What is a Catastrophic Injury?

What is a Catastrophic Injury? Catastrophic and permanent injuries can occur in car, truck, tractor-trailer, motorcycle, pedestrian, and bicycle accidents, to name a few. In many cases, these injuries require long periods of medical treatment and serious medical procedures in order to correct. In other cases, accident victims require a lifetime of care at a nursing home or assisted living facility. Some catastrophic injury cases reach a settlement agreement, while others proceed all the way to trial. Litigating a catastrophic injury case requires a special skill set of both medical understanding of these severe injuries and legal knowledge. If you have sustained catastrophic injuries in an accident that resulted from someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The Chicago personal injury lawyers at Abels & Annes, P.C. can review your case and may be able to provide you with legal representation.

Characterizing Catastrophic Injuries

Catastrophic injuries are those types of injuries which require long periods of medical treatment and recovery time in order to improve or resolve. Catastrophic injuries are common in high-speed motor vehicle accidents – and most especially, in motorcycle, moped, and bicycle accidents. These accidents are more likely to result in catastrophic injuries because motorcycle, moped, and bicycle operators (and their passengers) have limited protection while on the road. Although riders usually wear helmets which partially cover their heads, they do not have the outer shell of a vehicle surrounding them, and their bodies are more or less exposed directly to the ground. Consequently, they are more likely to have an impact with the ground (and/or another vehicle) and suffer serious injuries. Some common examples of catastrophic injuries include:
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Fractures and broken bones
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Paralysis
  • Abrasions and permanent scarring or disfigurement
  • Death
  • Fractures and Broken Bones
When an accident victim directly hits the ground or strikes something in the vehicle, he or she can suffer a major fracture or break. In many cases, these injuries require serious medical procedures, such as multiple surgeries, to correct. Following the surgery, the accident victim may need to take several months to recover and undergo long periods of physical therapy, and may still never regain regular use of that body part.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries typically involve nerve damage which may result in full or partial paralysis and other serious limitations. Spinal cord injury victims often require long periods of rehabilitation and therapy, including vocational or occupational therapy, in order to achieve a full—or even partial—recovery. In the most severe spinal cord injury cases, accident victims may require around-the-clock, lifetime care at a nursing home or assisted living facility.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries – or TBI’s – are one of the most significant types of catastrophic injury. These injuries can last for a long time and permanently impair an accident victim’s cognitive abilities. TBIs come about when blunt force or some other external trauma is applied to the accident victim’s head. This can cause injury to the brain’s neurons and axons (i.e. the brain’s “internal wiring”) and prevent them from functioning properly. Depending on the severity of the head impact, traumatic brain injuries can range from mild to severe. The most serious long-term symptoms associated with traumatic brain injuries include:
  • Long-term memory losses
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Lost consciousness
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Temporary or permanent comatose state
  • Permanent inability to function or move

Proving Catastrophic Injuries and Damages

In order to prove catastrophic injuries and damages, the accident victim must be able to show that someone else behaved in a careless, reckless, or negligent manner. This usually means that the at-fault party did something that a reasonable person would not have done – or failed to do something that a reasonable person would have done. In addition to proving that someone else was at fault for the accident, the accident victim must be able to show that the catastrophic injury directly resulted from the accident. Whenever accident victims seek monetary compensation for catastrophic injuries, the insurance company will look for any reason to deny liability or limit its exposure. The insurance company will oftentimes look for other possible causes of the claimed catastrophic injury, including prior medical procedures, degenerative changes on imaging studies, preexisting medical conditions, and prior injuries.

Expert Testimony

When attempting to prove that an accident victim sustained a catastrophic injury, it is often helpful to introduce the expert testimony of a medical doctor or other healthcare provider. The expert may be able to testify about the extent of the accident victim’s medical treatment and the permanent nature of the injuries sustained. In some cases, catastrophic injury accident victims are unable to return to work for long periods of time. In other cases, they may not be able to return to the same job post-accident – or they may have to switch careers altogether. A vocational rehabilitation expert may be able to testify about how the catastrophic injury prevents the accident victim from working at the same job, or from working altogether. An expert may also be able to speak to the accident victim’s projected loss of earnings over a specific time period due to catastrophic injuries sustained in an accident.

Economic and Non-economic Recovery Available to Catastrophic Injury Victims

Accident victims who sustain catastrophic injuries as a direct result of someone else’s negligence may be entitled to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, psychological harm, loss of the ability to function, and loss of spousal support or consortium. They may also be able to recover the costs of lifetime care and treatment – including the costs of medical care at a nursing home or assisted living center.

Call a Chicago Catastrophic Injury Lawyer Today to Discuss Your Case

If you or a loved one has sustained a catastrophic injury in an accident, you may be entitled to recover monetary compensation. A Chicago catastrophic injury lawyer at Abels & Annes, P.C. can discuss the circumstances of your case and may be able to negotiate with the insurance company or file a lawsuit on your behalf. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a Chicago, Illinois catastrophic injury lawyer, please call us today at 312-924-7575 or contact us online.

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