Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers

We are expert compensation lawyers with offices across Queensland including Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and major regional centres. Free initial advice and 100% risk-free claims with no upfront costs and our No Win, No Fee, No Catch® promise.


Spinal cord injuries are severe injuries with life changing impacts. Have you or a loved one sustained a spinal cord injury due to someone else's negligence or fault in Queensland? If so, you may be able to make a personal injury claim.

It's essential to know what your rights are and your compensation entitlements in the case of personal injury. Read on for important information about spinal cord injuries, common causes, and the spinal injury compensation claims process, as well as Queensland's specific time limits.

Smith's Lawyers team of spinal injury compensation lawyers offer free initial advice and no-obligation appointments at home, in hospital, in-office or via phone. All claims have no upfront costs or risks of being left out of pocket under our No Win, No Fee, No Catch® promise. We operate Queensland-wide.

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Understanding Your Rights After a Spinal Cord Injury in Queensland

The cost of Australian spinal cord injuries has been estimated at $3.7 billion per year, with the lifetime cost of care for an injured person reaching several million dollars (e.g. Quadriplegia has an estimated lifetime cost of $9.7 million). Much of the financial burden typically falls on the partners and families providing support. 

Fortunately, you have the right to seek compensation if you've experienced a spinal cord injury due to the negligence of another party. 

Here's a quick guide to the compensation schemes available to you: 

  • Car and Road Accidents: If your injury resulted from a road accident, the Compulsory Third Party (CTP) Claims Scheme may apply. This scheme allows you to claim compensation from the CTP insurer for the vehicle at fault. 
  • Workplace Accidents: If you've been injured at work, claims should be made via Workcover Queensland (or your employer's workplace compensation insurer if they are self-insured), regardless of who was at fault. If your employer was negligent in providing a safe working environment, you might also consider making a common law claim. All work injury compensation claims start at the 'statutory' claims stage such as WorkCover – so don't delay opening that claim to help offset the initial medical costs and lost wages.
  • Public Place Accidents: If your injury occurred in a public place, you might be eligible to make a common law claim against the Public Liability Insurer. A successful claim can help cover your medical bills, lost earnings, and rehabilitation costs.
What is a Spinal Cord Injury?

A spinal cord injury is defined as “damage to the bundle of nerves and nerve fibres that sends and receives signals from the brain.” There are roughly 20,800 Australians living with spinal cord injuries with 350-400 new cases reported each year.

Some spinal cord injuries (SGIs) will cause temporary issues such as numbing, pain, or paralysis, while others cause long-term or permanent consequences. Severe SCIs can be debilitating and costly for many years after the accident takes place due to loss of income, modification costs, medical expenses, special equipment and more. Spinal cord injury compensation claims can help cover these costs.

Milder injuries can heal over time but may still cost a significant amount to treat. 

Some common symptoms which can have a major impact on quality of life and ability to earn an income include:

Motor Symptoms:

  • Weakness or paralysis: Difficulty moving muscles in areas below the injury level, potentially impacting limbs, torso, and breathing.
  • Loss of coordination: Impaired balance, clumsy movements, or tremors.
  • Spasticity: Involuntary muscle stiffness or spasms, causing discomfort and affecting movement.

Sensory Symptoms:

  • Numbness or tingling: Lack of feeling or a pins-and-needles sensation in areas below the injury.
  • Burning or shooting pain: Neuropathic pain, often described as burning, stabbing, or electric shock-like sensations.
  • Changes in bowel and bladder control: Difficulty controlling urination and defecation, including incontinence or retention.

Other Common Symptoms:

  • Sexual dysfunction: Changes in sexual function, arousal, or ability to achieve orgasm.
  • Respiratory problems: Difficulty breathing independently, requiring mechanical assistance in severe cases.
  • Autonomic dysreflexia: Sudden blood pressure spikes triggered by stimuli below the injury, potentially leading to headaches, sweating, and even seizures.
  • Fatigue: Excessive tiredness due to increased energy expenditure and chronic pain.
Common Causes of Spinal Injuries

Spinal injuries can occur in a variety of ways. Land transport accidents, for instance, account for 46% of Australian traumatic spinal cord injuries; nearly a third of those were less-protected transport users like motorcyclists (including off-road users such as Motocross), bicycle riders (including off-road users such as BMX and mountain biking) and quad bikes.

Here are a few other common causes to be aware of: 

  • Road accidents: Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of spinal cord injuries. Collisions involving cars, motorcycles or bicycles often lead to spinal injuries due to high-speed impact or sudden deceleration.
  • Falls: High falls from ladders, roofs, or staircases can cause severe damage to the spinal cord, especially among the elderly. Falls account for 28% of spinal cord injuries.
  • Work-related accidents: These accidents include heavy lifting, slips and falls, or accidents involving machinery where safety measures may have been lacking or insufficient.
  • Sports injuries: High-impact sports like rugby, horse riding or mountain biking often result in spinal cord injuries due to their physical and intense nature.
  • Public place accidents: Uneven pavements, poor lighting, or hazards left in walkways can lead to falls, resulting in spinal injury.
Common Spinal Injuries

Common types of spinal cord injuries include:

  • Cervical Injuries: These are injuries that occur in the topmost part of your spine. A sudden jolt or collision during a road or car accident can often lead to such injuries, leading to partial or total paralysis.
  • Thoracic Injuries: These injuries happen in the chest area of the spine. They are commonly caused by a heavy fall or a direct blow during an accident at work, possibly resulting in difficulty in balance and movement.
  • Lumbar Injuries: Located in the lower back region of the spine, these injuries often result from lifting something heavy or a sudden, awkward movement. This can frequently occur in both work and public places, causing pain, weakness, or loss of sensation in the lower body.
  • Sacral Injuries: Such injuries are found in the lower part of the spine above the tailbone. The primary causes are often slip-and-fall incidents in public places, with symptoms including loss of control of bowel and bladder functions or even sexual dysfunction.
Workers Most At-Risk

Several professions and industries face an increased risk of a work related accident, largely due to the nature of the work they perform.

These include: 

  • Construction Workers: The inherent hazards, such as falls from great heights and being struck by heavy equipment and objects, can often lead to severe spinal injuries.
  • Agriculture Workers: Agriculture is a high-risk industry where spinal cord injuries can occur through tractor overturns, falls from ladders or buildings, or being trapped under heavy machinery.
  • Transport Operators: Truck drivers and other transport industry workers are at risk during road accidents and whilst loading and unloading goods.
  • Manufacturers: Injuries often occur during mishandling of machinery, lifting heavy objects or slips and falls.
  • Healthcare Workers: Healthcare personnel, especially those involved in patient moving and handling, have a greater probability of sustaining spinal cord injuries through accidents.

Workers in these sectors need to be aware of these risks and take necessary preventive measures.

Spinal Injury Due to Acts of Violence
Spinal Injury Related to Water or Equestrian Activities

To check your compensation entitlements, request a free case review with our expert lawyers.

Spinal Injury Compensation Claims Process

Spinal cord injury claims often involve a legal process led by personal injury lawyers. Always seek medical attention before beginning the process so that your injury is diagnosed and documented.

Here's a brief overview of the claims process in Queensland: 

1. Seek free initial legal advice

The first step is to get in touch with a law firm that specialises in compensation claims for spinal injuries. Such a firm will have the necessary expertise and understanding of the complexities of Queensland law and can confirm your legal options including eligibility to make a claim.

2. Engage a personal injury lawyer

After an initial phone assessment, the next stage is a no-obligation consultation to explain the process and client agreement in more detail and to gather initial key information relating to your accident and injury to help assess your case and your injury and identify the liable party. The client agreement will also be explained so you can understand the terms under which the personal injury law operates on. Smith’s Lawyers runs all claims risk-free with no upfront costs.

3. Gather evidence to build your case

Once your compensation matter is opened you will be allocated a personal injury lawyer who will start gathering the required evidence to build a strong case and to determine liability. This may include medical reports, accident reports, witness statements, CCTV or dashcam footage or documentation of any loss of earnings due to your injury. Further down the track when your injuries have settled, your law firm may arrange for independent medical professional assessments such as occupational therapy assessment to assess your ability to work, long term recovery prospects and so on.

4. File your claim

Your personal injury solicitor will lodge a notice of claim and negotiate on your behalf with the liable parties, typically with their insurance companies (or their legal representatives) such as the CTP insurer of the at-fault party for car and motor vehicle accident claims or WorkCover Qld for workplace accidents. 

5. Negotiate with the at-fault party's insurer

Negotiations with the insurance company aim to reach a fair settlement that covers your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Most cases are settled out of court in a compulsory conference, an office based meeting involving yourself, your personal injury solicitor and a barrister they have engaged to lead the negotiations along with the legal representatives of the at-fault party's insurer. 

In the unlikely event that a settlement cannot be negotiated out of court, proceedings can proceed to court. In most ‘no win, no fee’ agreements, you could be liable for the other side's legal costs if your case is not successful in court. Smith’s Lawyers No Win, No Fee, No Catch® promise protects you from this risk and means you cannot not be out of pocket.

6. Spinal injuries compensation settlement

If your spinal injury claim is successful, you will receive a tax free, lump sum payment. The amount received will depend on different factors, including the severity of your injury, any impact on your earning capacity, and any medical expenses incurred. Legal fees are charged for the work completed only if there is a successful outcome.

Seeking compensation for a spinal cord injury can be complicated, especially while trying to focus on your recovery. Therefore, it's recommended to seek legal advice as early as possible. Smith's Lawyers has a team of experts who are ready to support you throughout this process, ensuring your compensation journey is risk-free with our No Win, No Fee, No Catch® promise.

What Evidence Do I Need To Support My Spinal Injury Claim?

Presenting solid evidence is crucial to making a successful spinal cord injury claim. Our team gather the required information, which will often include the following: 

  • Medical Reports: Medical evidence includes the initial diagnosis, ongoing treatment records, and prognoses. Any medical documents that illustrate the severity of your injury and its impact on your life will be necessary.
  • Proof of Accident: This could be a police report if it was a road accident, an incident report from your workplace if it was a work-related injury, or CCTV footage if available.
  • Witness Testimonies: Statements from eyewitnesses to the accident can provide a powerful testimony to support your claim.
  • Details of Expense: Receipts and bills from medical expenses, cost of medication, physiotherapy, home modifications or care costs indicate the financial burden of the injury.
  • Proof of Lost Earnings: If your injury has led to loss of earnings, evidence such as pay slips or a letter from your employer can be beneficial.

Calculating Your Spinal Injury Claims Amount

Spinal cord injuries resulting in life-changing injuries will often be large claims due to the large medical and care costs combined with loss of earnings.

Understanding the compensation process for a spinal injury claim involves considering several factors.

Here's how these compensation amounts are calculated: 

  • Ongoing Care and Support: The cost of long-term medical care, personal aid, and therapeutic services, vital for recovery and support post-injury, contributes significantly to your compensation.
  • Home Modifications: If your injury necessitates adjustments to your living space to facilitate mobility, these expenses are factored into your claim.
  • Vehicle Modifications: Should your injury result in the need for vehicle adaptions to enable independent travel, the financial burden associated with these adjustments is taken into account.
  • Lost Wages and Earning Capacity: Compensation is typically adjusted to reflect any income lost due to the injury, including potential future earnings if your capacity to work is affected.
  • Pain, suffering and loss of life quality: Non-economic losses, including physical discomfort, mental distress, and altered lifestyle due to the injury, are integral to determining the compensation amount.

It's important to note that each case is unique, and the same spinal cord injury won't necessarily yield the same payout amount. Let's illustrate this with an example. 

Consider two individuals, both sustaining the same type of spinal cord injury in separate incidents. Person A is a young professional in his prime working years, while Person B is a retired individual. The injury leaves both individuals with similar physical impairments. 

In this case, Person A's claim would likely consider the impact on loss of future earnings and career improvement, whereas Person B, who is not active in the workforce, wouldn't have the same financial considerations. Thus, the compensation each person receives would vary despite having the same injury. 

Situation, occupation, age, and many other factors can substantially influence your case's outcome, making it particularly valuable to consult with experienced spinal injury lawyers.

Time Limits for Spinal Cord Injuries

In Queensland, the typical time limit for spinal injury compensation claims due to road or workplace accidents or public liability is three years from the date the accident occurred – but this will vary depending on the nature of your claim.

For work-related injuries in Queensland:

  • You have six months to lodge your claim with WorkCover. The six-month period begins whenever the incident takes place, either when you are injured or after a doctor has made their assessment. 
  • You have three years to commence legal proceedings for a common law claim. If your employer or a third party caused or contributed to your injury, this can be run alongside a standard WorkCover claim.

For motor vehicle-related injuries in Queensland:

  • You have 9 months from the date of the accident or when injuries first became apparent to lodge a Notice of Accident Claim Form (known as a 'NOAC') with the Compulsory Third Party Insurer (CTP Insurer). A “reasonable excuse for delay” can be provided outside the 9 months but must be within 3 years of the accident, or you will be barred from making a claim. 
  • Or, you have 1 month from when you first consult with a lawyer about the possibility of making a claim to lodge the form. When running a claim with Smith’s Lawyers, your appointed solicitor will help you complete and submit this form.  Note: This time limit is the earlier of the two (1 month vs 9 months), so if you have spoken to a lawyer about your potential claim, you must lodge the NOAC within 1 month.
  • Where the motor vehicle at fault cannot be identified (such as in a hit and run), or the vehicle was unregistered, you have 3 months from the date of the accident to lodge a Notice of Accident Claim form with the Nominal Defendant. For these claims, if you have missed the 3-month period, a reasonable excuse can be provided, but it must be provided within the standard 9-month limit; otherwise, you will be barred from making a claim.
  • After the Notice of Claim Form is lodged, you have 3 years from the date of the accident/injury to start legal proceedings.

These limits can fluctuate based on specific circumstances, such as exceptional delays in discovering the injury or if the injured party was under 18 at the time of the accident. For those under 18, the time limit begins when they reach adulthood.

At Smith's Lawyers, we offer free and no-obligation case reviews to aid you in understanding your legal rights after an injury. Operating on a No Win, No Fee, No Catch® basis, we aim to provide risk-free legal assistance and advocate for your right to proper compensation.

To check your compensation entitlements, request a free case review with our expert lawyers.

Frequently Asked Questions

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How can spinal cord injuries impact the ability to work?

Serious spinal injuries can be highly debilitating, potentially preventing work at full capacity. Some individuals may face reduced mobility, requiring adjustments to their work environment. Moreover, they may grapple with concentration or sensory issues that impact their job performance.

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How do I know if I have a valid spinal cord injury claim?

You have a valid claim if your spinal cord injury occurred due to another party's negligence or workplace hazards within the past three years. This could include car accidents, unsafe work environments, or public space incidents in Queensland. Seek expert legal advice to check if you are eligible based on your specific circumstances.

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How long does it take to settle a spinal cord injury claim?

Settling a spinal cord injury claim in Queensland can vary significantly in duration but typically take between 12-24 months. It largely depends on factors such as the severity of the injury, how clear-cut fault is in the incident, and how quickly your lawyer can collect all necessary evidence. While your claim is in progress, you may be entitled to get medical and rehabilitation costs covered by the at-fault party's insurer, the Smith's Lawyers team will provide advice to ensure you can make the best recovery.

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Can I make a spinal cord injury claim if I was partially at fault for the accident?

In Queensland, the laws surrounding personal injury claims consider the concept of 'contributory negligence.' Essentially, this means that even if you were partially at fault, you may still be eligible to make a claim. However, any compensation awarded may be reduced proportionately based on your degree of fault. 

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Are there any upfront costs or risks?

No; our No Win, No Fee, No Catch® promise at Smith’s Lawyers means there are no upfront costs, and you can never be left out of pocket as a result of the claim. Typically with ‘no win, no fee’ agreements, you could still be liable for the other side's legal costs if your case goes to court and is unsuccessful. In the unlikely event that your case goes to court and you are unsuccessful, we'll cover the costs - so you won't pay a cent to us or anyone else.

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Get expert advice today

To check your compensation entitlements, request a free case review with our expert lawyers. We can explain your options to Spinal Injury Compensation claims so you are clear on your rights during this difficult time.

Take our 2-minute free claim check

Fill in the form below to find out if you have a claim.

Last updated:
February 29, 2024

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 help understanding your rights, please call 1800 960 482 or request a free case review to talk to one of our lawyers today.