What is Considered a Catastrophic Injury?


Getting involved in an accident is traumatic. It not only affects a person’s mental health, but in worst-case scenarios, it completely changes the entire course of their life because of a catastrophic injury. Those who suffer from this type of injury face challenges with daily activities like maintaining a job, being self-sufficient and leading a normal life. They can also cause significant impacts on a person’s emotional and psychological well-being such as depression, higher levels of anxiety, feelings of hopelessness and anger. 

If your loved one is suffering from a catastrophic injury, hiring highly qualified personal injury attorneys will help ensure that he or she, along with his or her entire family, will be well-compensated depending on the type of catastrophic injury he or she sustained.

Let us define what a catastrophic injury is and what makes it different from other types of injuries.

Defining catastrophic injury

Unlike any other type of injuries that a person can obtain from an accident, such as cuts or bruises, catastrophic injuries are life-threatening by nature. They have severe effects that permanently alter a person’s quality of life and will likely require lifelong medical care or assistance.

In general, catastrophic injuries lead to a person’s permanent disability or disfigurement. These injuries are physically, emotionally, and financially devastating. They may result in the victim’s inability to earn wages and provide for their family.

A person who suffers from a catastrophic injury is not only the victim, but their entire household also suffers. Due to the nature of the catastrophic injury, the victims may require care from their family members or professional home care, which will add up to their finances.

What are considered catastrophic injuries?

From the word itself, injuries that are catastrophic (which implies great damage or suffering) cause severe trauma to the body’s most critical areas. These injuries occur after car accidents, slip or fall that causes severe head injury, and any other form of mishaps.

The following are types of injuries that are classified catastrophic, including but not limited to:

  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). TBI is a type of brain injury that is fatal. It is caused by an external force, oxygen deprivation, or an object penetrating the head, causing serious damage to the skull. Effects of TBI can result in long-term complications such as inability to move and other medical conditions.
  • Spinal cord injury (SCI). SCI is arguably the most destructive type of catastrophic injury because it damages the body’s central nervous system. SCI happens when there is a disruption to the cells and nerves that send and receive signals from the brain to the rest of the body. People who suffer SCI experience paralysis from the area of the injury downward.
  • Amputations. It is the intentional surgical removal of a limb or any body part to remove dead tissue or relieve pain acquired from a traumatic injury. Amputees often suffer from depression of the life-long feeling of being ‘incomplete’ even with the existence of prosthetics.
  • Severe burn injuries. Considered the most painful type of injury wherein the nerve endings are damaged, resulting in the loss of feeling to the affected area. It also requires the most extensive medical care because of the victim’s vulnerability to infection and disfigurement.

How are settlements calculated in a catastrophic injury case?

Due to the nature of catastrophic injuries that affects the victim’s quality of life, settlements can be quite high. But, no two injuries can  be exactly the same. Generalizing about settlement amounts is very difficult and can be misleading. That being said, there are some common factors that affect settlement amounts that apply to most catastrophic injury cases. In order to properly structure a settlement for a catastrophic injury you need to consider several factors including:

  • How did the accident occur? Was it a car crash, job related injury or caused by someone else’s negligence and so on.
  • How bad is the injured person’s overall condition? What are their limitations and capabilities and how will they affect the settlement value?
  • Who were involved in the accident and what was their role? A multi-party accident can be complex and make it much more difficult to reach a settlement.
  • What was the injured party’s medical condition before the accident? This factor can significantly affect the overall value of a settlement. If there were pre-existing injuries or problems, these would have to be considered in order to properly structure a proper settlement.
  • What is the injured party’s age? Age can often influence how a settlement will play out in an injury case. For example, young people with catastrophic injuries are usually compensated better than older people in similar situations.
  • What exactly caused the accident? Many factors could have played into the cause of the accident, including poor roadway conditions, the weather or driver negligence. 

Some of these factors may seem unfair or unfortunate but that’s just the nature of such cases. Don’t try to negotiate or settle on your own. Remember, the more serious the injury is, the more likely it will require higher compensation. 

Hire a qualified personal injury attorney who can help you determine compensation based on the total medical expenses, including future expenses, estimated lost wages, and loss of earning capacity. They will also determine the amount of pain and suffering in order for the victim to receive the accurate financial support needed by the damage and expenses brought by the injury.

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