Personal injury claims are usually straightforward to handle and may take a matter of months to resolve completely. However, lawsuits that are based on catastrophic injuries are very difficult as they introduce unique issues, including proving damages and arriving at a fair settlement amount for non-economic damages like disfigurement and pain and suffering. Here’s what you can expect with a personal injury claim related to a catastrophic injury
What is a Catastrophic Injury?
There is no legal definition of a catastrophic injury, but catastrophic injuries typically include injuries that are so severe that they lead to long-term or permanent disability and disfigurement. These injuries are considered catastrophic because they typically subject a victim to a long and hard recovery process, multiple surgeries, a lifetime of medical intervention, and significant pain. Many people who suffer a catastrophic injury are unable to return to work.
A key factor in determining if an injury is catastrophic is whether it is debilitating and how long the debilitation is expected to last. If someone is unable to perform every function on a daily basis and needs some type of assistance with daily tasks, the injury will likely be considered catastrophic.
The impact of the injury on the victim’s life is also a major factor. A long-term injury that leads to some type of permanent disability and prevents the victim from working in their normal line of work is considered a catastrophic injury.
Examples of catastrophic injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Severe eye injuries
- Total or partial paralysis
- Severe burns
- Significant scarring or disfigurement
To illustrate the difference between a serious injury and a catastrophic injury, someone who suffers two broken bones in their arm in a car accident is likely to heal in weeks whereas someone who suffers a spinal cord injury may have permanent impairments and need ongoing treatment. Catastrophic injuries can be the result of nearly any type of accident or malicious act, including car accidents, slip and fall accidents, dog attacks, and swimming pool accidents.
Victims who have suffered a catastrophic injury due to someone else’s intentional or negligent actions have the right to seek compensation for their damages.
This includes compensation for:
- Current medical expenses
- Future medical expenses (including the cost for in-home health care)
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity or loss of future income if disabled
- Cost to modify a home to accommodate a disability
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Catastrophic Injury Cases Take Longer to Resolve
There are several important factors that impact the timeline of a personal injury case. One of the most important is the value of the claim. The more money your claim is worth, the longer you can expect it wait before you receive any money. Unfortunately, while you are left with massive medical expenses, ongoing medical needs, an inability to work, and life-changing injuries, insurance companies do not like to make large payouts without doing everything possible to limit or deny the claim.
When faced with a catastrophic injury claim, the insurance company will investigate every aspect of your case until they are sure they do not have a good defense. This may include
- Attempting to attack your credibility. The insurance company will look for any inconsistencies in your story and signs that you are exaggerating your injuries.
- Investigating if you are following doctor’s orders. One strategy the insurance company will use is trying to show that your injuries are not as severe as you claim. It’s essential to follow all doctor’s orders and recommendations as the insurance company may very well hire private investigators to videotape you and try to capture any evidence that you are exaggerating. They will also try to paint you in a bad light. Be careful about what you post on social media and do in public as your actions can be easily misconstrued.
- Deny liability. The insurance company will try to argue that it is not liable to pay your damages because the insured was not at fault for your injuries, whether they blame you for the accident or an absent third party.
- Refusing to make a fair settlement offer. The insurance adjuster will begin negotiations with a settlement offer that is far too low for your injuries and may not even take into account your long-term medical expenses and pain and suffering. It may take some time to even reach a reasonable offer.
Catastrophic Injury Cases Require More Evidence
When someone is found liable for a plaintiff’s injuries, they are required to pay damages that make the plaintiff whole. This means you should receive enough compensation to pay for your expenses and make up for your non-economic damages like pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of quality of life.
The damages in catastrophic injury cases are significantly higher than other injury claims and the arguments and facts in the case much be proven completely. This is a more elaborate and complicated process. With a catastrophic injury, you likely facing a lifetime of very specific medical care, which means both sides will need a good understanding of the realistic medical process you can expect for the rest of your life to negotiate a settlement. Medical experts will likely be necessary to testify as to what your medical treatments in the future will include and how much it will cost.
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