What Injuries are Considered Catastrophic?
When it comes to personal injury cases, a wide range of injuries can cause considerable pain and discomfort, and may even require surgery, physical therapy, and additional medical care. However, some injuries are so severe that they are in a class of their own. Catastrophic injuries are those that cause permanent disabilities, disfigurements, or fatalities. Besides the physical pain these devastating injuries cause, there are significant emotional and financial consequences. Although there is no official legal definition of a catastrophic injury, there are several factors that would likely categorize an injury as catastrophic, including those that cause severe and permanent harm resulting from another person’s negligence.
What Qualifies an Injury as Catastrophic?
An injury is often considered catastrophic if it prevents the victim from maintaining a job or carry out basic daily responsibilities. The individual can no longer support his or her family financially, or act as the primary caregiver if the victim cannot drive, cook meals, or perform other tasks necessary to care for a family. Catastrophic injuries have a profound and often permanent impact on the injured party, as well as their families. These factors make catastrophic injuries unique compared with other personal injury cases:
- Greater potential for financial loss: Because catastrophic injuries are so devastating, the recovery process can be slow, painful, and frustrating. Often, the victim is left with permanent deficits, life-altering impairments, and disabilities. While damages will vary based on the circumstances of the injury, all catastrophic injuries result in significant physical, financial, and emotional losses. Injury victims may be eligible for these damages:
– Medical care, including emergency treatment, surgeries, other medical procedures, prescription medications, physical therapy, and rehabilitation
– Future medical needs, including additional surgeries, medical monitoring, medical devices, and in-home assistance
– Lost income resulting from being unable to return to work
– Loss of future wages caused by a diminished earning capacity from being unable to return to work permanently, or unable to return to the same job
– Financial losses resulting from family member who must take off from work or take over the expenses related to the injury
- Long-term repercussions: Catastrophic injury victims face a long, difficult road to recovery. Unfortunately, many suffer permanent impairments and disabilities, including:
– Temporary or partial disability
– Loss of vision, hearing, or other bodily functions
– Permanent disfigurement
– Memory problems, impaired mobility, or other physical or cognitive issues
- Higher stakes lead to greater challenges: Catastrophic injury victims require substantial financial compensation because of their injuries, which can make these cases more complex:
– Insurance companies want to pay as little as possible. They may argue that the victim was partially responsible for causing the accident or challenge the settlement amount.
– Expert testimonies may be used by the plaintiff and the defendant because of the compensation involved in catastrophic injury cases. A medical expert may testify that the victim’s injuries are severe, and that they prevent him or her from working and living independently.
- More likely that the case will go to trial: Because these cases have much higher stakes, they are more likely to be litigated in court. This often happens when the defendant refuses to offer a fair settlement amount, or any compensation.
What are Examples of Catastrophic Injuries?
If an individual suffers any of the following, the injury will likely be considered catastrophic:
- Skull and spinal injuries: These can cause damage to the brain and spinal cord.
- Spinal cord injuries that result in partial or total paralysis: This is one of the most devastating catastrophic injuries because they are permanent.
- Loss of a limb: This is a devastating and life-changing injury that may require the victim to be fitted with a prosthetic.
- Severe burn injuries: These are extremely painful and can cause long-term mobility issues, as well as being disfiguring.
- Injuries that cause significant scarring or disfigurement. These injuries are challenging to treat, involving time and expense.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) or other severe head injuries: These impact the victim’s cognition, memory, speech, emotions, and sensations. They can cause permanent disabilities that require long-term care.
- Organ damage: Permanent organ damage will require ongoing medical care and can compromise the individual’s quality of life.
- Exposure to hazardous chemicals: Certain chemicals can cause severe burns to the skin, mouth, throat, and lungs. Others can increase the risk for cancer and other serious health conditions.
What are the Most Common Causes of Catastrophic Injuries?
There are several scenarios that can cause a catastrophic accident, but many are the result of negligence. The following are examples of some of the most common cause of catastrophic injuries:
- Car accidents: A range of unsafe driving behavior, including distracted driving, drunk driving, speeding, and reckless driving, can cause devastating car accidents that cause the vehicle occupants to suffer severe, life-threatening injuries. When a pedestrian is involved, the injuries can be particularly
- Motorcycle accidents: These accidents are particularly severe because there is nothing protecting the motorcyclist from the force of impact. If the person riding the motorcycle was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, the injuries can be devastating, if not fatal.
- Truck accidents: These are some of the most serious accidents and often cause catastrophic injuries to the occupants of the passenger vehicles involved in the accident. The most devastating truck accidents include head-on collisions, side underride accidents, and rear underride accidents. These are almost always fatal, but if the victim survives, their injuries are catastrophic.
- Medical malpractice: When a health care provider fails to provide the standard of care, the patient can suffer serious injuries. Catastrophic injuries can occur when a surgeon operates on the wrong body part, on the wrong patient, or if the surgeon leaves a surgical instrument inside the patient.
- Slip and fall accidents: These accidents can cause catastrophic injuries if the victims fall from a balcony, a broken staircase, or other elevated surface. If the property owner failed to make the necessary repairs or install railings, he or she may be held liable for the victim’s injuries.
- Workplace accidents: There are many workplace accidents that can cause catastrophic injuries, including getting crushed by heavy equipment, falling from scaffolding, getting struck by a falling object, and a machine that does not have the appropriate safety guards, resulting in an amputation injury. These accidents can cause a third-party liability claim for damages.
How Do I Prove that My Injury is Catastrophic?
To prove liability for a catastrophic injury, it is highly recommended that the injured victim obtains copies of all medical records related to the injury, as well as police reports if the injury was caused by a car accident, and testimonials from witnesses who were there when the accident happened. Catastrophic injuries can involve physical, emotional, and cognitive impairments, all of which have a significant impact on one’s quality of life. The more evidence that the victim can provide, the more likely it is that the claim will have a successful outcome. A skilled catastrophic injury lawyer will address all the victim’s questions and concerns and recommend the best legal source of action.
What Damages May I Receive for a Catastrophic Injury?
Individuals who suffer a catastrophic injury are entitled to the following damages:
- Medical costs associated with the injury
- Lost wages, including loss of future earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death if the injury results in a fatality
- Punitive damages, which punish the negligent individual if his or her behavior was egregious
When determining a settlement amount, the lawyers from both sides must thoroughly understand the current and future medical treatment required, whether the victim can return to work, anticipated costs of long-term care, and the victim’s pain and suffering. In addition, the victim’s legal team must anticipate the long-term impact that the injury may have on the victim and take those costs into consideration when negotiating a settlement. The other party’s insurance company may make an offer that sounds like a lot of money. However, it may not come close to covering the costs associated with future medical treatments that may be necessary, ongoing physical therapy, or long-term care. A skilled catastrophic injury lawyer will advocate for the client, reject any lump-sum offers that are too low, and negotiate the best possible settlement amount, or try the case in court if necessary.
Los Angeles Catastrophic Injury Lawyers at ACTS Law Seek Justice for Victims of Catastrophic Injuries
If you or a loved one suffered a catastrophic injury in a car accident, truck accident, workplace accident, or any other serious accident, please contact the Los Angeles catastrophic injury lawyers at ACTS Law. We understand the devastation these injuries cause, and how crucial it is that you receive the financial compensation necessary to obtain the care you need. Our dedicated and compassionate legal team will explain every step of the claims process and address all your questions and concerns. We will not stop fighting for you until we reach the best outcome. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at or contact us online.
With offices in San Diego and Los Angeles, we proudly serve clients throughout Southern California.