Personal Injury Cases: What Qualifies as a Catastrophic Injury?
When it comes to personal injury cases and recovering compensation for injuries caused by another’s negligence, there is a difference between severe injuries and catastrophic injuries. Severe injuries could be considered things like broken bones, deep cuts that leave scars, and other such injuries that one can fully recover from over time.
Catastrophic injuries are injuries that leave life-long impacts on the victim. They can be left paralyzed or be injured in some manner that does not allow them to fully heal, nor are they able to return to their former quality of life after the accident and injuries. Catastrophic injuries, therefore, are injuries that have permanent and long-lasting effects on the individual.
Depending on the type of injuries, some people may not be able to return to work and support their families. Other people might be able to work, but in a reduced capacity or for fewer working hours, which lowers their earning potential from what they were earning before the accident.
In other cases, people may require ongoing medical care and assistance just to function. They may need a nurse or another caregiver to help them do simple tasks like getting dressed, showering, and preparing meals. They might no longer be able to take care of their children and provide affection to their spouse.
Additionally, family and friends are impacted when someone they love and care about sustains a catastrophic injury. The family will no longer have the income of the injured person to support the household.
The family can have difficulties in making ends meets, just because of another’s negligence that injured their loved one. Friends that relied on the injured are equally affected, as the injured person may no longer be able to provide support as they previously did.
When a catastrophic accident and resulting injury occurs, it is not just the victim that suffers the consequences. Their family, friends, livelihood, job, and future are all equally impacted and changed forever.
Causes of Catastrophic Injuries in Personal Injury Cases
There can be all sorts of accidents that can result in catastrophic injuries. Some of the more common ones could include:
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Semi-Truck Accidents
- Car Accidents
- RV Accidents
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Slip and Fall Accidents
- Trip and Fall Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents
- Construction Accidents
- Maritime Accidents
- Sporting Accidents
- Surgical Mistakes
- Medical Errors
- Prescription Errors
- Defective Products, Goods, Devices
- Equipment Failure/Malfunction Accidents
- Unsafe Working Conditions Accidents
- Hazardous Materials/Waste Accidents
When the accident is caused by another’s negligence, then the injured person and their family often have legal recourse by filing a personal injury lawsuit with help from a personal injury lawyer.
Common Types of Catastrophic Accident Injuries
Some of the more common types of injuries one could experience after a catastrophic accident include:
- Broken Back
- Loss of Fingers, Toes, Limbs
- Spinal Cord Injury
- Brain Damage
- Organ Ruptures/Loss
- Extensive Burns
- Crushed Bones
Keep in mind, these are just a few catastrophic injuries one could sustain during an accident. There could be others not mentioned here.
What Is Needed to File Personal Injury Cases for Catastrophic Injuries?
The key factor that will be used to determine whether an individual or their family has grounds to file a personal injury case with help from a personal injury law firm is whether the other party was negligent. Without negligence, there is no lawsuit.
Negligence is generally defined as owing a duty of care to another, such as providing safe working conditions. Furthermore, the party who owes a duty of care fails to do so and breaches their responsibilities. Their failure creates a situation where their actions result in someone being injured or harmed.
Additionally, in certain cases, the plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer will review evidence to determine if there are grounds to establish proximate cause. Proximate cause is where the defendant’s actions, or lack thereof, were foreseeable and could have prevented the defendant’s catastrophic injuries.
For instance, you know the brakes on your car need to be replaced because you hear metal grinding on metal when stopping, yet you fail to take the appropriate action and replace the brakes. You hit a pedestrian crossing the street at a red light because you could not stop on time.
The impact from your vehicle leaves them paralyzed for the rest of their life. Since you knew your brakes needed replacement and did not take action to fix them, this would be deemed proximate cause.
How Is Negligence Established in Personal Injury Cases?
In Texas, and many other states, the rule of modified comparative negligence is used. This rule allows injured parties to recover damages based on the percentage they contributed toward the accident. The defendant’s lawyer will frequently attempt to show the plaintiff was at least partially at fault for the accident. The reason they do this is to lower the percentage of negligence caused by the defendant.
For example, you were waiting to turn left from the left-hand turn lane at an intersection. As the light turned yellow, you decided to pull out into the intersection where you were hit head-on by the defendant, who was attempting to beat the red light. The defense lawyer could say you were partially at fault for the accident. If you had not pulled out, you never would have been hit and injured.
How does this affect the amount of damages you can seek? Once your percentage of negligence is established, then it is used to reduce the amount you are offered in a settlement or awarded at trial.
To illustrate, you are found to be 25% at fault for the car accident. The defendant is found to be 75% at fault. Your car accident lawyers are able to negotiate a settlement for $500,000. Since you were 25% at fault, your settlement would be reduced by 25% or $125,000, leaving you with $375,000.
Please note, the figures used here are to give you an idea of how modified comparative negligence works in Texas and are not meant to be construed as potential settlement amounts for catastrophic injuries.
Types of Compensation in Catastrophic Personal Injury Cases
There are several different types of compensation one could be awarded as part of their settlement or at trial if their personal injury lawyer wins their case, which could include:
- Loss of Income: One might be awarded loss of current and future income if they can no longer work or can no longer earn the same amount as they did before the accident.
- Medical Bills: One is entitled to receive compensation for all medical bills related to their injuries.
- Ongoing Medical Treatment/Care Expenses: Any ongoing medical treatments, such as physical therapy or care expenses like requiring the assistance of an in-home caregiver, can be part of the compensation received.
- Loss of Consortium: This is when the injured person is no longer able to provide companionship in the manner they did before the accident. This can include being intimate with their spouse, as well as helping care for children.
- Pain, Suffering, Emotional Distress: One could be compensated for any pain, suffering, and emotional distress they have and are experiencing.
- Loss of Property: Any property that was lost as a result of the accident might qualify for compensation as part of your personal injury lawsuit.
- Punitive Damages: If your case goes to trial, and the judge believes the defendant’s actions demonstrated gross misconduct, a disregard for the safety of others, or any other outrageous negligent behavior, they may award punitive damages. This type of compensation is meant to punish the defendant and make an example out of them.
The amount of compensation awarded does vary from one case to another, depending on the extent of the injuries—whether the case is resolved through settlement or trial—and other such factors.
Getting Sound Legal Advice in Texas for Catastrophic Injuries
If a loved one or you have sustained catastrophic injuries that were caused by another’s negligence, you need to speak with a personal injury lawyer with experience in catastrophic accidents. Having a lawyer on your side is essential to receiving a fair and just settlement or winning your case at trial.
For a free consultation and to find out the amount of compensation you could be entitled to receive, please call Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. at 713-893-0971 today!
Our personal injury law firm has over 100 years of combined trial experience. Our maritime, personal injury, medical malpractice, and vehicle accident lawyers have recovered more than $720 million for our clients.