Life is forever altered following a catastrophic injury. However, personal injury law provides an avenue for catastrophic injury victims to receive the financial compensation that’ll enable them to restructure their lives and regain some degree of normalcy.
What Is A Catastrophic Injury?
This is a serious, long-lasting, permanent, disfiguring, and/or disabling injury. From a legal standpoint, if the injury is severe enough to remove the person’s ability to be self-sufficient, thereby leaving them unable to hold gainful employment or properly care for themselves unassisted, then the injury is usually deemed catastrophic.
There are many types of injuries that can be considered catastrophic, including:
•Spinal cord injury
•Traumatic brain injury
•Extensive and severe burns
What Causes Catastrophic Injuries?
It’s often negligence, carelessness, or recklessness on the part of another person, persons, or entity that causes the incident that results in a catastrophic injury.
The incident itself can be a physical fall, explosion, slip, trip, collision, etc. It can also be the result of a substandard application, defect, or improper supervision of goods or equipment. Examples:
• A road contractor may be considered negligent in any resulting motor vehicle accidents if he fails to issue proper road hazard warnings.
• A reckless or impaired driver’s actions causing a collision.
• A manufacturer delivering an unsafe, harmful product.
• An employer failing to provide safety equipment for employees or properly maintenance work equipment.
What Should The Victim Of A Catastrophic Injury Do?
Catastrophic injuries are associated with a tremendous burden of loss of income, pain, suffering, medical expenses, and long-term care. If someone else’s actions caused the catastrophic injury, then the victim has the legal right to seek financial compensation.
While no amount of compensation can make the incident or injury go away, it can ensure that the victim receives all the medical care, personal assistance, and monetary means to adequately care for themselves and restore quality to life.
Damages, or settlements, are usually quite high in catastrophic injury cases. However, there’s also a huge burden of arguing the nature of injuries and the extent of losses. It’s always wise to discuss the case with a professional attorney immediately to get evidence gathered and the ball rolling in the legal system as soon as possible.
What Are Victims Compensated For?
The goal of compensation is to make the victim as whole, safe, and normal as possible again.
Take a drunk driving motor vehicle accident that resulted in a victim in the roofing business suffering injuries that rendered him a paraplegic.
In the above example, the personal injury lawyer may argue that the victim must have his mobility as restored as possible through an adaptive wheelchair, a handicap-accessible vehicle with hand controls, a new home or adaptive remodeling to an existing home for maneuvering with a wheelchair, etc. Vocational rehab will be needed to help the victim determine a new career since he can’t physically continue as a roofer.
All of these are great cost-burdens, and they are areas in which victims have a right to a fair settlement to cover existing and future medical needs and lost income
Perhaps a victim is confined to bed as a result of a catastrophic injury. The lawyer would then focus on ensuring the victim is comfortable, attended, and safe, such as through arguing for the cost of professional residential or home health care.
How Is Loss Measured In A Catastrophic Injury Settlement?
An expert witness in a legal case is one who has scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge beneficial to helping the court understand the evidence of a case.
A catastrophic injury victim’s attorney will utilize an array of expert witnesses to examine and project the comprehensive impact the injury has on the victim and his/her dependents, the obstacles they face, and what will be necessary for quality of life. Such experts may include:
• Doctors, nurses, therapists, and other health care professionals
• Medical equipment professionals
• Vocational rehab and education professionals
• Housing specialists
• Life-care planning specialists
Catastrophic Injury Pain And Suffering
In addition to a monetary value for employment losses and care, victims of catastrophic injuries are also entitled to a monetary value on the pain and suffering a negligent entity caused them to endure.
This is often the most difficult aspect of a personal injury case since, unlike care predictions and income loss, there simply isn’t a mathematical equation to value someone’s physical pain, mental distress, loss of enjoyment in life, sexual inabilities, missing out on teaching a child to play baseball, and other expectations the person once had for their life.
So, it’s important to remember that the goal of this area of damages is not to place a valuation on a victim’s aspirations and pleasures of life, but rather it’s to enable the victim to have the means to find and fund new ways to enjoy life.
There are a number of considerations in evaluating pain and suffering for a jury trial, but the most important is previous settlements for similar cases in the same area. Most all juries are sympathetic to the victim when presented with catastrophic injuries, but having an expert lawyer is still a must to ensure a jury thoroughly understands the ramifications of negligence and injury. Why? Jurors still sometimes retain the ‘what if it was me’ for the negligent party in that they can imagine themselves making a lapse of judgment or error that caused someone else to be harmed and image themselves carrying the resulting financial responsibility.
Catastrophic Injury Cases Usually Do Not Go To Trial
Most claims settle out of court without a trial, sometimes even before a lawsuit is officially brought forth. This is twofold.
• Liable Parties and Insurers
Catastrophic injuries create a gigantic financial obligation for liable parties and their insurers. If a victim has a strong case, then the liable party and their insurer will likely be eager to settle in order to limit their losses and avoid paying huge legal fees for a verdict that’s likely higher than what a victim is asking in settlement.
There’s a certainty involved in knowing exactly what the compensation and terms will be verses leaving it up to jurors.
Victims, too, often prefer the certainty of a compensation upfront verses leaving it to jurors to decide and possibly getting as little as nothing.
Victims are incentivized to settle in certain cases due to insurance limitations. A vehicle collision is at fault, for example; the auto insurance policy limits and or umbrella coverage limits are as far (as much) as the victim will ever possibly get.
Questionable and partial fault is yet another reason many victims settle. While, the negligent party may be clearly, grossly at fault in his own actions, the victim may also have had a smaller fault of his or her own at play in the incident, such as maybe they weren’t wearing their seat belt during a collision caused by a drunk driver. Instead of leaving it to a jury to decide if their own smaller role moots the merit of the case, many victims will settle before a trial.