A catastrophic injury is a severe physical injury or health condition that causes permanent or long-term disability, longstanding health consequences, and considerable emotional damage. Catastrophic injuries affect the individual considerably, as they are life-altering and significantly impact their ability to perform daily activities or work.
Catastrophic injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) result in significant cognitive impairment or physical disabilities
- Severe spinal cord injuries that cause paralysis
- Severe burns that impair mobility or result in disfigurement
- Amputations or loss of one or more limbs
- Severe organ damage or organ failure
- Total or significant loss of vision or hearing
Catastrophic injuries typically require ongoing medical treatment and rehabilitation, which imply high costs. They can also result in emotional and psychological trauma, such as PTSD, for the injured person and their loved ones.
What Are Your Rights If You Suffer Catastrophic Injury?
Catastrophic injuries may be grounds for a personal injury lawsuit or a workers’ compensation claim if another party’s negligence causes the injury.
The process typically begins with filing a claim, which may require significant investigation and documentation of the injury and the circumstances surrounding the incident that caused it. The parties may negotiate and mediate to reach a settlement agreement, which can speed up the process. If the parties cannot get a fair settlement, the injured party can proceed to a lawsuit and trial.
When to File for a Catastrophic Injury Compensation Claim
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents are probably the most common cause of catastrophic injuries. They can cause traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and loss of limbs to drivers or passengers of the colliding car(s). Pedestrians hit by a vehicle also fall under this category.
Negligent drivers may cause accidents when they drive too fast for traffic and weather conditions or for too many hours without the necessary rest stops, drive under the influence, or are distracted by texting.
You may claim compensation if another driver has caused a traffic accident from which you have suffered catastrophic injuries.
Injuries at the workplace, such as falls, machinery accidents, exposure to toxic chemicals, or construction site accidents, are common causes of catastrophic injuries. The injured employee may claim compensation when the employer fails to conform to safety guidelines or shows negligence in securing safe working conditions.
Defective consumer products or industrial equipment can cause explosions, fires, electrocution, or falls. Product users suffering from catastrophic injuries due to product defects may claim compensation.
Product defectiveness includes design defects, manufacturing fails, and even the lack of adequate warnings or instructions about using the product, leading to misuse that causes a catastrophic injury.
Medical errors are, unfortunately, a common cause of catastrophic injuries, which are particularly complicated to prove. Medical malpractice may include surgical errors, misdiagnoses, and medication errors.
Acts of Violence
Victims of violent assault, including shootings and stabbings, often suffer from catastrophic injuries, such as gunshot wounds and traumatic brain injuries. Acts of violence are a particular case of a claim, as they typically imply a penal code infraction.
Other Cases of Negligence
Several more cases of negligence can cause catastrophic injuries, such as accidents while you are passing by a construction site without being employed there, injuries during sports events where safety measures are not observed, a violent dog that attacks a child, etc.
Whatever the incident that causes catastrophic injuries, if another party is liable for it, you may claim compensation for various costs and damages attached to the injuries.
If you or a loved one is the victim of catastrophic injuries as the result of the negligence of another party, then you may claim compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages resulting from the injury.
What Does a Catastrophic Injury Claim Cover?
A catastrophic injury claim may include compensation for economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages include costs for which you can provide bills, invoices, or contracts that imply income. These include:
- Medical expenses for medical treatment, including hospitalization, surgery, medication, rehabilitation, and ongoing care
- Lost income as a result of the injury, including past and future lost wages, bonuses, and benefits
- Ongoing care and rehabilitation costs to manage the injury and improve the person’s quality of life
- Property repair or replacement expenses, in order to repair or replace property damaged in the incident that caused the injury, such as a vehicle or other personal property
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are intended to compensate the injured person for non-monetary losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. For example, an injured person may file a compensation claim for:
- Pain and suffering: Compensation for the physical and emotional pain resulting from the injury and the impact on the person’s quality of life.
- Emotional distress: Compensation for the emotional trauma resulting from the injury, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Loss of enjoyment of life: Compensation for the loss of the ability to participate in activities and hobbies that the person enjoyed before the injury.
Some of these costs are not obvious initially but unfold in the long term, as the person recovers and adjusts to new living conditions. Filing a claim too soon can mean that the claim may not address part of these expenses.
Documenting such a wide array of expenses and potential costs is a tedious process that requires attention to detail and a meticulous collection of documents, bills, invoices, expert opinions, statements, contracts, etc.
Hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer at the early stages of a catastrophic injury claim allows for guidance on the timing of the claim. As Colorado’s #1 Personal Injury Attorney, our team at Legal Help in Colorado has seen all kinds of catastrophic injuries and the damage they can cause, so we can help you ensure that damages are properly assessed and claimed timely.
What Do You Need to Prove in Compensation Claims for Catastrophic Injury?
Proving a catastrophic injury requires establishing several key elements. These include the cause of the injury, the extent of the injury, its long-term effects, and the financial costs attached with the injury.
Establishing the Extent of the Injury
To prove a catastrophic injury, showing the extent of the harm suffered is essential. This may involve presenting medical records, diagnostic imaging, or other documentation showing the severity of the injury and its impact on the person’s life.
Establishing the Long-Term Effects of the Injury
To be considered catastrophic, you must demonstrate injuries have lasting effects on the individual’s health and life. The claimant should be able to show that the injury impacted their ability to work, engage in daily activities, and enjoy life. To prove a catastrophic injury, you must establish these long-term effects through medical testimony, expert witness testimony, or other evidence.
Demonstrating the Cause of the Injury
To receive compensation, you also need to establish the cause of the injury. This may involve presenting evidence such as witness testimonies, police reports, or other documentation to show how the injury occurred and explain why the other party is liable. An experienced injury lawyer will know what documentation you need to prove negligence and liability.
Demonstrating the Financial Costs Attached to the Injury
Catastrophic injuries often result in high financial costs, including medical expenses, lost income, care, and nursing costs, and even the fees for adapting the person’s residence to their new conditions of life (ex. using a wheelchair).
To receive compensation, it is necessary to present detailed documentation of these costs, such as medical bills, wage statements, or other financial records.
Why You Should Hire a Catastrophic Injury Attorney
A Complex Case Requiring Extensive Investigation and Documentation
Overall, proving a catastrophic injury requires a comprehensive approach that includes gathering evidence, presenting testimony, and establishing the long-term impact of the damage on the person’s life. An experienced personal injury attorney like Ross Ziev and his team at Legal Help in Colorado can guide you through the legal process and help you build a strong case.
The Need to Focus on Recovery Rather Than Legal Processes
Catastrophic injury cases can be emotionally and financially taxing for the injured person and their family. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney allows them to focus on rehabilitation. At the same time, a competent lawyer ensures that the injured person’s rights are protected, and they receive fair compensation for their injuries.
The Difficult Decision of Settling or Moving on with a Trial
Insurance companies often come with their own legal team in a catastrophic injury claim. You can expect a lowball initial compensation offer, especially if they believe you would prefer a settlement or perceive your legal representation as weak. At this point, a skilled attorney who knows the common delaying tactics employed by insurance companies can provide consultation on negotiating a settlement or filing a lawsuit.
Several issues need to be considered to choose between a lowball settlement or a lawsuit. If you are facing financial hardship, you might opt to settle, even if the compensation offered is lower than expected.
If the injuries are such that long-term expenses can be expected, then a fast settlement could be against your interests. If your priority is on receiving the highest compensation, a lawsuit could be the best approach, even if it takes several years to resolve.
Whether or not to settle a catastrophic injury case is a decision that should be made carefully and with the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney to receive fair compensation. Ross Ziev and his team at Legal Help in Colorado are familiar with insurance company tactics thanks to our extensive experience in representing personal injury victims and negotiating claims on their behalf.
The Statute of Limitations Should Be Respected
If you wish to receive a paycheck at the end of the process, you should respect the statute of limitations in your state. Each state has a statute of limitations, which is a deadline for filing a lawsuit. If the injured person fails to file a lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations, they may be barred from recovering compensation.
An experienced personal injury lawyer knows the statutes of limitations that apply and will ensure that all legal processes are performed timely.
Risk of Not Receiving Compensation
In some cases, an injured person is at risk of not recovering compensation.
Such cases typically concern the possibility of so-called contributory or comparative negligence. The liable party can claim that the injured person contributed to the cause of their injury and is partially at fault for their injuries. Depending on the laws in your jurisdiction, this may mean that you could be unable to recover compensation or that a judge may reduce recovery based on your level of fault.
The same risk exists if the liable party claims the injured person voluntarily assumed the risk associated with an activity, such as risks attached to deep diving lessons, bungee jumping, etc.
Get the Compensation You Deserve
A qualified personal injury attorney will advise on how to counter such allegations and will protect your best interest.
Ultimately, working with an experienced personal injuries attorney such as Ross Ziev and his team at Legal Help in Colorado can help injured individuals make informed decisions about their legal options and pursue fair compensation for their injuries.
If you are exploring the possibility of employing the services of a top-rated personal injury attorney, book a time for your free consultation, call us at (303) 351-2567, or visit our offices at 6795 E. Tennessee Ave. #210, Denver, CO, 80224 to discuss your case in complete confidence. You won’t have to pay us any fees until you recover your compensation.