A catastrophic injury refers to paralysis, paraplegia, quadriplegia, death, 2nd or 3rd-degree burns involving skin grafts, loss of a bodily function such as sight or hearing or even sense of smell, a brain or neurological injury such as a concussion in its mildest form or a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a more severe form.
Catastrophic injuries may also involve loss of consciousness, being in a temporary or permanent coma, loss of memory, loss of a limb, or even loss of language or other cognitive skills. These injuries can be devastating to family members like a spouse, children, parents and often involve an extensive rehabilitation period to relearn when you can, skills that may have been lost due to trauma.
What Qualifies As a Catastrophic Injury?
A catastrophic injury is often defined as an injury that has “direct and proximate consequences” that “permanently prevent an individual from performing any gainful work.” All kinds of injuries can fall into this category, from head or spinal injuries to severe burns or lost limbs. The criterion that ties them all together is that they leave damage that affects the victims’ quality of life and earning capacity, for those that do work, for a long time, possibly for life. While retired people do not necessarily work, they too can certainly be a victim of a catastrophic injury.
Types Of Catastrophic Injury
Often discussed, while oversimplifying the various descriptions, there are three broad categories of catastrophic injury:
- Physical: This type of injury includes fractures, burns, amputations, or damage to orthopedic function or tissues.
- Spinal cord injuries: These are injuries that affect the spinal tissues exclusively, resulting in permanent mobility issues.
- Cognitive injuries: Damage to the brain can take away the victim’s ability to work, speak or form new memories or even lose older/long-term memories.
When Are You Entitled To a Catastrophic Injury Settlement?
For any accident that results in catastrophic injury, you may be entitled to demand a settlement from a guilty/at-fault party and/or insurance company. Catastrophic injury law allows for claims to be made on, while yet oversimplifying the situation, at least three different levels:
- Medical expenses: Your injury may necessitate surgery, therapy or the chronic use of medical devices or medication. You should be able to be demand compensation for these costs.
- Loss of income: If your injury forces you to stop working – whether temporarily or permanently – you can claim for the resulting loss of past, present, and future income.
- Pain and suffering: You have the right to claim compensation for any emotional suffering the injury causes.