What Happens When a Car Accident Causes a Permanent Disability?

December 8, 2023 | David Abels
What Happens When a Car Accident Causes a Permanent Disability?
car accident lawyer

Car accidents can range from minor fender benders to devastating crashes. If you’ve been involved in a serious accident, you understand that the consequences can be physically, emotionally, and financially overwhelming. When a car accident leads to permanent disabilities, however, the stakes can be even higher.

An experienced Chicago car accident lawyer can help.

U.S. and Illinois Car Accident Statistics

Below are some startling statistics related to car crashes in the United States and Illinois that makes clear how serious motor vehicle collisions are:

  • More than 37,000 people die in car accidents each year.
  • Another 2.35 million suffer injuries or disabilities.
  • More than 1,600 children younger than 15 die annually in car crashes.
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the United States for people under the age of 54.
  • Car accidents cost the United States $230 billion per year.
  • The average cost of a car accident that causes a disabling injury is $61,000.
  • The average cost of a car accident that causes paralysis is $515,000 for the first year and $68,000 each year for treatment, care, and equipment.
  • The lifelong costs of a brain injury from a motor vehicle accident can range from $85,000 to $3 million.
  • More than 1.2 million adults are living with a disability caused by a motor vehicle crash.
  • Disabilities from car crashes are highest for people ages 35 to 64.
  • 41 percent of people disabled by car accidents reported being unable to work because of their disability.

Because disabilities from motor vehicle crashes are most prevalent in people who are in their prime working years, their quality of life, productivity, ability to care for themselves, and self-worth can all suffer negative effects.

Liability for Your Severe Injuries

Car accidents happen for many reasons, and the cause of your crash will determine whether someone else is liable for your permanent injuries and life-long losses. In some cases, liability is fairly obvious, such as when a driver hits you and then stumbles out of their vehicle because they are drunk. In other situations, liability might not be clear, and determining who should be responsible requires investigation.

Some parties that are commonly liable for serious car accidents and injuries in Illinois include:

  • Distracted drivers - Despite Illinois laws that strictly prohibit handheld device use by drivers, many people text and drive or engage in other distractions behind the wheel.
  • Impaired drivers - Whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, illegal drugs, or even prescription drugs, they can cause devastating crashes.
  • Drivers who violate the law - Illinois has many traffic laws, and every driver should follow them. Drivers can violate different laws for different reasons, but they always put others in danger when they do so.
  • Aggressive drivers - If you ever drove in Chicago traffic, you know that many drivers are impatient and aggressive. Cutting off others, speeding, improper passing, and other behaviors cause many crashes.
  • Employers of drivers - If a negligent driver causes an accident during their work hours, their employer might also share liability for the crash.

While you receive medical care and deal with the aftermath of a permanent and disabling injury, the last thing you need to do is gather evidence of liability for your crash. Let our car accident attorneys identify all liable parties and gather evidence to support your claims as soon as possible.

What is a Permanent Disability?

A permanent disability is an injury that causes you to not be able to perform your normal work duties or engage in typical daily activities that you participated in before your car accident.

Permanent disabilities are ongoing and will affect you for the rest of your life. Such disabilities can range in degree, established by determining at what level (if any) you can continue to work and function in daily life despite your injuries.

Permanent disabilities can range from partial disability to total disability.

The Overarching Consequences of a Permanent Disability

While every car accident is potentially devastating, those that lead to permanent disabilities can be especially tragic. A permanent disability can adversely affect your work, personal life, and even your quality of life. As such, seeking complete and just compensation when your disability is caused by someone else’s negligence is paramount.

Permanent injuries not only lead to extensive medical and therapeutic treatment, hospital stays, and cascading expenses, but they also create ongoing, unpredictable future expenses.

Every case is unique and must be specifically evaluated in relation to the individual losses you have suffered, along with the projected losses of future earnings and quality of life.

This is where a skilled Chicago personal injury lawyer comes in your attorney will help you navigate the confusing terrain of establishing the extent of damages you have suffered and will fight for the compensation to which you are entitled.

Car Accidents and Permanent Disabilities

Car accidents can lead to permanent disabilities that relate to the circumstances and the severity of the accident involved, including:

  • Paralysis caused by spinal cord trauma
  • Complete or partial limb amputation
  • Sensory deprivations, including deafness or blindness
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Limb deformation that results in mobility impairment
  • Ongoing psychological trauma
  • Back and neck injuries
  • Severe burns

Such conditions are obviously catastrophic to the sufferer, but also have significant repercussions for the victim’s support system, including family and friends. If you or someone you care about has suffered a permanent injury in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, you need an experienced Chicago car accident attorney.

How Permanent Disabilities Affect Your Life

A permanent disability will affect your life forever. Everyday tasks become challenges, like brushing your teeth, showering, or cleaning up around the house. Depending on the severity of your disability, you may have a hard time completing even simple tasks without assistance.

Financial Disturbance due to a Permanent Disability

Your finances will also be greatly affected by your disability, as you may no longer be able to work. Many disabled people are able to get some type of income from the government, but it’s almost never enough.

Whether or not you will be able to work depends on the type of disability you have and whether or not you were able to find a job with proper accommodations. There are accident victims who lose complete control over both their arms and legs yet are still able to find work as a software customer support agent.

However, for those who have skills that require them to use their bodies, finding another job may not be so easy.

Permanent disabilities are also known for having long recovery periods. This means it could take months or even years of therapy and treatment to get some semblance of normalcy back. During this time, you will not only be accumulating medical bills but you will have no way of generating income to pay them.

Expensive medical bills are a burden on the permanently disabled and their family. But the financial strain doesn't stop there.

If the person that was injured was the main income earner for their family, their sudden injury could mean a sudden stop to all household income. This means that not only are there mounting medical bills and other related costs, but there is also no way to pay the mortgage, electric bill, or for everyday necessities. In situations in which the main income earner cannot work for a period of time or indefinitely the financial strain on a family can be nearly incalculable.

[Read: Who Pays Medical Bills After a Car Accident?]

Other Types of Motor Vehicle Accidents That Lead to Disabilities

Motorcycle accidents are known for causing permanent disabilities to riders because of the lack of protection motorcyclists have against other vehicles.

Truck accidents can also leave drivers with severe injuries that cause a disability. Since commercial trucks weigh so much more than passenger vehicles, these accidents are often severe. Drivers who are unlucky enough to be hit by a semi truck are at one of the highest risks of suffering a disability due to their injuries.

Pedestrian accidents occur when a motor vehicle strikes someone who is walking or crossing an intersection. As you can imagine, pedestrians have practically no protection from steel vehicles striking them at a high speed. Because of this, pedestrian accident victims often suffer from serious and debilitating injuries that can leave them with lifelong permanent disabilities.

Bicycle accidents occur when motor vehicle drivers aren’t paying close enough attention and hit a cyclist. Like pedestrians, bicycle riders have no protection from motor vehicles and therefore have a high likelihood of suffering a disabling injury.

Common injuries that motorcyclists, drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists suffer that can cause a disabling injury include:

Car Accidents and Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can be so physically, emotionally, and financially damaging that it is worth taking a closer look at this particular injury. TBIs occur when the brain is smashed against its protective cover the skull. They can be caused by blows to the head or by wrenching back-and-forth motions of the head both of which are common to car accidents. Because your brain is your body’s command central, any injury can lead to irreparable and far-reaching consequences.

Even a relatively minor car accident can lead to a traumatic brain injury, and these injuries can go initially undetected. For this reason, TBIs are often referred to as invisible or silent injuries.

The long-lasting repercussions of TBIs can be so traumatic that it’s important to understand what the symptoms might look like:

  • Persistent headaches
  • Unconsciousness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Newly acquired sleep disturbances
  • Sudden onset of incoordination
  • Sudden onset of confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness and weakness
  • Sudden mood swings or changes in personality
  • Sudden onset of speech problems

The permanent emotional and psychological effects of TBI can be just as if not more damaging as TBI’s physical effects. Some TBI victims, for example, find that they can no longer manage their emotions in a way that’s familiar to them. Such consequences can be emotionally and socially isolating, and can lead to mental health issues, including depression.

Car Accidents and Physical Paralysis

Paralysis is the loss of function of a muscle or group of muscles in the body that causes an impairment. Paralysis is the most severe type of permanent disability caused by a car accident.

Typically, a paralysis victim loses sensation and movement control in the affected areas. This loss of feeling and movement completely disrupt people's lives at least until they learn to live with their new normal. Until that time however, physical paralysis is extremely painful, emotionally traumatic, stressful, and financially straining.

Paralysis caused by a car accident usually occurs when there is damage to the spinal cord. Depending on which part of the spinal cord is injured, victims can suffer different types of paralysis. It should be mentioned that paralysis can also occur from other injuries (like crushing injuries) in which a person's limb or other body part is crushed so severely that they lose the ability to use it.

Physical paralysis injuries can be categorized as:

  • Monoplegia: one limb is paralyzed
  • Hemiplegia: the arm and leg on one side of the body are paralyzed
  • Paraplegia: both legs and some of the lower body are paralyzed
  • Quadriplegia: both the arms and legs are paralyzed

Not All Permanent Disabilities Are Visible

The permanent disabilities caused by car accidents can present in any number of ways, and not all of them are visibly apparent. If you remain physically healthy but your mental health, cognitive functioning, or emotional stability have been adversely affected, the consequences you suffer can be just as significant. You may require ongoing counseling and therapy. Furthermore, you could experience mental pain and suffering as well as a diminished capacity to enjoy your life. Never overlook or minimize these are serious consequences.

If you suffered injuries in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, you might have the right to compensation.

If your injuries resulted in a permanent disability, you know how traumatic that can be. Do not rely on the insurance company involved to adequately and justly calculate your losses. Insurance companies are in the business of minimizing payouts, and they do not necessarily make your just compensation their top priority.

Because your rights and your fair compensation matter, you need experienced legal counsel who will negotiate with the insurance company, advise you against accepting lowball offers, and advocate for a fair settlement amount.

Temporary Disabilities Are Common After a Car Accident

Not all injuries that cause a disability are permanent. It is possible to suffer from a temporary disability.

Examples of injuries that may result in temporary disability include:

  • Whiplash
  • Concussion
  • Broken bones
  • Torn muscle fibres
  • Torn ligaments or connective tissue
  • Spine damage that can be repaired

Temporary disabilities will heal over time, unlike permanent disabilities. But they still have cost people their income, cause injury victims pain and suffering, create piles of medical debt, and cause serious problems for the person and their family that lasts for weeks, months, or even years.

Just because a disability caused by a car accident is temporary doesn’t mean the resulting damages should be overlooked.

Getting Compensation for a Permanent Disability

A permanent disability completely changes an injury victim’s life and that of their family. The financial costs of treating an injury that causes a disability is extremely high. The lost income is substantial, and the physical and emotional pain and suffering may seem limitless.

An experienced Chicago car accident attorney can help you file a personal injury claim so you can recover the damages associated with your injury so that you can get your life back to normal or as close to normal as possible.

A car accident claim can secure you compensation for:

  • Medical bills
  • Future medical costs
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future income
  • Lost earning potential
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life, sex, and normal marital and family life

[Read: Timeline of a Personal Injury Case to learn more about the process.]

If You’ve Suffered a Permanent Disability, Call a Chicago Injury Attorney ASAP

If you’ve suffered a permanent disability in a car accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you are no doubt overwhelmed. You don’t, however, need to face this crisis alone. The Chicago personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Abels & Annes are here to help. We have the skill and commitment to fight for your case and your rights. If you’ve been injured and need legal counsel, please don’t hesitate to contact us online or call our office at (312) 924-7575 for a free consultation today.

David Abels Author Image

David Abels


David Abels has carved a niche for himself in the personal injury law sector, dedicating a substantial part of his career since 1997 to representing victims of various accidents. With a law practice that spans over two decades, his expertise has been consistently recognized within the legal community.

Author's Bio

You Might Be Also Interested In

Head-On Car Collisions

Head-on collisions are the most serious car accidents. When motor vehicles suddenly stop due to a head-on accident,…

View Post

Rollover Accidents

Rollover accidents happen when a vehicle ends up on its roof or side. In some cases, vehicles roll…

View Post

Concussion Car Accident Settlement Amount

The value of a settlement for a car accident-related concussion will depend on several factors. The details of…

View Post