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Whether a spinal cord injury is the result of a workplace accident, auto accident, fall, or some other cause, the impact on victims and their loved ones is overwhelming. Pain and suffering, sky-high medical costs, and other losses can hit hard at an already difficult time. At the Philadelphia offices of Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C., we fight to get the compensation spinal cord injury victims deserve under Pennsylvania law.

Proving a Spinal Cord Injury Case

Many spinal cord injuries are caused by the negligence of another person, though defective products may also be to blame. To prevail in such a case, a victim must prove that there was a duty of care, the responsible party breached that duty, and the spinal cord injury was directly caused by the breach. A spinal cord injury victim must also prove that he or she suffered losses as a result of the defendant’s negligence. The legal theory of “damages” in a Philadelphia spinal cord injury case may include:

  • Medical bills related to diagnosis and treatment;
  • Lost wages due to the victim’s inability to work;
  • Pain and suffering; and,
  • Other losses related to the injury.

An attorney must conduct an in-depth investigation to discover the facts involved with each of these factors in order to prove the cause of action for negligence in a spinal cord injury case. It’s necessary to gather documentary evidence such as payroll information and bills for treatments. Pain and suffering may be proved by medical records, but analysis from medical experts is often needed as further support. Only an experienced spinal cord injury lawyer has the skills and resources to conduct the investigations and develop a strong trial strategy.

Special Considerations in Spinal Cord Injury Cases

The spinal cord is the channel that carries messages from the brain to the rest of your body, so any injury to this critical network of nerves can carry severe consequences. Minor spinal cord injuries may lead to tingling, loss of feeling, or reduced functioning in any of the extremities. However, more catastrophic injuries to the spinal cord can also result in:

  • Paraplegia, paralysis in the lower body;
  • Quadriplegia, paralysis throughout the four limbs;
  • Loss of control over bodily functions, including breathing, elimination of the bladder or bowels, sexual functioning;
  • Loss of control over muscles and painful muscle spasms; and,
  • Other severe medical conditions.

The severity of spinal cord injuries is compounded by their prevalence. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, tasked with collecting and analyzing data on these injuries, released some alarming statistics:

  • There are approximately 17,000 new spinal cord injuries per year, as of 2016;
  • People in the US living with a spinal cord injury is estimated to be 282,000;
  • The average age of a spinal cord injury victim is 42 years old, up from 29 years old in the 1970s;
  • Spinal cord injuries predominantly impact males, who account for around 80 percent of new cases; and,
  • Spinal cord injuries on average require 11 days of hospitalization, and more than a month’s worth of rehabilitation time.

Many victims who have suffered spinal cord injuries in the Philadelphia area trust the attorneys at Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. to fight for their rights to compensation. Our lawyers are dedicated to providing clients with the best representation, the most knowledgeable medical experts, and top legal resources to bring a successful resolution to spinal cord injury cases.


For over four decades, the lawyers at Cohen, Placitella & Roth have brought an unwavering commitment and dedication to the legal representation of individuals and families devastated by injury or death caused by unsafe products, professional malpractice or negligent and reckless misconduct.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

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LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell® annually reports Cohen, Placitella & Roth’s peer rating-the highest AV®-—”a testament to professional excellence.” Since the inaugural U.S. News & World Report ‘Best Law Firms’ edition in 2010, Cohen, Placitella & Roth has been rated by its peers as one of the top tier class action, personal injury and mass tort law firms in the country.


“This a very friendly, efficient, professional firm. I will definitely recommend them to everybody…worth every penny”

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In the face of a $25,000 dollar offer to settle by the defendant, A Lehigh County jury awarded $2.39 million to a woman who alleged that a knee injury following surgery caused her to become completely disabled and largely confined to a wheelchair.

Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries

Sports Injuries

A fun game can turn into tragedy when a spinal cord injury results from playing a sport. Even no-contact or low-contact competitions, accidents can happen due to the actions of a participant. The person whose negligence caused the spinal cord injury may be legally liable.

Workplace Accidents

Spinal cord injuries can result from unsafe conditions in the workplace, especially in environments that involve heavy lifting and machinery. Slip and falls are common, as are occurrences of overexertion and repetitive motion. Defective or poorly maintained equipment may also cause spinal cord injuries.

Slip and Fall Accidents

Many Philadelphia spinal cord injuries happen in slip and fall cases. Where a building or business owner doesn’t property maintain the premises, causing a dangerous condition that leads to an accident, legal liability may attach for the resulting injuries.

Automobile and Motorcycle Accidents

Incidents involving motorized vehicles are among the most common causes of spinal cord injuries. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, commercial vehicles, boats, trains, and scooters generally travel at a high rate of speed, generating a significant blow upon impact.

Medical Malpractice

A medical professional owes a high duty of care to patients, but misdiagnosis of conditions and improperly performed procedures do occur. A doctor who breaches this duty may cause severe spinal cord injuries to a patient, leading to a claim for medical malpractice.

Falls From a Height

Many factors contribute to falls from a height, including faulty equipment, improperly placed ladders, and shaky scaffolding. Falls from a height are among the top reasons children are admitted to hospitals for injuries. One of the most common injuries resulting from these types of falls is a spinal cord injury.


While negligence is usually to blame for a spinal cord injury, an intentional, willful assault can also cause this type of harm. The attacker could be someone the victim knows or could be a random stranger. A victim may bring criminal charges against the person responsible, but a criminal conviction does not provide compensation to the victim who suffers considerably from a spinal cord injury.

Intracranial Hemorrhage/Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

These types of hemorrhages involve bleeding within the skull, either inside of the brain, or between the brain and thin tissues that cover the brain. This may result from trauma during the birthing process, and is considered a life-threatening emergency.

Traumatic Injuries

An injury of sudden onset and extreme severity that requires emergency medical attention is a traumatic injury. Spinal cord injuries may also fall into other categories, but are defined as traumatic when they’re caused by any variety of blunt strike or penetration of the spine with a sharp object.

Bicycle Accidents

Even with helmets and padding, a bicyclist may suffer spinal cord injuries in an accident. A collision with a moving vehicle is often quite serious because the body bears the brunt of a crash. Plus, motorists may not see a bicyclist or allow enough space for proper maneuvers.

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Philadelphia clients with spinal cord injuries have been relying on the professionals at Cohen Placitella & Roth, P.C. for more than 40 years to help them obtain financial compensation for their injuries from those who are responsible for causing their pain. Our spinal cord injury lawyers have worked countless personal injury cases, and know what it takes to get the job done right. Contact Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. To Handle Your Spinal Cord Injury Case Today. The experienced spinal cord injury lawyers at Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. are ready and available to help you get the compensation you deserve.

FAQ's about Spinal Cord Injuries

There is currently no known cure for spinal cord injuries, meaning that as of right now, a person who sustains a spinal cord injury that results in complete or incomplete paralysis will not regain function, and nerves will not be repaired. However, there is promising research being done that could change the way that doctors treat spinal cord injuries in the future, as well as patients’ lives.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports that current research focuses on four aspects of spinal cord repair. These aspects are:

  • Neuroprotection – Neuroprotection research is being explored to protect both healthy and compromised cells from (further) damage as a result of the spinal cord injury.
  • Regeneration – One of the more complex areas of research is regeneration, which focuses on actually regrowing and repairing axons and nerves that have been damaged, which could in turn restore muscle function and sensation.
  • Cell replacement – Rather than repairing damaged nerves, some researchers believe that there is the potential to replace damaged nerve cells.
  • Retraining of CNS (central nervous system) circuits and plasticity – Finally, the retraining of CNS circuits and plasticity focuses on restoring body functions depending upon the extent of injury, or extent of repair/replacement if above treatment options are successful.

It should be noted that currently, this research is exploratory; there is no known cure or treatment for spinal cord injuries. In April of 2016, however, a medical report revealed that for the first time, stem cells had been used to promote regeneration in the severed spinal cords of rats. The study has promising hopes for treatment in humans, although clinical treatments involving humans have not been conducted.

Paralysis refers to the loss of ability to move in a certain area of the body, typically a limb or the face. In some cases, paralysis can also mean the loss of sensation, such as touch or temperature, in an area, too. There are three common causes of paralysis: spinal cord injury, stroke, and multiple sclerosis. Because the spinal cord – which is comprised of nerves that send messages between the brain and the rest of the body – is encased in the spinal column, which runs the length of the back, an injury to the spine is the most common cause of paralysis.

Paralysis can be complete or incomplete, meaning that a person either retains some sensation and movement ability, or loses these abilities completely. Paralysis can also be generalized or localized, referring to paralysis that affects a large area of the body vs. paralysis that affects a specific muscle or limb. Finally, there are also a number of ways to characterize paralysis, including:

  • Quadriplegia/tetraplegia. This refers to paralysis of all four limbs, as well as the muscles within the chest and trunk.
  • Paraplegia. Paraplegia is the paralysis of two of the same limbs, i.e. two legs. Often times, the muscles surrounding the pelvis are also paralyzed.
  • Monoplegia. Monoplegia is paralysis of one limb, such as a single leg or single arm.
  • Hemiplegia. Hemi is a prefix meaning “half’; a person who is a hemiplegia is paralyzed on the right half or left half of their body.
  • Triplegia. Finally, triplegia is the paralysis of three limbs – both legs and either the right or the left arm. 

Most people who suffer a spinal cord injury lose sensation and motor abilities in two to four of their limbs, leading to the terms paraplegia and quadriplegia. “Plegia” is a suffix that denotes some kind of paralysis, but does not speak to the extent of paralysis. For example, a paraplegic or quadriplegic could be unable to move their limbs, but still retain some sensation.

“Para” derives from the word for “pair” or “two like parts,” and refers to a spinal cord injury where a person loses motor function and sensation (either completely or incompletely) in both of their legs. The area above the injury site, however, remains unharmed, and the arms are unaffected.

“Quad,” on the other hand, means “four.” When a person is a quadriplegic, they are paralyzed from the neck down, and are unable to use either arm or either leg as a result. Due to the site of injury, quadriplegics are also unable to breathe on their own because the muscles in the chest and lungs are impaired, requiring the use of a mechanical machine for breathing. Eating and talking may also be compromised. Another word for quadriplegia is tetraplegia, which also means four.

It is also possible to a triplegic, with “tri” meaning three. When a person is a triplegic, they are unable to use both legs, and also lose motor abilities and sensation in either their right or their left arm, but not both. This is usually the case when a patient suffers from an incomplete spinal cord injury.

Spinal cord injuries are typically classified into two categories: complete and incomplete. The two terms refer to the level of severity of the injury, with a complete injury being the more devastating injury type.

  • Complete spinal cord injuries. It is important to note that the location of the spinal cord injury dictates which parts of the body will be affected, losing sensation and motor abilities. In a complete spinal cord injury, there is a complete and total loss of sensation and movement – both voluntary and involuntary – below the point of injury. This is more common when the spinal cord is crunched or severed, although bruising and stretching can also result in a complete spinal cord injury in some cases.
  • Incomplete spinal cord injuries. The second type of injury is an incomplete spinal cord injury. In an incomplete spinal cord injury, the brain is still able to send messages to the parts of the body below the area of injury, but the channel for sending messages is impaired. As a result, a person retains some movement abilities and some sensation, although both may be very minor. For example, a person may still be able to slightly wiggle their toes if they have an incomplete spinal cord injury, as well as feel pain, touch, heat, and other sensations.

Each spinal cord injury is very different, and two people could have a spinal cord injury in the same location that has very different effects on sensation and motor ability. In some cases, sensations that initially seem completely lost will return, as the loss is attributed to the body undergoing trauma rather than permanent nerve or axon damage.

Anyone can become the victim of a spinal cord injury, especially because the majority of spinal cord injuries are the result of trauma, such as force placed on the spinal column during a car accident. That being said, there are some risk factors that increase a person’s chances of sustaining a spinal cord injury. These include–

  • Having certain health conditions. Certain health conditions increase the risk of a spinal cord injury, such as cancer, degenerative diseases, osteoporosis, or arthritis.
  • Being male. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), males account for about 80 percent of new spinal cord injuries in the United States. Across the globe, the ratio of male to female spinal cord injuries is at least 2:1.
  • Being a young adult or an old adult. Research shows that those most likely to sustain a spinal cord injury are those between 16-30 years of age, as well as those older than 65.
  • Taking physical risks. Because a spinal cord injury is most often caused by a traumatic event, those who take more physical risks have a higher risk of injury. Diving into shallow waters, playing sports, participating in adrenaline-raising activities (i.e. hang gliding), and the like increase the risk. Wearing the proper equipment for such activities, such as a helmet or sports equipment, reduces the risk of serious injury.

Currently, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, which means that simply being in a car slightly increases a person’s risk of being in an accident resulting in a spinal cord injury.

A spinal cord injury is one of the most serious injury types, rendering the patient totally or partially paralyzed. Sadly, there is currently no way to reverse damage to the spinal cord, although scientists are working on a cure. While there is no cure or way to reverse damage to the spinal cord and restore a person’s motor functions and sensations, there are treatment options that are useful for helping individuals maintain quality of life and prevent against further injury.

After a spinal cord injury has been initially treated and further damage is unlikely, a patient will likely begin rehabilitation. During the rehabilitation process, psychologists, nurses, doctors, physical therapists, and other health professionals work with a patient to re-develop fine motor skills that have not been completely lost, learn new skills, and learn to cope with the injury. There are also medications that can be used to control discomfort and pain, and help with muscle spasms – a common side effect of a spinal cord injury. While rehabilitation and medication are very helpful, it is important to note that, again, there is no cure for a spinal cord injury.

There are some experimental treatments that are currently being explored to promote nerve regeneration and combat inflammation. Whether or not these experimental treatments will lead to groundbreaking new discoveries, and a potential cure, is unknown.
Living with a spinal cord injury is very difficult, but not impossible. There are numerous new technologies and resources available to help those affected by a spinal cord injury maintain the highest quality of life as possible.

Spinal cord injuries are one of the most devastating injury types, leaving affected parties with limited mobility, and sometimes, complete paralysis. Spinal cord injuries can be acute or non-acute. Acute injuries are the result of trauma; non-acute injuries are the result of health problems or other health-related complications.

Acute/Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury Causes

The following lists some of the most common causes of an acute/traumatic spinal cord injury:

The above list is not inclusive; anytime the spinal column is impacted with a large amount of force, the spinal cord is at risk of injury. It should be noted that alcohol use plays a role in about 25 percent of spinal cord injuries.

Non-acute Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries

Some spinal cord injuries occur as a result of health or degenerative condition rather than as a result of trauma. These conditions include:

  • Arthritis;
  • Inflammation;
  • Infections;
  • Disk degeneration; or
  • Cancer.

Again, the list is not inclusive; there are other health conditions that could lead to a spinal cord injury or inflammation of the spinal cord.
The majority of spinal cord injuries are caused by acute trauma. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that across the globe, 90 percent of spinal cord injuries are acute. The prevalence of non-acute spinal cord injuries, unfortunately, is increasing.

Spinal cord injuries are one of the most terrible injury types, leaving affected patients permanently partially or completely paralyzed from the area of the spinal cord injury downwards. While spinal cord injuries are relatively uncommon, there are thousands of people in the United States who are currently living with spinal cord injuries. Consider the following statistics about spinal cord injuries, providing by the World Health Organization (WHO) and National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC).  

  • Between approximately 250,000 and 500,000 people per year suffer a spinal cord injury worldwide.
  • In the United States, the incidence rate for spinal cord injuries is approximately 54 cases per million, or about 17,000 new cases per year.
  • In the United States, the number of people who were alive as of 2016 who were living with a spinal cord injuries was between 243,000 and and 347,000 people.
  • Across the world, males are more likely to sustain a spinal cord injury when compared to women, at a ratio of at least 2:1. Injuries are most common for males between the ages of 20 and 29, and after the age of 70. In the United States, males account for eight out of every 10 new spinal cord injury cases.
  • Throughout the world, 90 percent of new spinal cord injury cases are caused by traumatic incidents, such as a car crash or fall. The WHO reports that the number of non-traumatic spinal cord injury cases is growing.

Spinal cord injuries are most often characterized by a loss in sensation and motor function – including both voluntary and involuntary movements – from the site of the injury downwards. However, these are not the only symptoms that are associated with a spinal cord injury. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, an acute spinal cord injury may also be characterized by:

  • Trouble breathing;
  • Digestive problems;
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control;
  • Sexual dysfunction;
  • Spasms of the muscles;
  • Changes to blood pressure and heart rate; and
  • Weakness, tingling, or loss of feeling in the limbs or trunk of the body.

Each spinal cord injury is different; some patients may have all of the symptoms above, whereas others may have none. Some symptoms may improve with rehabilitation, while some symptoms may affect a person for the remainder of their life.

As stated above, in addition the listed symptoms, the biggest effect of a spinal cord injury is permanent paralysis. The paralysis may be complete or incomplete – in a complete injury, sensation and motor ability are completely loss from the site of the injury downwards; in an incomplete injury, some sensation or motor abilities may be retained, but they are significantly impaired. Loss of sensation and motor abilities can occur in both legs, both legs and a single arm, or all four limbs and the chest. There is currently no cure for a spinal cord injury, although treatment options are constantly being explored.

The central nervous system, which sends messages throughout your body and allows for movement, is comprised of the brain and the spinal cord. When injury to the spinal cord occurs, the process of relaying information from the brain to the rest of the body is disrupted. Spinal cord injuries are typically divided into two categories: complete and incomplete.

  • Complete spinal cord injury. When a spinal cord injury occurs, motor function is disrupted in the part of the body that is below the point of injury. When that injury is complete, the body loses all function below the point of injury, including sensation and voluntary and involuntary movement. In other words, the affected person is completely paralyzed from the site of the injury downwards.
  • Incomplete spinal cord injury. In an incomplete spinal cord injury, some level of function below the injury site is retained. This might be characterized by some sensation or minor ability to move, or different levels of sensation/motor ability in the separate sides of the body.

In addition two the two types of spinal cord injuries described above, spinal cord injuries are also classified into three subtypes based on the loss of motor function. These are:

  • Triplegia. “Tri” means three, and a triplegia spinal cord injury is characterized by the loss of function in one arm and both legs.
  • Paraplegia. Meaning two alike, or a pair, paraplegia refers to an injury where the victim losses sensation and motor function in two parts, usually both legs.
  • Quadriplegia. Quadriplegia is the most tragic type of spinal cord injury, and refers to an injury where the patient losses sensation and function in all four limbs.

The spinal cord is a collection of nerves that runs from the brain to the tailbone. The job of the spinal cord is to relay information from the brain to other parts of the body, allowing for voluntary and involuntary movements in the body.

While the spinal cord is one of the most well-protected systems in the body, protected by the spinal column which starts with the cervical spine and ends with the coccygeal, it can be injured. If injury to this delicate system occurs, the effects can be tragic.

A spinal cord injury refers to an injury in which the spinal column (the vertebrae and bones protecting the spinal cord) are impacted to the point that the spinal cord is vulnerable, and it too is impacted. When trauma to the spinal cord occurs, all areas below the point of injury in the spinal cord will be impacted, with areas of the body above the point of injury being unaffected. Permanent partial or total paralysis of the areas of the body below the injury site is the common result. The extent of the injury is what determine the degree of paralysis.

In order for injury to the spinal cord to occur, a great amount of force must be applied. This is most common in car accidents, pedestrian accidents, or bicycle or motorcycle accidents. Falls from heights can also result in a spinal cord injury. Once injury to the spinal cord occurs, there are very few treatment options, and doctors have not yet discovered a way to heal spinal cord injuries.

The majority of the functions of the body, such as walking, picking up an object, or even going to the bathroom, are controlled by the central nervous system. The central nervous system is comprised of two parts: the spinal cord and the brain.

The brain is the decision-making party in the central nervous system, deciding what it wants the body to do. When the brain makes a decision – such as to stretch one’s legs, for example – it sends this message to the legs via the spinal cord. In addition to making decisions, the brain also collects and processes information from other parts of the body. For example, if the eyes see a danger, they send this information to the brain, which then tells the body what to do. As such, the central nervous system controls all voluntary movement – like choosing to stretch the legs – as well as all involuntary movements, such as blinking or reflexes.

The central nervous system is very delicate, and so the body has taken precautions to protect it; it is encased within the spinal column, which consists of hard vertebrae that help to defend it from injury. The spinal cord itself is comprised of nerves that carry the messages from the brain to other parts of the body. If the spinal cord itself is impacted, this information channel can be disrupted, resulting in partial or complete paralysis. This damage is permanent, as the spinal cord and the central nervous system are not capable of self-repair after an injury, and scientists have not yet found a cure for spinal cord injuries.

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Spinal Cord Injury Fact Sheet: An Injury That Impacts All Aspects of Your Life

The University of Alabama’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation is responsible for the operation of the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, which serves to collect and manage data and analysis for the world’s largest spinal cord injury database. Important spinal cord injury statistics include:

  • It is estimated that there are 12,500 new spinal cord injury victims each year in the United States.
  • 79% of spinal cord injury victims are male.
  • Automobile accidents, including motor vehicle and motorcycle accidents, are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, followed by accidental falls, acts of violence committed against a victim, and sports injuries.
  • Spinal cord injuries currently on average require 11 days of hospitalization, and more than a month’s worth of rehabilitation time.
  • 30% of those with a spinal cord injury return to the hospital within one year of their initial injury for additional treatment or care.

Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys

Stewart L. Cohen

Stewart L. Cohen

Whether in the courtroom or the community, Stewart L. Cohen...

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Christopher M. Placitella

Christopher M. Placitella

Mr. Placitella has developed an award-winning reputation for his commitment...

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Harry M. Roth

Harry M. Roth

Mr. Roth also represents individuals, government entities, and companies seeking...

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