A catastrophic injury is one that is caused by a traumatic event and one that has devastating, life-altering effects on its victims. It causes irreparable damage to major areas or organs of the body including head and brain, spinal cord and limbs. The injuries can leave victims with lifetime disabilities and put emotional and financial stress on family and loved ones.
In many cases, these injuries lead to a lifetime of medical care with possible multiple reconstructive surgeries and extensive physical and occupational therapy. These injuries usually require medical specialists like surgeons, neuropsychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and specialists in prosthetics.
Catastrophic injuries occur in many different situations including fires and explosions, toxic chemical exposure, medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, industrial accidents, athletic events, and defective products.
Victims of catastrophic injury can file a lawsuit against another person or group for negligence or criminal activity that led to the injury. The significance of these injuries and their impact on victims suggests that a qualified attorney be involved to make the best case for compensation during a potentially lengthy legal process.
Here are some typical catastrophic injuries.
- Catastrophic Head /Brain Injuries
The type and severity of head and brain injuries depend on the traumatic event and the amount of force and location of the trauma. A concussion can last for months or years. A brain injury can severely affect cognitive and/or motor ability. It can also lead to the development of Parkinson’s disease.
- Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can cause damage to the nervous system resulting in full or partial paralysis. It is estimated that 23% of paralysis cases are due to falls, sporting injuries, vehicle accidents, and violent acts.
- Severe Burn Injuries
While first and second-degree burns affect superficial layers of skin, third-degree burns can penetrate the skin and underlying tissue, and fourth-degree burns can extend to tendons and bones.
- Limb Amputation/Loss of Limb
Amputations of the arm, leg, hand, or foot often stem from traumatic events where surgery is necessary. Medical professionals determine the percentage of lost functioning, called impairment rating, as well as total body rating. These ratings are used in determining damages against negligent parties and in securing disability benefits.
- Catastrophic Cardiac Event
Cardiac arrests can be caused by surgical error, defective or wrongfully prescribed medications, coronary disease, cardiomyopathy, another heart disease, or traumatic event that triggers heart failure, among other things.
- Wrongful death
A catastrophic injury can lead to death. In the event that there is a negligence or wrongful acts involved, a surviving family member who has suffered emotional and/or financial loss, as a result, may bring a lawsuit for personal injury, pain, and suffering as well as expenses incurred.
A wrongful death suit will never compensate enough for the loss, but an attorney will gather needed evidence to seek the maximum compensation possible under the circumstances. This evidence may include medical records, autopsy results, coroner conclusions, experts on financial loss (income) and loss of function.
Catastrophic injury damages
The goal of seeking recoverable damages is to determine financial compensation commensurate with the harm caused to individuals and family members as a result of the catastrophic injury.
There are different categories of damages sought in these cases. Special or pecuniary damages are the financial costs incurred as a result of the incident. These may be lost income and wages, including past, present, and future, medical or related expenses, and any other expenses deemed appropriate and relevant.
General damages include a victim’s pain and suffering, a spouse’s loss of consortium, and any other loss of enjoyment of fulfillment suffered by the victim and family.
Punitive damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer. in Massachusetts, punitive damages may be sought only in certain wrongful death cases. To be awarded these damages, there must be a higher level of proof established beyond standard negligence, as in gross negligence or recklessness.
Since the facts of every case are different, once fault or liability is established, compensation for damages can vary quite a bit and are hard to estimate. A qualified injury attorney should be involved to establish evidence and preserve the value of the case.