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Many rear-end collisions happen at speeds less than 5 miles per hour, but they can cause serious, sometimes life-changing physical damage.

If you are a driver struck from behind by a negligent motorist, you could find yourself dealing with a spinal cord injury.

Spinal cord function

Your spinal cord has a vital task: It transmits nerve impulses from the brain to other parts of the body. However, the spinal cord is fragile, and if it sustains an injury, it cannot repair itself. Depending on the site and extent of the injury, life as you know it could change dramatically.

A damaging hit

A spinal cord injury, or SCI, normally results from a sudden blow, such as the impact from a rear-end collision. In fact, motor vehicle crashes account for nearly half of all spinal cord injuries annually in the United States. There are two kinds of SCI: complete and incomplete. If you suffer a complete injury, you will lose all feeling below the injury site. If you have an incomplete SCI, you will retain function to some degree in that area. The results could be the difference between quadriplegia-paralysis of your arms and legs or paraplegia-paralysis of your legs alone. Other symptoms of SCI can include muscle spasms, difficulty breathing, digestive problems and loss of bladder or bowel control.

The outlook for SCI

While doctors have no ability to reverse a spinal cord injury, there are various treatment methods that can help improve the function of undamaged nerves so that the patient can return to as normal a life as possible. If the rear-end collision places you in this group, you will likely require a long hospitalization and an even longer rehabilitation period. SCI can change your life, and treatment is extremely expensive. However, if a negligent driver was responsible for your injury, you have a right to expect full and fair financial compensation to cover your current and future medical expenses, loss of income and more.