What Is A Catastrophic Personal Injury?

Last updated on: October 4, 2022

At Zinda Law Group we understand that every injury is catastrophic to the person dealing with it. We represent claimants with all types of injuries, and we zealously advocate for each one of our clients. To speak with an experienced personal injury attorney and receive a 100 percent free case evaluation call (800) 863-5312 today.

Our attorneys understand that you might feel stressed and alone after an accident. After an accident, especially a catastrophic one, your focus should be on your health and well-being. If you have suffered such injuries, the attorneys from Zinda Law Group are here to help evaluate your claim and provide information regarding your legal options. 

What Is a Catastrophic Injury?

The term ‘catastrophic injuries,’ most often refers to serious injuries to the spine, spinal cord, or brain, but can also include fractures of the skull or spine. This is a subset of the American Medical Association‘s definition of the word ‘catastrophic harm,’ which is used in legal contexts.

What Is A Catastrophic Personal Injury Claim?

Catastrophic claims refer to a legal concept that describes extreme physical and life-altering injuries. We have cases with individuals that suffer burns to most of their body or unfortunate incidents where the family members have died because of negligence. While each case is unique, a catastrophic personal injury claim usually entails detailed and arduous litigation.

In these types of cases, the victim has most likely suffered serious impairments that affect their day-to-day life. Such impairments prevent them from returning to work and leave them facing expensive medical costs. In addition to the injury itself is the potential for reduced life expectancy, leaving claimants wondering whether their family will be financially secure in the event of their passing.

What’s The Difference Between A Catastrophic Injury And A Personal Injury?

The main difference between catastrophic injury and personal injury is the severity of the injuries and the lasting impact that the injuries have on the victims. While a catastrophic injury case is still a personal injury case, not all personal injuries are considered catastrophic. Consider the following ways that catastrophic injury cases are different from personal injury cases.

Higher Stakes And Greater Challenges

The more severe an injury is the more likely that it will be contested. You may be thinking that there should be little contest when it comes to a life-altering injury of a catastrophic nature. However, when an injury is catastrophic in nature there is more on the line from the defendant’s perspective.

Catastrophic injuries are life-altering; consequently, the compensation one can receive for a catastrophic injury is much higher than an ordinary personal injury. The injury might be of such a magnitude that it may in and of itself suggest that the actions that caused the injury were criminal in nature. With so much at stake, it can be expected that the defendant will exercise certain challenges to prevent themselves from incurring full liability.

Expert Testimony

The average individual has a limited awareness of the long-term effects of a particular injury. For this reason, courts often encourage testimony from medical professionals who, with some certainty, can inform the court about the lasting effects of a catastrophic injury. Experts who often testify in catastrophic injury cases include:

  • Physicians and medical experts
  • Psychiatrists and mental health experts
  • Actuaries and financial specialist

Finding an expert to testify in your case can be a daunting task. Part of hiring the right expert entails a comprehensive analysis of trial strategy, evidence assessment, and case development. Attorneys have expertise in law but are rarely versed in medicine as well. However, obtaining an expert in medical treatment is an extension of our law firm’s work, and a personal injury attorney from Zinda Law Group can help you find a medical expert to testify in your case.

Damages and Impact on Families

In terms of damages and impact, catastrophic injury cases are far more intensive than ordinary personal injury cases. The damages in a catastrophic injury case are categorically the same as a personal injury case. These damages include:

  • Economic damages
  • Non-economic damages
  • Punitive damages

To this point, punitive damages are far more common in catastrophic injury cases than personal injury cases. This is due to the circumstances in which punitive damages are awarded. A jury is never required to award punitive damages, and they rarely do. Also, punitives are meant to punish the defendant for conduct that rises to the level of particular egregiousness.

The impact of catastrophic injuries on the victim’s family members is hard to describe as it is different in every case. In general, however, catastrophic injuries leave the family not only emotionally devastated but also at risk for financial peril. For these reasons, punitive damages are more often awarded in catastrophic injury cases as opposed to ordinary personal injury cases.

Types Of Catastrophic Injuries

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research (NCCSIR), catastrophic injuries are those that result in death, permanent functional impairment, or severe injuries with temporary functional impairment upon full recovery. Examples of catastrophic injuries include:

  • Amputation
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Brain bleeds
  • Skull fractures
  • Heat stroke
  • Sudden cardiac arrest
  • Internal organ injuries
  • Exertional sickling
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Commotio cordis
  • Birth Injury
  • Facial trauma
  • Nerve Damage
  • Paralysis

These types of injuries not only occur on sports fields, but also in everyday life. For example, an injury of this nature may be suffered as the result of a car or workplace accident. Regardless of where your injury takes place, the key aspect of catastrophic personal injuries is their severity and overall impact on the victim’s life.

Examples Of Catastrophic Injury Cases

Among these various types of catastrophic injuries, consider the following most common examples:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI): A TBI can leave victims with lifelong cognitive impairment, aberrant speech and language, emotional problems, and restricted arm and leg movement.
  • Spinal cord injury: A spinal cord injury may cause partial or total paralysis, issues with the heart and lungs heightened reflexes and spasms, persistent discomfort, and loss of bowel and bladder control.
  • Burns: Depending on the location and severity of the burns, a severe burn injury can result in infections, limb loss, disfigurement, and permanent impairment.
  • Amputation: Blunt amputation is among the most terrifying injuries resulting in extreme physical and emotional pain.
  •  Internal organ injuries: Ruptured kidneys, spleen, liver, or bowels because of a vehicle accident or other accident can be fatal.

What To Do After A Catastrophic Injury?

Catastrophic injuries needed to be appropriately treated to give patients the most favorable outcome. After a catastrophic injury, the victim will likely be out of commission and unable to make medical decisions on their own. It’s important to recognize the vulnerable position victims of catastrophic injuries are in.

As it pertains to ensuring your health and preserving your injury claim, consider taking the following steps:

  • Seek medical attention. Even if an injury seems insignificant at the moment, it’s still important so seek medical attention and receive treatment. Some injuries get worse gradually over time and the full extent of the injury will not be known until much later. Additionally, the likelihood of long-term harm increases when a severe injury is left untreated.
  • Keep detailed records. The first opportunity to get a detailed report of the accident is immediately after it occurs. If an ambulance and police are dispatched to the scene, they will make a record of the injury and what may have caused it. In addition to their reports, injured victims should capture their own personal views of the accident and keep important records as time goes on.
  • Hire an Experienced Attorney. Choosing a personal injury attorney with experience in litigating catastrophic personal injury claims is crucial to the success of your claim. The attorney will use their knowledge and expertise to help develop a case theory that can be used during settlement negotiations and at trial. Additionally, an attorney can help you communicate with other parties and gather evidence on your behalf.

Calculating Damages After A Catastrophic Injury

Unless you are working with an experienced personal injury attorney who knows how to interact with experts who can estimate the long-term costs of your medical care into the future, it is uncommon that you will receive enough compensation from the at-fault party’s insurance company. You might not have any way of determining what constitutes a reasonable settlement for your injuries and the continued harm they are causing to your life.

If you suffer an injury that necessitates long periods of hospitalization and continuing medical treatment, you will be unable to work and, in some situations, take care of your daily requirements. Financial ruin might result from medical costs, daily nursing care costs, and other connected expenses. Among those expenses are:

  • Medication
  • Counseling
  • Lost income
  • Disfigurement
  • Emotional angst
  • Occupational and physical therapy

Considering the long-term effects of a catastrophic injury, the situation becomes much more complicated. A person with a traumatic brain injury may appear completely normal on the outside, but they may experience challenges from blinding headaches, memory loss, and cognitive difficulties that can make it nearly impossible for them to keep a job and maintain personal relationships.

Litigating Personal Injury Claims

Litigating personal injury claims is an arduous process. For most cases, especially those where liability is obvious, the controversy settles before it goes to trial. For example, if the other party was clearly responsible for the injuries, they are likely to try and settle the case before subjecting themselves to the scolding of a judge and jury.

Need Help? Contact Zinda Law Group Today

An experienced injury attorney can help you understand the potential value of your claim, as well as protect the viability of your claim. From a legal standpoint, there is much to do when it comes to filing a lawsuit against another person. It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed in the aftermath of a catastrophic injury, but an experienced personal injury attorney can help in this regard.

To speak with a catastrophic injury attorney from Zinda Law Group for free, call (800) 863-5312. Also, we offer a ‘No Win, No Fee’ guarantee, which means that you won’t pay anything unless we get a favorable outcome for your case.