All personal injury cases are serious matters and require experienced representation by a seasoned personal injury attorney. What make catastrophic personal injury cases different are the extent of the injuries, the amount of monetary compensation available, and the types of damages that are available to the injured party. This article explores some important distinctions to keep in mind when comparing catastrophic personal injury cases with other types of personal injury cases.
Nature and Extent of the Injuries Sustained
Catastrophic injuries, quite simply, are those types of personal injuries that have permanent and potentially long-term impacts on the person injured. Common types of catastrophic injuries include concussions, traumatic brain injuries, paralysis, loss of limbs or other body parts, spinal cord injuries, and neurological injuries. Treatment for these types of injuries often involves multiple surgeries, a long and difficult recovery process, and medical treatment that extends well into the foreseeable future.
Two key words which characterize catastrophic injury cases – especially when compared with other types of personal injury cases – are “debilitating” and “permanent.” Catastrophic injuries may cause the injured person to have difficulty performing daily living and household activities. In some cases, the injured person is forced to reside in a nursing home or assisted living facility as a result of his or her injuries. These catastrophic personal injuries can also have a significant impact on the injured person’s family and loved ones.
Common Causes of Catastrophic Personal Injuries
While catastrophic personal injuries may be sustained in very serious motor vehicle accidents, they are even more commonly associated with pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, and motorcycle accidents. These types of accidents are more likely to lead to catastrophic injuries because the accident victims are usually directly exposed to the environment, have limited protection around them at the time of the accident, and are more likely to make direct contact with the ground upon impact, often leading to a concussion or other serious injury. As a result, these types of events, generally speaking, are more likely to result in a catastrophic personal injury than accidents involving a motor vehicle in which the driver and passengers were wearing seat belts. Moreover, motor vehicles have advanced safety features, such as airbags and other devices, which are not available to bicyclists, motorcyclists, or pedestrians, who are no match for an oncoming vehicle which hits them at a high rate of speed.
A Common Characteristic: Delayed Onset of Symptoms
Catastrophic personal injuries are unique in that they are oftentimes difficult to diagnose, due to a delayed onset of symptoms. This is particularly true with traumatic brain injuries, when serious symptoms may not manifest themselves for days, weeks, or even months after the initial injury is sustained. Moreover, the breadth and extent of these types of injuries can be significant and potentially lifelong, and may include short- or long-term memory loss, neurological deficits, and other types of cognitive impairments, requiring long-term care.
Damages Available in Catastrophic Personal Injury Cases
“Damages” is the legal term for the compensation that may be available to you if you are injured due to careless actions (or inaction) of another person or entity. Given the severity of catastrophic injuries, it is likely that the amount of necessary medical treatment will far exceed that of other types of personal injuries. As a result, the amount of damages in play is likely going to be higher. Moreover, the types of damages available are typically more varied and extensive than in smaller personal injury cases.
The underlying purpose for awarding damages in any personal injury case – regardless of the severity of injuries sustained – is to make the injured victim whole, to the extent that’s possible with money. Monetary compensation, for example, is a poor substitute for a lost limb or other body part.
Economic damages, or damages that can be measured in dollars and cents, are often higher in catastrophic injury cases, simply because the nature and extent of the injuries, medical treatment, physical therapy, and even missed time from work, are greater than with cases involving less severe injuries. However, the real difference lies with non-economic damages.
Non-economic damages are those types of damages that can’t be measured, strictly speaking, in dollars and cents. Most states have a statutory cap on non-economic damages which changes on a yearly basis. Proving non-economic damages can be much more complex in catastrophic injury cases when compared with other types of cases. What follows is a list and brief description of some common types of non-economic damages that may be sought in catastrophic personal injury cases.
In a catastrophic injury case, as with any personal injury case, you need an experienced and compassionate attorney who is always one step ahead of the insurance company, who can safeguard your rights, and who can obtain every penny of compensation you are entitled to under the law. If you or a loved one sustained a catastrophic personal injury as a result of the carelessness of another person or entity, contact us by phone or email today. We will respond promptly.
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