What Is Considered a Catastrophic Injury?

doctor holding an image scan of catastrophic injury patient's head
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While it is possible to seek just compensation for any type of injury, the severity of your injury is a key factor in determining the value of your claim. As a rule, personal injury damages are compensatory in nature. The more economic and non-economic consequences victims suffer, the more they are entitled to recover.

The most severe personal injuries are commonly referred to as “catastrophic injuries.” In the event of a catastrophic injury, victims are likely to face substantial costs and long-term or even permanent adverse effects.

Medical records and other evidence can establish the seriousness of your injuries from an accident. A personal injury lawyer well-versed in catastrophic injury claims can pursue the full compensation you deserve.

Understanding What Constitutes a Catastrophic Injury

There is no precise definition of a “catastrophic injury” in the law or in medicine. If you check the websites of reliable resources like the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins Medicine, you won’t find a definition.

Instead, “catastrophic injury” is a generic term that is commonly used to describe physical trauma that requires significant medical intervention and/or has the potential to cause long-term complications. With this in mind, an injury can generally be classified as “catastrophic” in the following scenarios:

Brain or Spinal Cord Damage

Injuries that involve trauma to the brain or injury to the spine can have lifelong effects. As a result, brain injuries and spinal injuries are often classified as catastrophic. Potential complications of these devastating injuries may include cognitive or visual impairments, permanent brain damage, and full or partial paralysis.

Loss of a Digit or Limb

Losing a limb (such as a hand, arm, leg, or foot) or a digit (such as a finger or toe) is a life-altering and catastrophic event. Not only do amputation injuries result in physical limitations (and in many cases severe physical limitations), they can also cause severe emotional trauma as well.

Impairment or Loss of a Bodily Function

Injuries that result in impairment or total loss of a bodily function can generally be classified as catastrophic as well. This includes injuries that result in damage to the lungs, stomach, intestines, bowel, bladder, liver, and other organs.

Permanent Scarring or Disfigurement

Along with loss of a digit or limb, suffering any other type of injury that results in permanent scarring or disfigurement can have a profound impact on a person’s life. This is true whether the person suffered severe burns, severe lacerations, or a displaced or complex bone fracture.

Substantial Treatment Costs 

Even if an injury does not result in long-term impairment or permanent disfigurement, it can still be considered “catastrophic” if it requires significant and costly medical treatment. It is no secret that medical care in the United States is extraordinarily expensive. The substantial medical bills for a bone fracture or other serious injury can negatively impact a person’s life long after he or she has fully healed.

Substantial Rehabilitation Needs

Many types of traumatic injuries leave accident victims facing a long and difficult road to recovery. Rehabilitation can also be extraordinarily expensive. In many cases, the goal is not to regain full function, but rather to get back as much functionality as possible.

Permanent Disability 

When treatment and rehabilitation cannot fully reverse the effects of trauma, accident victims may face the prospect of living with a lifelong disability. All types of disabling injuries can be considered catastrophic, from knee and ankle injuries resulting in limited mobility to wrist and finger injuries that prevent you from doing your job.

Long-Term Emotional or Psychological Trauma

Physical injuries can also be classified as catastrophic due to their emotional and psychological effects. If your life will never be the same in the wake of an accident, this is a catastrophic event regardless of the specific reason why.

Why Does It Matter If Your Injury Qualifies as “Catastrophic”?

If you have been injured in an accident, why does it matter if your injury qualifies as “catastrophic”? The main reason such a distinction is important is because catastrophic injury claims are inherently more complicated.

Key considerations in a catastrophic injury case include:

One thing that does not change when you suffer a catastrophic injury is your right to legal action. If someone else is at fault for the accident, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries and losses.

You need to choose a personal injury lawyer who understands the impact of a catastrophic injury not only on your health and well-being but on what it takes to win your case. Knowledge, experience, and a relentless commitment to pursuing what you deserve are all key qualities to look for in an attorney.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer Today

Attorney Patrick Daniel has extensive experience handling a wide range of complex personal injury claims, including those where clients suffer catastrophic injuries due to the negligence of others. Our firm takes a Strategic, Meticulous, and Merciless approach to each case with the goal of maximizing the financial recovery.

Meet Attorney Patrick Daniel

Please call Patrick Daniel Law at (713) 999-6666 today for a FREE case review. Our Houston catastrophic personal injury lawyer serves clients throughout Texas, as well as nationwide and internationally in select cases.

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