The impact of a catastrophic injury often goes beyond physical pain. It wreaks havoc on people’s lives, affecting jobs, relationships, plans for the future, and even mobility and independence. Catastrophic injuries can be both emotionally and financially devastating as well, due to immediate and future expenses that victims and their families face. This is exacerbated by the fact that victims often cannot work for a lengthy period due to their injuries and disabilities.
If you or a loved one has been catastrophically injured as the result of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, you may be able to seek compensation from the at-fault parties. While money cannot erase your trauma and pain, it can help obtain the quality of care you need to be able to live with dignity and independence.
What Constitutes a Catastrophic Injury?
A catastrophic injury is a severe injury that prevents victims from performing any type of work or earning a livelihood that allows them to support themselves or their families. Victims may be able to undergo vocational rehabilitation to retrain for other jobs; however, they may not restore their prior earning capacity.
Victims may also find themselves unable to fully participate in family life or social activities, such as traveling, exercising, enjoying hobbies or even caring for themselves as a healthy person would be able to do. Some may require round-the-clock nursing care. This may lead to mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
Examples of Catastrophic Injuries
These are types of catastrophic injuries we see in our practice:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord trauma resulting in paraplegia or quadriplegia
- Burn injuries
- Damage to internal organs such as kidneys or spleen
- Limb amputations
- Loss of sight or permanent blindness
- Loss of hearing
- Nerve damage that impairs movement and sensations
Common Causes of Catastrophic Injuries
There are a number of dangerous scenarios that lead to disabling injuries. Here are some of the most common:
The impact of a vehicle crash increases the potential for catastrophic injuries such as traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord trauma. Catastrophic injuries are also seen in auto accidents involving pedestrians, bicycles, buses and large trucks.
Causes of vehicle accidents resulting catastrophic injury include:
Impaired Driving: Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs like marijuana or methamphetamines increases the likelihood of reckless or dangerous behavior like speeding, running red lights, or failing to yield the right of way to vehicles or pedestrians.
Distracted Driving: A recent nationwide increase in fatal and major injury accidents correlates to the upsurge of individuals driving while distracted by electronic devices. But any activity that takes a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or attention away from driving is classified as distracted driving.
Excessive Speed: Driving at a speed too high for existing traffic or roadway conditions is one of the most common causes of major injury accidents.
Defective Autos or Parts: Recently, tens of millions of vehicles were recalled for faulty Takata airbags, which killed several people and injured to dozens of others when they and metal shrapnel flying into the passenger compartment upon deployment. Vehicles with defective tires or brakes are also common causes of accidents.
Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip/trip and fall accidents don’t receive as much attention as car accidents, but they often cause injuries leading to lifelong disabilities. A trip and fall down the steps may cause traumatic and/or irreversible brain damage. Even broken bones may leave individuals with chronic pain or decreased mobility. Slip and fall accidents are often caused by the following:
Dangerous property condition: When a property owner and/or manager fails to maintain their property, dangerous conditions may exist, including broken stairs, worn-out carpeting, debris, or inadequate lighting. When a dangerous condition causes a slip and fall accident, the victim may seek compensation from the property owner/manager by filing a premises liability claim.
Negligence: In some cases, a property owner or manager may negligently allow a dangerous condition to exist. For example, a supermarket may face a premises liability claim if the staff fails to mop up a spill, because of the known potential of this situation to cause slip-and-fall accidents.
Workers in the construction industry face more hazards than most other jobs. Construction workers often work at heights, near heavy equipment, and in hostile weather conditions, such as high winds and extreme heat. Some workplace accidents that may result in catastrophic injuries include:
Falls: Construction workplace accidents that involve falls from heights may result in catastrophic injuries. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, about 65 percent of construction workers work on scaffolds and are prone to devastating falls.
Struck-by Accidents: Working with materials like heavy metals, concrete and power tools present a danger of being struck by falling and flying objects, which could result in traumatic brain injuries, amputations and even loss of vision.
Caught In/Between Accidents: Construction workers are also at risk of being crushed by heavy machinery or equipment and suffering debilitating injuries that prevent them from returning to work.
Worker Roadway Accidents: Workers on public roadway projects risk being struck by impaired, sleepy or distracted drivers. Factory or warehouse workers risk being struck by forklifts.
Workers who are catastrophically injured on the job may be able to seek workers’ compensation benefits from their employers; however, there are limitations to workers’ compensation: first, it seldom covers all expenses (medical expenses, lost income and other costs that arise from injuries and disabilities); second, workers’ compensation prohibits an injured worker from suing the employer or fellow employees for injuries they may have caused.
To obtain the full amount they need, victims may be able to file a third-party claim against negligent parties (other than employers and co-employees) including general contractors, building owners or manufacturers of defective products, or anyone else whose negligence caused the accident and catastrophic injuries. Third-party claims are usually worth much more than workers’ compensation and may really benefit a worker who has suffered tremendous loss.
Damages in Catastrophic Injury Cases
The value or worth of a catastrophic injury claim will depend on the nature and severity of the injuries, the types of disabilities and permanent injuries, and the defendant’s (at-fault party’s) degree of negligence. Some of the damages injured victims may be able to pursue are:
Medical expenses related to a major injury can be overwhelming. You may be able to seek compensation for emergency transportation costs, doctor’s visits, surgical costs, hospitalization, cost of medication, medical equipment, etc.
A catastrophic injury will likely require extensive physical rehabilitation and other forms of therapy, such as speech and occupational therapy. Those who have suffered brain injuries often have to relearn speech, movement and other skills needed to live independently. Whether in-patient or outpatient, therapy expenses add up quickly, and may not be covered by health insurance plans.
Loss of Income
It is devastating for victims who lose their jobs or are unable to return to work for an extended time due to catastrophic injuries. Victims can seek compensation for lost wages, and for future earning capacity if they cannot return to their previous positions.
Pain and Suffering
The tremendous physical pain and emotional suffering can be debilitating, and may also factor into the compensation.
The experienced catastrophic injury lawyers at TorkLaw understand the challenges victims and families face in the aftermath of a traumatic event. We have had significant success when it comes to representing the rights of seriously injured victims, whether the injury was a result of an auto accident, a slip and fall incident, or a defective product. Please call us to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation.