Brien obtained a policy limit settlement for a woman with a herniated disc that required surgery in an automobile accident case.


Personal injury lawyer John M. O'Brien obtained a $600k settlement for a plasterer who fractured his low back after falling from a defective plank used for scaffolding.

$1.3 million

In December 2013, John M. O'Brien & Associates settled the claims of three injured passengers aboard a Greyhound bus that crashed near Fresno. The clients suffered injuries ranging from a broken pelvis, broken leg and torn shoulder ligam… Read more


John M. O'Brien & Associates tried a case in Butte County in July 2015 on behalf of a 26-year-old man who was injured in a broad side car accident. The client suffered a low back injury but the defendant’s insurer refused to tender its polic… Read more


In December 2015, John M. O'Brien & Associates settled a case against a Quick Lube company for elder abuse and negligence. Our client was 90-years-old and took his car to the Quick Lube for an oil change. He was upsold a brake flush which was … Read more

$4.25 million

John O'Brien recently obtained a $4.25 million jury verdict in Alameda County on behalf of an injured construction-site worker. The case was tried to a jury before the Honorable Victoria Kolakowski. The injured worker, a 27 year veteran labo… Read more


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