What Is Considered a Catastrophic Injury?

Categories: Catastrophic Injury

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In injury law, injuries are classified by severity. One category is “catastrophic,” and not all injuries fall into this category. A catastrophic injury, in personal injury law, doesn’t have a universal definition – which can make it even more complicated to understand.

In general, these injuries have severe consequences that permanently impact a victim’s quality of life (and possibly the longevity of their life).

Catastrophic Injury: A Primer on the Term

The term “catastrophic” injury is used too freely in injury cases, and it is not meant to be. Instead, it is reserved for injuries that are permanent and prevent a person from returning to work or even resuming their normal lifestyle after the injury has happened.

When the victim can no longer return to their state of life before the incident, they have suffered a true catastrophic injury.

These injuries are financially, emotionally, and legally devastating for the victim and their loved ones. The victim has lost wages, the ability to earn wages in the future, benefits, and the feeling of “complete” that comes with being able to take care of themselves. Also, they now face an insurmountable number of medical bills and long-term care needs. And without any income provided to their household, their entire family suffers.

These injuries go well beyond someone’s financial stability, too. A person that is permanently disabled after an accident cannot exercise, engage in hobbies, be with family members, or even take care of themselves daily. They may require care from loved ones and professional in-home care. Overall, their quality of life has changed permanently, and sometimes they may not have the same life expectancy they did before the incident.

On top of all of that, there is the emotional and mental anguish that comes with it. Not only is the victim suffering physical pain from their injuries, but they have the emotional trauma of now being permanently disabled, the stress of financial difficulties, and the devastation of facing a life that will never be the same.

Types of Injuries That Are Classified as Catastrophic

Certain injuries that are often considered “catastrophic” are those that you cannot recover from fully (or will never be exactly the same after). These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Burns and disfiguration
  • Amputations
  • Multiple fractures
  • Severe and permanent organ damage
  • Hazardous chemical exposure

These injuries can occur from numerous types of accidents, including car accidents, defective products, assaults, workplace injuries, and more. A person may suffer a catastrophic injury while riding a motorcycle or even while crossing the street.

How Are Damages Calculated in Catastrophic Injury Cases?

In a catastrophic injury case, your damages are based on financial losses, medical costs, and how the injury affects your quality of life. The more serious the injury, the more likely you are to receive higher compensation than one classified as less serious.

In catastrophic injury cases, the settlements can be quite high. This is because, often, these leave victims permanently disabled, disfigured, or unable to interact with loved ones and return to work as they did before their injury. Some factors considered when determining compensation include:

The Total Cost of Medical Expenses – Including Future Expenses

First, the total cost of medical expenses up to the time of your settlement is calculated. This makes up for a substantial portion of your settlement, and even those expenses paid by your insurance will be reimbursed. You will have to repay your medical insurance for any medical costs they paid for that stemmed from the incident.

Next, your attorney will look at any estimated future medical expenses. If you will need long-term care, future medical treatments, and you will not recover fully from your injury, they will estimate how much you will need to cover those medical costs into the future.

Lost Wages and Loss of Earning Capacity

Another factor is how much wages you already lost after the accident, but then how many wages you will lose in the future if you cannot return to work, have to change to a lower-paying position, or if you cannot work as many hours as you did before.

You may receive compensation for vocational training so that you can learn new skills and find gainful employment in different industry as well.

In most cases, however, catastrophic injuries leave victims disabled, which means they cannot return to work. In this case, your attorney would calculate your estimated wages, any bonuses or cost of living raises you might receive, and benefits you miss out on because you no longer can work – including health insurance from an employer.

Pain and Suffering

Another part of your calculation, that is not as easy to calculate compared to medical expenses and wages, is that of your pain and suffering. These damages are meant to compensate you for the pain you must endure. And while no dollar amount makes up for the physical pain and emotional trauma you experienced, the hope is that the financial support you receive will lessen future suffering.

Usually, your attorney will take the calculated expenses, like medical costs and lost wages, and use a multiplier to determine how much pain and suffering in addition to the other damages you should receive.

Did You Suffer a Catastrophic Injury? Contact a Local Attorney Today

If you or a loved one suffered a catastrophic injury, do not try to negotiate a settlement alone. These injury cases often deal in large settlements, and insurance companies will do whatever it takes to lessen how much they pay out. Even if you think you are getting a fair settlement, meet with an attorney for a second opinion. An attorney knows how much your case is worth, and they are there to fight for your right to fair compensation.

To get started, meet with the attorneys from Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner, PLLC. Our attorneys have helped countless victims and their loved ones get the compensation they need for medical costs, lost wages, and more. Schedule your appointment by calling our office today or you can ask us questions online.

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Matt Conner

Matt Conner has a proven track record of success. Following his graduation from Willamette University with a double major in mathematics and economics, Matt worked as an economist for the Office of Economic Analysis for the State of Oregon before moving onto working in mortgage banking and real estate.