When Time Doesn’t Heal: Catastrophic Injury
Most injuries have a relatively good chance of healing over time, but a catastrophic injury often results in extended or even permanent damage, including disability. A catastrophic injury is any severe injury to the spine, spinal cord, brain, or skull. It may also include the loss of a limb, severe burns, or a severely damaged organ of the body.
Catastrophic injuries can result from a variety of personal injury accidents, including:
- Automobile collisions
- Slip and falls
- Motorcycle and bicycle crashes
- Pedestrian accidents
- Animal attacks
Catastrophic injuries are generally permanent or long-term, affecting the injured person for the rest of his life. These traumatic injuries often leave a devastating emotional as well as financial impact on the victim’s family as well. Because of the extreme financial burden associated with a catastrophic injury, it is critical that a victim and his loved ones receive the financial compensation they deserve.
Traumatic Brain Injuries Often Catastrophic
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the most common catastrophic injuries, and an estimated 1.7 million people sustain a TBI-related injury each year. Of those, more than 1.3 million require emergency medical care and an estimated 275,000 require extended hospitalization.
Even mild TBI can have devastating and permanent effects on the victim and his family, and anyone with signs of traumatic brain injury should seek medical care immediately. Although little can be done to reverse the initial brain damage caused by trauma, medical treatment will usually focus on stabilizing the victim to prevent further injury. Disabilities resulting from a TBI depend upon the severity and location of the injury, and the age and general health of the victim.
Damages Available in a Catastrophic Injury Claim
After a catastrophic injury, the victim may bring a personal injury lawsuit seeking economic and non-economic damages, including:
- Past and future medical expenses, including emergency care, diagnostic tests, and surgery
- Loss of earnings
- Loss of earning capacity
- Costs related to disability or disfigurement
- Rehabilitation costs
- Expenses related to personal assistance
- Medication and medical supply costs
- Expenses related to the adaptations made to the victim’s home and vehicle
- Assistive device (walker, wheelchair, and hospital bed) expenses, including maintenance and replacement
- The costs of home- or facility-based care
- Physical, vocational, and occupational therapy expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
- Loss of society and companionship
- Loss of consortium
Victims of catastrophic injury and their families are often advised to make a forward-looking plan for their future needs regarding ongoing medical and psychological care, rehabilitation, and lifestyle needs. This plan is known as a life-care plan, a detailed tool that often includes recommendations and cost projections for current and future needs.
Many catastrophic injury cases include the potential for punitive damages, which are usually associated with extreme negligence on behalf of the defendant. Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for outrageous conduct, and at the same time, send a strong message so that others will not repeat the type of conduct that produced the catastrophic damages in the first place.
Image by Sean MacEntee