Those who endure catastrophic injuries experience a life-changing events that can end with permanent disability and, sometimes, death. The long-lasting ramifications of a catastrophic injury drastically affect the victim, as well as their family. The needs of the victim after a catastrophic injury are often extensive, and may include:
- Repeated hospitalization and surgeries
- Purchase of assistive devices, such as wheelchairs or handicapped-accessible systems
- Treatment for chronic pain
- Counseling for depression
An elongated disability period could result in a loss of income coming 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 help. Victims are urged to contact a qualified catastrophic injury lawyer for assistance.
What is a Catastrophic Injury?
There are various medical, and legal, definitions for catastrophic injury. The California Labor Code calls a catastrophic injury 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 cause 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:
- 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 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 sens, which can make life challenging for the victim.
How Can a Catastrophic Injury Claim Help Victims?
One or more parties can cause a person to suffer from a catastrophic injury because of their negligence. Those who find themselves the victim of a catastrophic injury because of 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 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, and loss of independence.
- Wrongful death: If the victim’s injuries were fatal, their family can pursue a wrongful death suit to recover compensation.
A person can anticipate a significantly higher claim if they file a catastrophic injury claim as opposed to a standard personal injury claim, but they are also more complicated. In California, there are statutes of limitation for pursuing certain types of lawsuits.
Products Liability and Defective Products
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that on average, Americans spend about $1 trillion per year because of deaths and injuries that occur from defective products. The CPSC was created to protect consumers from defective products that pose a risk from a fire, chemical, electrical, or chemical hazard. Examples of wrongful death and injuries from defective products include:
- Over 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.
- Over 17 toy-related deaths and 226,100 toy-related injuries were reported in 2018.
The CPSC is also a place where victims can file a claim if a person has been hurt because of a defective product or by the family of a person killed by a defective product. However, just because a claim is filed with the CPSC does not mean that the Commission will pursue it. It may elect not to act on the case for various reasons. For those victims who wonder if their case is worth litigation, they should consult with a qualified lawyer.
Who is Liable for Compensating Victims Injured by Defective Products?
When a defective product causes an injury, multiple parties in the distribution chain might be held liable, including:
- Product manufacturers
- Manufacturers of components
- The designer of any part of the product
- Companies that assemble and/or modify the product
- Wholesalers or distributors
Just before a person files a product liability case, it is important for the victim and their lawyers to identify all the potentially liable parties to ensure that all entitled compensation can be recovered. If multiple parties share the burden of the responsibility for the product that caused harm, it falls under the theory of joint and several liability. If one defendant lacks the financial resources to pay, the others must make up the difference.
Identifying liable parties can be a complicated situation for the victim and their legal team. There are various spots along the production line when a defect could have been introduced to a product or when someone could have missed a problem.
Manufacturers employ various quality control processes to ensure products are produced and assembled correctly. Outside consultants may be brought in at any point, and their liability should be investigated. Retailers and distributors may also be held accountable, particularly if they are found to have sold or distributed products that were recalled by the CPSC.
How is Negligence Determined in California?
The laws of California state that a person is seemed responsible for causing someone else’s injury by want of ordinary care or skill in the management of their own property or person. That means that if the person should have to take reasonable care, skill, or judgment could have prevented the possibility of causing the harm to someone, the defendant can be found to have been negligent. Most states have similar definitions of negligence. However, when both parties are partially at fault, state laws vary in interpreting how much negligence is shared.
In California, its code allows for what is called comparative negligence, which means that all the parties found to bear responsibility for the accident share the costs for the injury on the same percentage basis. It could even include the victim of the injury themselves. As an example, if the plaintiff if found to be responsible for 30 percent of the accident and the defendant found to be 70 percent responsible, the defendant will be ordered to pay 70 percent of the plaintiff’s damages.
Laws are always changing, so what is true for state law one year could be different the following year. Those who have suffered from catastrophic injuries and are looking for legal relief should seek an experienced lawyer who knows the law to ensure they obtain the best outcome for their case. Although 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.
Sexual abuse of a child is one of the more horrific crimes, and it has both civil and criminal penalties. The victimized child is left with lifelong feelings of doubt, despair, depression, and embarrassment. It takes a single event only 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 and during 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 sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well. Several psychological side effects 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 sue their attacker as well as that person’s employer under theories of negligent hiring, supervision, and training.
The reason why it makes sense to take action against the employer as well as the perpetrator is 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.
How Common Are Catastrophic Injuries at Work?
An annual calculation of injuries that take place within the workplace is kept by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although thorough, the numbers do fail to consider the number of catastrophic injuries that take place per year. The numbers do differentiate the totals for fatal and traumatic injuries. Those numbers for 2018 include:
- At least 5,250 fatal work injuries were reported in 2018, an increase of over two percent compared with 2017.
- Over 255,000 traumatic injuries and disorders resulted in more than 30 days of missed work.
Several occupations face a high risk of catastrophic injury over other professions. Those workers at higher risk include pilots, roofers, loggers, fishermen, and construction workers.
Secondary conditions may also develop because of the primary catastrophic injury. These conditions may include:
- Digestive and gastrointestinal problems
- Heart problems because of 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:
- 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.
Cost of Care in the Aftermath of Catastrophic Injuries
It might take a multi-pronged effort to handle the needs of a catastrophic injury. Victims could require several types of services, equipment, and support systems. The cost of care can be tremendous, and may include paying for any combination of:
- 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
Many victims might not have health insurance that will help defray the costs of those expenses. One option for them could be Medicaid. However, less than about three percent of all catastrophic injury victims are covered by Medicaid.
How Much Can Victims Receive for Catastrophic Injury Claims?
No two cases are the same, so the amount of money that a victim of a catastrophic injury can expect to claim varies depending on the situation. Because cases have different circumstances and different juries, there are no guarantees about the outcome.
The experienced Sacramento catastrophic injury lawyers at ACTS Law have a proven track record of getting results. The firm has 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
- More than $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
How Much Time Do Victims Have to File a Case?
In California, a victim of a catastrophic injury or the family members of a person killed, has two years to sue from the time of the accident. A person has standing a lawsuit if they are involved in an action that includes an assault, battery, or injury to or death of an individual 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. However, even in those situations, the victim must present a significantly convincing argument.
If a victim plans to file a case against an entity of the city, county, or state government, the timeframe is only six months or 180 days.
What Are Common Causes of Catastrophic Injuries?
There are many ways a catastrophic injury can occur, including:
- 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.
Sacramento Catastrophic Injury Lawyers at ACTS Law Work to Obtain Fair Compensation for Accident Victims
If you or a loved one suffered a catastrophic injury, you are urged to contact the Sacramento catastrophic injury lawyers at ACTS Law. We have the knowledge and resources to reconstruct the circumstances of your case, and we will fight to ensure that you are receiving the appropriate compensation to which you are entitled. Our team is 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 proudly serve clients throughout Southern California.