A catastrophic injury is an extreme injury or illness that could have been avoided if the defendant wasn’t negligent. An extreme injury is one that has a permanent effect on the injured parties every day life or normal bodily functions.
A person may be held responsible for the catastrophic injuries if they are found to be negligent, which means they failed to take proper care and precautions. The most common examples of catastrophic injuries include:
- Brain and/or spinal cord damage;
- Major burns;
- Compound bone fractures;
- Blindness or partial blindness;
- Neurological disorders; and/or
- Severe damage to internal organs.
Injuries that are deemed “catastrophic” are not limited to the list above. Each case is unique and determined by the facts.
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Catastrophic Injury?
Liability for catastrophic injuries depends on the facts of each case. Typically, if a person is found negligent or grossly negligent they are responsible for the injuries and related damages. Additionally, if a defendant’s actions intentionally caused a person to be catastrophically injured, then they are absolutely liable.
Also, if a defective product or medical drug is the underlying cause of the injury the defendant(s) are also liable. It is common to have multiple defendants in catastrophic injury cases, it simply depends on the facts relating the main event that caused the injury.
Common Examples of Causes Resulting In Catastrophic Injuries?
Catastrophic injuries are limitless because they are caused by events that are unforeseeable or occur unexpectedly. The extent of the injuries and the cause of the injuries is what determines if it catastrophic. An injury may not necessarily qualify as catastrophic, but rather “serious” bodily harm or damage.
Below is an example of events that may result in a catastrophic injury:
- Motorcycle or car accidents;
- Sports injuries, including extreme sports;
- Device malfunction (chainsaw or a handgun);
- Defective or wrong dosage of medicine; and/or
Are There Any Legal Consequences Associated With Catastrophic Injuries?
Legal liability for such injuries varies widely according to the circumstances, the parties involved, and state laws. Typically, the injured party receives damages for their losses and sometimes any future damage associated with the injury. The following are common examples of damages that are awarded:
- Medical bills;
- Lost wages;
- Pain and suffering;
- Wrongful death;
- Loss of consortium;
- Emotional distress; and/or
- Punitive damages.
Medical examiners and experts are usually consulted to help determine the extent of the injuries and the basis for the damage award. Punitive damages are ordered by the court’s discretion, meaning that the plaintiff can requests punitive damages but ultimately it is up to the judge to decide if they think the case is serious enough to warrant it.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with a Catastrophic Injury Claim?
Any person involved in a catastrophic injury case would benefit from consulting a personal injury lawyer as they can provide guidance with filings, fact finding, consulting expert witnesses, and overall legal representation in court.
Catastrophic injury cases are very complex, serious, and usually take months (sometimes years) to settle. Lawyers often provide the best support to obtaining damages or providing a strong defense.