Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are extremely complex and traumatic in nature, and generally necessitate a lifetime of care. On a national level, SCIs incur about $18 billion in direct expenses per year, plus another $4 billion in indirect expenses, according to The O&P Edge. On an individual level, the overall lifetime associated costs of a spinal cord injury can be astronomical.

If you or your loved one recently sustained a traumatic SCI, it is vital to not only have quality medical care, counseling, and a solid support team, but also to research ways to afford the expenses you will likely face, both now and in the future.

What are some of the losses and costs SCI victims may experience?

Accident victims who sustain an SCI will be forced to completely change the way they live. There is currently no cure for SCIs, but there are numerous treatments and resources that can greatly improve victims’ quality of life. People living with an SCI face an arduous uphill journey – not only physically, but also emotionally and financially.

  • Medical – The first consideration is the medical care that will be required. Victims will need emergency care and a trauma team to assess their injuries, which can include trauma surgeons, anesthetists, nurses, emergency physicians, respiratory therapists, radiographers, and lab scientists. Then there will be general expenses to consider such as hospitalization, surgeries, inpatient and outpatient care, pharmaceuticals, diagnostic testing (radiology, labs, etc.), and assistive devices.
  • Complications – Even after the initial critical stage has passed, the medical expenses may never cease because health complications are likely arise throughout the years, including issues such as pressure sores, pulmonary problems, pneumonia, and hypothermia. Facing each of these issues and health scares is not only frightening and emotionally draining, but can also be financially devastating.
  • In-home Care – Simple tasks can become insurmountable with severe injuries. So, for many people with SCIs, they require in-home care from nurses and/or other home care providers. They may need to hire help for general household tasks, as well, such as for grocery shopping, childcare, transportation, etc. In some cases, those with an SCI may require round-the-clock care, while others may only require daily or weekly home assistance.
  • Mobility Devices – SCI patients often require the use of various assistive or mobility devices, such as ventilators, walkers, braces, and wheelchairs. The prices on some devices can be extremely high; a good power wheelchair, for example, can cost several thousand dollars.
  • Home Renovation – Renovating the patient’s home or relocating to a new home may be necessary to accommodate the disability. Costs can soar when you start to consider renovations such as building a wheelchair ramp, redoing the kitchen and bathroom to accommodate a wheelchair, adding ceiling and porch lifts, installing home elevators, etc.
  • Income Loss – Depending upon the severity of the injury, many people who sustain SCIs have to take a substantial leave from work after their accident. Most people with traumatic SCIs are either unable to return to work or have to change their career altogether. Only 12 percent of people are back at work within the first year after their injury, and only one-third of those with an SCI return to work within 20 years, according to The University of Alabama’s National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC). This means a huge, possibly permanent loss of earning capacity and income.
  • Emotional – It is impossible to adequately articulate the emotional and psychological pain and turmoil someone goes through when he sustains a severe SCI. It is simply too great and too broad to encapsulate in this brief description. People who sustain a traumatic SCI might develop emotional disorders (PTSD, depression, social anxiety, etc.), become prone to substance abuse, have deep emotional issues and anxiety regarding sex, and feel a shift and loss of their entire identity. When tallying the overall costs of an SCI, it is important to factor in ongoing rehabilitative services, counseling, group sessions, and personalized therapy to address and treat these emotional issues.
  • Family – The entire family will feel the effects of their loved one’s SCI. They will have to go through their own grief and loss after they realize the permanent limitations their loved one will have. SCIs affect marriages, parent-child relationships, friendships, and others. Therapy can help everyone work through the emotional stages of recovery.

How much can I expect to pay for lifetime care?

The cost of lifetime care for a SCI depends upon the severity of the injury and the age of the victim at the time of the accident. The first year’s expenses are especially high due to the massive amount of treatments required during the acute stage, as well as the initial costs of renovation, devices, etc.

The following information, provided by NSCISC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the most up-to-date, accurate estimations of how much you can expect to pay for the lifetime costs of living with an SCI. (The figures are in 2014 dollars.)

Type of  SCIFirst YearSubsequent Years
High Tetraplegia$1,064,716$184,891
Low Tetraplegia$769,351$113,423
Motor Functional SCIs$347,484$42,206


You can calculate a very rough estimate of what your overall expenses will be using the above figures. For someone who sustained an SCI in her C-1 to C-4 (high tetraplegia) at the age of 25, for instance, she can expect over $4.7 million in lifetime expenses. For someone who sustained paraplegia later in life at the age of 50, he might expect approximately $1.5 million in lifetime costs for his injury.

What are some ways to pay for SCI-related expenses?

People who sustain traumatic SCIs and their families are forced to deal with a sudden major financial crisis. You will likely need to pool all of your resources and become extremely creative with coming up with ways to pay for your needs.

A few resources you that might be useful include the following.

  • Your own private insurance plans, e.g., disability and health
  • Government insurance and assistance programs, e.g., Social Security disability, Medicare, veterans’ resources, and food and nutrition assistance
  • Church, charity, and community outreach programs
  • Crowdfunding
  • Grants and other fundraising efforts
  • Settlement monies from legal actions

The last resource mentioned above, proceeds from claims and lawsuits, offers the most promise. If you qualify to file an accident claim or a negligence lawsuit for your accident, you can quite likely secure enough funding to pay for your current and long-term SCI-related needs.

Does my accident qualify me to file a SCI claim for compensation?

The best way to determine if you are eligible to file a claim or suit and collect damages is to discuss your case with a local spinal cord injury attorney. If you reside in Florida, you are welcomed to call the Montero Law Center and speak to an SCI lawyer today. Contact us today at 954-767-6500 and schedule a free case evaluation.