17 Sep What is a Catastrophic Injury: Understanding How Catastrophic Injury Relates to Personal Injury
When a law firm says that they specialize in personal injury, they often include catastrophic injuries although many might wonder exactly what a catastrophic injury is in relation to personal injuries. You may have heard of a personal injury and wondered the same thing. Today, the Law Offices of William D. Shapiro will consider the following 1) What is a catastrophic injury and it differs from a personal injury 2) What is a catastrophic injury vs. a non-catastrophic injury 3) Examples of catastrophic injuries and 4) Whether to pursue a settlement or go to trial. But, first, let us consider some statistics:
- Approximately 54 people per million in the U.S. suffer a spinal cord injury each year (about 17,000). A spinal cord injury (SCI) could result in limited movement or total paralysis.
- Nearly 2 million people in the U.S. live with limb loss, and approximately 185,000 amputations occur each year nationwide.
- Nearly 500,000 people on average are treated in hospitals each year for burn injuries. A severe burn injury could cause permanent disfigurement and many are catastrophic injuries.
- The U.S. saw 2.87 million traumatic brain injury (TBI) hospitalizations in 2014, according to the most recent statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A TBI could cause cognition, memory, movement, behavior, and speech issues.
What A Catastrophic Injury Is & How It Differs From A Personal Injury
To start things off, the phrase ‘personal injury’ is all-encompassing for an injury incurred to a person’s physical, mental, or emotional being. Personal injuries are caused by the negligent actions of another and can prompt a lawsuit. However, with particular severity, a personal injury is awarded an entirely different name — one that is suitable for the devastation it describes. This subcategory of personal injury is referred to as a catastrophic injury.
Understanding What a Catastrophic Injury Is
One can imagine the implications of the word “catastrophic” when used to describe a person’s condition. The general definition of the word is involving or causing sudden great damage or suffering: 1 extremely unfortunate or unsuccessful; 2 involving a sudden and large-scale alteration in state. With that in mind, the exact definition of a catastrophic injury is a bit nebulous because the law is involved. As a result, we are left wondering what might distinguish an injury that falls under the personal category from an injury that falls into the category of being catastrophic.
The generally accepted definition of a catastrophic injury in law and medicine suggests that it is an injury where the victim is left in a state of being unable to carry out their expected work for an extended time. It might also indicate that this individual has significantly lost their quality of life. They are no longer able to enjoy their favorite activities, they have lost much of their independence, and they cannot work. In the simpler terms of the Arnold & Itkin law firm, a catastrophic injury is an injury that is so serious that its effects leave the victim with permanent damage. Yes, catastrophic injury means that the injury is so devastating that it has completely changed a person’s life.
What Is A Catastrophic Injury Versus A Non-Catastrophic Injury
Elliott Insurance Services clarifies whether a person has suffered a catastrophic injury or not. Consider how ‘minor injuries’ are related to such injuries:
✓ A catastrophic injury is a serious and life-threatening injury. It may involve the loss of use of limbs, complete loss of eyesight, as well as other very serious injuries.
✓ A non-catastrophic injury is essentially an injury that is less severe than the catastrophic injury but also does not fall into the minor injury category. (See below)
✓ A minor injury is defined as a sprain, strain, whiplash associated disorder, contusion, abrasion, laceration or subluxation (incomplete or partial dislocation of a joint or organ), and any clinically associated sequelae. This term is to be interpreted to apply where a person sustains any one or more of these injuries.
Examples of a Catastrophic Injury
There are countless possible causes of catastrophic injury. Some of the common causes of catastrophic injuries are listed per the Injury Verdicts website:
Car accidents ● Workplace accidents ● Truck accidents ● Bicycle accidents
Falls from heights ● Sport and recreational activities ● Construction accidents
Medical mistakes ● Defective medical devices or drugs
Some examples of a catastrophic injury include traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, loss of limb, severe burns, and organ damage. They are often caused by motor vehicle accidents, motorcycle accidents, and trucking accidents or by the negligence, carelessness, or recklessness of another individual. Other frequent causes include construction and swimming pool accidents, defective medical devices, and consumer products.
- Traumatic brain injury can result in life-long cognitive dysfunction, abnormal speech and language, emotional difficulties, and limited ability to move their arms and legs.
- Spinal cord injury can result in partial or complete paralysis, respiratory and circulatory problems, exaggerated reflexes and spasms, chronic pain, loss of bowel and bladder control.
- Limb loss in an accident can cause tremendous physical and emotional challenges for the amputee and his or her loved ones.
- A severe burn injury can cause infections, limb loss, disfigurement, and permanent disability depending on the location and extent of the burns.
- Ruptured kidneys, spleen, liver or bowels from a car crash or other accident can cause internal bleeding, which can be life-threatening.
With such a severe injury, the victim is subject to compounding consequences. Without work, they often continue the rest of their life without wages, benefits, or the enjoyment of regular life. They are often burdened by enormous medical, rehab, and therapy bills and are required to learn how to function with new limitations. And, in the worst cases, some might have lost their physical and cognitive abilities to such a degree that they cannot function at all. These circumstances prompt good reason to seek full compensation for these victims.
Particularly, catastrophic injury cases involve significantly higher damages than that of a typical personal injury. This compensation offers the catastrophically injured victim some financial stability in the wake of their physical and mental pain and suffering.
Settlement or Trial?
After each personal injury lawsuit case is filed, this leads to either settlement or trial. I-Lawsuit breaks down the differences between these two methods, if you choose to file a catastrophic injury claim.
A settlement is where you and your lawyer agree to terms with the other side so the case can be settled out of court. If a mutual agreement can be made, the case will never see the inside of the courtroom which is often the best thing for both parties. This happens in most personal injury lawsuits. However, if your attorney feels that the other side is not offering a fair settlement offer, he or she may end up taking your case to trial.
Trials can be a lengthy process, at times even lasting years. Trials can be stressful and to the attorney who is handling your case this can be very expensive, but it can be worth it when it comes down to getting a fair amount of money for your lawsuit. This is why it is important to hire a lawyer who specializes in catastrophic injuries and has trial experience and who will be willing to take your case to trial if it is required in order to get you the money you deserve.
Some lawyers never have any intent on going to trial and you can count on the insurance company knowing that fact. If the insurance company has no fear of going to trial, they know they can offer less than they would to a lawyer who will take cases to trial. For this reason, it’s in your best interest to hire a lawyer who will take your case all the way to trial if the insurance company is not offering you fair value for your claim.
Helping You With Your Catastrophic Concerns
The Law Offices of William D. Shapiro has decades of experience in advocating for those who have suffered a catastrophic loss. The Law Offices of William D. Shapiro works tirelessly, sparing no expense, to represent these matters which are often complicated, time-consuming, and expensive. The Law Offices of William D. Shapiro represents injured clients on a contingency basis, meaning you do not pay unless (and until) we recover everything you deserve on your behalf.
During these challenging times, the Shapiro team hopes to offer you compassion and the prospect of a brighter future. If you or a loved one has experienced such devastation, please do not hesitate to give us a call for exceptional legal counsel and representation.