Frequently Asked Questions: Personal Injury & Wrongful Death

What is a Catastrophic Injury?

A catastrophic injury is a physical injury or illness that is regarded as extreme or particularly serious, has a considerable impact on the victim of the injury or illness and needs a considerable amount of medical treatment. Catastrophic injuries may not always be permanent, but take months or years to heal. In some cases, the full extent of the injuries may not be known for a long amount of time. The effects of such injuries may be long lasting, both physically and emotionally. The types of catastrophic injuries are wide ranging. Some examples of such injuries are extensive burns, loss of a limb, severe brain injuries, spinal cord injuries or injuries causing paralysis. These injuries may affect many body systems, such as the central nervous system, gastrointestinal, urinary, respiratory, circulatory, excretory, reproductive and others.

Many wide varieties of events may cause a catastrophic injury. There are not certain types of accidents that determine if an injury may be classified as catastrophic. The severity of the injury itself makes that determination. Some examples of accidents may be automobile accidents, motorcycle accidents, accidents in the workplace, defective products, toxic substances, birth injuries and injuries due to fire or other disasters.

What Type of Damages Can I Receive for Catastrophic Injuries?

A person who has suffered a catastrophic injury may be awarded damages for the losses incurred. The amount and type of loss depends on the injury and the situation that caused the injury. However, many damages for catastrophic injuries include medical costs (at the time of injury and future medical treatment), lost wages, loss of future income (if the injured party will not be able to work for a period of time, even permanently), loss of household services, costs of additional care, loss of quality of life, pain and suffering, shortened life span and others. In addition to these types of damages, courts in some jurisdictions will also award punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded by the fact finder (judge or jury) in addition to compensatory damages. The goal of punitive damages is to punish the responsible party for the injuries the victim has suffered. Not all jurisdictions will award punitive damages and not all cases will warrant such an award, it depends on the jurisdiction and the facts of your case.

Who is Responsible for a Catastrophic Injury?

If the injury suffered by the victim was caused by an intentional act, negligence or a defective product there may be a cause of action for personal injury. When determining who is responsible for your catastrophic injury, it is important to look at the specific facts of your case. There may be more than one person who played a role in the sustained injuries. Depending on your case, the responsible party may be your doctor, nurse, hospital or other medical personnel, the owner of the motor vehicle that caused your accident, your employer or the manufacturer of a defective drug or product. It is important to seek an attorney, in your area, experienced in catastrophic injury cases to help investigate your case and determine the appropriate parties who may be responsible for your injuries.

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