What Exactly Is a Catastrophic Injury?

by Staff Blogger | December 14th, 2020

Understanding catastrophic injuriesCatastrophic injury is a term used to describe only the most severe, debilitating injuries. It’s most commonly used in reference to brain and spinal cord damage, though it can also refer to other life-altering permanent injuries.

Attorneys and doctors use the term catastrophic injury to describe the severity of a client’s or patient’s injury. But for injured people, knowing whether an injury is legally or medically considered “catastrophic” can help them understand their path to recovery and their legal options in personal injury claims.

Hallmarks of a Catastrophic Injury

In general, catastrophic injuries include one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Disability or a loss in function of essential body parts
  • Extreme cognitive decline or loss of key cognitive functions
  • The need for lifelong assistance to perform routine tasks
  • Extreme psychological suffering related to the injury
  • Dramatic loss in ability to enjoy life’s pleasures

Let’s review specific injuries that the legal and medical community consider catastrophic.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Though traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can include everything from mild brain injuries like concussions to severe brain injuries that dramatically affect a person’s cognitive abilities, catastrophic brain injuries typically refer to the latter type of TBI.

Catastrophic brain injuries often impair a person’s reasoning, memory, and personality. In some cases, catastrophic brain injuries also cause some form of physical impairment.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Catastrophic injuries to the spine often result in paralysis or, at the very least, a reduced ability to use one’s arms or legs. Paralysis is usually permanent, leaving the afflicted with serious challenges performing routine tasks without assistance. These injuries can also be extremely costly, resulting in millions of dollars in lifetime expenses.

Other Injuries Frequently Categorized as Catastrophic

Though serious, debilitating damage to the brain and spinal cord are universally considered catastrophic, other types of injuries are also sometimes called catastrophic because of the serious implications for the sufferer.

Those injuries include:

  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of Limbs
  • Burns
  • Paralysis
  • Severe organ damage
  • Vision loss

You’ll notice that these injuries carry many of the hallmarks of catastrophic injuries. They can all dramatically affect a person’s physical and emotional well-being in profound ways, as well as impact their ability to earn a living for themselves post-injury.

Seeking Damages for Catastrophic Injuries

Catastrophic injury cases are unique. Though some personal injury claims involve comparatively minor injuries, catastrophic injuries have deeply impacted a person’s way of life. Thus, when someone suffers a catastrophic injury and files a personal injury lawsuit, they will typically demand far more in damages than people who suffered a more minor injury.

Damages in catastrophic injury cases can include:

  • Medical expenses: The costs of initial, ongoing, and future treatment for the injury itself, as well as costs for physical therapy, psychological counseling, prosthetic limbs, and any other related expenses.
  • Loss of income: This includes the income lost during the period in which the initial injury occurs, as well as the income that the injured person won’t be able to earn throughout the remainder of their life because of their injury, including any raises or benefits they may have been eligible for before.
  • Pain and suffering: These costs are called non-economic damages, and they include both the physical and emotional suffering one experiences in the wake of a life-changing injury. These damages are typically very substantial in catastrophic injury claims.

How to Determine Whether You Have a Catastrophic Injury Case

Because catastrophic injury is largely a legal term, the best way to determine whether you have a catastrophic injury claim is to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer in California. It’s important to make sure the attorney knows these types of cases well, so they can give you an informed opinion on whether your injury legally qualifies as “catastrophic.”

Let Us Evaluate Your Catastrophic Injury Case

At Berg Injury Lawyers, we know how difficult it can be for an injured person to determine the potential for a successful catastrophic injury claim. That’s why we offer free case reviews to injured people in California.

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury, and you want to explore your legal options, our personal injury lawyers want to help. Our consultations are free, and you’ll be under no pressure to move forward with a case unless you wish to do so.

Contact Berg Injury Lawyers today for a free consultation.