Understanding Catastrophic Injury Claims

Whenever an individual suffers an injury due to the actions of another party, the injured party has the right to take legal action against whoever caused the injury in question. At English Lloyd & Armenta, our team of attorneys routinely provides legal counsel to individuals harmed by the actions of others, and we can put our experience to work in your case. Some injury cases are more severe than others and involve more extensive injuries.

The term “catastrophic injury” generally refers to any injury that will permanently affect the victim’s life. If you believe you or a loved one has sustained a catastrophic injury due to the actions of another party, it is vital that you contact us as soon as possible to determine your best options for legal recourse.

What Is Considered Catastrophic Injury?

California state law upholds personal injury statutes that dictate when and how an injured party can take legal action against the party responsible for injuring them. A catastrophic injury is any injury that results in permanent disability or disfigurement. These injuries are severe and often impose long-term medical complications on the victim, in addition to significant financial strain. One of the most commonly used frames of reference to determine whether an injury qualifies as catastrophic is whether the victim will be able to work in the future after the injury.

There are many types of catastrophic injuries. If you are unsure whether you or a loved one recently suffered an injury that qualifies as catastrophic, consider a few examples:

  • A construction worker is hit in the head by a piece of debris and sustains a traumatic brain injury. The injury causes severe cognitive decline and impaired motor function, leaving the victim unable to work. This traumatic brain injury would qualify as catastrophic.
  • An individual is walking home from work and is hit by a drunk driver. The drunk driver’s vehicle pins the individual against the wall of a nearby building, causing crushing injuries in both of the victim’s legs. The victim requires a full double amputation of their legs to save their life. This prevents them from returning to their job and causes severe psychological distress. A judge would likely classify this injury as catastrophic.
  • A defective consumer product explodes while an end-user is using the product as intended. The user suffers severe burn injuries to their face and upper body that require skin grafting surgeries, and the victim is blinded in one eye. These injuries entail permanent disability and disfigurement, so this would likely qualify as a catastrophic injury.

These are just a few examples of situations that can lead to catastrophic injury claims. Typically, most catastrophic injury claims revolve around injuries such as:

  • Severe burns. These injuries can not only be permanently disfiguring but also cause physical impairment such as diminished range of motion.
  • Traumatic brain injuries. Some brain injuries heal completely while others result in permanent brain damage, limiting the victim’s ability to work and live independently.
  • Spinal cord injuries. The human spinal cord cannot repair itself from injury, so any spinal cord injury can result in full or partial paralysis.
  • Crushing injuries. Most bone fractures will heal, but crushing injuries to the limbs may require amputation to save the victim’s life.
  • Toxic exposure. Some chemicals can cause severe medical complications that may involve permanent effects.
  • Animal attacks. Dog bites can be extremely painful and traumatizing and result in severe permanent injuries depending on the size and breed of the dog involved.

Catastrophic injuries are excruciating and traumatic for the victim and result in more significant financial losses than injuries that aren’t as serious.

Taking Legal Action for a Catastrophic Injury

If you believe another party is responsible for causing a catastrophic injury to you or a loved one, you have the right to file a personal injury claim against them to recover your losses. In a catastrophic injury case, the victim can secure multiple types of damages, including:

  • Medical expenses. The personal injury laws of California allow a plaintiff to claim all medical expenses resulting from a defendant’s actions. This includes immediate medical costs such as hospital bills and long-term medical expenses for things like rehabilitation and ongoing medical treatment until the victim reaches maximum medical improvement.
  • Lost income. One of the main determining factors a judge will consider when deciding whether an injury qualifies as “catastrophic” is whether the victim can work after they recover. A plaintiff filing a catastrophic injury claim would likely claim compensation for their lost future earning potential. Their attorney can consult a financial expert to help them determine how much they could have reasonably expected to earn in the future had the injury not occurred.
  • Property damage. If the incident that caused the plaintiff’s catastrophic injury involved destroying any of the plaintiff’s personal property, they could claim repair and replacement costs in their lawsuit.
  • Pain and suffering. By definition, a catastrophic injury is life-changing for the victim. Their injury may cause not only intense physical suffering but also extreme psychological trauma. A personal injury plaintiff has the right to claim pain and suffering compensation for these non-economic losses. Their attorney can help them determine an appropriate amount to include in their lawsuit.

Some catastrophic injury claims may also result in punitive damages awarded to the victim. This typically occurs when the defendant was intentionally harmful or acted with clear disregard for the safety of others or if they injured the plaintiff while committing a crime. For example, if a person suffers a catastrophic injury from a drunk driver, the at-fault driver would face criminal prosecution for driving under the influence in addition to liability for the victim’s civil damages.

Proving Fault for a Catastrophic Injury

If you or a loved one suffered any type of catastrophic injury that prevents work in the future, it is vital to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you gather the evidence you will need to identify the party or parties responsible for the injury and prove their liability. Proving fault in a personal injury claim, including one for a catastrophic injury claim, requires establishing the defendant’s negligence.

To succeed with your catastrophic injury claim, you will need to prove four elements of negligence:

  1. Duty of care. You must establish the duty of care that the defendant owed during the situation in question.
  2. Breach of duty. Next, it is necessary to show how the defendant breached their duty of care. You and your attorney will need to prove that the defendant failed to act reasonably in the given situation.
  3. Damage. The plaintiff can only pursue a personal injury claim if they suffered actual harm. An experienced attorney should have no trouble gathering the evidence necessary to prove a catastrophic injury.
  4. Causation. Finally, the plaintiff must prove that their damages resulted from the defendant’s negligence and not some other cause.

There May Be Multiple Defendants

A catastrophic injury claim can involve multiple defendants. For example, if a truck driver was operating their commercial vehicle under the influence of alcohol and caused a devastating injury in an accident with another vehicle, the truck driver will undoubtedly bear liability for the incident, but their employer may absorb liability as well under the legal doctrine of vicarious liability. If the employer failed to conduct a background check for past DUI violations before assigning the driver a delivery route, the employer would be vicariously liable for the driver’s actions.

Why Do I Need a Lawyer?

Any catastrophic injury claim will inherently involve substantial damages for the victim, and proving liability isn’t always easy or straightforward. A defendant may be unwilling to settle if they deny liability or if they accept liability but contest the damages the plaintiff is seeking. Hiring an experienced attorney is the best way to successfully overcome difficulties like these and navigate a catastrophic injury claim. Consider your choice to hire an attorney to represent your claim as an investment in your recovery. You are more likely to succeed in your claim with the help of an attorney and more likely to secure maximum compensation for your damages.

Avoid Procedural Problems; Hire an Attorney

Another reason to hire an attorney to represent your claim is that you will be far less likely to encounter any procedural issues with your case, such as missed court filing deadlines. These procedural missteps can cause significant delays in the handling of your case, all while the economic effects of the incident continue to compound into very serious financial problems for you and your family. The sooner you hire an attorney to represent your case, the sooner you can recover compensation for your losses and start rebuilding your life with peace of mind.

If you are ready to discuss your legal options after a catastrophic injury, contact English Lloyd & Armenta today to schedule a case evaluation with our team. We will examine your catastrophic injury claim and help you determine the best path toward recovery.