Spinal Injury in Nursing Home

Spinal cord injuries can be life-altering, especially for older adults who are more prone to harm. In severe cases, they can cause permanent disability and even death.

Older adults are at a higher risk of spinal cord injuries due to their fall susceptibility. Hence, nursing homes must take proper precautions and minimize residents' risk of fall accidents. If a nursing home fails to do so--and it leads to a spinal cord injury--the victim and their family could file a personal injury claim to recover compensation.

Did you or a loved one suffer a spinal cord injury due to a nursing home's negligence? If so, the affiliate personal injury lawyers at Nursing Home Law Center can help you seek justice.

Contact our nursing home neglect law office at (800) 926-7565 for a free consultation.


What is a Spinal Cord Injury?

A spinal cord injury (SCI) damages the spinal column or surrounding tissues, nerves, and bones. The spine is part of the body's central nervous system and serves as the pathway for messages sent from the brain to the rest of the body and vice versa.

When the spine is damaged, you may experience permanent changes in sensation, strength, mobility, and other bodily functions.

There are two types of spinal cord injuries:

  • Complete: A complete SCI occurs when the body loses all feeling and ability to control movement below the injury site.
  • Incomplete: In an incomplete SCI, the body retains some sensation and motor function below the injury site.

Spinal injuries can further be classified into two categories:

  • Tetraplegia: When someone becomes tetraplegic or quadriplegic, their arms, hands, legs, trunk, and pelvic organs are affected by the SCI.
  • Paraplegia: If the SCI affects all or part of the lower extremities, trunk, and pelvic organs, the person has paraplegia.

Signs of Spinal Injuries

Spinal cord injuries can lead to the following signs and symptoms:

  • Loss of movement
  • Loss of or changes in sensation
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Extreme pain or pressure in the neck or back
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle spasms
  • Changes in sexual function, sensitivity, and fertility

Risk Factors

Some people are more prone to spinal cord injuries, including those with the following risk factors:

  • Being male
  • Advanced age (65 and older)
  • Having diseases that affect the bones and joints, e.g., osteoporosis

What Causes Spinal Cord Injuries in Nursing Homes?

Nursing home residents can sustain significant spinal injuries in some instances, such as:

  • Falls: Elderly people are more prone to falling due to muscle loss, balance problems, unsteady gait, etc. Hence, nursing home residents are at a higher risk of falling, even during daily activities like getting out of the shower, rising from bed, walking down the hall, etc.
  • Abuse: An SCI can occur when a staff member, visitor, or another resident assaults a patient, causing them to fall and hurt their back.

How Can Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lead to Spinal Cord Injuries?

Nursing homes must protect patients from accidents leading to severe injuries, such as falls. Sadly, negligence is a common problem in nursing facilities, putting elderly residents at a high risk of SCIs.

Specific forms of abuse or neglect that contribute to SCIs include:

  • Inadequate Supervision: Elderly patients often need frequent (if not constant) supervision to avoid injuries. If nursing home staff members do not pay enough attention and provide assistance as needed, residents may attempt to move around alone, engage in risky behavior, or commit patient-to-patient assault.
  • Lack of Fall Protection: Falls are the most common cause of spinal injuries among the elderly. Nursing home facilities must employ fall protection strategies to prevent spinal cord injuries, head trauma, and other injuries caused by fall accidents.
  • Medication Errors: Some medications lead to a greater risk of falls, such as anti-anxiety drugs, antihistamines, and antidepressants. Without proper monitoring, patients may be more susceptible to SCIs.
  • Physical Abuse: Assault can lead to severe injuries, especially among older people. Negligent hiring practices, lack of training, poor management, and other factors can cause this abuse.

Falls Also Lead to an Increased Risk of Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are caused by a sudden and significant blow to the head, causing the brain to move around in the skull. They include concussions, brain contusions (bruising), hemorrhaging (brain bleed), and skull fractures.

If a person falls on their back, they will also likely fall on their head. Hence, nursing homes must look for potential TBIs alongside spinal cord injuries in fall victims.

Due to their age, older people are also prone to other fall injuries, such as hip fractures and soft tissue injuries.

What Are The Complications of Spinal Cord Injuries?

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), spinal cord trauma survivors will most likely suffer complications, such as:

  • Chronic pain
  • Bladder and bowel dysfunction
  • Increased susceptibility to heart and lung problems and fractures
  • Pressure injuries, e.g., bed sores

Furthermore, people with SCIs are 2 to 5 times more likely to suffer a premature death than people without SCI, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).


Paralysis is the most severe complication of spinal cord trauma. The degree of movement loss depends on where the injury occurs; an injury higher on the spine can lead to tetraplegia, while a lower injury can cause paraplegia.

This condition leads to other difficulties and risks, such as bedsores due to being bed-bound or sitting for long periods, infections caused by nasal tube feeding, urinary tract infections due to loss of bowel control, fractures due to bone loss, and other factors.

Survival Rate

A retrospective study of nursing home residents between 2001 and 2016 revealed that 19% of older patients die within three months of spinal cord trauma, and 28% die within one year.

How to Seek Legal Help For a Nursing Home Spinal Cord Injury

Nursing home staff members have a legal duty to protect patients from preventable harm and prevent falls. When they fail, they could be liable for injuries arising from their negligence.

If a patient hurts their spine in an accident from nursing home negligence, their family members can file a legal claim against liable parties.

Possible defendants in a nursing home spinal injury case include:

  • Nursing home staff members, e.g., nurses and direct caregivers
  • Visitors
  • Other patients
  • Nursing home owners or administrators

Claimable Damages

You may be entitled to monetary compensation for the following losses:

  • Medical Bills: Costs of hospitalization, emergency transportation, medication, rehabilitation, etc.
  • Disability: Mobility aids, costs of support staff, loss of quality of life, and other related damages.
  • Pain and Suffering: Compensation for your loved one's physical and emotional anguish.
  • Loss of Quality of Life: Compensation for quality or enjoyment of living lost due to the fall injury.
  • Wrongful Death: Funeral and burial costs, loss of consortium, and other related damages if your loved one dies.

Talk to an Experienced Nursing Home Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer Today

Nursing homes have a legal duty to keep residents safe. Sadly, not all facilities meet their obligation, causing countless victims unnecessary pain and suffering.

If you or a loved one suffered a traumatic spinal cord injury caused by a nursing home staff member, visitor, or patient, you deserve financial compensation for your losses. The affiliate lawyers at Nursing Home Law Center can help you recover a fair settlement for your loved one's road to recovery.

Contact our law office at (800) 926-7565 or use the contact form for a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team will remain private under an attorney-client relationship.

Our attorneys handle all accepted cases on a contingency fee basis. You don't have to pay our legal fees unless we win your case.


Client Reviews

Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial. Lisa
After I read Jonathan’s Nursing Home Blog, I decided to hire him to look into my wife’s treatment at a local nursing home. Jonathan did a great job explaining the process and the laws that apply to nursing homes. I immediately felt at ease and was glad to have him on my side. Though the lawsuit process was at times frustrating, Jonathan reassured me, particularly at my deposition. I really felt like Jonathan cared about my wife’s best interests, and I think that came across to the lawyers for the nursing home. Eric