Accidents happen and we know that, but the impact they have on people can vary significantly. Some are lucky enough to only sustain minor injuries, while others may need the services of a catastrophic injury lawyer.
Catastrophic injuries can be life-altering. It may take several years to recover from them, and some never fully recover at all.
Throughout this article, we will discuss the impact that catastrophic injuries can have on people. We will also talk about seeking compensation in a catastrophic injury case and how the distribution of blame plays a role.
The catastrophic injuries you sustain can leave you in a vulnerable position. Find out more about catastrophic injuries and how legal assistance can help you deal with them better by reading on.
What Is a Catastrophic Injury?
If you are looking up the term “catastrophic injury” in California law, then your search will likely not yield any results. California law does not clearly define the term. Instead, they use it as a catch-all term for serious injuries that people sustain from accidents.
So, how does a typical injury become a catastrophic injury? What elevates an injury to that level?
The defining characteristic of a catastrophic injury is the lasting impact on a person. The lasting impact in question usually comes in one of two forms.
First, you can consider an injury catastrophic if it causes permanent damage. The permanent damage can vary. Disfigurement may qualify as a form of permanent damage.
Injuries can also be classified as catastrophic if they cause any disability. The disability could be the loss of a bodily function or the complete loss of a body part.
As you can tell, catastrophic injuries can completely change a person’s life. Individuals who sustain catastrophic injuries may no longer enjoy their hobbies. Even working their old job may no longer be an option.
Different Examples of Catastrophic Injuries
Catastrophic injuries come in different forms. In this section of the article, we will go through examples of those injuries and examine the impact they have on people.
Broken bones are common catastrophic injuries because they can stem from different kinds of accidents. You could slip and fall down the stairs in a business establishment and break one of your bones that way.
Victims of assault may also sustain fractures. A punch directly to the eye can break an orbital bone, while one that lands near the chin can lead to a fractured jaw.
Do not forget about vehicular accidents. While riding your motorcycle, a car may bump into you and cause you to fall over onto the road. Trying to brace yourself for impact, you stuck your hand out and broke your arm as a result.
It is important to note here that not all broken bones are considered catastrophic injuries. If it is expected that you will recover fully from the injury once your bones heal, then the injury in question is not regarded as catastrophic.
However, broken bones that cannot heal completely do qualify as catastrophic injuries.
Broken bones can also have a greater impact on children. The fractured bones could have long-term effects on the child’s growth, and that is why they become catastrophic in nature.
Loss of Limbs
The effect that a broken bone has on you can go beyond putting you out of commission for a while. In some cases, the nature of the injury can be so serious that it necessitates a drastic response. It may even necessitate amputation.
One of your limbs may be in such bad shape after the accident that amputating it will be necessary. Those who have crush injuries may also have to get their limbs amputated.
Losing a limb can permanently change your life. There is no question that it qualifies as a catastrophic injury.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Following a car accident, you may start to experience some symptoms that are indicative of a serious injury. To be more specific, you may experience symptoms that are related to a spinal cord injury.
The first symptoms you may experience could manifest as pain and discomfort radiating from your back. You may also feel numbness along your extremities. The injury could also lead to those parts of your body feeling weaker than normal.
A spinal cord injury can affect a person’s breathing. You may experience labored breathing for quite some time after the accident.
The injury could also affect your balance. Even walking down a straight path could prove to be a challenge due to the lingering effects of a spinal cord injury.
Still, all those symptoms of spinal cord injuries usually disappear after a while. Paralysis is different, though.
Paralysis is yet another byproduct of a spinal cord injury. According to the Cleveland Clinic, paralysis can be partial and temporary. Unfortunately, it can also be complete and permanent.
Different parts of the body can be affected by paralysis. It typically affects the extremities, but it can also impact your internal organs, including the heart and lungs.
The lasting effects of paralysis explain why they consider some spinal cord injuries as catastrophic injuries.
Loss of Vision
Our eyes are delicate. If they take a direct hit from something sharp, they are likely to sustain serious damage. Even a dull object can deal significant damage to an eye if it is swung with enough force.
Assault cases can lead to eye injuries easily. One errant swing of a knife or a punch landing at the right spot can damage an eye badly.
Accidents can also cause eye injuries. Upon impact, shards of glass may go flying into your eyes. Your vision may never be the same after that.
Disfigurement may not affect your physical capabilities, but it can have a mental and emotional impact on you. Due to the scars on your face, you may feel self-conscious about your appearance. Going outside of your house can become a challenge.
That is why disfigurement can be a form of catastrophic injury.
Scars can form from the wounds left behind by traumatic events. They could be lasting marks left on your body following a vehicular accident. An attacker can also wound you badly enough to create scars.
Dog bites can cause scarring as well. Do not underestimate a vicious dog that is about to attack because they can cause deep wounds.
Like scars, burns are seen as catastrophic injuries because they can disfigure you. Depending on the severity of the burn, it can change your appearance forever.
First and second-degree burns likely would not be seen as catastrophic injuries because they do not last that long. First-degree burns affect only the outer layer of your skin. Second-degree burns go deep enough to affect the dermis, but that is it.
The injuries that are of greater concern are third and fourth-degree burns.
Per WebMD, third-degree burns destroy two full layers of skin. The layers of skin become discolored, and they may even turn brown or black. Third-degree burns do not usually hurt, but that is because your nerve endings have been destroyed as well.
Fourth-degree burns are the most serious. They go through all the layers of your skin, and they can affect your bones and muscles. You can also die from a fourth-degree burn.
Although not all burn injuries are deemed catastrophic, some of them belong in that category. If your vehicle is on fire after an accident, make sure you get out as soon as you can. Avoid getting caught up in that explosion and sustaining burns all over your body.
Injuries That Require Long-Term Medical Attention
Thus far, the catastrophic injuries we have highlighted are ones that affect your physical capabilities or change your appearance. You should know, though, that catastrophic injuries can extend beyond them.
A catastrophic injury can also be something that leaves you requiring long-term medical attention. The injury may have been bad enough that you now need to visit the doctor regularly for continuing treatment. You can still live a relatively normal life, but there is no denying that the injury has changed it.
Causes of Catastrophic Injuries
We have already touched on some of the causes of catastrophic injuries, but let’s detail them a bit further now. Refer to the bullet points below to learn more about the leading causes of catastrophic injuries.
- Vehicular Accidents – Broken bones, scars, burns, and numerous other examples of catastrophic injuries can be the result of involvement in a vehicular accident. Always be mindful of your safety on the road to avoid those injuries.
- Assault – An enraged individual can do serious harm if they attack you. Engaging with them may only lead to more serious injuries, so opt to get the authorities involved instead.
- Accidental Falls – Slip and fall accidents typically are not serious, but they can be depending on your location. Falling from a great height can have a lasting impact on you physically.
- Animal Attacks – Dog bites can be catastrophic injuries, but other pets can pose a threat as well. Some exotic pets can be dangerous to keep around, and they can seriously harm someone if they attack.
- Workplace Accidents – Accidents in the workplace can also be catastrophic in nature. Alert your bosses to hazardous working conditions to avoid potentially serious injuries.
- Medical Malpractice – You expect to be in good hands while you are being treated by a doctor or surgeon, but they are not immune from making mistakes. Do not hesitate to speak up if you believe something went wrong with the treatment you received.
- Defective Products – Product defects can also be the cause of catastrophic injuries. Hold the companies responsible for putting out defective products by suing them for damages.
Assigning Blame in Catastrophic Injury Cases
To say that catastrophic injuries can change your life forever is no hyperbole. You may never lead the lifestyle you once did due to your injuries.
Apart from those sudden changes to your life, you also must deal with the financial fallout of the accident. Given the nature of catastrophic injuries, you may spend a fortune on your treatment.
You need to hold the right people accountable for what happened if you do not want to end up saddled with a mountain of medical bills. Filing a lawsuit against the responsible party is one way to do that.
In California personal injury cases, assigning blame properly is crucial to determining how they dole out compensation. The state of California adheres to the principle of pure comparative fault, and that means the amount of compensation you receive will depend in part on how much blame falls on your shoulders.
If the court finds that you are 20 % to blame for the accident, they will reduce your compensation by that same amount. Note that you can still receive compensation even if the court rules that you are more than 50 % to blame for what happened.
Considering how they distribute compensation in California personal injury cases, you can see why partnering with an experienced catastrophic injury attorney is so important. Without their help, you may struggle to come away with any kind of fair compensation.
Statutes of Limitations for Catastrophic Injury Cases
Catastrophic injury cases are more serious than typical personal injury cases. Still, the same statutes of limitations apply to them.
In most cases, plaintiffs are given up to two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. You may not file in time if you are doing it on your own due to your injuries. Reach out to a lawyer and ask for their help if you fear you might run out of time.
The statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is shorter. Plaintiffs are often given only a year from the discovery of the injury to file their lawsuit. You will need a catastrophic injury lawyer’s assistance to file a substantial case that quickly.
Expert legal assistance is essential in catastrophic injury cases. Secure that type of legal assistance by partnering with us at The Broadway Law Firm. Contact us today, and we will help you obtain the compensation you need.