Catastrophic injuries are life-changing events that can result in permanent disability and, in some cases, death. One of the long-term ramifications of these injuries is the impact that it has not only on the victim, but also their spouse, dependents, caregivers, close friends, and relatives. There are several medical and other treatments that an injured party may require, including the following:
- Repeated hospitalization and surgeries
- Purchase of assistive devices, such as wheelchairs or handicapped-accessible systems
- Treatment for chronic pain
- Counseling for depression
After a catastrophic injury, there could follow a long period of disability that may result in an individual not being able to return to work and make a living. This can have a significant impact as a person’s income will be depleted at the same that that their medical expenses are on the rise. Because the victim and their family endure a great toll physically and financially, it makes sense for an injured party to seek professional legal help. An experienced catastrophic injury lawyer can provide skilled assistance for the victim and their family.
What is a Catastrophic Injury?
There are various medical, as well as legal, definitions for catastrophic injury. The California Labor Code refers to a catastrophic injury as including, but not limited to, loss of a limb, paralysis, severe burns, or a severe head injury. Other catastrophic injuries include damage to internal organs and permanent loss of vision or hearing. Sexual abuse may also be considered a catastrophic injury, as it can result in long-term health effects, including severe anxiety, substance abuse, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), self-injury, and suicide.
For persons with catastrophic injuries, the road to recovery will be long and difficult. Their pain and disability may be permanent, requiring lifelong care and expensive treatment. Five common catastrophic injuries include the following:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI): Severe trauma to the brain can result in decreased cognitive function, changes in behavior or personality, loss of motor skills, language difficulties, memory loss, or even death.
- Spinal cord injury: Damage to the spine can cause partial or total paralysis that may never heal and may leave victims dependent on medical equipment to breathe.
- Amputation: Serious accidents may result in loss of limb, either at the scene or later because of tissue damage; victims may suffer from serious pain and infections and will need rehabilitation.
- Burns: Second- or third-degree burns can cause severe tissue and nerve damage and may lead to infection, leaving victims with lifelong pain and disfigurement.
- Internal injuries: Injury to organs, such as the liver, spleen, kidney, stomach, or intestines, can cause internal bleeding and may require multiple surgeries to repair.
In addition, trauma to the eyes, ears, or brain can result in partial or total loss of one of the senses, which can make life challenging for the victim.
More than two million Americans are currently living with limb loss. There are approximately 185,000 new amputations each year. Traumatic injury accounts for about 45 percent of amputations. Nearly half of amputees die of cardiovascular disease within five years of their amputation.
Statistically, one out of every 200 people in the United States has had an amputation. Many incidents of limb loss or amputations are the result of an accident, which is the second leading cause of limb loss behind vascular disease. Almost 70 percent of accident-related amputations involve the upper limbs, with men at a significantly higher risk. Traumatic amputations occur in a variety of ways, including automobile accidents, defective products, bicycling accidents, as well as workplace injuries.
Victims of catastrophic injuries typically spend prolonged periods of time in the hospital, followed by painful inpatient rehabilitation and physical therapy that can last for years. The injured party misses work during this time, and many are never able to return to their previous job. As such, medical costs associated with an amputation are equally immense. As noted, victims of traumatic amputation injuries require surgery, long stays in the hospital, followed by an extensive rehabilitation process. They also will require ongoing future medical care, including physical therapy, prosthetics, infectious disease, and orthopedic consulting costing millions of dollars. Moreover, the emotional and psychological toll of limb loss can require additional therapy and treatment. Furthermore, without the use of their lost limb, an amputee’s earning potential is forever changed and can result in loss of employment income. Depending on the nature of the amputation, modifications to the environment, such as the person’s home, may be necessary just so they can care for themselves. In certain instances, traumatic amputation may also result in the need to have full-time attendant care to help the victim with such routine tasks as going to the bathroom and brushing their teeth.
How Much Can Victims Receive for Catastrophic Injury Claims?
What a victim can collect in compensation as a result of a catastrophic injury can vary widely, depending on several circumstances. Every situation is different, and there is no guarantee that a lawsuit will be successful. The Fresno catastrophic injury lawyers at ACTS Law have collectively recovered more than $500 million for personal injury victims. The following represent examples of past cases that were successfully handled by our firm:
- More than $10.5 million for a plaintiff shot at a hotel
- In excess of $9 million to a bicyclist severely injured after being hit by a truck
- Nearly $3 million in a wrongful death suit against a tire manufacturer
- Approximately $1.5 million to a plaintiff struck by a left-turning vehicle
Product Liability and Defective Products
Annually, it costs Americans approximately $1 trillion in damages because of death and injuries caused by defective products, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC’s mission is to protect consumers from those products that present a risk of a fire, chemical, electrical, or chemical hazard. Here are some examples of wrongful death and injuries from defective products including:
- More than 1,060 fatalities were associated with engine-driven tools for over a 13-year period in the United States.
- From 2014 to 2016, there were 320 deaths associated with nursery products among children under five years old.
- More than 17 toy-related deaths and 226,100 toy-related injuries were reported in 2018.
A victim of a defective product or those close to the victim have the option of filing a case with the CPSC. However, there is no guarantee of satisfaction, as the CPSC does not have to pursue every case that is presented. For those who want to ensure that their case has merit, they should consult with a qualified catastrophic injury lawyer.
How Common are Catastrophic Injuries at Work?
The number of injuries that take place on an annual basis at work are calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The only disadvantage of those calculations is they do not consider the number of catastrophic injuries that take place. Despite that shortcoming, the numbers do break out totals for fatal and traumatic injuries. Totals for 2018 include the following:
- At least 5,250 fatal work injuries were reported in 2018, an increase of more than two percent compared to 2017.
- More than 255,000 traumatic injuries and disorders resulted in more than 30 days of missed work.
Some of the individuals who are most associated with a risk of facing a catastrophic injury include pilots, roofers, loggers, fishermen, and construction workers.
How Can a Catastrophic Injury Claim Help Victims?
One of the main factors that lead to a person suffering from a catastrophic injury can be the result of the negligent actions by one or more parties. Victims of catastrophic injury caused by negligence or willful endangerment can pursue legal action against those responsible. A catastrophic injury claim can help victims recover compensation for their suffering, including the following:
- Medical expenses: As previously noted, treatment for a catastrophic injury can be extremely costly, and many victims require lifelong care.
- Lost wages: Injuries this severe will often prevent the victim from returning to work and may require a loved one to leave their job to care for them.
- Pain and suffering: Victims of catastrophic injury often experience serious physical and emotional pain that may last a lifetime; they may also see changes in their quality of life, including loss of relationships and social standing, or loss of independence.
- Wrongful death: If the victim’s injuries were fatal, their family can pursue a wrongful death suit to recover compensation.
A catastrophic injury claim can result in substantially higher compensation than other personal injury claims, but they are also more complicated. In California, there are statutes of limitation for pursuing certain types of lawsuits.
Cost of Care in the Aftermath of Catastrophic Injuries
To care for a person’s needs after they suffer a catastrophic injury, they might require several types of services, equipment, and support systems. The costs of those services could be astronomical and could include paying for a combination of the following:
- Home renovations including ramps and bathroom remodeling
- Wheelchairs or other assistive devices
- Home nursing care
- Purchasing a handicapped-accessible van or paying for medical transport services
- Ongoing medical treatments
Some victims of catastrophic injuries might not have health insurance that will cover the costs. Some alternative options include Medicaid, which might be available at some cost. Medicaid covers about less than three percent of all catastrophic injury victims’ expenses.
Secondary conditions may also develop because of the primary catastrophic injury. These conditions may include the following:
- Digestive and gastrointestinal problems
- Cardiovascular problems because lack of circulation
- Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Specific secondary conditions that may arise because of paralysis from spinal cord injuries include the following:
- Autonomic dysreflexia, a rapid rise in blood pressure, which is potentially fatal
- Bladder and bowel problems, including urinary tract infections
- Muscle spasms and stiffness
Family members may also suffer fatigue and emotional distress because of the burdens of acting as caregivers and handling the ongoing disruption of normal daily life.
Sexual abuse of a child is a horrific crime that has both civil and criminal penalties. The young victim is left with lifelong feelings of doubt, despair, depression, and embarrassment. It only takes a single event of improper touching to cause prolonged emotional damage through adulthood.
Studies by the Crimes Against Children Research Center show that one in five girls and one in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. The Center found that during a particular one-year period in the United States, 16 percent of youth between the ages of 14 and 17 had been sexually victimized over the course of their lifetime, and that 28 percent of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized.
Other studies have found that three out of four adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well. There are several psychological side effects that result because of sexual abuse of children. The longer the abuse, the more rooted the problems. A child who endures prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness, and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults and can become suicidal.
Although there are criminal charges that the perpetrator will face, there are also other avenues that a victim can pursue to hold the perpetrator accountable for their actions. The victim can file a lawsuit against their attacker as well as that person’s employer under theories of negligent hiring, supervision, and training.
The reason why it makes sense to cite the employer as well as the perpetrator, to prevent the company or institution from being negligent in its hiring practices in the future to prevent future cases from occurring. Employers, supervisors, coworkers, and other adults may also hold some responsibility for these horrific acts. These individuals may have failed to conduct sufficient background checks, investigate complaints, or report suspicious behavior to law enforcement.
What Are Common Causes of Catastrophic Injuries?
There are many ways a catastrophic injury can occur, including the following:
- Birth injury
- Car or motorcycle accident
- Construction accidents
- Defective products
- Exposure to hazardous materials
- Medical malpractice
- Pedestrian accidents
- Prescription errors
- Public transportation accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Sports or recreational accidents
- Truck accidents
The leading causes of catastrophic injuries are vehicular accidents, workplace accidents, and violent incidents, including those involving firearms.
How is Negligence Determined in California?
Under California’s civil code, a person can be considered negligent if they caused an injury to another person because of want of ordinary care or skill in the management of their own property or person. If a person through their own reasonable skill, care, or judgment should have foreseen that their actions could have led to causing harm to another person, the court can consider that that person was negligent in the injury sustained by the victim. California is not unique in its definition of negligence. However, laws in different states vary when it comes to dealing with both parties when they are at fault. The major difference has to do with the way each state requires the parties to share the negligence responsibility.
Comparative negligence is allowed for under California’s civil code when both the victim and any other parties share fault with the cause of the injury. Under those rules, the involved parties share not only the responsibility, but also the costs of the rewards. For instance, if a plaintiff is 40 percent at fault and the defendant 60 percent at fault, the plaintiff may be ordered to pay 40 percent of the defendant’s damages and the defendant may be ordered to pay 60 percent of the plaintiff’s damages.
Changes are always taking place at the state level, meaning that how California and other states deal with comparative negligence could change yearly. Given that uncertainty, those who have suffered a catastrophic injury should seek the advice from an experienced lawyer who is knowledgeable and will help victims obtain the best possible outcome for their case. Although financial compensation cannot undo the suffering endured by victims and their families, it can help relieve one’s financial burden so they can focus on rebuilding their lives.
How Much Time is Allowed to File a Case?
In California, a victim of a catastrophic injury or the family members of a person killed has two years to file a lawsuit from the time of the accident. A person has standing in a lawsuit if they are involved in an action that includes an assault, battery, or injury to or death of an individual that was caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another.
Should a person attempt to file their case after the two-year timeframe has expired, they will automatically lose the case unless they can demonstrate extraordinary or unusual circumstances; even in these cases, the victim will have to provide a significantly convincing argument.
If a person plans to file a case against an entity of the city, county, or state government, the timeframe is only six months or 180 days.
Fresno Catastrophic Injury Lawyers at ACTS Law Work to Obtain Fair Compensation for Accident Victims
If you or a loved one suffered a catastrophic injury, reach out to the Fresno catastrophic injury lawyers at ACTS Law. We have the knowledge and resources to reconstruct the circumstances of your case and fight to ensure that you are receiving the appropriate compensation to which you are entitled. Our legal team has vast experience in these types of cases, and we are dedicated to making this process as easy as possible. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAW or contact us online.
With offices in San Diego and Los Angeles, we serve clients throughout Southern California.