Skeletal representation of damaged spinal cord injuryAt least 12 people died and 666 people were hurt in construction-related accidents in New York City during 2017. Some of the reported injuries were relatively minor and the construction workers were able to quickly and fully recover with medical help. However, other injuries, such as some spinal cord injuries, require months of recuperation or result in lifelong injury.

How Spinal Cord Injuries Happen on Construction Sites

A spinal cord injury happens when any part of the spinal cord is damaged. Construction workers may suffer spinal cord injuries from:

  • Falls. Falls from heights, such as ladders or scaffolding, can result in spinal cord injuries.
  • Scaffolding collapses. When scaffolding collapses, the workers on the scaffolding, and any workers below the scaffolding may suffer traumatic spinal cord injuries.
  • Motor vehicle accidents, struck by accidents, crushed by accidents. Forklifts, trucks, and other heavy equipment that are used on construction sites can collide with each other, with construction workers on the site, or with construction equipment such as scaffolding—causing a construction worker to be hurt in a fall.
  • Improper training. Lack of proper training can lead to some of the construction accidents described above.
  • Failure to have proper safety gear. Safety gear, such as harnesses, could prevent spinal cord injuries from occurring because of a construction accident fall.

Regardless of what caused your spinal cord injury on a New York construction site, you need to know what your life will be like now and how to protect your legal recovery.

Living With a Spinal Cord Injury

Generally, your symptoms and your prognosis are going to depend on two things: (1) whether your spinal cord injury was complete or incomplete; and (2) where on your spinal cord the injury occurred.

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries

Construction workers who suffer spinal cord injuries in which the spinal cord is not completely severed experience incomplete spinal cord injuries. Incomplete spinal cord injuries may impact your ability to move or to feel sensations; however, not all incomplete spinal cord injuries are the same. Incomplete spinal cord injuries may impact your:

  • Ability to move and to feel touch, pain, and temperature sensations below the point of impact if you suffered damage to the front of the spinal cord, known as anterior cord syndrome.
  • Ability to use your arms if you suffered damage to the center of your spinal cord, known as central cord syndrome.
  • Coordination if you suffered damage the back of your spinal cord, known as posterior cord syndrome.
  • Feelings of sensation on one side of the body and your ability to move on the other side of your body if one side of your spinal cord was injured, known as Brown-Sequard syndrome.
  • Feelings of sensation if the injury is between the first and second lumbar region of the spine, known as a cauda equine lesion.

Some incomplete spinal cord injuries will improve over time, but there can be lasting effects.

Complete Spinal Cord Injuries

Currently, complete spinal cord injuries are permanent, and you may be unable to move your body and to feel sensation below the point on your spinal cord that was injured. Specifically, complete spinal cord injuries to the:

  • Cervical spine can result in tetraplegia. All areas of the body except for the head may be affected. You may not be able to move, feel sensation, breathe, regulate your body temperature, control your bowel or bladder, and you may experience sexual dysfunction.
  • Thoracic spine can result in paraplegia. You may be unable to move your legs, you may lose control of your bowel and bladder, and you may experience sexual dysfunction.
  • Lumbar spine can result in paraplegia. Your injury may be similar to a thoracic spine injury.
  • Sacral spine can result in the loss of bowel and bladder function and sexual dysfunction. You may also have weakness or paralysis in your hips and legs.

Ongoing medical care and support may be necessary regardless of which kind of spinal cord injury you suffer.

The True Cost of Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries are expensive. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center estimates the average yearly health care costs and living expenses for spinal cord sufferers to be as follows:

  • $1,065,980 for the first year with high tetraplegia and $185,111 for every subsequent year.
  • $770,264 for the first year with low tetraplegia and $113,557 for every subsequent year.
  • $519,520 for the first year with paraplegia and $68,821 for every subsequent year.
  • $347,896 for the first year with motor function affected at any level $42,256 for every subsequent year.

This does not include lost income, pain, suffering, and other damages.

How to Protect Your Fair Recovery After Suffering a Spinal Cord Injury on a New York Construction Site

You deserve to make a full recovery from the construction accident injury that you have suffered. New York labor laws may allow you to recover additional damages than you would typically be allowed in a workers’ compensation case. Please contact us online or call us directly at 212.465.8840. Our experienced New York construction injury lawyers will provide more information about your rights and to schedule a free consultation with us at your convenience. We will fight for the full and fair recovery that you deserve.


Timothy F. Schweitzer
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Personal injury lawyer specializing in maritime, construction and railroad injury claims.