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The true cost of a spinal cord injury

When a person is involved in a car accident in Missouri or Kansas, there is a very real chance he or she will sustain a spinal cord injury. According to SpinalCord.com, 12,500 people sustain a spinal cord injury each year, 38% of which occur as the result of a car accident. The devastating nature of these injuries, combined with the ongoing nature of the symptoms, means spinal cord injury survivors can expect the expenses associated with the injury to be vast and unending in nature.

The most obvious type of expense the survivor of an SCI will incur is medical in nature. Though the type of medical care a person might require following an injury depends on the severity of the injury, some of the most common sources of expenses include trauma care, spinal surgery, medical equipment, medication and rehabilitation.

Medical expenses aside, survivors of SCIs incur several other types of expenses. For instance, it is not uncommon for victims to have to travel to distant hospitals to receive the specialized care their injuries require. Airfare, hotel expenses and travel costs for both the victim and his or her loved one can easily add up to several thousands of dollars in the first year alone.

Lost wages and loss of earning potential also occur as the result of an SCI. One year after the injury, just 11.7% of SCI victims are able to maintain gainful employment. That number is only slightly higher at 20 years post-injury, at 35.2%.

SCIs also create long-term financial consequences. Mental health issues, long-term health problems and home modifications all eat into an SCI survivor’s budget.

The Dana and Christopher Reeve Foundation detail, in monetary figures, the average total cost of a spinal cord injury.  Individuals with high tetraplegia can expect to pay a little more than $1 million in medical care during the first year following the injury. Low tetraplegia costs slightly less, at an average of $769,000 in medical care, while paraplegia patients can expect to pay an average of $518,000. Partial loss of motor function costs an average of $347,000 during the first year. Though the costs go down after the first year, survivors can expect to pay between $42,000 and $184,000 annually thereafter.

These numbers do not take into consideration indirect costs such as travel expenses, lost wages and home modifications, which average about $71,961 per year. The estimated lifetime cost of a spinal cord injury is anywhere between $1,113,990 for low-level motor function loss at 50 years old to $4724,181 for high tetraplegia at 25 years old.