Did You Sustain Catastrophic Injuries in an Accident?
- Dave Abels; Chicago Catastrophic Injury Lawyer
Simple accidents happen every day. Sometimes the consequences aren’t that simple, however. People may slip and fall down a single step or an entire flight of stairs, especially when railings are inadequate or faulty. Reckless drivers cause injuries when they crash into someone else’s car. Simple accidents aren’t a major concern as long as individuals walk away with only minor bumps and bruises. If you sustain serious or catastrophic injuries, however, you may struggle with pain, disabilities, and economic losses for the rest of your life.
Seemingly everyday accidents sometimes lead to long-term medical care, ongoing medical bills, lost income, and unexpected disabilities. When someone else causes or contributes to your injury, that individual should pay for your damages. Unfortunately, negligent people or entities don’t always step up and take responsibility for their actions. Therefore, it’s up to you and a Chicago catastrophic injury lawyer to do what’s necessary to make them pay.
Protecting Our Clients’ Legal Rights
At Abels & Annes, we fight to protect our clients’ legal rights. We understand that presenting a serious or catastrophic injury case is often complicated and challenging. The simplest slip and fall accidents sometimes involve multiple responsible parties. Our clients often endure similarly complex liability issues when commercial vehicles strike their cars.
Our lawyers have experience intervening with intrusive insurance company claim representatives. We strive to investigate liability and legal issues while the evidence is still fresh. Further, we evaluate our clients’ injuries. We do this by thorough review of medical records and by getting to know our client. Finally, we work hard for our personal injury clients and we fight to maximize their compensation.
Our Law Firm’s Results
Our law firm has, and continues to recover millions of dollars for accident victims. When responsible parties and their insurers cooperate, we negotiate our clients’ cases to a conclusion. Our lawyers often hammer out settlements in mediations and other alternative dispute resolution forums. We always strive to protect our clients’ interests. If that means presenting our evidence at trial, we are unafraid to do so.
Each client’s injury and circumstances are unique. We can’t guarantee a specific recovery amount in your case, but we’re proud to share client reviews about our past results. We believe the videos and written comments on our client review page confirm our commitment to hard work.
Everyday Accidents Cause Catastrophic Injuries
People sustain injuries while they’re in traffic, on-the-job, or out for an evening of fun and laughter. Injuries often occur because one individual or corporate entity fails to behave reasonably.
Catastrophic Injuries Due to Slip and Falls
Falls occur in private homes, public spaces, and on staircases and landings anywhere people gather, including:
- Public garages
- Nursing homes
- Shopping venues
- Houses, apartment buildings and condos
- Entertainment venues
- Hotels, motels, and home-sharing spaces
- Sports stadiums
- Construction sites
- Factories and industrial operations
- Commercial office buildings
- Amusement parks
Many circumstances contribute to falls, but they often occur due to an owners’ failure to maintain and repair their properties. Such failure may include:
- Negligent maintenance
- Spills left unattended
- Deteriorating or defective floors and steps
- Inadequate lighting
- Poorly maintained surfaces
- Worn, torn or buckling carpeting
- Improper installation or maintenance of floor mats
- Failure to control or remove hazards
- Inadequate hazard warnings
Falls Cause Serious and Catastrophic Injuries
When a slip and fall accident occurs, hard surfaces can contribute to catastrophic outcomes. When a person falls on concrete pavement or down a flight of stairs, the blows sometimes affect the brain, spinal cord, musculoskeletal structure, and internal organs.
- Falls cause 28 percent of the 17,317 traumatic brain injury cases in the Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems (TBIMS) database.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) consistently documents falls as the number one cause of construction-related fatal injuries nationwide.
- Falls caused 32.2 percent of the 32,727 spinal cord injuries in the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center’s (NSCISC) 2020 database.
- Slip and falls are a particular risk for older Americans. Frail seniors can sustain hip fractures, head trauma, and spinal cord injuries when involved in a fall. Falls caused 95 percent of the 300,000 hip fractures in seniors over the age of 65 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- The CDC’s statistics show that falls are the leading cause of nonfatal children’s injuries.
Vehicle Accidents Leading to Catastrophic Injury
Even when you’re driving defensively, it’s impossible to predict when an accident will occur. The most tragic crashes happen when a fellow driver engages in what the National Highway Traffic Safety Association calls risky driving behaviors, which include:
Risky drivers often cause excessive damage that results in catastrophic injuries. Their behavior behind the wheel often prevents them from noticing other vehicles and stopping in time to avoid a collision. Catastrophic injuries can occur when a large commercial truck, an SUV, or a large pickup truck crashes into a smaller vehicle. The injuries sustained often relate directly to the impact severity, a passenger’s location in the car, and whether passengers utilized safety restraints.
Front seat passengers are at risk during serious front-end crashes and underride collisions. Back seat passengers sometimes sustain serious and catastrophic injuries, because rear airbag systems and seat belt mechanisms don’t meet the same standards as front-seat devices. If a rear-seat passenger’s head strikes the rear of a front street during a collision, the impact sometimes causes brain injuries. Rear seat belts don’t have force limiters to restrict seat belt chest constriction that sometimes causes internal injuries.
Vehicle Accidents Cause Serious and Catastrophic Injuries
Vehicle crashes are one of the major causes of injuries among all age groups. In discussing the impact, the CDC explains that for every one person killed in a motor vehicle crash, 8 people are hospitalized and 99 people are treated and released. Vehicle accidents sometimes cause catastrophic injuries that affect injured victims for the rest of their lives. Consider the following:
- TBIMS’s brain injury statistics for 2019 show vehicular accidents as the cause of 50 percent of the TBI-injuries in the database.
- NSCISC’s 2020 statistics tracked vehicular accidents as the cause of 38.3 percent of the SCI injuries in the database.
- The CDC cites motor vehicle accidents as a leading cause of childhood deaths in the United States.
- Vehicle crashes often cause multiple fractures, loss of bodily functions, scars, emotional trauma, and many other lifelong conditions.
Catastrophic Injuries from Pedestrian and Bicycle Accidents
Car accidents, pedestrian accidents, and bicycle accidents are each distinct with their own unique circumstances. With car accidents, passengers have the extra protection of being surrounded by their vehicle. Of course, bicyclists have almost no protection from the force of a car, aside from a helmet. Helmets do help to prevent traumatic brain injuries. However, they would obviously provide very little protection from any other type of catastrophic injury. Similarly, pedestrians have absolutely nothing to protect them if they are struck by a vehicle. So, when a pedestrian is hit, the result can be incredibly catastrophic and cause lasting injuries or permanent disabilities.
Bicyclists At Risk of Catastrophic Injuries From Cars and Trucks
When it comes to bicycle accidents, they most often occur because of driver negligence. Drivers have a duty of care to act in a responsible manner and to keep those around them reasonably safe. When someone fails to do that, they have engaged in negligent behavior.
Negligence on the road can take the form of:
- texting while driving
- failing to yield while turning left
- not leaving enough space between the vehicle and the cyclist
- improper merging
- not sharing the road and being respectful of a bicyclist’s space
In most cases, bicyclists take precautions while on the road since they are aware of the kind of danger they are in. On the other hand, people driving cars can get very comfortable, which may result in dangerous acts that lead to a collision with a bicycle.
Child Injuries Due to Bicycle Accidents
Bicycle accidents involving children and teens most often occur in residential neighborhoods, again, due to driver negligence. Neighborhood bicycle accidents most often occur because of speeding, not checking before backing up, or distracted driving such as texting, eating, or talking on the phone. Children can also be prone to catastrophic injuries because they have less life experience that would allow them to get out the way or notice that something is hazardous.
To make sure your children are staying safe while biking, teach them:
- the rules of the road
- the dangers of vehicles
- to ride on sidewalks
- the importance of wearing a helmet
Give them a limit to how far they’re allowed to ride and make sure you always know when they are bicycling. These rules may seem obvious, but routinely impressing upon your children these habits could be all the difference between safety and catastrophic injuries.
However, even if a cyclist follows all the rules of the road, he or she can still be injured by a negligent or reckless driver. This is true for both adults and children.
[Read: Bicycle Accident Statistics]
Pedestrians Can Be Seriously Injured By Vehicles
Pedestrian accidents are incredibly common in urban areas like Chicago where there’s heavy vehicular and pedestrian traffic. When you combine pedestrians and automobiles, serious injuries and sometimes death can result.
Pedestrian accidents, like bicycle accidents, often occur because of driver negligence. Negligent actions by motor vehicle drivers that can lead to a pedestrian accident can include:
- distracted driving
- driving while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs
- aggressive driving
- not keeping attention on the road
- lack of experience driving
- not checking to see if a pedestrian is in the crosswalk before making a turn
Because pedestrians have no protection at all from the force and steel of cars and trucks, their injuries can be catastrophic and deadly. When a driver’s negligence causes a pedestrian or bicycle accident that leads to catastrophic injuries, they need to be held responsible. The injured victim, the guardians of the injured victim, or the surviving family members have a right to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death lawsuit.
Who Is Legally Responsible for Your Injury?
When a vehicle or premises liability accident causes an injury, more than one person or entity often shares responsibility for the damages.
- Premises liability: If a fall is due to a property owner’s negligent maintenance, the owner is often responsible for the damages, under certain circumstances. A management company, security service, maintenance worker, construction crew, or another subcontractor may share liability for accidents involving those parties.
- Vehicle accident: A negligent driver takes legal responsibility for crash-related injuries the motorist causes. An owner could face negligent entrustment exposure if he or she knew the driver had a poor driving track record yet allowed the driver to use the vehicle anyway.
- Commercial vehicle accident: A truck driver or other commercial operator is legally responsible for the damage he causes. If a driver was driving his or her vehicle in compliance with his or her job duties, the owner/employer often assumes the driver’s responsibility. If a company’s owner/boss knew the driver had a bad driving history and allowed him or her to drive anyway, the owner/boss may face negligent entrustment exposure.
Why Catastrophic Injuries Occur
A catastrophic injury could be the result of negligent or intentional behavior. Sometimes, accidents happen even when people take all of the safety precautions.
Many times catastrophic injuries result from negligence. Consider the following hypothetical: A truck driver doesn’t see a pedestrian in a crosswalk and knocks the pedestrian down, causing a traumatic brain injury and several broken bones. The truck driver negligently caused the pedestrian’s injuries.
Grossly negligent behavior could also cause catastrophic injuries. Consider the following: A drunk driver with a blood alcohol level of 0.12 percent gets behind the wheel, knowing that he or she is intoxicated. In such an instance, the intoxicated person should have known that his or her facilities were impaired and should have known that individuals who drive under the influence have a much higher chance of causing an accident. Yet, the person drives anyway and does cause an accident that severely injures the person he hit.
What Damages Can An Injured Person Recover?
A claim settlement or judgment often includes economic (also known as compensatory) damages and general damages. In some instances, an Illinois court may award punitive damages.
Economic damages include incurred and estimated future costs for treatment, recovery, and rehabilitation. These include:
- Lost income
- Doctor fees
- Pharmaceutical costs
- Mobility devices
- Therapy costs
- Medical transportation
- Replacement services
- Funeral and burial expenses
General damages place a value on the emotional and social costs of an injury. A settlement often relies on the injured victim’s personal assessments. General damages often include:
- Pain and suffering
- Distress and anxiety
- Diminished spousal and family relationships
- Lifestyle changes
- Lost bodily functions
- Permanent scars
A court awards punitive damages to punish a defendant for egregious behavior. Illinois courts consider awarding punitive damages only when a plaintiff proves that the defendant acted willfully and wantonly in causing the plaintiff’s injuries.
How Do Responsible Parties Avoid Paying Damages?
In an optimistic effort to resolve their injury claims, seriously injured people often interact with insurance companies, self-insured corporations, and independent claim investigators without legal representation. Even more concerning, these claim representatives sometimes conduct investigations with the predetermined goal of proving that their clients had no liability. Insurers gain an injured person’s confidence, record his or her statements, and deny liability once they’ve completed their investigations.
Low Settlement Offers
In our experience, responsible parties, their insurers, and their defense attorneys rarely negotiate fairly if you don’t have a lawyer. Insurance companies typically make inadequate offers, hoping to resolve a serious injury case for a low amount.
Defending a Case at Trial
Some negligent parties, their insurers, and their defense attorneys take their defenses to court. They may defend a case hoping that a jury will give them a favorable verdict based on their alleged defenses, which may include:
- No liability: If a defendant proves that he or she didn’t owe a duty to the plaintiff or that he or she did not breach a duty owed, the defendant will avoid paying damages.
- Injured person’s status: Premises liability defendants often defend cases based on the plaintiff’s status on the property as a non-invitee. An owner has a limited duty of care to a licensee and only owes a trespasser the duty to not cause intentional harm or fail to warn of a danger on the property.
- No defect: If a manufacturer proves its product had no defect, it doesn’t owe damages.
- Damage defense: Some defendants try to prove that a plaintiff’s injuries did not occur as alleged or that they aren’t as serious as claimed.
At Abels & Annes, our attorneys have defeated overzealous defense strategies by preparing our cases with a trial in mind. We always review our clients’ evidence and legal issues with defense in mind. We’re always as ready as possible under the circumstances to meet any defense challenge.
Chicago Catastrophic Injury FAQ
Insurance companies, personal injury attorneys, and courts categorize the most severe of all injuries as catastrophic injuries. These injuries cause chronic lifelong struggles and/or a permanent disability rendering it impossible for the injured person to return to work or seek any gainful employment in the future. If you or someone you love has suffered catastrophic injuries, this is a difficult time.
You might feel overwhelmed and unsure about what comes next. It’s in your best interest to consult with an attorney as soon as you can, but until then, we have compiled the following list of answers to frequently asked questions concerning catastrophic injuries in Chicago.
What are common catastrophic injuries?
Federal law considers any permanent injury preventing a person from working as catastrophic. Yet, some injuries occur more than others. Some common types of catastrophic injuries include:
- Severe burns are not only acutely painful, but they can also be traumatic and create life-long physical and emotional pain. Burns are categorized as catastrophic when they cover much of the body and require reconstructive surgeries, skin grafts, and sometimes a medically induced coma to heal. Even with medical care, the risk of infection due to wide, deep burns is significant.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are caused by an outside force striking or penetrating the skull. These injuries are usually caused by a violent blow to the head or by an object penetrating the skull. Traumatic brain injuries commonly occur in severe car accidents, slips and falls, and workplace injuries. Brain injuries that are categorized as catastrophic often mean that a victim suffers from cognitive issues, like loss of memory and ability to focus; physical issues, like impaired coordination and balance and loss of motor functioning; hearing issues; vision problems; and behavioral problems, like depression, anxiety, and aggression. In situations with severe brain injuries, victims may experience a coma, a vegetative state, or death.
- Spinal cord injuries can be catastrophic because of how important the spine is to the human body’s operation. A traumatic spinal cord injury can occur because of a sudden blow to the spine during a car accident or slip and fall. A catastrophic spinal cord injury often causes permanent loss of strength, sensation, and function below the site of the injury. This may cause temporary paralysis or even permanent paraplegia or quadriplegia. In these cases, the injured victim will likely require extensive rehabilitation and assistive devices to get back some movement and independence.
- Severe orthopedic injuries such as crushed bones and fractures requiring multiple surgeries are also categorized as catastrophic. A crushed bone or multiple fractures most often occurs when force or pressure is put on a body part. Sometimes these types of injuries are due to being caught between two heavy objects in a car accident or a workplace accident. Crushed bone injuries are extremely painful, may require multiple surgeries, and run the risk of long-term issues.
- Amputation, meaning the loss of a limb or an extremity, is often a result of a severe accident. An amputation often cannot be repaired and may put the patient’s life at risk. Amputations are less common than most other catastrophic injuries, but when they do occur it usually means a lifelong disability for those whose amputations were a result of an accident.
- Permanent vision or hearing loss clearly creates a significant burden for those who suffer these types of injuries. For this reason, vision and hearing loss are categorized as catastrophic. When someone no longer has the ability to hear or see, they face a lifetime of hardship, financial difficulties, pain and suffering, lost income potential, and independence.
How much is my catastrophic injury case worth?
The value of your claim depends on a variety of factors, but it’s impossible to guarantee a specific financial outcome. The most important factor is liability. If the driver, business owner, person, business, another party who caused you harm is clearly liable, your case will be worth more. The value of your claim could be less if you share some fault.
If the other party willfully harmed you or your catastrophic injury was a result of gross negligence, a court may award punitive damages. In some circumstances this could greatly increase the value of your claim.
Additionally, insurance policy limits can also factor in the value of your claim. Most do not have the means to pay much beyond their insurance policy, making their policy limit the maximum amount of compensation an injured person can receive.
What types of damages can I recover?
If the court rules in your favor or you reach a settlement before litigation, you can receive damages for losses you (or your loved one) have incurred as a result of the catastrophic injury.
Examples of types of damages you can recover include:
- Current and future estimated medical treatment costs, including ambulance service, emergency room visit, hospitalization, surgery, medication, ongoing treatment, and continued nursing care in a long-term care facility
- Lost wages and lost earning capacity to compensate catastrophic injury victims who cannot return to work or seek future employment
- Home modification costs to make a house more accessible for someone with a catastrophic injury by adding things like wheelchair ramps, handrails, and constructing a main floor living area for those who cannot use stairs
- Costs for replacement services a household must use for tasks and labor the accident victim did before their injuries, such as a lawn care service, snow removal service, childcare, and a cleaning service
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Decreased quality of life
- Loss of consortium with a spouse
- Punitive damages in extreme cases of gross negligence or intentional harm
How long will it take to resolve my catastrophic injury case?
Chicago catastrophic injury cases may take longer than many cases so those involved have the time to truly evaluate the long-term impact on a victim. If there is a significant insurance policy of $1 million or greater, it could take years from start to finish.
In cases where it’s difficult to dispute liability or damages, the amount of time to resolve a case may be reduced. Or, if there is a smaller insurance policy, the claim may settle quickly.
Can I afford a catastrophic injury lawyer?
Hiring our Chicago personal injury attorney to represent you or your loved one in a catastrophic injury case costs you nothing in attorney fees upfront. Our Chicago catastrophic injury law firm understands the financial challenges that come with sustaining a severe injury and accept clients on a contingent fee basis.
Instead of charging an upfront retainer, law firms deduct a percentage from any compensation they secure for their client, whether a settlement or jury award. For example, our law firm typically charges a one-third fee, we advance costs to prosecute the case, and there is no fee unless a financial recovery is made for our client.
How long do I have to bring a lawsuit?
It is in your best interest to consult our Chicago catastrophic injury attorneys as soon as possible after an accident or event that leads to severe bodily damage. Under Illinois, you generally have a two-year time limit, or statute of limitations, to file a lawsuit against the party(s) responsible for your or your loved one’s catastrophic injury. However, there are certain defendants that have a shorter one-year statute of limitations, like municipalities for example.
Don’t delay in consulting an experienced Chicago catastrophic injury lawyer right now—delay can make your case harder to prove, so call us as soon as you can.
How can an experienced lawyer help my case?
Catastrophic injuries are life-altering events that leave victims financially devastated. Recovering damages for catastrophic injuries is more than receiving compensation for negligence, it is a critical source of funding for future expenses related to the injury. Adding insult to injury, insurance companies use every strategy in their playbook to protect their bottom line and avoid paying claims.
Catastrophic injury claims are high-value claims that require additional resources and skilled attorneys. Experienced catastrophic injury attorneys do not only file paperwork, they advocate for you and your loved one every step of the way.
Examples of how catastrophic injury lawyers help their clients include:
- Investigating a case to uncover all the facts
- Building a strong case against the other side
- Consulting with experts who help increase value to a case
- Securing valuable witness testimony
- Negotiating with insurance companies
- Bringing a case to trial when settlement is not an option
- Negotiating to reduce medical bills once a top settlement offer is received
Catastrophic injuries devastate victims and their families physically, emotionally, and financially. Contact our experienced Chicago catastrophic injury attorneys to see if we can help you get the compensation you deserve.
Chicago Catastrophic Injury Lawyer
If a negligent person or business causes catastrophic injuries to you or a family member, you must take immediate steps to protect your legal rights. At Abels & Annes, we always fight hard to recover damages for our clients, and we’d like to determine if we can help you.
“This firm was great to work with. Very fast and understanding. Every time I called I was able to receive a update about my case and always had a polite conversation. I was able to get through my case with less stress then I anticipated. I will be sure to come back if I am ever in need of their services again.”
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Abels & Annes, P.C.
100 N LaSalle St #1710
Chicago, IL 60602