What Are Catastrophic Injury Cases?

The seriousness of a personal injury sustained in an accident, including the time to heal and the permanence of pain and disability, can vary across a broad spectrum.

A person might suffer cuts, scrapes and bruises which cause pain at the time, but heal relatively quickly with no residual effects. A person might have a sprain or strain that lasts longer, but also has a good chance of healing.

On the other hand, broken bones, torn cartilage, and other injuries are more serious, create more pain, and take much longer to heal.

We always hope that an injury will completely resolve, but sometimes it doesn’t. Doctors work hard to limit disability, but in some cases the body (or a part of the body) is damaged so badly, it just cannot recover. Medical care providers, lawyers, and other professionals sometimes refer to some of these injuries as “catastrophic injuries.”

In this article, we will discuss what that means and what a catastrophic injury case looks like.

What Are “Catastrophic Injuries”?

There is not an exact legal definition of “catastrophic injury,” but the term is used frequently. It can be helpful to examine how other organizations define it.

Examining Injury

One common method for classifying a catastrophic injury is examining the extent of physical injury. The American Medical Association (AMA) considers an injury catastrophic if it results in a severe injury to the spinal cord, the spine, or the brain - including fractures to the skull and spine.

While we would agree that these injuries fit the definition of catastrophic, it is a bit restrictive and omits other injuries that many consider to be catastrophic. For our purposes, we think of catastrophic injuries as those that are severe and result in permanent disability.

Examining Consequences

Another way of considering whether an injury is catastrophic is to examine the consequences to the victim. Those who suffer catastrophic injuries often need care or medical treatment for the rest of their lives.

They can require multiple surgeries. There may be permanent disfigurement and lifetime pain. Some victims of catastrophic injuries can no longer care for themselves. If such consequences are deemed debilitating enough, the injury may be considered “catastrophic.”

What Causes Catastrophic Injury?

Catastrophic injuries can include lost or permanently damaged limbs and serious burns, and arise in many different ways, including the following:

  • Automobile, motorcycle, and semi-truck crashes
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Sports injuries
  • Medical malpractice
  • Nursing home negligence
  • Dangerous and defective products and drugs
  • Slips and falls
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Intentionally violent acts by wrongdoers
  • Work-related accidents

What Should a Person Who Has Suffered Catastrophic Injuries Do?

Certainly, the first step for any victim of catastrophic injuries is to obtain appropriate care. Unfortunately, the cost of the care can turn out to be exorbitant. There can be expenses for hospitals, doctors, surgeries, medicine and other medical treatment.

And with catastrophic injuries, attempts at recovery can be long and slow. Victims may need long-term care and rehabilitation specialists, or home nurses and other professionals.

In some instances, recovering victims cannot meet even basic personal needs. Plus, the injured victim is no longer working, creating the issue of lost wages.

It’s important to remember that the law provides recourse against wrongdoers who negligently cause catastrophic injury. For example, if an automobile or semi-truck driver negligently causes an accident which leads to the injuries, the negligent driver must be made accountable.

Similarly, doctors or other professionals who commit malpractice and cause catastrophic injury can be held liable. Not only is it fair to the injured victim, but it’s necessary for the protection of all of society.

Call with Questions

If you’ve  suffered catastrophic injury due to the negligence of another, please feel free to call us with any of your questions. The experienced personal injury lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield are familiar with the steps to take in cases of catastrophic injury and would be happy to help out.


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