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Utah Spinal Cord Injury Attorneys

Our Utah spinal cord injury attorneys are ready to help you rebuild your life after a spinal cord injury. The effects of a spinal cord injury can be devastating for victims and their families. Let our team of accident attorneys help you adjust to your new life by seeking justice through fair compensation.

When suffering from a spinal cord injury, you need support for medical needs and lost income. You also deserve recognition for the pain and suffering you have endured in the form of a monetary award. Our attorneys for spinal cord injuries in Utah are prepared to help you bring your claim and pursue your legal rights.

Our Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers Can Help You Rebuild Your Life

Few injuries are as serious and life-altering as spinal cord injuries. Regardless of the cause, trauma to the spine can take months or years of expensive rehabilitation and recovery. Even then, sometimes, the damage is irreversible. If you or a loved one has suffered spinal cord injuries caused by someone else’s negligence, you may need the help of a skilled spinal cord injury attorney.

At Christensen & Hymas, we understand the pain and frustration that you are going through. We can help. Our team can handle your case from start to finish. We will fight to get you the compensation you need to find hope and healing after your accident.

Get Help From Spinal Cord Injury Lawyers Near You

The severity of a spinal cord injury can impact every area of your life. You may need help with medical bills for years to come. Valuing the cost of your medical care going forward is crucial to ensuring you have the resources you need. There’s also a good chance that your work and career path have changed because of your injuries. Ensuring that you and your family are financially taken care of is a critical part of the legal process.

Our lawyers know the complex issues present in your case. We know how to move your case through the legal system while building the evidence in your favor. Don’t be frustrated by the insurance companies and the legal red tape. Let an experienced team of professionals guide you through the process so that you can focus on your recovery and rebuild your life.

What Can the Advocates Do for My Spinal Cord Injury Case?

The Christensen & Hymas advocates can pursue your legal claim, create a personalized strategy to maximize your compensation, and put our skills to work to make the legal system manageable. Our lawyers can assist you with all of the following:

  • Determining if you have a case
  • Evaluating communications and offers from the insurance company
  • Speaking with the insurance company on your behalf and negotiating a settlement
  • Investigating which parties may be responsible for damages
  • Gathering the evidence to prove legal liability
  • Working with experts to determine long-term needs and the true value of the case
  • Ensuring that no type of compensation is missed
  • Presenting your case and arguing at court hearings
  • Drafting and presenting court documents
  • Assisting with financial planning and collection of judgment

The Christensen & Hymas spinal cord injury experts can take the lead in every step that needs to be done in your case. We work for you and with you to go from where you are now to having the recovery that you deserve. Along the way, we offer open-door communication and a friendly, compassionate approach so that you can have confidence and satisfaction in our legal services throughout your case.

Why Do You Need a Spinal Cord Injury Lawyer?

You need a spinal cord injury lawyer to ensure that your legal claim is complete and legally accurate. There’s only one chance to handle this life-changing event in the best possible way. Technical mistakes in the legal process can result in no compensation at all. You may not even know what mistakes you’re making until it’s too late.

However, our experienced spinal cord injury lawyers for accident claims are knowledgeable in legal claims. We know how to spot important legal issues and build critical scientific evidence in a serious injury case. We understand the long-term implications of a spinal cord injury, and we have the skills to ensure that your claim receives the expertise, time, and determination you deserve to get results.

Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

There are two broad categories of spinal cord injury:

  1. Complete spinal cord injury – With complete spinal cord injury, the cord is severed. It can’t send signals below the level of the injury, which results in paralysis or a total lack of sensory and motor function below the injury. 
  2. Incomplete spinal cord injury – An incomplete injury means that the ability of the spinal cord to convey messages to or from the brain is not entirely lost. It is possible that there is still some sensation and movement below the level of injury. Symptoms and movement may vary considerably between victims.

Common Terms Used in Spinal Cord Injury

Common terms in spinal cord injury are paralysis, paraplegia, and quadriplegia, or tetraplegia.

  • Paralysis: an inability to voluntarily move all or part of the body.
  • Paraplegia: a term used to describe the inability to move the lower parts of the body voluntarily. The areas of impaired mobility usually include the toes, feet, legs and may or may not include the abdomen.
  • Tetraplegia or quadriplegia: a term used to describe the inability to voluntarily move the upper and lower parts of the body. The areas of impaired mobility usually include the fingers, hands, arms, chest, legs, feet, and toes. It may or may not include the head, neck, and shoulders.

The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation defines paraplegia as a loss of bodily control caused by lumbar level injuries and thoracic level injuries. Lumbar level injuries result in paralysis or weakness of the legs. Loss of physical sensation, bowel, bladder, and sexual dysfunction can occur. This spinal cord controls signals to the lower parts of the abdomen and the back, the buttocks, some parts of the external genital organs, and parts of the leg. Injuries may require surgery and external stabilization.

Thoracic level injuries are less common because of the protection given by the rib cage. Thoracic injuries can cause paralysis or weakness of the legs, along with loss of physical sensation, bowel, bladder, and sexual dysfunction. This spinal cord controls signals to some of the muscles of the back and part of the abdomen. Most patients initially wear a brace on the trunk to provide extra stability.

According to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, tetraplegia is a cervical spinal cord injury involving C1 – C8. Sometimes, this type of injury is accompanied by a loss of physical sensation, respiratory issues, bowel, bladder, and sexual dysfunction. This area of the spinal cord controls signals to the back of the head, neck and shoulders, arms and hands, and diaphragm. Since the neck region is so flexible, it is difficult to stabilize cervical spinal cord injuries. Patients with cervical level injuries may be placed in a brace or stabilizing device.

Disk Herniation Injuries

A herniated disk or slipped disk occurs when a spinal disk is forced through a weak point and protrudes from its natural place. This may place pressure on nearby nerves and cause pain. The lower back or lumbar area of the spine is the most common area for a slipped disk. The neck that contains cervical disks is a less common area for a slipped disk. The upper-to-mid-back thoracic disks are rarely involved.

Symptoms of Disk Herniation

The symptoms that are indicative of herniated disk include low back or neck pain that tingles mildly. You could feel a dull ache, burning, or pulsating pain. Numbness and the inability to move may occur. Usually, the pain occurs on one side of the body.

  • Lower back. If the lower back is affected, there is usually sharp pain in one part of the leg, hip, or buttocks. Then, there is numbness in other parts of the body. The affected leg shows weakness, and there may be pain or numbness on the back of the calf or sole of the foot.
  • Neck. If the slipped disk is in the neck, it will be painful to move the neck. Plus, there will be a deep pain near the shoulder blade. The pain usually moves to the upper arm but rarely to the fingers. Numbness is present along the shoulder and down the arm. The pain may worsen after standing or sitting and during the night. Sneezing, coughing, and laughing can aggravate the pain. 

Pain from a slipped disk in the neck becomes worse when bending backward or walking for some distance. A medical examination may be needed to explore symptoms. It is best to consult a doctor as soon as possible. The pain, numbness, or weakness may improve over a period of weeks to months.

Causes of Slipped Disks

According to Medline Plus, slipped disks occur more often in middle-aged and older men, usually after strenuous activity. Risk factors include conditions present at birth that affect the size of the lumbar spinal canal. Disk herniation is often gradual, resulting from age-related wear and tear.

As you age, your spinal disks lose some of their water content. This makes them less flexible and more prone to tearing or rupturing.

Falls and sudden trauma rarely cause a herniated disk. However, the disks may move out of place from injury or strain. The result may be pressure on the spinal nerves that can cause pain, numbness, or weakness.

Diagnostic Test for Herniated Disk

Diagnostic testing for a herniated disk may include:

  • An electromyogram (EMG) may be done to determine the exact nerve root involved.
  • A myelogram may be done to determine the size and location of disk herniation.
  • Nerve conduction velocity tests.
  • Spine MRI or spine CT showing if the herniated disk is pressing on the spinal canal.
  • An X-ray may be done to rule out other causes of back or neck pain. However, it is not possible to diagnose a herniated disk by a spine x-ray alone.

Treatment for a Slipped Disk

Treatment for a slipped disk may include medication and therapy. It may take several months to see improvement. Medication for slipped disks may include:

  • Over-the-counter medication can relieve pain. A doctor can tell you what’s suitable. Over-the-counter drugs carry a risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. Large doses of acetaminophen may damage the liver.
  • Narcotics may be prescribed by the doctor if the pain does not improve with over-the-counter medication. Follow your doctor’s advice closely.
  • Nerve pain medications such as gabapentin (Neurontin), pregabalin (Lyrica), duloxetine (Cymbalta), tramadol (Ultram, Ryzolt), and amitriptyline may relieve nerve-damage pain. Talk to your doctor about the best options.
  • Muscle relaxers such as diazepam (Valium) or cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril, Amrix) can help with back or limb spasms. Sedation and dizziness are common side effects to be aware of.
  • Cortisone injections are inflammation-suppressing corticosteroids that may be given by injection directly into the area around the spinal nerves, using spinal imaging to more safely guide the needle.

Accident victims also benefit from physical therapy as a treatment for spinal cord injuries. Physical therapists can show you exercises designed to minimize the pain of a herniated disk. As the pain improves, physical therapy can advance to a core strength and stability program to help protect against future injury. A physical therapist may also recommend:

  • Heat or ice
  • Traction
  • Ultrasound
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Short-term bracing for the neck or lower back

Spinal Cord Injury Statistics

The Utah Department of Health Spinal Cord Injury and Brain Injury Rehabilitation Fund reports the following spinal cord injury statistics:

Incidence of Spinal Cord Injury

  • In 2014, 95 Utah residents were hospitalized due to spinal cord injury
  • The incidence of spinal cord injury is 3.6 per 100,000 population
  • Utah residents ages 85 and older have the highest rate of injury
  • Males account for 72% of injuries
  • Victims typically spend 8.5 days in the hospital
  • The cost of initial hospitalization over a five-year period totaled more than $54 million

Statistics of Causes of Spinal Cord Injury

Falls are the leading cause of spinal cord injury (38%), followed by motor vehicle crashes (18%). ATVs and off-road vehicle crashes account for an additional 7% of spinal cord injuries. Sports including bicycle accidents, horse riding, and snow activities also contribute to spinal cord injuries. Suicides and suicide attempts account for 2% of injuries, and assault accounts for an additional 2% of spinal cord injuries.

Are Spinal Cord Injuries Increasing or Decreasing Over Time?

The incidence of spinal cord injuries has remained relatively constant in the last few years. In 2010, the rate of hospitalizations for spinal cord injury per 100,000 population was 3.7. By 2014, the number slightly declined to 3.6. The high from 2010-2014 occurred in 2011 with a hospitalization rate of 3.8. The low occurred in 2013 at 3 per 100,000 population.

Rehabilitation and Mobility Statistics for Spinal Cord Injury

For patients in SCI/BI rehabilitation found:

  • 100% improved transfer skills with therapy and treatment
  • 97% improved their quality of life
  • 92% saw increased movement with or without devices to assist
  • 88% were able to continue school or work

Treatment Barriers for Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injury victims may face the following barriers to treatment:

  • Education and awareness about available services
  • Knowledge of the benefits of education
  • Transfers to treatment from rural areas
  • Limited funds

Spinal Cord Injury Resources

Injury to the spinal cord is a serious problem. However, you’re not alone. Here are some of the resources that spinal cord injury patients might find helpful:

  • Utah Assistive Technology Program. The Utah Assistive Technology Program (UATP) is a federally funded program serving individuals with disabilities of all ages in Utah and the intermountain region. It provides assistive technology devices and services for persons with disabilities. It also offers professional service providers resources about assistive technology. It coordinates its services with community organizations and others who provide independence-related support to individuals with disabilities.
  • University of Utah Spinal Cord Injury Program. The University of Utah Health Spinal Cord Injury Treatment & Recovery operates with the goal of helping victims achieve the highest level of function by creating a personalized rehabilitation plan to enable a person with a spinal cord injury to return to the community. The University of Utah Spinal Cord Injury Program has many components. Among these are TRAIL (Therapeutic Recreation and Independent Lifestyles), forums, sports and recreation, and wellness programs. The program helps victims adopt an active lifestyle. Prosthetics, occupational therapy, and driving evaluation are all a part of the treatment program.
  • United Spinal Association. The United Spinal Association provides information and resources to meet the needs of over one million individuals who have spinal cord injuries and disorders, their families and friends, the medical and scientific community, the media, students, government officials, and the public.
  • Think First National Injury Prevention Foundation. Think First National Injury Prevention Foundation is an organization that advocates the prevention of injury through lifestyle. It has an educational campaign aimed at giving information to teenagers and motorists on the safe use of helmets, seat belts, driving sober, and driving speed, all of which can lead to avoidance of injury and maintenance of quality of life.
  • Utah Independent Living Center. The Utah Independent Living Center is a private, nonprofit corporation that provides services to maximize the independence of individuals with disabilities and the accessibility of the communities they live in. It is a non-residential facility. The organization provides peer support, information and resources, living skills, and independence training and advocacy both for individuals and for the community as a whole.

What Is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology is any item, piece of equipment, product, or system that increases, maintains, or improves the functional capabilities of an individual with a disability. It may be used as it is manufactured or modified. It may be customized or standard. Simply stated, assistive technology includes tools, devices, and resources used by individuals with disabilities to help improve their quality of life and increase their independence.

Spinal Cord Injury FAQs

Find answers to your spinal cord injury frequently asked questions from our Utah personal injury lawyers:

What is Spinal Cord Injury?

A Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is damage to the spinal cord that results in a loss of function such as mobility or feeling. It may be partial or complete, causing complete or limited loss of mobility and sensation.

What is meant by the word paralysis?

Paralysis refers to the inability to control movement or to detect sensations such as touch and temperature. The victim may lose muscle strength or control in the body with varying levels of severity.

What are the major causes of SCI?

The major causes of SCI damage are trauma, including falls, car accidents, assault and battery, sporting accidents, or disease. Sudden force to the spinal cord may result in a severing of the spinal cord and the inability of the brain to communicate signals throughout the body.

Is Spinal Cord Injury synonymous with back injuries?

Spinal cord injuries are different from other kinds of back injuries. Back injuries may include ruptured disks, spinal stenosis, or pinched nerves. A person can break their back or neck without a spinal cord injury if only the bones are damaged.

Are all spinal cord injuries a result of a fall and vehicular accidents?

No, not all spinal cord injuries are the result of a fall or a vehicular accident. While those are the most common causes, some spinal cord injuries result from diseases, assault, and sporting accidents.

Can a person with SCI still continue to work?

Yes, a person with SCI may still continue to work. Job accommodations such as modifications in equipment, procedures, duties, or hours can be made. Federal and state laws may assist a person with SCI to seek reasonable accommodation to continue to work.

My husband has a spinal cord injury. Can he still become a parent?

Problems with reproductive function are common in men with spinal cord injuries. However, assisted reproduction technologies have enabled many men to father biological children despite spinal cord injuries. Adoption is another option.

What about women with SCI? Can they still bear children?

Yes, many women with SCI can bear children. Fertility in women is usually completely normal within a few months of the initial injury. The ability to bear children may vary depending on the nature and severity of the injury.

Can a person with SCI still travel?

Yes, a person with SCI can travel. Tourist destinations and hotels are now accessible to people in wheelchairs. Air carriers and buses also accommodate people with disabilities.

Can a person with SCI still engage in sports?

Yes, a person with SCI can still engage in sports. Sports, like many other activities, can be adapted for people with disabilities. Examples are downhill skiing on a mono-ski, wheelchair basketball, and even sailing a boat with sip-and-puff control.

Can a person with SCI still drive?

Yes, depending on the nature of the injury, a person with SCI can still drive a motor vehicle. Modified vehicles are made available and can be driven using hand controls. There are also gadgets to help you grip the steering wheel or start the ignition. A van modified with an automatic ramp or lift enables one to drive without even getting out of the wheelchair.

Can a person with SCI still get a degree?

Yes, a person with SCI can earn an advanced degree. Campuses are now made accessible for people with disabilities. Scholarships are also available.

Can a person with SCI live to old age?

Yes, a person with SCI may live to old age. Medical advancements have been helping to improve the life expectancy of people with SCI. By taking care of themselves through medication, healthy diet, exercise, and strong social and familial support, a person with SCI may live longer.

What recovery is expected following spinal cord injury?

The extent of recovery is impossible to predict. It depends on the nature of the injury, the treatment that the victim receives, and how carefully they follow their treatment plan. Some people with incomplete injuries may recover no function, some function, or all function.

What is the difference between paraplegia and tetraplegia?

The difference between paraplegia and tetraplegia is the location and nature of the loss of sensation and control. Paraplegia can be generalized as losing control of movement and sensation from the waist down; the term tetraplegia includes loss of function in the upper body, arms, and hands.

Do people with SCI ever get better?

A person with SCI may see significant improvement. At the time of injury, the spinal cord swells. When the swelling goes down, some functioning may return as late as 18 months after. However, only a very small fraction of people with SCI get better by recovering all functioning.

Is there a cure for SCI?

Most body parts and organs can repair themselves after they are injured, but the central nervous system cannot. Therefore, there is no known cure for SCI. The damage caused by an SCI can be reduced by limiting immediate cell death and reducing the inflammation of the injured cord.

How do people with SCI pass water and manage bowels?

People with SCI may pass water and manage bowels with the help of devices. Appropriate continence aids and techniques should enable people to re-establish a degree of control over both bladder and bowels and enable them to lead a normal life.

Will a person with SCI ever walk again?

A person with SCI may or may not ever walk again. Depending on the level of injury and degree of completeness, mobility may be regained in the lower body with the presence of some sensation and movement.

What long-term medical follow-up is needed for a spinal cord injury?

People with spinal cord injuries need periodic assessments to ensure organ function and quality of life. People with SCI need annual urological assessments to make sure the kidneys and bladder remain healthy. Urinary tract infection and skin sores must be managed. 

Our Spinal Cord Injury Lawsuit Attorneys Are Here to Help

Attorneys Kenneth L. Christensen and D. Russell Hymas know the laws relating to Utah personal injury, and in particular, spinal cord injuries. While we can’t undo the harm, we can provide your family with a sense of security and comfort by obtaining compensation for your loss. Know that you can seek compensation to help cover your current and future medical bills as well as your pain and suffering, lost quality of life, lost earning capacity, and more.

At Christensen & Hymas, we have extensive experience representing victims of spinal cord injuries. As a law firm built exclusively to help personal injury victims and their families, we care, and we have the experience to get results. Our attorneys will negotiate with the insurance companies for you and take your case as far as you need to go, so you can focus on rebuilding your life. If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, call us at 801-506-0800 to set up a free consultation to discuss your legal rights.