When Is an Injury Considered Catastrophic?

Catastrophic injuries are life-changing. Not only do they often demand long-term medical care, but they also often leave their victims unable to live their lives as they did before their accident. Although the American Medical Association defines catastrophic injuries as those that cause severe injury to the brain or spine, the legal definition of this term is much broader. Some catastrophic injuries are fatal, giving rise to wrongful death claims while others result in ongoing medical treatments, chronic pain, permanent disability, and other significant changes in the victim’s life. In personal injury law, the term has no set definition and whether or not a particular injury is considered catastrophic depends on the facts of the case. Working with a Chesapeake personal injury lawyer from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp who has decades of experience handling catastrophic injuries is essential to the success of your case. If you or a loved one have been the victim of a catastrophic injury, contact us to schedule your free consultation. 

Is There a Difference Between A Personal Injury and a Catastrophic Injury?

The major difference between personal injury and catastrophic injury is the severity of the injury and the ongoing impact it has on its victim. Although all catastrophic injury cases are personal injury cases, not every personal injury is considered catastrophic. Some ways in which catastrophic injuries differ from personal injuries are:

Greater Challenges and Higher Stakes

The more serious your injury is the more likely it will be challenged. Since catastrophic injuries are life-changing, the damages that are on the line are considerably larger than those associated with a less severe personal injury. Anytime a large sum of money is at stake, you can expect the defendant to do everything in their power to avoid incurring total liability.

Expert Testimony

Most people have limited awareness, if any at all, of the long-term impacts of a specific injury. Due to this, expert testimony is often necessary. This task typically falls on healthcare professionals who, with some confidence, can advise the court regarding the lasting consequences of a particular catastrophic injury. Catastrophic injury experts often include: 

  • Physicians and other medical professionals
  • Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals
  • Actuaries and other economic specialists

Impacts and Damages to Families

Even though the impacts and damages incurred by the victims of catastrophic injuries are far more extensive than in ordinary personal injury cases, the damages are categorically the same. They include:  

  • Economic damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc.)
  • Non-economic damages (pain and suffering)
  • Punitive damages

The specific effects of a catastrophic injury on a victim and their family are different in each case. However, almost all of them result in emotional devastation, and many place families in financial peril. For these reasons, although still rare, punitive damages are more likely to be awarded in a catastrophic injury case. Unless you are working with a skilled attorney who knows how to calculate the long-term costs of your medical care, you won’t have any way of knowing what constitutes a fair settlement for your damages and the ongoing harm they cause. 

A Chesapeake personal injury lawyer from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can examine the facts of your case, calculate your damages, and advise you on what to expect. 

Common Examples Of Catastrophic Injuries

Some examples of common catastrophic injuries are:

  • Traumatic brain injury: A traumatic brain injury can leave a victim with emotional issues, aberrant language and speech patterns, permanent cognitive impairment, and restricted movement in their extremities.
  • Spinal cord injury: Spinal cord injuries can result in total or partial paralysis, lung and heart problems, involuntary muscle spasms, loss of bladder and bowel control, and chronic pain.
  • Burns: Based on their severity and location, burn injuries can lead to massive, widespread infections, loss of limbs, and disfigurement as well as lifelong pain and physical impairment.
  • Amputation: Traumatic amputations are among the most horrendous of injuries causing untold emotional and physical pain.
  • Internal injuries: Punctured lungs, ruptured kidneys, internal hemorrhaging, and other serious forms of internal organ damage can have permanent consequences and even be fatal. 

Talk to a Chesapeake Personal Injury Lawyer

Catastrophic injury cases often involve complex areas of the law such as medical malpractice, product liability, and commercial vehicle accidents. When looking for a firm to manage your case, it is essential to select one with a strong track record of successful case histories, such as the $60 million verdict we secured for our client after he was severely injured when a Norfolk Southern train derailed and crashed into his place of employment. If you were the victim of a catastrophic injury, an experienced Chesapeake personal injury lawyer from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can explain your rights, help you determine your claim’s value, and work to negotiate a just settlement on your behalf. To schedule your free consultation, call (833) 997-1774 or fill out the short contact form on our website. We have offices in Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Hampton.