Some motor vehicle accident injuries fade with time. Others may never fully go away. No matter the physical condition you were in prior to the crash, you might have to adjust to months, years or a lifetime of disability if your spine is damaged.

Even elite athletes can suffer the effects of a spinal cord injury. Olympic swimming champion Amy Van Dyken-Rouen is an unfortunate example. She severed her spinal cord in June during an ATV accident. About two weeks later, she still had no feeling below her pubic bone, she said.

She spent 12 days at the hospital before being transported to a facility in her home state. She has kept her fans and well-wishers updated on her condition with frequent posts on her Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Readers may remember Van Dyken-Rouen for winning six Olympic gold medals in her swimming career, including four at the 1996 Summer Games. One can imagine that she will bring the same determination that brought her to the top of her sport to her quest to recover from her spinal injury.

However, she likely faces a long, challenging road ahead. So too do those who are paralyzed in car accidents with dangerous or reckless drivers. In cases like that, their injuries may not have happened if not for the driver’s negligence, such as perhaps distracted driving or speeding.

The civil law system allows victims of negligence to seek compensation for their damages from those responsible for causing them. Those damages could be highly substantial for spinal cord injury victims, since paralysis generally has a huge impact on their quality of life.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Amy Van Dyken flown to Colorado to rehabilitate spinal-cord injury,” Ryan Parker, June 18, 2014