No type of personal injury is pleasant to experience. It doesn’t matter if you’re the victim of a car crash or a dog bite, or if you suffer a few cuts and bruises or a broken arm. When you go through an injury caused by another’s negligence, it can feel like an ordeal.
But in order for the law to be effective in making sure personal injury victims receive the justice and compensation they deserve, there are categorical assignments of injuries given to victims. And one of the most severe categories of injury is called catastrophic injury.
Defining Catastrophic Injury
The legal definition of a catastrophic injury is any injury with “direct and proximate consequences that permanently prevent an individual from performing any gainful work.” In simpler terms, a catastrophic injury is an injury so severe that it leaves the victim with some type of permanent damage that largely prevents them from living the type of lifestyle they had before the accident.
These types of injuries are most often the result of physical harm to the brain and/or spinal cord, which are the two body parts that have the most impact on a human’s functional capabilities. Though traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries are severe, catastrophic injuries can be more wide-reaching than those two designations. For an injury to be labeled as catastrophic, there must be medical evidence that a vital part of the person has been lost. So this could even include something like the victim losing a limb, losing an eye or other facial feature, or suffering internal organ damage that drastically alters their quality of life.
In general, catastrophic injuries come in three different types:
- Physical injuries, including amputations, burns, fractures, or other damage to orthopedic functions and other tissue.
- Spinal cord injuries that exclusively affect the spinal cord and create permanent mobility issues, like lameness or paralysis.
- Cognitive injuries that most often arise from brain damage and can take away a person’s ability to work, speak, remember things, or even breathe on their own.
Catastrophic injuries tend to be so severe that they often impact much more than the victim who suffers them. They take a toll on the entire family, because taking care of someone with physical or cognitive limitations can be a full-time job. Not to mention, it can become a huge strain on stress and emotional stability.
Why Compensation is Often Higher for Catastrophic Injuries
Taking care of someone with such severe bodily or mental limitations not only requires ongoing attention and activity, but it requires ongoing medical costs. And those costs can be very high. Often after a catastrophic injury, the future of the victim includes excessive medical care and other necessities that add up over time. If someone else has caused the injury, then the victim and their family shouldn’t be made to cover all the mounting expenses.
Such expenses for caring for someone who’s suffered a catastrophic injury may include:
- Ongoing doctor or hospital visits
- Medicine prescriptions
- Mental health services
- At-home care services or aides
- Other special care or aid devices and accommodations
- Medical equipment such as wheelchairs or hospital-grade beds
- Home modifications such as wheelchair accessibility
- Transportation expenses such as handicap-accessible vehicles
Aside from the continuing medical costs, it’s likely that the victim’s injuries have made them unable to go back to work. This means their family has lost that entire avenue of earning potential. And if their significant other is the one caring for them, it may very well be that this person is unable to return to work as well. That leaves a lot of expenses piling up with very little means to pay for them. It’s for these reasons that catastrophic injuries often receive some of the highest-value settlements when it comes to personal injury cases.
Often following injuries of this nature, a care of life plan is generated by medical professionals and legal teams associated with the victim. This plan thoroughly details the victim’s current and future needs, and the costs associated with those needs. These experts will also make a plan that takes into account the capabilities the victim has lost and the monetary equivalencies for those losses that they should be compensated for. These can include additional pain and suffering beyond the physical, an inability to return to work, time and effort put on other family members, and more.
Proving Catastrophic Injuries and Their Effects
Some catastrophic injuries and their negative impacts are more glaringly obvious than others. If, for example, the victim was involved in a car crash that led to a severe spinal cord injury, which in turn has caused full paralysis below the neck, then it’s clear the victim will no longer be able to hold most jobs and will likely need round-the-clock care. This can and should be easily labeled as a catastrophic injury by all involved.
But say, in another example, the victim were to suffer a burn injury so severe that both their legs needed to be amputated. While this is certainly a devastating circumstance, insurance companies might argue that the loss of the victim’s legs does not prohibit them from securing many forms of employment, nor might it even require full-time care by another person. As such, they may try to exclude the designation of catastrophic injury from consideration. And this is when we make the fierce argument that catastrophic injuries should always be seen as circumstantial based entirely on the victim’s unique life and situation.
Proving an injury as catastrophic means showing insurance companies and/or courts of law that the injuries suffered have drastically, negatively altered standard of life for the victim. In the case of the double amputee, the victim’s way of life has certainly changed forever. But it goes beyond simply losing their legs. If their profession involved any amount of time on their feet, they may no longer be able to hold those related jobs. If their burn injuries extended beyond damage to their legs to also include internal organ damage, they may need lifetime medical care to address it. And that’s in addition to the extensive care needed to treat their legs, provide them with prostheses, and go through physical therapy.
Insurance companies are often reluctant to take into account the victim’s life as a whole—let alone the finer details that made up their life. The right catastrophic injury lawyer, however, not only understands the importance of looking at every facet of their client’s life, but determining what the future of their life might look like as well.
The Whisler Law Firm has decades of experience fighting for clients who have suffered immense injury and loss at the hands of another. You don’t have to have suffered a catastrophic injury to receive our attention, but if you have, know that we’re ready to make sure the liable party and their insurance company is held responsible. If you’ve suffered a severe personal injury, your life has changed in one way or another. We’re here to help you navigate that change for the better.
Call our office at 833-529-5677 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation with someone from our team. We want to hear about your life and how it’s changed so we can help you make a plan for your future.