How Much Is a Catastrophic Injury Claim Worth?

Compensation for a Catastrophic Injury | Patrick Daniel Law
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No two personal injury claims are exactly alike. One of the biggest differences from one case to another is the nature and severity of the victim’s injuries. Some accidents result in only minor injuries. In more serious cases, however, an injury can permanently alter the course of someone’s life.

As a rule, the more serious the injury, the more substantial the compensation that may be recovered in a personal injury claim. If you or a loved one suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of someone’s negligence, it is imperative to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.

Victims of catastrophic injury face uncertain futures. Hiring a knowledgeable lawyer, however, can reduce this uncertainty and enable you to have confidence that you will have the financial resources to overcome the challenges posed by your injury.

How Much Does a Catastrophic Injury Cost?

Although medical expenses make up a significant portion of the damages in any personal injury claim, it is also important to take into account the overall economic impact and quality of life costs associated with a catastrophic injury. These expenses vary from person to person based on the nature of the injury, symptoms and complications, the victim’s lifestyle, and other individual characteristics.

Understanding the average lifetime cost of noteworthy catastrophic injuries can help victims and their attorneys determine what may represent fair compensation:

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Brain injuries can impact multiple aspects of a victim’s life. As such, both the immediate costs of treating the injury and the long-term cognitive, emotional, and other effects must be accounted for when calculating damages.

A survey published by the journal of the Public Library of Science found that in-hospital expenses alone can add up to more than $400,000 for brain injury patients. This figure does not take into account the expenses associated with outpatient treatment, rehabilitation, and other care, as well as the financial toll of cognitive impairment and other issues.

Spinal Cord Injuries

The lifetime cost of a spinal cord injury depends heavily on the location of the trauma to the spine, as well as the severity of the impairment. Injuries to the spinal cord resulting in paraplegia (paralysis of the lower body) and quadriplegia (paralysis below the neck) tend to have the highest cost.

Recent statistics show the following average lifetime costs for a 25-year-old patient with a spinal cord injury:

  • High quadriplegia (most severe): $5.162 million
  • Low quadriplegia: $3.772 million
  • Paraplegia: $2.524 million
  • Incomplete spinal cord injury at any level: $1.725 million

These statistics only account for direct medical expenses and the cost of living with a spinal cord injury. Additional losses – such as lost income, benefits, etc. – would make the total damages in a personal injury claim much higher.


The loss of a limb is a traumatic experience with a number of adverse effects on the victim’s professional and day-to-day life. A study published in the journal Value in Health found that the “estimated lifetime direct healthcare cost for an amputee patient is $640,849.”

Of course, the expenses associated with amputation depend on which limb is lost and the unique ways such an injury impacts the individual. For example, the loss of the right arm for an individual who is right-handed is likely to be much more damaging than the loss of the same arm for someone who is left-handed (although the loss of an arm is never to be taken lightly).

As with all catastrophic injury claims, it is imperative for your lawyer to evaluate all of the ways the injury affects your life specifically – not what statistics say is the average cost.

Calculating Damages for a Catastrophic Injury

Permanent impairment is commonplace in catastrophic injury claims. Although less-serious injuries may have long-term and lingering effects, catastrophic injury victims have a high likelihood of suffering from chronic pain, physical disability, and psychological disorders for the rest of their lives.

Damages sought in a personal injury claim must account for the full extent of expenses and other losses associated with catastrophic injuries. Compensation may be recovered for the following:

Medical Expenses

Catastrophic injuries are expensive to treat. In addition to the initial cost of emergency room care, surgery, and hospitalization, these injuries often require extensive therapy and ongoing treatment by specialists.

For example, recovery from serious burn injuries generally involves treatment in a burn unit, multiple stages of rehabilitation, and individualized pain management.

All current medical bills need to be included in the calculation of damages for a catastrophic injury. In addition, medical and economic experts can provide testimony on the associated long-term and future costs based on their advanced understanding of how these injuries may change over time.

Loss of Income

The impact of a catastrophic injury on an individual’s ability to make a living can be calculated in two different ways:

  1. Lost wages. These damages are the income victims have lost to date as a result of catastrophic injuries that make it impossible for them to return to work.
  2. Loss of earning capacity. Damages for loss of earning capacity represent the income victims would have been able to earn over the course of their working lives were it not for the catastrophic injury.

Calculating lost wages is relatively straightforward. Your attorney will review pay stubs and tax returns to determine how much you would have earned and pursue compensation for income from the date of the injury to the present.

Loss of earning capacity damages are more complicated. Factors such as your education, training, and career aptitude may have made it possible for you to earn more money. Once again, expert testimony is crucial for establishing the amount of compensation you may be entitled to for losses stemming from the inability to work. This may include lost wages, bonuses, benefits, and more.

Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Personal injury victims are often unaware of the full range of compensable damages in their claim. An experienced catastrophic injury lawyer can identify all of the expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident.

Other economic damages that may be recovered in a personal injury claim include:

  • The cost of prescription and over-the-counter medications to aid in your recovery
  • The cost of medical supplies, such as bandages, canes, crutches, etc.
  • The cost of specialized medical equipment, such as a wheelchair and other assistive devices
  • The cost of modifying your home and vehicle to accommodate an impairment or disability
  • The cost of attendant care, such as hiring home healthcare workers, housekeepers, etc.

Organization is key for keeping track of all of the expenses related to a catastrophic injury. Keep all receipts for relevant purchases, as well as any bills you receive. Share all of the paperwork with your lawyer, who can include these expenses in damages calculations.

Pain and Suffering

Damages in a personal injury claim are not limited to the financial losses you sustain. You may also be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering.

Known more broadly as non-economic damages, pain and suffering compensates you for the negative physical, mental, and emotional effects of a catastrophic injury. This may include:

  • Recurrent and chronic pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Sleep disorders
  • Adverse effect on appearance and self-image
  • Embarrassment and shame
  • Inconvenience associated with impairment or disability

Pain and suffering damages compensate you financially for the non-monetary impact of an injury on your quality and enjoyment of life. Because this cannot be measured in dollars and cents, compelling evidence must be presented to support your claim for pain and suffering.

A catastrophic injury lawyer will review your medical records and consult experts to determine the value of non-economic damages in your claim. It is also important to tell your attorney about any ongoing physical and psychological challenges you experience, as this can further establish your right to compensation.

Loss of Consortium

Catastrophic injuries don’t only affect the people hurt in accidents. The impact on loved ones can be immense. Your personal injury attorney should account for how the catastrophic injury has harmed your family as a whole.

Narrowly defined, loss of consortium is the loss of physical intimacy and affection between spouses. For example, if a spinal cord injury results in paralysis, compensation may be recoverable for the inability to have sexual relations. More broadly, however, loss of consortium damages may also encompass the loss of support and services provided by the spouse, such as housework, maintenance of the home, society and companionship, etc.

Similarly, compensation may also be recoverable for the loss of parental guidance. These damages represent the loss of a parent’s ability to raise and nurture children as a result of a catastrophic injury.

Exemplary Damages

The court may award exemplary damages if the evidence shows that a catastrophic injury was caused by:

  • “fraud;
  • “malice; or
  • “gross negligence”

Also known as punitive damages, an exemplary damages award is not intended to compensate the plaintiff for serious injury. Rather, the purpose is to penalize the defendant for egregious conduct as defined by law.

The only way to obtain exemplary damages is by going to court. An experienced trial attorney can advise you of your eligibility for this type of personal injury compensation and present evidence with the goal of obtaining maximum compensation on your behalf.

Contact a Catastrophic Injury Lawyer Today

If you are wondering how much compensation you may be able to recover for a personal injury, the short answer is: “It depends.” No matter your situation, however, it is important to speak to a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible.

Catastrophic injury victims may be entitled to significant compensation for their losses. However, with the assistance of a lawyer, you may settle for far less than your case is worth. This can leave you unable to pay your current and future expenses and struggling to overcome other challenges that may arise in your life after the accident.

Patrick Daniel Law is committed to serving clients who suffer catastrophic injuries due to the negligence of others. These are the individuals who need help the most, and we are proud to provide Strategic, Meticulous, and Merciless representation in settlement negotiations and at trial.

Please call (713) 999-6666 today for a free consultation. Attorney Patrick Daniel accepts catastrophic personal injury claims throughout Houston, all of Texas, and nationwide.

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