What’s the Difference Between Catastrophic Injuries and Other Personal Injuries?
Many people use the term “catastrophic injuries” to apply to any personal injury case. However, catastrophic injuries are a special type of severe injuries with life-changing consequences. Catastrophic injury cases are far more complex than other personal injury cases, so it is important for victims and their families to work with an attorney who appreciates what is involved and the steps needed to protect the future of all those affected.
Understanding the Terms
A personal injury is considered to be any damage to someone’s physical body, mind, or emotions. However, a catastrophic injury is a type of personal injury that is unusually serious. In most cases, catastrophic injuries never fully heal, and they create challenges the victims must live with for the rest of their lives.
Often, a catastrophic injury leaves the victim unable to live a normal life. They may not be able to work or even care for daily needs. This is in contrast to many personal injuries where the victim often struggles for a considerable time but eventually returns to a life similar to what they experienced before the injury.
Catastrophic Injuries Can Take Many Forms
Although some definitions of catastrophic injuries refer to damage to the brain or central nervous system, in legal terms, injuries to any part of the body can be considered catastrophic when they leave lasting long-term consequences.
A simple injury taken to the extreme can become catastrophic. For instance, a severe burn to the arm from a motorcycle accident is a personal injury that could require months of treatment and pain and leave lasting scars but not prevent the victim from eventually returning to work and normal life. If the burns cover a large portion of the victim’s body, however, or disfigure the victim’s face, the victim may never recover physically or emotionally. Pain is often chronic. Physical and mental scarring could leave them unable to work and unwilling to engage socially. The burns have become catastrophic injuries.
Other examples of catastrophic injuries include:
- Cerebral palsy and other birth injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Paralysis and other spinal cord injuries
- Loss of hearing or sight
- Internal organ damage
- Fractured and crushed bones
It is not the type of injury so much as the severity that makes it catastrophic. These injuries can result from accidents such as a slip and fall or car accident, or they can result from professional mistakes such as anesthesia errors or other forms of medical malpractice.
Long-Term Effects of Catastrophic Injuries
Catastrophic injuries cause long-term impacts that most other personal injuries do not. Often, the victim of a catastrophic injury will require specialized medical care for the rest of their lives. In addition, the victim may need assistance with regular daily living tasks such as getting dressed or managing finances. They are often entirely dependent on others for transportation, housing, and food preparation. Their ability to work is either very limited or completely erased. An attorney seeking compensation for the victim of a catastrophic injury will need to calculate the costs of all of these losses and future needs.
In addition, the mental and emotional impact on the victim and their family cannot be underestimated. The victim and others who witnessed the injury often suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and other debilitating conditions. Dreams and goals change drastically not only for the victim but for those who must rearrange their lives to care for the victim. This puts a huge strain on relationships and often leads to divorce.
Damages in Catastrophic Injury Cases
Can you put a price on the pain and suffering caused by a catastrophic injury? How do you set a value for a lifetime of lost opportunities? Unfortunately, the only remedy available through the legal system is monetary compensation.
A damage award can provide funds to pay for medical needs, care providers, and modifications to the home and vehicles. Damages can also make up for lost and reduced wages for the victim and family. Often the largest portion of a damage award provides compensation for intangible losses such as emotional anguish, pain, and loss of enjoyment. Attorneys and courts calculate a value for these losses based on legal precedent.
Work with the Experienced Attorneys at Levine Law
When you or a loved one suffer a catastrophic injury, the right legal advisor can help take away some of the burden. Your lawyer can deal with insurance companies and investigators, gather evidence to support your claim and take all the necessary steps to help get you the full compensation you deserve so that you can focus on rebuilding a new life.