Catastrophic Injury

Dewsnup King Olsen Worel Havas Mortensen emphasizes catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death claims that occur in medical care, industrial work and transportation as well as many other areas. The lawyers at our Salt Lake City, Utah law firm have the resources and experience to handle large, complex and difficult cases, while at the same time maintaining the compassion and understanding to recognize the significant impact these cases have on our clients and their families. Our attorneys are skilled and knowledgeable in personal injury law, having led the litigation for numerous catastrophic injury cases in Salt Lake City, Utah as well as in surrounding areas.

All of the personal injury lawyers at our Salt Lake City firm have built extensive, distinguished records of handling catastrophic injury cases, resulting in many multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts, including some of the largest jury verdicts and settlements in Utah for wrongful death and personal injury that also are consistently upheld on appeal. They have collectively litigated hundreds of cases to successful verdicts and settlements, always seeking to obtain the best recovery possible to fairly compensate those injured by another's wrongful conduct or negligence. Our personal injury and wrongful death lawyers always are at the forefront of the knowledge in their respective areas of expertise, obtaining the most respected experts in the medical, technical, rehabilitation, and economic fields to testify.

The attorneys take cases on a contingent fee basis, so there is no attorney's fee unless we obtain a settlement or judgment for the client. We often advance the costs of the case for discovery, expert fees and other expenses, as these can be substantial and we understand that our clients may not be able to afford them. Questions regarding our fee structure and advances can be answered during a catastrophic injury consultation with one of our lawyers.

Our attorneys working in cases of catastrophic injury focus on cases involving brain and spinal cord injuries, burn trauma, and other tragedies that render the victim severely disabled, unable to work or carry out activities of daily living without assistance.

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

Due to the severity and sensitive nature of brain injuries, it is essential to have competent, experienced counsel representing your interests, who possess the highest level of legal skills and ethical standards as well as the sensitive compassionate and empathic demeanor as a professional advocate.

A traumatic brain injury is an injury to the brain as a result of accident or injury. Traumatic Brain Injury is a major cause of death and disability worldwide, especially in children and young adults.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, TBI is a major cause of death and disability in the United States, contributing to about 30 percent of all injury deaths. Every day, 138 people in the U.S. die from TBI injuries, which include:

  • In 2013, about 2.8 million TBI-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations, or deaths were associated with TBI—either alone or in combination with other injuries—in the United States.
  • TBI contributed to the deaths of more than 50,000 people.
  • TBI was a diagnosis in more than 282,000 hospitalizations and 2.5 million ED visits. These consisted of TBI alone or TBI in combination with other injuries.

The leading causes of TBI:

  • In 2013, falls were the leading cause of TBI, accounting for 47% of all TBIs in the United States that resulted in an ED visit, hospitalization, or death. Falls disproportionately affect the youngest and oldest age groups:
  • Unintentional blunt trauma (e.g., being hit by an object) was the second leading cause of TBI, accounting for about 15% of TBIs in the United States for 2013.
  • Among all age groups, motor vehicle crashes were the third overall leading cause of TBI (14%). 

For more information on brain injuries, visit the Brain Injury Alliance of Utah’s website:

Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)

Spinal cord injuries occur when there is damage to the spinal cord. It may result from direct injury to the cord itself or indirectly from damage to surrounding bones, tissues, or blood vessels.

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center:

  • Vehicle crashes are currently the leading cause of injury, followed by falls, acts of violence (primarily gunshot wounds), and sports/recreation activities.
  • Recent estimates indicate the annual incidence of spinal cord injury (SCI) is approximately 54 cases per million population in the U.S. or approximately 17,000 new SCI cases each year.
  • The number of people in the U.S. who are alive in 2016 who have SCI has been estimated to be approximately 282,000 persons, with a range from 243,000 to 347,000 persons.
  • Incomplete tetraplegia is currently the most frequent neurological category followed by incomplete paraplegia, complete paraplegia, and complete tetraplegia. Less than one percent of persons experienced complete neurological recovery by hospital discharge.

There are three areas of the spinal cord that are especially vulnerable to a catastrophic injury.

  • Cervical (neck) injuries: When spinal cord injuries occur in the neck area, the arms, legs, and middle of the body are affected
  • Thoracic (chest level) injuries: Symptoms of thoracic spinal cord injuries usually impact the legs.
  • Lumbar (lower back) injuries: Varying degrees of symptoms occur when lumbar spinal cord injuries occur, including one or both legs, or the muscles that control the bowels and the bladder.

The American Spinal Injury Association classifies traumatic spinal cord injuries in five categories with the most severe being complete spinal cord injury, resulting in paralysis. No matter the severity of a spinal cord injury, quality of life can be greatly changed and severely limited.

Burn Trauma

Burn trauma and injuries to the flesh are caused by heat, electricity, chemicals, light, or radiation. Deep tissue burns can injure the skin, muscle, bones, and blood vessels.

Victims and survivors of burn trauma can be affected physically and psychologically. There is a physical, mental, and emotional experience associated with being burned. Because of medical advances, the survival rates for burn victims have increased substantially but many survivors have physical and emotional scars as a result of the trauma.

According to the American Burn Association:

Burn Injuries Receiving Medical Treatment: 486,000 annually.

Fire/Smoke Inhalation Deaths: 3,275. This total includes 2,745 deaths from residential fires, 310 from vehicle crash fires, and 220 from other sources. One civilian fire death occurs every 2 hours and 41 minutes. The odds of a U.S.resident dying from exposure to fire, flames or smoke is 1 in 1442. Fire and inhalation deaths are combined because deaths from thermal burns in fires cannot always be distinguished from deaths from inhalation of toxins in smoke.
Hospitalizations Related to Burn Injury: 40,000, including 30,000 at hospital burn centers. More than 60 percent of the estimated U.S. acute hospitalizations related to burn injury were admitted to 128 burn centers. Such centers now average more than 200 annual admissions for burn injury and skin disorders requiring similar treatment. The other 4,500 U.S. acute care hospitals average less than 3 burn admissions per year.

Wrongful Death

The attorneys at Dewsnup King Olsen Worel Havas Mortensen emphasize wrongful death claims. These types of lawsuits are the result of a victim killed as due to negligence or other types of wrongful action. Wrongful deaths are caused by a range of events, including auto, truck and motorcycles accidents [discussed here separately], use of defective products, medical malpractice ([discussed here separately], or workplace accidents [discussed here separately]. Often times, the families of the deceased are left with often overwhelming financial debt burdens on top of the emotional trauma caused by a death.

Regarding all unintentional injury accidents, the following statistics come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • All unintentional injury accidents: Number of deaths: 130,557 (annual); Deaths per 100,000 population: 41.3. The fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Unintentional fall deaths: Number of deaths: 30,208 (annual): Deaths per 100,000 population: 9.6
  • Motor vehicle accidents: Number of deaths: 33,804 (annual); Deaths per 100,000 population: 10.7. The numbers include trucking accidents and DUI-related fatalities.
  • Unintentional poisoning deaths: Number of deaths: 38,851 (annual); Deaths per 100,000 population: 12.3