How much does a spinal cord injury really cost?

| Feb 26, 2020 | Personal injury |

According to, an average of 12,500 people sustain spinal cord injuries each year. Though spinal cord injuries can result from a number of adverse incidences, the most common causes of these types of injuries are car wrecks (38%), falls (30%), violence (14%), sport-related activities (9%) and medical errors (5%). Spinal cord injuries can have catastrophic consequences on a your physical, emotional and financial well-being. In fact, though most injured individuals and their loved ones worry about the initial medical costs, these costs are just the tip of the iceberg. For many victims, the ongoing expenses associated with injury and recovery often soar into the millions. 

Though the exact costs of a spinal cord injury depend primarily on the severity of your injury and services it requires, the sources of some expenses are more common than others. You can anticipate having to pay for the following: 

  • Trauma care 
  • Spinal surgery 
  • Rehabilitation 
  • Long-term care, including in-home assistance 
  • Medication 
  • Medical equipment 

How much you can expect to pay in the first year depends on the extent of your injuries. For instance, individuals with high tetraplegia pay an average of one million dollars in the first year alone. Those with low tetraplegia pay about $769,000 in medical expenses the first year, while those with paraplegia can expect to pay about $518,000 during the first year. Injuries that result in reduced motor function cost, on average, $347,000 in the first year. 

Though the costs go down after the first year, they still remain relatively high. For high and low tetraplegia, injured parties pay an average of $184,000 and $113,000 annually, respectively. Lesser injuries cost, on average, between $42,000 and $69,000 annually. 

In addition to medical expenses, spinal cord injuries often result in other costs. Travel, airfare and associated expenses can quickly add up to thousands of dollars. Many individuals also develop long-term expenses, including mental health treatment, home modifications and additional equipment. 

Lost wages and loss of earning potential are also major financial concerns for spinal cord injury victims and their families. Only 11.7% of individuals who live with a spinal cord injury are gainfully employed. The figure jumps slightly to 35.2% at 20 years post-injury. Even if you can go back to work, you may not be able to perform the same work as before, which may mean lower earnings.