Accidents can cause minor to catastrophic injuries. When you are injured in an accident, your insurance coverage can pay for some or all of your medical costs. In some cases, someone else could have been responsible for the accident, and they may need to compensate you. Contact the Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm to receive guidance on the nature of your injury and the compensation options that you have in the case of a catastrophic injury.

What Is a Catastrophic Injury?

A catastrophic injury is a severe injury to the skull, brain, spine or spinal cord. A catastrophic injury results in the permanent inability of the victim to perform any gainful work. Catastrophic injuries are the result of sudden and unexpected occurrences or illnesses. Some of the common causes of catastrophic injuries include vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, sports or recreational activities, medical mistakes, construction accidents and the use of defective medical devices or drugs. Catastrophic injuries result in one of the three outcomes below:

  • Death
  • Permanent disability
  • Severe head or neck trauma without permanent disability

The most common catastrophic injuries include traumatic brain injury, multiple bone fracture, neurological disorders, spinal cord injury, severe brain injury, loss of limbs and ruptured internal organs. These injuries leave permanent disability and long-term effects on the victims and the victim’s family. The families of such victims need to incur regular costs for physiotherapy, rehabilitation, medication and time spent in monitoring and caring for the victims.

In other cases, catastrophic injuries can result in the development of other medical conditions such as deep vein thrombosis, postural hypotension, altered thermoregulation, bradycardia, autonomic dysreflexia (mass reflex), chronic pain, and pulmonary embolism.

Compensation for Catastrophic Injuries

Victims of catastrophic injury and their families are eligible for compensation where the injury resulted from the negligence or intentional acts of another person. The victim or the victim’s family can file a personal injury claim against the respondent who may be an individual, organization or institution. The claim has to be filed before the statute of limitations expires. Since catastrophic injuries have the possibility of long term effects on the victim, the compensation amounts are often high. It is advisable to hire a personal injury attorney before signing any compensation offers from insurance companies.

A personal injury attorney understands the legal process involved in negotiating for a fair claim for a catastrophic injury. Therefore, you can trust him or her to handle your case diligently. You may be seeking compensation to cover your medical costs until recovery, support your family due to lost wages and to cover for pain and suffering caused by the injury.

Apart from receiving compensation, when another party is found responsible for the accident that caused the injury, they can face criminal charges.

The personal injury lawyer may take into consideration the time it takes for recovery from the injury. In some cases, it may take months or even years to recover. The recovery period differs from the type of injury, emergency response in the few hours or minutes after the accident and the trauma the body takes from the injury. Recovery from the injury may require interventions of therapists and counselors to help the injured to lead a normal life and accept their condition. The personal injury attorney can use the recovery period required to extend the statute of limitations or to stop.

The Statute of Limitations for Catastrophic Injuries

The statute of limitations requires that plaintiffs file personal injury lawsuits against the responsible parties within two years of sustaining the injuries. When the two-year period elapses, then the claim may be barred forever.

In some cases of personal injury, the injury is not discovered until later on. The statute of limitations, under the rule of the discovery of harm, indicates that the limitation period starts from the moment the victim discovers the injury.   

Where the claim is against the city, county or California state government, then the statute of limitations is six months.

Cases involving injury to children have a statute of limitation of one year which is applicable once the child turns 18.

Determining The Amount of Compensation

The amount of compensation you get for a catastrophic injury depends on some factors including:

  1. The Liability

    Liability refers to partial or full blame for certain parties to the accident. Both the plaintiff and the respondent may have some level of shared fault which reduces the amount of compensation the plaintiff receives. For instance, where you have a 10% fault in a car accident, you are entitled to 90% of the total compensation amount. Where you have no part in the accident, the compensation amount increases substantially.

  2. The Type of Injury

    Injuries include soft tissue injuries and hard injuries. Soft tissue injuries involve muscles and soft connective tissues. These injuries are considered less serious than hard injuries. Hard injuries are those that require a medical examination to detect. Hard injuries lead to higher compensation amounts.

    Similarly, injuries that require physical repair through surgery, and extensive medical evaluation will often raise the value of the compensation. Catastrophic injuries fall below the hard injuries section and therefore, are subject to high compensation amounts. The specific amount is dependent upon the value of medical care, how long you will need it and the impact it has on your family in terms of past and future lost wages. You can use the medical records and X-ray reports to back up your compensation claim.

  3. The Effect of the Injury

    Catastrophic injuries are disruptive to the normal lives of their victims. Therefore, the amount of compensation is dependent upon the extent to which the life of the victim has been changed. The effect of the injury can also be measured depending on the mental and physical effects of the injury. For instance, has it caused depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, total disability, hearing and eyesight loss? The effect of the injury is converted into financial value and awarded as compensation to the injured party or their family.

  4. The Recovery Time

Often, catastrophic injuries take a long time to recover from. This is because they affect the physical and psychological well-being of the victim as a result of the disruption to their life, their dependence on round the clock care and pain. The time the victim requires to recover determines the amount of settlement they receive. Higher compensation is awarded to victims who take longer to recover from their injuries.

Types of Compensation for Catastrophic Injuries

There are two main types of compensation in personal injury cases: economic and non-economic benefits.

Non-Economic Damages (General Damages)

  • General damages are those awarded where the respondent is at fault for the injury of another person. General damages include compensation for:

  • Pain and suffering

  • Disfigurement

  • Physical impairment

  • Mental anguish

  • Loss of companionship where wrongful death occurs

  • Reduced quality of life

Since it is hard to quantify the value of non-economic damages, the amount you receive depends upon the skill of the attorney, the jury and the nature of the injury. To increase the amount of compensation you receive through general damages, you need to hire a skilled attorney with the experience in negotiating for such damages. Where you can testify, the decision to determine the compensation will depend upon your presentation in court including your likeability, openness, consistency, credibility, and presence of medical evidence to back up your claims.

During the court proceedings, you should not shy away from explaining how the injury has changed your life, the extent and frequency of pain you experience from the injury and how the injury has reduced your quality of life.

Economic Damages (Special Damages)

Special damages compensate the plaintiff for the losses they suffer as a result of the respondent’s actions, negligence or intentional behavior. These losses are usually determined by analyzing the actual value of the damages. For instance, where your car was destroyed in an accident, the respondent’s insurer will repay your car. The value of the car can be determined by looking at the model, market value and age of the car.

Economic damages in a personal injury case can include costs for:

  • Loss of items that cannot be replaced
  • Past, present and future medical expenses resulting from the injury
  • Loss of past and future wages
  • Loss of the earning ability
  • Repair and replacement of damaged property

Special damages are easy to calculate because they already have a financial value. Calculating special damages in a catastrophic injury case may require the help of expert witnesses who are skilled in calculating damages such as future lost wages and the costs if future medical costs.

In the case of gross negligence, recklessness, malice, and deceit on the part of the respondent, the court may charge punitive damages meant to punish the respondent for their causing injury on the plaintiff. Where the plaintiff seeks punitive damages, they must be able to prove that the injury was as a result of the respondent’s actions. If the evidence for such is lacking, the court may instead charge you and your attorney for seeking punitive damages.

Limits On Personal Injury Compensation

Under California law, there are certain limits and restrictions imposed on the non-economic damages from a personal injury case. For instance, uninsured drivers cannot receive pain and suffering damages, even if the fault is entirely on the other driver. However, where the other driver is operating under the influence of drugs, the uninsured driver can get non-economic damages. Where the injury was a result of medical malpractice, the non-economic benefits awarded cannot exceed $250,000.

Mental and Emotional Harm from Catastrophic Injury

Suffering catastrophic injury can have serious effects on your mental health. Most people develop emotional and psychological conditions as they recall the events leading up to the injury, their struggle to come to terms with the injury, nightmares, and fear of pursuing activities related to anything that happened when they sustained the injuries. 

You could develop conditions related to the injury, which you can cite when filing for compensation. You can file for emotional distress damages if you develop conditions such as sleep loss, anxiety, fear, depression, and humiliation. It is important to keep a record of the psychological symptoms you are experiencing. Emotional harm is difficult to determine; therefore, to build a solid case, you need to tell your doctor about these psychological symptoms, the frequency with which you experience them and when they began. If the symptoms began after the catastrophic injury, then it will help you build a strong case when filing for mental and emotional damages.

Also, you can engage in journaling to express your feelings and how you think these injuries have affected your life. Such documentation serves as evidence in a court of law and increases your chance for compensation. The documentation will provide insights on to the extent of emotional harm and distress after the injury. If you had pre-existing psychological conditions before the accident, you need to prove that the injury aggravated the symptoms and occurrence.

Catastrophic Injury to a Child

When a child suffers catastrophic injuries, it puts a great financial and emotional burden on the parents or caregivers. In worst cases, the child may die from the injuries. A child can suffer injuries from vehicle accidents, defective toys, playground incidents, swimming accidents and attacks from animals. Such injuries can result in disability or permanent mental problems.

Where the injuries are due to the negligent, intentional or malicious behavior of another person, you can file for compensation for the costs incurred in paying medical bills, follow up care, and disability. In some cases, you can file for the inability of the child to earn a wage in the future due to the injuries.

Where the child is partly responsible for the injury, the court has to determine whether the child has attained the age and maturity that would require ‘reasonable’ behavior under the circumstances.

How to Increase the Chances of Winning a Personal Injury Case

To win a personal injury case and receive compensation for catastrophic injuries, you or your loved ones can engage in the following activities.

Seek Immediate Medical Help

After an accident, some people do not notice injuries they may have sustained due to the rush of adrenaline, excitement, and fear. Therefore, it is wise to be examined by a health practitioner to check for any hidden injuries. This way, you can have a record of having taken the appropriate actions after an accident. For example, if you suffer back injury during the accident but do not go for a checkup after the accident, when you start feeling the pain, it will be hard to convince the court that your injury resulted from the accident. When you get to the hospital, you should inform the doctor of all your symptoms. Where follow-up and rehabilitative care are suggested, you should follow-up on them. Seeking medical help strengthens your case and increases the chance of receiving compensation.

Gather Evidence

You or a person with you can take pictures of the scene of the accident, collect witness information and license number of the other driver in case of a vehicle accident. You could also describe the events as they happened. Keep this evidence as it may be useful in the court process. Where the injury resulted from the use of a defective product, you should keep the packaging, instructions and product parts. You can also obtain a copy of the police report documenting the accident. Any paperwork relating to the accident or any medical treatment you have acquired as a result of the accident should be documented and filed safely. Recording and organizing the evidence will make it easier to present all of it to the court at once. Disorganization inside a courtroom could have a bad impression on the jury.

Do Not Sign Settlements from Your Insurance Companies

Often, insurance companies rush to present victims of personal injury with settlement offers. For some, the money may appear like a huge and worthy compensation. However, it is always wise to seek legal counsel before signing any settlement offers from your insurance companies. Talk to our qualified personal injury attorney for advice on what a legal settlement is worth.

Be Careful What You Say and Do

In this age, technology has made us eager to share most details of our lives online. When you or your loved one experience a catastrophic injury, refrain from posting information relating to the accident, cause of injury or about the party at fault. Such words and actions could be used against you during the proceedings for your personal injury case. Also, immediately after the accident, refrain from sharing information about the accident and who you think may be at fault- you may easily blame yourself, and this could be used against you later on.

Find A Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

As mentioned earlier, a catastrophic injury on you or your loved one can have a lifelong impact on the quality of life, earning potential and overall mental and physical health. Therefore, it would be in your best interests to seek compensation for such injuries with the help of a personal injury lawyer. At Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, we are dedicated to seeing you get the best and highest compensation possible for your injury. Contact our Los Angeles Injury Attorney today at 424-231-2013 for a free evaluation of your case.