Catastrophic Personal Injury

What is a Catastrophic Injury

By catastrophic, I mean to refer to injuries which require significant medical treatment, and which usually have a long-term or permanent effect on an injured person's life. Some injuries are catastrophic, but with good medical attention the injured person can make a good or excellent recovery. Others cause permanent disability, significant suffering, and may substantially shorten an injured person's lifespan.

The purpose of this article is not to suggest that injuries that are not "catastrophic" do not justify substantial compensation. Instead, the purpose of this article is to highlight the long-term effects that can be associated with particularly severe injuries, and the importance of obtaining quality legal representation for those injuries.

When a person suffers a spinal cord injury, the person may face a life of disability and dependency. An active person can suddenly become an invalid, with injuries that cannot be treated by even the most advanced medical treatments. While there is always hope of a future medical advance which will ameliorate or even cure spinal cord injuries, at present medical science is limited. A parent whose child suffers a brain or spinal cord injury may suddenly find that the child requires full-time care. A brain injury may cause a personality change, causing a spouse, parent or child to suddenly seem like a different person.

Money Damages Are Often Far From Sufficient

One of the true tragedies of life is that many people are catastrophically injured, but cannot recover adequately for their injuries. Legislatures throughout the country have imposed caps on "non-economic" damages, which can be ridiculously low. Ironically, studies indicate that huge jury verdicts are rare, and that most injury victims are undercompensated. By misrepresenting the exceptional case as the norm, insurance companies have successfully protected their wealth at the expense of society's most vulnerable injury victims.

The worst and most dangerous drivers often carry the lowest possible amount of insurance that the law allows, or carry no insurance at all. Few people would voluntarily allow themselves to suffer even a simple fracture of a bone, even for tens of thousands of dollars. The amount of suffering that results from living a lifetime with disfiguring scars, or with a spinal cord or brain injury, is inconceivable. Our society really should do more to take care of its own -- to make sure that people who suffer catastrophic injuries do not effectively lose their right to a reasonably normal life, just because an insurance company successfully lobbied for damages caps on personal injury or malpractice actions.

Hiring a Lawyer for a Serious Injury Case

If you or a loved one face recovery from a catastrophic injury, seek assistance from an attorney who has experience with your type of injury, and who knows how to find every possible source of recovery. Even if you don't have a legal cause of action, an attorney may be able to assist you in obtaining government benefits.

Although many personal injury lawyers will accept any injury case, some personal injury lawyers specialize in specific types of cases, including those that are most likely to result in catastrophic injury. For example, some personal injury lawyers specialize in the field of medical malpractice, and within that specialty some further subspecialize on specific types of malpractice such as birth injuries. Some lawyers specialize in product liability law, focusing their practice on representing clients injured by dangerous or defective products or medications. Some lawyers specialize in representing clients who have experienced specific types of injury, such as spinal cord injury, brain injuries or burn injuries.

It is often a good idea to seek specialized legal assistance with catastrophic injury cases. A specialized personal injury attorneys may have a better understanding of an injured person's injury and the damages that will result from the injury. As a catastrophic injury may necessitate a lifetime of medical care, or repeated reconstructive surgeries, it is helpful to have an attorney who understands the treatment and recovery process. A severely burned child may require repeated surgeries to accommodate growth, in addition to various cosmetic surgeries. A child with a bone fracture that affects a growth plate may face difficult bone-stretching procedures, and may never have normal use of an affected limb. If an attorney understands the long-term effects of an injury, the attorney will be better able to argue for just compensation.

If you need to hire a personal injury lawyer, you may find our article on "How To Hire A Personal Injury Lawyer" to be helpful.

Copyright © 2005 Aaron Larson, All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article, except as otherwise authorized in writing by the author of the article you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.

This article was last reviewed or amended on Dec 3, 2017.