Knowledge base

Spinal Injury Compensation Claims

Spinal cord injury compensation icon with blue xray

Statistics reveal that 350 to 400 new spinal cord injuries are reported in Australia each year and 80 percent of those are accident related.

Spinal injury - can I claim compensation?

You may be able to claim compensation for a spinal cord injury if it resulted from someone else’s negligence or carelessness. Negligence may arise in a variety of settings such as a car accident or a workplace injury.

Injured? Get expert advice now: Smith's are Queensland's only 100% risk-free injury compensation lawyers. Insist on our 'No Win. No Fee. No Catch' ® promise. Check your rights with no risk or obligations now and talk direct to our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith. Call 1800 266 801 OR  check if you can claim

I suffered a spinal injury at work - can I claim compensation?

If you are injured at work, you may be able to claim compensation from your employer. Employers must provide proper and adequate means for employees to carry out their work. This includes:

  • providing safe systems of work;
  • maintaining safe machinery and equipment;
  • maintaining a safe workplace; and
  • providing employees with adequate facilities, training, supervision and instruction.
Suffering a spinal cord injury

If you are injured because your employer neglects to provide safe systems of work, equipment or a safe environment, you may be able to sue for personal injury compensation. This includes injuries incurred over a long period of time, late onset injuries, and aggravations of pre-existing injuries.

Note however that, weekly WorkCover payments operate under a separate ‘no fault’ scheme, meaning that you can receive weekly payments to cover lost income even if your injury was not because of your employer’s negligence. 

Jeff is injured at work when he falls from a roof because the metal connections on the harness his employer provided failed as they were rusted through. Jeff can claim compensation from his employer for his personal injuries.
Rick is injured at work when he falls from a roof because he was not wearing the required safety harness apparatus. Rick would not be able to claim compensation for his injuries as they were due to his own negligence. However, he could apply for Workers Compensation payments while he is off work.

Professions at risk for spinal injuries

Jobs at higher risk for spinal injuries include those in the transportation industry and professional sports people.

See also: WorkCover claims

I suffered spinal injuries in a car accident - can I claim compensation?

Spinal cord injury caused by car accident

If you sustain spinal injuries in a road accident and it was totally or partially due to the fault of another driver or vehicle owner you can claim compensation from the owner of the vehicle that caused the accident through their Compulsory Third Party insurer.

Jeff is injured in a car accident when a delivery truck fails to stop at a red light because its brakes were not properly maintained. Jeff can claim compensation from the owner of the delivery truck through its CTP insurer.
Rick is injured in a car collision because he doesn’t look properly before pulling out onto a main road. Rick is unable to claim compensation for his injuries because the accident was totally his fault (although exceptions may apply for catastrophic accidents). If the accident occurred after July 1, 2016 he may be able to seek necessary and reasonable medical and rehabilitation services through the National Injury Insurance Scheme of Queensland (NIISQ). 

See Also: Road accident injury claims

I sustained a spinal injury on someone else’s property - can I claim compensation?

Occupiers (including owners of private property and public authorities), have a duty of care toward people coming onto their land. They must take reasonable care to make sure entrants are not exposed to risks that are likely to cause injury.  This means if there is something that is potentially dangerous on their property they must rectify it or warn people of the danger.

Spinal cord and rib cage injured at public place

Common scenarios include someone slipping on a floorsurface or tripping over an unexpected obstacle on the ground, falling into an unmarked hole in the pavement, or being hit by falling debris from a building site.

Jeff was body surfing waves at a popular beach when he hit submerged storm water pipes, sustaining spinal cord injuries. There were no signs warning of the presence of the pipes. Jeff may be able to claim compensation for his injuries. 
Rachel dives into water off a cliff and strikes her head on a rock. Signs are displayed around the cliffs warning of shallow waters and submerged rocks. Rachel may not be able to claim compensation since her injury resulted largely from her own failure to take care for her safety.

See Also: Public place injury lawyers legal advice

Spinal injuries - what can I claim for?

Estimating general damages compensation

General damages

General damages compensate you for the pain and suffering you have experienced as well as any permanent loss of enjoyment of life as a result of your spinal injury. They are calculated by reference to the ISV Scale which rates the seriousness of any injury between 1 and 100 and accords a monetary value range to that rating.

For example, a severe spinal injury like quadriplegia has a rating of 75 to 100 and a monetary range of $232,600 to $349,400 whereas paraplegia a is rated 60 to 80 with a monetary range of $169,700 to $254,400.

Medical costs

To diagnose and treat a spinal cord injury you may need to consult your general practitioner, consult a specialist, obtain x-rays or MRIs, take pain medications use special medical apparatus such as a wheelchair. The expenses you incur to obtain medical treatment including costs of consultations, diagnostic scans, travel costs, medication and medical equipment may be claimed as compensation. You can also claim for medical costs you will incur in the future as a result of your injury.

Hospital and surgical costs

Medical costs and calculating compensation

Spinal injuries may require surgery to stabilise fractures or discs. Surgical or hospital costs paid by you can be claimed as compensation as long as the surgery was necessary to treat your condition.

Rehabilitation costs

Rehabilitating after a spinal cord injury may involve intensive physiotherapy and other therapies as well as home and vehicle modifications and ergonomic aids. Your reasonable costs of rehabilitation can be claimed back as compensation.

Loss of income and future earning capacity

If you sustain a spinal injury you may need time off work for several weeks or months immediately after the incident. You can claim compensation for this lost income.

If your back injury prevents you from working in the future to the same extent as you did prior to the injury you may also be able to claim loss of future income earning capacity. Occupations that require manual labour, repeated bending and twisting, or sitting for long periods may be difficult or impossible for someone who has suffered a back injury and their capacity to earn income in the future may be reduced. This is usually estimated as a lump sum figure based on the age of the person, their usual occupation and other skills.

Loss of superannuation

Compensation can be claimed for superannuation that would have been paid on lost income.

First aid kit and spinal cord accident recovery

Care & assistance

Serious spinal injuries may prevent you from being able to perform tasks such as personal care, cleaning, laundry, mowing your lawns, caring for the garden or other domestic chores. If you formerly performed these duties but are now unable to due to an injury you can claim compensation for care and assistance provided to you by friends, relatives or paid contractors.

In Queensland there is a minimum threshold for this type of compensation.

How will my compensation be determined?

In general terms, the amount of compensation is gauged by comparing what your life was like before the injury and what it is like now as a result of the injury.
Therefore, someone whose injury has had a greater impact on their life will be entitled to more compensation than someone whose injury has had only minimal impact.

The amount of compensation payable for an injury will vary greatly from case to case, depending on a variety of variables such as:

  • the severity of the injury: more severe injuries will attract more compensation
  • the age of the patient: young people are likely to receive greater compensation than older people for a similar injury as it will impact their lifestyle and employment for a longer period of time.
  • level of health prior to the incident: an active and healthy person may suffer more from an injury because they are unable to exercise the way they did prior to the accident and may become predisposed to mood disorders and other health conditions they may not have suffered were it not for their injury.
  • pre-incident lifestyle: injured claimants who formerly engaged in activities they can no longer participate in may experience greater a impact from their injuries.
  • occupation: greater compensation will be payable where a person’s ability to work in their former occupation is impacted severely by their injuries. In some cases, you may have to file a tpd claim.

What time limits apply to a spinal injury compensation claim?

Timeframes to start a spinal injury compensation claim

For most personal injury claims, a legal action must be commenced within 3 years of the date of the injury. If you miss this deadline, you will lose the right to claim compensation.

However, depending on where your injury occurred or who you are claiming against, specific pre-court procedures may apply which may have much shorter time limits. If you miss these time limits you may lose your right to claim unless you can provide good reason for delaying and why you should be allowed to proceed with your claim. 

Those aged under 18 will typically have until they are 21 to start the claims process.

In addition, getting accurate records such as CCTV or reliable witness statements for example may be difficult if starting a claim several years after the incident.

In summary, it’s best to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible to ensure you understand your rights and the required evidence to make a strong claim can be gathered. View time limit information article for more detail.

What is a spinal cord injury?

Consequences of a spinal cord injury

The spinal cord extends from the brain to the lower back and consists of millions of nerve fibres that convey information to and from the limbs, torso and bodily organs. It is housed in a complex skeletal structure of 33 vertebrae. When damage occurs to the spinal cord a variety of other body functions can be disrupted, including:

  • ability to breathe and cough
  • bladder and bowel control
  • strength and density of bones
  • neuropathic pain and nerve sensitivity
  • sexual function
  • muscle spasms
  • body temperature regulation

Injured? Get expert advice now: Smith's are Queensland's only 100% risk-free injury compensation lawyers. Insist on our 'No Win. No Fee. No Catch' ® promise. Check your rights with no risk or obligations now and talk direct to our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith. Call 1800 266 801 OR  check if you can claim

Common spinal cord injuries 

Common back conditions include:

  • Paraplegia - sensation and movement are lost in lower half of body as a result of damage to thoracic spinal cord
  • Quadriplegia / Tetraplegia - paralysis of all limbs as a result of damage to cervical spinal cord
  • Spinal cord compression - spinal cord is compressed by bone fragments from vertebral fracture, tumour, abscess or ruptured disc
  • Anterior cord syndrome - injury to front of spinal cord impairing motor and sensory pathways
  • Brown-Sequard syndrome - damage to one side of spinal cord limiting movement on one side of the body
  • Central cord syndrome - injury to centre of cord, damaging nerves carrying signals from brain causing loss of fine motor skills, paralysis of arms and partial impairment in legs

Common causes of spinal cord injuries

Electrocution as a common cause of spinal cord injury

Spinal injuries most commonly result from trauma in the following situations:

  • Road accidents: Accidents involving car drivers, motorcyclists, bike riders and pedestrians
  • Falls: Usually from heights of 1 meter or more and often occurring in the workplace
  • Being hit or struck by an object: Often occur in transport or machinery incidents, or impacts incidental to a fall
  • Water-related accidents: Diving, surfing swimming or jumping into bodies of water
  • Sporting injuries: Impacts and trauma from contact sports, horse racing and cycling
  • Electrocution / Lightning strikes: Delayed complications after electrocution may cause spinal cord injuries

Potential long-term impacts of spinal cord injury

In most cases, if you suffer a moderate to serious spinal cord injury you will most likely suffer some permanent effect or disability.  In many cases, the permanent physical limitations imposed by such an injury can affect mood leading to depression. Long term impacts from a spinal injury such as mobility may affect your income earning capacity, which must also be taken into account when evaluating the amount of compensation you are entitled to. 

What to do if you have suffered a spinal cord injury

Depending on the nature of your spinal cord injury and the circumstances which caused it, compensation may or may not be available. You should always seek expert legal help from a compensation lawyer to see if you are able to make a claim.

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Last update on:
July 7, 2021
Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation. For expert advice call 1800 266 801 or chat via live chat to arrange free initial advice with our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

Next steps — get advice now

It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

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