How to be fairly paid for a spinal cord injury in Georgia.

In our law practice over several decades , we have represented numerous SCI survivors. Most had benefited from rehabilitation services at Shepherd Center or Emory Rehabilitation Hospital, both of which are near us in Atlanta. All of these clients were injured in motor vehicle crashes or falls. One client who had been a high-powered government executive before an accident made him  quadriplegic initially  wanted to just turn his face to the wall and die, but after rehab he used funds from his settlement to equip himself to write books and begin a second career in college teaching. Another was a young woman in college who went on to teach elementary school in a wheelchair, participate in adaptive sports, move west on her own, and become Ms. Wheelchair California. 

Spinal cord injuries (SCI)

are among the most devastating physical injuries one can suffer. We have had SCI clients whose first reaction was to wish for death rather than life with paralysis.

Spinal cord injury paralysis occurs when there is damage to the spinal cord, which is a long, thin, tubular bundle of nerves that runs from the base of the brain down to the lower back. The spinal cord is responsible for transmitting messages between the brain and the rest of the body, and damage to the spinal cord can result in a loss of neurological function.

The degree of neurological function loss depends on the location and severity of the spinal cord injury. In general, spinal cord injury paralysis can result in a range of symptoms, including loss of sensation, loss of movement, loss of bowel or bladder control, sexual dysfunction, and breathing difficulties.

The location of the spinal cord injury determines which parts of the body are affected. A spinal cord injury that occurs in the cervical (neck) region will typically result in tetraplegia (also known as quadriplegia), which is paralysis of all four limbs and the torso. A spinal cord injury that occurs in the thoracic (chest) region or below will typically result in paraplegia, which is paralysis of the lower limbs and the lower half of the body. Symptoms include loss of sensation,  loss if movement, loss of bowel or bladder control, sexual  dysfunction, and breathing difficulties.

Diagnosis of SCI usually begins with paramedics at an accident scene or with emergency physicians and nurses in a hospital emergency department. Neurological screening in the triage process usually picks up on severe SCI pretty quickly. However, sometimes a developing SCI is initially subtle in the context of other injuries sustained in a crash. The diagnosis of spinal cord injury (SCI) typically involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests. Along with triage, stabilizing the patient, the medical team  will perform a thorough physical examination to assess the patient’s neurological function, including muscle strength, sensation, and reflexes. This may include a rectal exam to check for any loss of bowel or bladder control, which can be indicative of SCI.

Diagnostic tests may include:

– X-rays: X-rays can help identify fractures or dislocations in the spine.

– CT scan: A CT scan can provide detailed images of the spine and help identify any damage to the spinal cord.

– MRI: An MRI can provide even more detailed images of the spinal cord and surrounding tissues, and can help identify the location and extent of the injury.

– Electromyography (EMG): EMG can help evaluate the electrical activity of muscles and nerve cells in the limbs, and may be used to assess the extent of nerve damage.

Family members of SCI victims often must be advocates for the patient, firmly but respectfully pressing medical personnel and insurance companies to approve transfer to a top SCI rehabilitation center such as Shepherd or Emory in Atlanta. Such transfers may depend upon bed availability and meeting medical criteria of stabilization for admission.

Once SCI victims are admitted to a rehabilitation facility, family members may be included in treatment team meetings. As your attorneys, we are available to accompany you, with permission, to begin coordinating with the treatment team in evaluating the patient’s longterm financial needs and how we may assist in meeting those needs. This is the beginning of development of a life care plan that we may present in litigation. We listen first, build rapport, and then ask questions about points we need to effectively advocate for the SCI victim.

Medical treatment for spinal cord injuries may include  medication, surgery, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and  assistive devices such as wheelchairs, braces, etc.


Medications can play an important role in the treatment of spinal cord injuries by managing pain, reducing inflammation, preventing infections, and improving neurological function. The specific medications used will depend on the individual patient’s needs and the specifics of their injury.

Pain management is a critical aspect of treating spinal cord injuries, and medications such as opioids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and muscle relaxants may be prescribed to manage pain. However, the use of opioids must be carefully monitored due to the risk of addiction and other side effects.

Corticosteroids such as methylprednisolone may be used to reduce inflammation and swelling around the spinal cord, which can help preserve neurological function. These medications are typically administered within the first 8 hours after injury and may be continued for several days.

Antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent or treat infections, which can be a serious complication of spinal cord injuries. Bladder and bowel dysfunction are common after spinal cord injuries, and antibiotics may be used to prevent urinary tract infections and other infections that can occur due to the inability to empty the bladder properly.

Medications such as baclofen and tizanidine may be used to manage spasticity, which is a common complication of spinal cord injuries. These medications help to relax the muscles and reduce spasms.

In some cases, experimental medications may be used to promote nerve regeneration and improve neurological function. These medications may include growth factors, stem cells, or other drugs that have been shown to promote nerve growth and repair.

Surgery for spinal cord injuries can be divided into two main categories: decompression surgery and stabilization surgery.

Decompression surgery involves removing any material that is putting pressure on the spinal cord, such as bone fragments, herniated disks, or tumors. This type of surgery is aimed at preventing further damage to the spinal cord and potentially improving neurological function.

Stabilization surgery is used to stabilize the spine and prevent further damage. This may involve fusing two or more vertebrae together, using metal plates, screws, or rods to hold the spine in place. This type of surgery can also be used to correct spinal deformities that have resulted from the injury.

In some cases, a combination of decompression and stabilization surgery may be necessary. The goal of surgery is to prevent further damage to the spinal cord and potentially improve neurological function. However, the outcome of surgery is highly dependent on the severity of the injury and the individual patient’s response to treatment. Rehabilitation is often necessary after surgery to help the patient recover and regain as much function as possible.

If you or a loved one have suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident that was someone else’s fault, submit our inquiry form or call us now at 404-253-7862.


Johnson & Ward 

 Johnson & Ward, established in 1949, was the first and best personal injury specialty law firm in Georgia. Founders of the firm were among the founders of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. The firm was built upon traditional, word-of-mouth referrals from other lawyers, so it has never needed to advertise on TV or billboards. Firm alumni have served as judges of trial and appellate courts, and current partners include former  presidents of the Atlanta Bar Association and State Bar of Georgia.


Ken Shigley, a partner at Johnson & Ward, started in 1949, is a former president of the State Bar of Georgia. Mr. Shigley wrote eleven annual editions of a book about Georgia’s civil trial practice. He was the first Georgia lawyer to earn three national board certifications from the National Board of Trial Advocacy in trial practice and truck accident law. In 2019, he received the “Tradition of Excellence Award” for lifetime achievement in the legal profession. He graduated from Furman University and Emory University Law School. He also completed certificate programs in negotiation and mediation at Harvard Law School. Mr. Shigley is a widower. His son is a golf fitness trainer in Atlanta and his daughter works with terminally ill people in hospice in New Hampshire.