Catastrophic injuries are life-changing events that result in permanent disability and, in some cases, death. The lasting consequences of a catastrophic injury profoundly affect the victim, as well as the spouses, partners, dependents, caregivers, close friends, and relatives. The needs of the victim after a catastrophic injury may include the following:
- Repeated hospitalization and surgeries
- Purchase of assistive devices, such as wheelchairs or handicapped-accessible systems
- Treatment for chronic pain
- Counseling for depression
An extended period of disability may also result in a loss of income at a time when medical bills are mounting. Given the immense physical, emotional, and financial toll exacted by catastrophic injuries, it is in the best interest of victims and their families to seek professional legal assistance.
What is a Catastrophic Injury?
There are various medical, as well as legal definitions for catastrophic injury. 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. The lasting effects of five common catastrophic injuries include the following:
- Traumatic brain injury: 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 machines to breathe.
- Amputation: Serious accidents may result in loss of limb, either at the scene or later due to 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.
Secondary conditions may also develop because of the primary catastrophic injury. These conditions may include the following:
- Digestive and gastrointestinal problems
- Heart problems due to lack of circulation
- Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Specific secondary conditions that may arise due to 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 due to the burdens of acting as caregivers and handling the ongoing disruption of normal daily life.
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.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries are often caused by a sudden violent blow to the head or spine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1.5 million people experience traumatic brain injury in the US each year.
More than 80,000 people experience long-term disability and 50,000 victims will die from traumatic brain injury. It is estimated that more than five million Americans are currently living with a permanent disability related to brain injury.
Spinal Cord Injuries
There are nearly 18,000 cases of spinal cord injury each year. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of spinal cord injury in the U.S. Although these types of injuries can happen to anyone, men, especially between the ages of 16 and 30, are more at risk for spinal cord injuries. In the U.S., females account for only one in five of reported traumatic spinal cord injuries. Engaging in high-risk activities, including contact sports, increases the probability of catastrophic injury.
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 from cardiovascular disease within five years of their amputation.
Product Liability and Defective Products
Deaths and injuries from defective products cost Americans more than $1 trillion annually, according to the opens in a new windowConsumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC is charged with protecting consumers from products that post risk of a fire, chemical, electrical, or chemical hazard. Examples of wrongful death and injuries from defective products include the following:
- More than 1,060 fatalities were associated with engine-driven tools for over a 13-year period in the U.S.
- 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
If you or someone you know was injured by a defective product, you may file a complaint with the CPSC. However, the agency is not obligated to investigate your claim. To determine the validity and potential value of your claim, contact a qualified personal injury lawyer.
How Common are Catastrophic Injuries at Work?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks the number of work injuries reported each year. Although the BLS does not count catastrophic injuries per se, it does 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
Occupations facing a high risk of catastrophic injury include pilots, roofers, loggers, fishermen, and construction workers.
Cost of Care in the Aftermath of Catastrophic Injuries
Addressing the needs of a catastrophic injury victim may require multiple types of services, equipment, and support systems. The cost of care can be substantial, and may include paying for any 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
Patients may not have health insurance to cover these costs. Medicaid may be available to cover some costs, however, less than three percent of catastrophic injury victims are covered by Medicaid.
How Can a Catastrophic Injury Claim Help Victims?
A catastrophic injury may be the result of 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:
- 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 injured party 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 limitations for pursuing certain types of lawsuits.
How Much Can Victims Receive for Catastrophic Injury Claims?
The amount of money a victim obtains for a catastrophic injury claim will vary widely. Each case is different, and results of a lawsuit cannot be guaranteed. The experienced attorneys at Abir Cohen Treyzon Salo, LLP 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:
How is Negligence Determined in California?
opens in a new windowCalifornia civil code specifies that individuals are responsible for injury caused to another by want of ordinary care or skill in the management of their own property or person. In other words, if a defendant, using reasonable care, skill, or judgement, should have foreseen the possibility of causing harm to someone, then the defendant may be found to have been negligent. Most states have very similar definitions of negligence. However, when both parties are partially at-fault, state laws vary in interpreting the degree to which negligence is shared.
California’s civil code allows for comparative negligence in situations where both parties are partially at-fault. For example, if the 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.
State laws are always subject to change. Victims of catastrophic injuries should seek the counsel of an experienced attorney who knows the law to ensure they obtain the best possible outcome for their case. While financial compensation cannot undo the suffering endured by victims and their families, it can help relieve the financial burden so they can focus on rebuilding their lives.
Los Angeles Catastrophic Injury Lawyers at Abir Cohen Treyzon Salo, LLP Work to Obtain Maximum Compensation for Accident Victims
If you or a loved one suffered a catastrophic injury, call the Los Angeles catastrophic injury lawyers at Abir Cohen Treyzon Salo, LLP. We have the knowledge and resources to reconstruct the circumstances of your case and fight to ensure that you are receiving the maximum compensation to which you are entitled. With offices conveniently located in Los Angeles and San Diego, we provide comprehensive representation throughout southern California. Call us today at or contact us online for a free consultation.