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Spinal Cord Injury Claims: What Compensation Am I Entitled To?

The spinal cord plays a central role in general functionality, and an injury to this area presents considerable risk to both day-to-day sense of normality and future health. 

If you have sustained a spinal injury, there are legal systems in place to help mitigate financial losses that have arisen due to your injury, as well as to provide long-term financial provisions where applicable. Read on to learn more about the process of spinal cord injury claims and how much compensation you may be entitled to.

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What are the types of spinal cord injuries?

The spine is complex — an injury to the upper spine can produce significantly different consequences compared to that of the mid and lower regions. Spinal injuries are rarely bound solely to the spine, but rather can affect the movement and sensory reception of one or more areas of the body. 

The spine is split into four areas: The cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral regions. 

The cervical spine is split into the high cervical nerves (C1-C4) and the low cervical nerves (C5-C8). An injury to the high cervical nerves commonly affects the arms, torso and legs, among other regions, while low cervical nerve impairment may more specifically impact arm and hand mobility. 

The thoracic region (T1-T5) may impair lower body mobility and an injury to the lumbar region (L1-L5) most commonly affects the hips and legs. Sacral region (S1-S5) injuries commonly affect the pelvis region, impacting the person’s bowel and bladder control, sexual function and lower extremity function, among other factors. 

Across cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral injuries, impairments are categorised in one of two ways: Either complete or incomplete. A complete spinal cord injury refers to the loss of all sensory and motor functions below the injured area. On the other hand, an incomplete spinal cord injury refers to the retention of partial functionality below the injured area. 

A complete spinal cord injury is generally diagnosed as either paraplegia or tetraplegia:  

  • Paraplegia is where there’s a complete loss of motor and sensory function below the chest or waist, inhibiting the person’s ability to use their lower extremities. 
  • Tetraplegia is where there’s a complete loss of motor and sensory function to both the upper and lower extremities — while this commonly affects arm, hand, torso and leg functionality, it may also impair the person’s ability to breathe independently. 


A prerequisite of a successful spinal injury claim is a diagnosis in one of the above categories, with the diagnosis playing a key role in determining how much compensation you’re entitled to.

Causes of spinal injuries: When you can claim compensation

The nature of your claim will depend on whether your injury is violence or negligence-induced. A personal injury lawyer will be able to guide you on the specifics of your case. If your spinal injury came as a result of another’s negligence, your case then falls under the legal umbrella of ‘personal injury claims.’ 

Personal injury claims as generally categorised in the following four ways:

  • Medical negligence: Medical professionals have the legal obligation to provide adequate, competent care to their patients — in alignment with best practices and processes. This obligation is referred to as a ‘duty of care.’ A breach of this duty can result in a medical negligence claim. Medical negligence can result in various types of spinal injuries, but most commonly, such injuries stem from errors during surgical procedures, misdiagnosis/delayed diagnosis and medication errors.  
  • Workplace liability: Employers also have a duty of care to provide a safe workplace for employees and contractors, providing the necessary means and interventions to prevent unduly injuries. In the context of spinal injuries, inadequate training, failure to provide safety equipment, lack of supervision and generally unsafe working conditions commonly result in spinal injuries. Particularly in professions that involve physical labour and machinery operation, such as building and construction.
  • Motor vehicle accident: All road users — whether car drivers, bus drivers, bike riders, pedestrians, and other related users — have the duty of care to follow traffic laws and exercise caution when on the roads. A breach of this duty presents serious spinal risks, as shown through 46% of traumatic spinal injury cases in Australia involving road users.
  • Public liability: Owners of public spaces also have a duty of care to provide a safe environment for those who occupy their spaces. A failure to provide necessary maintenance and other safety measures can result in a public liability claim. Spinal injuries in this context commonly stem from slips, inadequate signage and poorly maintained infrastructure. 

The context in which your injury occurred will determine the legislation that applies to your case. Legal proceedings for violence-induced spinal injuries differ from personal injury claims in that they generally involve criminal charges, proceed through different courts and pertain to separate legislation, among other factors. Reach out to a solicitor to determine the legal avenues that may apply to your circumstance.

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While process logistics differ slightly depending on the state you live in, you are generally required to file your personal injury claim within six months of the injury — the sooner you’re able to make the claim, the better. If you’re past the six-month period, still reach out to a personal injury lawyer who will be able to give you personalised insights and advise you on your legal options.

What evidence is required for my claim to be successful?

If possible, it’s best that you acquire as much evidence as possible prior to reaching out to a lawyer. However, with that said, there will likely be pieces of evidence that are difficult to obtain on your own which your lawyer will assist you in gathering. 

A reason why certain pieces of evidence may be difficult to gather is because of the financial implications; GMP Law, through our no-win, no-fee policy, take on all the upfront costs associated with your case at no expense to yourself — we only get paid based on the agreed upon portion of your compensation in the instance of a successful outcome. If your case isn’t successful, we bite the bullet of the upfront costs, not you. 

The evidence that is generally required for a spinal personal injury claim to be successful includes:

  • Medical records: This includes comprehensive documentation of your injury’s medical treatment and any therapeutic intervention. 
  • Accident reports: If the injury occurred due to an accident, whether a car crash, a workplace slip, or other, you’ll likely be required to show the official reports that were filed with the relevant authorities. 
  • Witness statements: This includes the written statement of anyone who witnessed either the injury itself or has insight into the context that led to the injury. 


You’ll also be required to provide evidence of the degree of financial impairment you’ve sustained as a result of the injury. This refers to both the costs of treatments, as well as the impact on future earning potential. Each piece of evidence is used to help determine the degree to which you’ve been impaired financially and psychologically, with both monetary and psychological damages being considered in your compensation claim. 

What can I expect after filing a claim?

Once you’ve gathered the evidence that you’re able to obtain, reach out to a personal injury lawyer who will guide you through the process. 

Your case will likely progress to a private settlement or mediation wherein a neutral third party will assess the merits of your claim and make compensation decisions accordingly. Mediation is a cost and time-effective route in comparison to litigation and is commonly also thought of to be less strenuous. Litigation is the process of bringing your case before the court where a judge ultimately decides the case’s outcome. 

Litigation can be drawn out compared to mediation: Court proceedings may take years to conclude, while mediation and private settlement agreements may resolve in a matter of months. Mediation is commonly a prerequisite for litigation, and most cases settle prior to being brought to the court.

How much compensation can I expect?

You may be compensated for one or both of the following categories: 

  • Financial losses: This includes any costs associated with your injury (medical bills, transportation costs or other related fees), lost income and the coverage for any potential loss in future earning capacity.
  • Non-financial losses: Also referred to as pain and suffering costs, this refers to the psychological impact of your injury, as diagnosed by a psychiatrist. 


While the way that financial losses are calculated tends to be relatively consistent across states due to financial impairments being easily quantifiable, the eligibility for non-financial losses — and the calculations thereof — differ by state. As a general rule: The more severe the injury, the more compensation you’re entitled to. This pertains both to the severity of financial loss, as well as the severity of impact on your quality of life. 

Given that spinal injuries differ significantly in severity and stem from a range of different contexts, compensation payouts also widely vary — your personal injury lawyer can offer you tailored insights based on your injury. 

How can GMP Law help maximise your compensation?

As experts in personal injury law, GMP Law can work with you to ensure that you’re maximally compensated. Our solicitors have the resources and experience necessary to not only provide an optimal case outcome but also to make sure that the process is as seamless for you as possible. 

We’re available to answer any questions you may have. Reach out to our team today for a free consultation, or call us on 1800 004 878.

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Gerard Malouf & Partners have provided friendly, experienced legal advice to communities across Australia for over 35 years. Our Personal Injury Lawyers have taken on ten’s of thousands of cases and we are proud to have won billions of dollars for our clients.
Meet the diverse and dynamic team of compensation lawyers and supporting staff that have made this all happen below. Our multi-lingual team can discuss your claims in Arabic, Assyrian, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, Serbian, Croatian, Armenian, Mandarin, Hindi, Punjabi or Malayalam.
Meet the diverse and dynamic team of compensation lawyers and supporting staff that have made this all happen below. Our multi-lingual team can discuss your claims in Arabic, Assyrian, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, Serbian, Croatian, Armenian, Mandarin, Hindi, Punjabi or Malayalam.

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