spinal cord injuries


The spinal cord is a very complex structure that performs hundreds, if not thousands, of functions.

A simplified way of understanding the role of the spinal cord is to think of it as a pipeline that brings sensory information from the body and internal organs to the brain, where the brain can monitor activities of all body structures. The spinal cord also carries messages from the brain to the body, including muscles and the organs that are responsive to neural stimulus.

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is defined as damage to the spinal cord that results in the loss of function or sensation in the body below the level of the injury.


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spinal cord injuries


Any blunt force trauma to the body causing spinal fractures, spinal cord bruising or ligament injury can result in a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). SCIs can also be caused by penetrating trauma to the spine, such as a gunshot or stab wound.

The most common causes of SCI are:

  • Motor vehicle accidents such as: car accidents, motorcycle accidents, trucking accidents, boating accidents, cycling accidents and pedestrian accidents.
  • Slip and falls
  • Sport and diving accidents
  • Medical complications
  • Gun Shot Wounds
  • Physical attacks (e.g. fights or assaults)

A SCI can occur in several ways, including:

  • Overstretching or tearing of the nerve tissue of the spinal cord
  • Direct pressure on the spinal cord from bony fragments, bulging discs or hematoma (blood clot)
  • Swelling and edema, which can produce increased pressure and decreased blood flow in the area of the spinal cord injury, leading to further damage
  • A loss of blood flow to the spinal cord

When an injury occurs to the spinal cord, nerve conduction between the brain and the body past the site of the injury is impaired. This can result in temporary or permanent loss of mobility and sensation (paralysis).

spinal cord injuries

Types of Injuries

Generally, the higher the level of injury to the spinal cord, the greater the degree of paralysis. It is important to note that the impact of a serious injury at a particular level on the spinal cord will vary from individual to individual.


A partial or total loss of movement and/or sensation of all four extremities and trunk, and loss of function in bowel and bladder.


A partial or total loss of movement and/or sensation in legs and part, or all, of trunk, and loss of function in bowels and bladder.

SCIs are further subdivided into:

Complete SCI

Complete means that there is no motor function or sensation below the level of the injury.

Incomplete SCI

Incomplete means that there is some function or sensation below the primary level of the injury. A person with an incomplete injury may be able to move one limb more than another, may be able to feel parts of the body that cannot be moved, or may have more functioning on one side of the body than the other.

No matter the severity of the injury, rehabilitation can improve the individual’s quality of life and prognosis.

spinal cord injuries


An injured spinal cord can cause neurological impairments ranging from slight weakness and decreased sensation to complete paralysis.

Other physical complications of a SCI include:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Pressure sores
  • Obesity
  • Pain
  • Autonomic dysreflexia (rise in blood pressure, drop in heart rate)
  • Pneumonia and other illness
  • Low bone density
  • Secondary injuries

Individuals who sustain a SCI are traumatized emotionally as well as physically. The emotional symptoms of a SCI are just as real as the physical. Individuals will often go through a range of emotions.

They include:

  • Anger
  • Grief
  • Denial
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Helplessness
  • Sadness

It is important for individuals who sustain a SCI to recognize that their injury has a tremendous impact on their loved ones. Family and friends may experience many of these same emotional traumas. Family counseling and education will often help improve the recovery and healing process.

spinal cord injuries


Medical breakthroughs in the treatment of Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) are promising and progressing. Due to new medical advancements and intervention, damage that would have caused complete SCIs in the past, are now resulting in incomplete SCIs.

The course of treatment decided upon by your doctors will depend on the injuries sustained. Intensive physiotherapy after a SCI often leads to better recovery.

Training can stimulate nerves and can help individuals regain function. Psychotherapy is also necessary in order to heal the individual emotionally. In the event of a more severe SCI, artificial ventilation may be necessary.

To prevent other complications, constant care is required. Individuals who suffer a SCI should consider some of the following:

  • To help avoid urinary tract infections, individuals should drink plenty of fluids
  • A healthy diet high in protein has been known to help pressure sores and secondary injuries heal faster
  • Daily exercise boosts circulation and can help prevent obesity
  • Joining support groups and talking to doctors about pain management strategies often improves an individual’s quality of life
  • A pneumococcal vaccination should be considered to help prevent pneumonia
  • Eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is often a good way to conserve bone density
  • Reporting any discomfort or illness immediately will help prevent serious complications

Taking an active and optimistic approach to treatment and everyday health will improve the recovery process. 

spinal cord injuries


Today, most people recover some function even after sustaining a complete SCI. However, the recovery process is a life-long commitment. Staying motivated, positive and dedicated to treatment and training is integral to an individual’s success.

People with spinal cord injuries often require a high level of care for the rest of their lives, home and vehicle modifications, income support, and significant vocational assistance—if you are to be able to return to the workforce at all. Most will also need to develop new interests and activities. All of these aspects of your life changes should be compensated. Getting you that compensation is our job.

At Carranza, our Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers have years of experience acting for people who have suffered spinal cord injuries. We strive to fully understand you and how your and your family’s lifestyle is affected by your injury and your rehabilitation. As your personal injury advocate, we seek out the opinions and advice of your doctors and some of the most respected and experienced specialists in spinal cord treatment including: Dermatologists, Dietician/ Nutritionists, Occupational Therapists, Neurologists, Physiotherapists, Psychiatrists, Recreational Therapists, Respiratory Therapists and Urologists.

We start to work immediately to maximize your personal recovery by ensuring you get the treatment and assistance you require to return to as many social, family, and leisure activities as soon as possible. At the same time, we gather the evidence to quantify every aspect of your losses to maximize your financial recovery.

spinal cord injuries

From a legal perspective

If you or someone you know has suffered a spinal cord injury from an accident, it is important to learn about their condition and its level of severity.  Many survivors of spinal cord injuries are trauma patients and once their condition is stable, their medical team can then work to determine the level of  injury. From there they can also create parameters to help prevent future complications that survivors of a spinal cord injury may be prone to.

At Carranza, our spinal cord injury lawyers have years of experience acting for people who have suffered spinal cord injuries.  We strive to fully understand you and how your and your family’s lifestyle is affected by your serious injury and your rehabilitation.  Our personal injury lawyers start to work immediately to maximize your personal recovery by ensuring you get the treatment and assistance you require to return to as many social, family, and leisure activities as soon as possible.  At the same time, we gather evidence to quantify every aspect of your losses to maximize your financial recovery.

Survivors of a serious spinal cord injury often require a high level of care for the rest of their lives, income support, significant vocational assistance if you are able to return to the workforce at all, and a need to develop new interests and activities.  All of these life-changing aspects should be compensated.  Getting you the compensation is our Toronto spinal cord injury lawyer’s job.

spinal cord injuries

Cultural Perspective

Not only can the personal injury lawyers and staff members at Carranza help overcome the language barrier, we can also assist with any cultural issues that may arise, including:

  • Traditional versus modern medicine and conflicts about medications
  • Informing loved ones of medical issues and facilitating discussions between rehab teams and key decision makers in the family
  • Explaining body language and how its interpretation might affect your care
  • The impact of religion on care, treatment and recovery
  • Cultural stigmas surrounding shame, depression and isolation
  • The importance of nutrition, diet and the use of herbal remedies
  • How brain injuries affect the family, their social status and future possibilities
  • Bridging the gap between a family’s beliefs and the Canadian healthcare system

real examples of cultural issues in a case

At Carranza, we understand how difficult it can be when English is not your first language. Cultural differences can often affect your case. Having the right representation can make a big difference.

views of authority

One of our clients grew up in a country where the police were corrupt and violent. He learned early in life to fear and obey the police without question.

In Canada, he was involved in a car accident. He was issued a traffic ticket at the scene for making an improper turn, even though the other vehicle had run a red light. The officer told him to pay the ticket, and the client obeyed even though he did not believe the accident was his fault.

In the resulting civil action for damages, the insurance lawyer argued that our client’s payment of the ticket meant that our client admitted responsibility for making an improper turn and causing the accident. Since we were aware of our client’s previous experience with police in his home country, we were able to demonstrate his deference to police and were able to settle the claim on the basis that the other driver was 100% at fault.

spinal cord injuries

How we can help

Families are often surprised and overwhelmed by how much an injury can impact their lives and their financial situation. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand your current situation better and explain your legal entitlements.

At Carranza, our involvement begins the moment we meet you. Through every interaction, we strive to make you feel comfortable, safe and supported to the best of our abilities.

We are so committed to ensuring we consistently meet you and your family’s needs, Carranza has become the only ISO certified personal injury law firm in Canada.

This ISO certification ensures that our firm is held to the highest standard of client service, that we continually improve our communication, our training and our procedures. We did this, because you are the focus of all we do. We did this, because you are important.

At Carranza, our job is more than helping you through litigation; it is also our responsibility to ensure you have the right resources for your rehabilitation. Your medical and rehab teams work hard to help you recover. They will address your physical, emotional, mental and social needs. We will work closely with them, so you and your family do not have to worry about the additional costs of rehab treatments and assistive devices.

Take care of you.

We'll take care of the rest.

spinal cord injuries

Your options for compensation

If you are involved in a vehicle accident there is help available.

You are entitled to:

accident benefits

Whether or not you were at fault for the accident, all Ontario auto insurance policies provide compulsory benefits outlined in the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS).

Your family members and dependents may also be entitled to some benefits even though they were not involved in the accident. Accident Benefits can be claimed no matter what your legal residence status is in this country.

disability insurance

Short-Term or Long-Term disability benefits available from your job or a private policy must be applied for immediately. These benefits are always primary. Your car insurance will only cover what your private disability policy will not cover.

fault-based lawsuits

In addition to the Accident Benefits claim, you may also sue the person or people responsible for the accident.

This type of claim, called a tort claim, seeks compensation for:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Economic losses (e.g. present and future income losses)
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • The cost of future medical treatment and care
  • The cost of future attendant care
  • The cost of housekeeping and care giving needs
  • Out of pocket expenses
  • Loss of shared family income
  • Loss of care, guidance and companionship suffered by your immediate family
  • Economic losses of family members incurred due to the accident

Once we have a firm understanding of the particulars of your case, we can provide you with an estimate of what you can expect to recover. We look at every means of compensation available to you. We know how important every dollar recovered is to you and your family.

With significant changes made to the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule as of September 1st, 2010, it is imperative that you consult a lawyer to find out what you may be entitled to. For a printable overview of what you may be entitled to, click here.

spinal cord injuries

Time Limits

Insurance companies will generally only pay for any treatment or expense after you apply for the corresponding benefit, so it is important that you apply for all the benefits you will need as soon as possible. Strict time limits apply. We will meet these deadlines for you, so you can focus on your recovery.

Some of the key limits to keep in mind:

7 Days – you must inform the Accident Benefits insurance company of the accident and that you were hurt.

30 Days – you must complete and send the Accident Benefits application within 30 days of it being provided to you by the insurance company. If you take longer, the insurance company can delay your benefits 45 days and may be able to deny you benefits altogether.

120 Days – you need to give written notice of your intention to sue the at-fault parties.

2 Years – to commence a lawsuit against an at-fault driver or your own insurance company if your benefits are denied.

You must provide the insurance company all the information it needs to determine your entitlement. You have 10 business days after it requests such information to provide it, or it can suspend or deny your benefits.

spinal cord injuries


This website is meant as a general reference for injured persons and their families. The medical and legal information contained in this manual is not intended to offer legal or medical advice. The content of this website is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the professional judgment of a legal and/or healthcare professional, and you should not rely upon any material or statements made on this website for legal or medical advice. It is not intended to create a solicitor-client relationship.

It is recommended that you review any medical information carefully with your doctor or healthcare professional before making any decisions regarding your health or recommended medical treatment. While reasonable attempts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information on this website, our firm cannot make express or implied representations or warranties about the accuracy or completeness of the information. Each person's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Please contact an Ontario Personal Injury lawyer for a consultation on your particular personal injury matter.