What Does Living with Spinal Cord Injury Really Cost?

Spinal cord injuries (SCI) are among the most debilitating. Between medical interventions and lifetime care, the expenses can add up to $10 million or more. When you factor in lost wages and pain and suffering, a settlement of tens of millions of dollars may not seem enough for victims confined to a wheelchair.


The most significant factor in determining the lifetime cost of SCI is the type of injury a person has. Here are a few examples.

  • High Tetraplegia: An injury to the C1-C4 vertebrae, often associated with quadriplegia. In 2014 dollars, first year costs were about $1,064,716 with $184,891 in expenses for each subsequent year. Lifetime costs, if the injury occurred when the victim was 25 years old, could total $4,8724,181, and for a 50-year-old, about $2,596,329, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center.
  • Low Tetraplegia: After an injury affecting the C5-C8 vertebrae, one may spend $769,351 in the initial year and $113,423 for each subsequent year. At 25, one would expect a lifetime expenditure of $3,451,781, while at 50, theyโ€™d spend $2,123,154.
  • Paraplegia: Costs a victim about $518,904 for the first year and $68,739 each subsequent year, in 2014 dollars. In 2019, first year expenses were about $550,381. Lifetime expenses for a 25-year-old jumped from $2,310,104 in 2014 to $2,450,234 in 2019.

If motor function has been affected at any level, you could still expect to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars the first year and tens of thousands each subsequent year.

Plus, 77% of individuals who suffer an SCI are still unemployed ten years after their injury. They require a lifetime of financial support, a challenge since the most frequent age of injury is 19, and that 81% of SCI patients who survive the first 24 hours live for 10+ years.

Cost Factors

The costs associated with spinal cord injuries arenโ€™t limited to paralysis and other direct medical costs. Other expenses may be incurred for:

  • Treating respiratory infections, pressure sores, and other common health issues that spinal cord injury victims face.
  • Mental health care for depression, substance abuse, and the general effects of an individualโ€™s disabilities on their mental state.
  • The cost of modifications to oneโ€™s home to meet their mobility and other needs.
  • Hiring companions to assist the injured person at home, to perform routine tasks, and to assist them while traveling.
  • Equipment for mobility assistance, including wheelchairs and devices to help with exercise.
  • Physical and vocational rehabilitation can improve oneโ€™s chances of returning to work.

Statistical factors can influence costs too. Hospitalizations are common among spinal cord injury victims; about 30% are re-hospitalized one or more times in any given year, with an average stay of roughly 19 days. The most common reasons for re-hospitalization include genitourinary, skin, respiratory, digestive, circulatory, and musculoskeletal diseases.

How Do I Get Help with SCI Living Expenses?

The barrage of costs someone living with SCI faces often exceeds their salary and other forms of financial support. If theyโ€™re unable to work, affording the care they need is a challenge in itself. Insurance alone often usually doesnโ€™t cover all the expenses.

The Law Offices of Jacob Emrani fights for your rights. Weโ€™ll help you get the medical treatment you need, and donโ€™t charge any fees until we win. Millions of dollars in damages have been recovered on our clientsโ€™ behalf. If youโ€™ve suffered a spinal cord injury due to an accident, let our Los Angeles personal injury lawyer fight to win the compensation you deserve. Call 888-952-2952 to learn more.