What is a catastrophic injury?
Physical damage arising from a preventable accident that permanently renders an individual unable to work legally defines a “catastrophic injury.” These injuries typically involve harm to the brain, organs, spinal cord, or limbs. Due to the severe and long-term effects of the injuries, the person suffers a substantial loss in quality of life.
Examples of “catastrophic injuries” may include:
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – A catastrophic brain injury occurs when diagnostic imaging and a clinical exam present evidence of permanent damage above the brain stem.
- Spinal Cord – Most of the time, a spinal cord injury is catastrophic due to the location and completeness of damage. Upper spine injuries are among the most severe, as victims can lose movement and sensation in the arms, legs, and trunk, as well as suffer speech impairment. Some people become unable to breathe or eat on their own. Lower spinal injuries can result in paralysis from the waist down.
- Paraplegia – Paraplegia is an impairment in sensory or motor function in the lower extremities. It is always considered “catastrophic,” as the damage is always severe and long-lasting.
- Quadriplegia – Quadriplegia is the impairment in sensory or motor function in the upper AND lower extremities. Like paraplegia, quadriplegia is always considered “catastrophic” in nature.
- Disfiguring Burns – A catastrophic burn injury involves irreparable damage to the skin resulting in the need for grafting, though healing is not guaranteed. The body may be scarred, hair may never grow back again, nerves can become permanently harmed, the new skin will be weak, and sweat glands may break down — impairing a person’s ability to strenuously exercise or perform manual labor.
- Bone Fractures – A broken bone is not always considered catastrophic, but may fall under this category when the bone protrudes through the skin, gets smashed into tiny fragments, or requires invasive open fixation surgery. Lasting damage may take the form of limp, pinched nerves, the need for revision surgeries, chronic pain, or poor healing.
- Bulging Disc / Whiplash Injuries – Whiplash and bulging discs are not always catastrophic, but can be this severe when the excessive movement of the spine causes debilitating pain. The discs are gel-like cushions between the spinal vertebra that, when ruptured, can reduce the cushioning of the skeletal system, put pressure on the nerves, and necessitate surgical intervention.
In order to pursue a claim for compensation, the cause of the catastrophic injury must be traced back to another person or party’s negligence, recklessness, or willful misconduct. When victims are unsure of precisely what happened in those fateful moments before the accident, the assistance of a catastrophic injury attorney can provide invaluable insight.
How do catastrophic injuries happen?
Common causes for catastrophic injuries include:
- Car, truck, motorcycle, pedestrian, bicycle, jet ski, and boating accidents
- Trampoline accidents
- Sports accidents
- Falls from a height
- Fires and explosions
- Birth injuries or medical malpractice
- Horseback riding accidents
- Defective products
- Construction site mishaps
- Violent crime
No matter the cause, it is important to seek emergency medical attention at once. Catastrophes can require life-saving critical care, surgeries, rehabilitation treatment, and follow-up appointments.
What impact does a catastrophic injury have on everyday life?
People involved in catastrophic injuries are entitled to recover funds for several reasons:
- First of all, catastrophic injuries are expensive. Though the accident was caused through little to no fault of the victim, it typically falls on the victim to pay for sudden expenses like costly surgeries, rehabilitation, medication, use of assistive technology, and home modifications. All related medical expenses are included in a civil settlement.
- Secondly, one’s ability to pay for these expenses is hindered by the inability to work. Lawsuit compensation can also help provide for wages lost in the past and future reduced earning capacity. While past wages can be fairly easily calculated, it can take the informed opinion of a forensic economist to estimate how much future loss can be projected.
- Thirdly, these accidents take a tremendous mental toll on victims. Depression, anxiety, frustration, even PTSD, are common following serious, life-changing calamities. Temporary or permanent counseling services may be necessary for a person to cope with the after-effects of disabling injury. “Pain and suffering” encompasses not only the physical pain encountered on a day to day basis, but the loss of ability to partake in hobbies, activities, and pursuits that were previously enjoyed.
- Finally, households suffer. Unlike with minor injuries, a catastrophically injured person can no longer contribute to the household income or duties. Family members suffer along with their loved ones. Taking care of someone with cognitive or mobility limitations can be emotionally taxing. Working spouses may need to quit their jobs or hire a caregiver. Dependents not only lose that source of household income when a breadwinner gets hurt, but they may lose guidance, companionship, and inheritance to a degree. Family members may qualify for a limited amount of compensation. In the worst cases, family members may need to cover sudden funeral and burial expenses, which can be recovered as part of a wrongful death suit.
How much money can you recover?
The amount of noneconomic damages can be quite substantial and typically exceeds the amount of actual damages. Every case is unique, but generally speaking, it is not unusual to see these settlements and jury awards reach into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. Significant amounts have been recovered for mental anguish, permanent disability, disfigurement, loss of mobility, loss of enjoyment in life, and loss of consortium.
However, the overall value of a catastrophic injury settlement may depend upon the amount of liability ascribed to the victim. If the defendant can prove the victim was at least partially to blame for causing the accident, the total amount of compensation can be reduced based on the theory of comparative negligence. That’s why it is important to choose a team of capable and experienced catastrophic injury lawyers who will work hard to investigate your claim, prove the defendant’s liability, and fight any attempt to point a finger back at you.
How to choose a catastrophic injury law firm
Ellis Injury Law Firm is a robust catastrophic injury law firm in Los Angeles. We have recovered over $350 million for our personal injury clients over the past 25+ years. Our success has enabled us to work on a contingency basis, meaning that our clients pay nothing upfront or out-of-pocket to pursue their claims. They only pay a legal fee and costs when a successful recovery has been secured. We have the resources to hire the right type of experts that will be central to a winning claim. Private investigators work as part of our support staff to leave no stone unturned in pursuit of justice and truth. We have the courage to subpoena documents, get depositions, secure surveillance videos, track down eyewitnesses, and work with medical professionals to secure compelling testimony. Call Ellis Injury Law Firm for a free, no-obligation case review.