A personal injury claim involving catastrophic injuries can present unique challenges, especially when it comes to proving the current and future impact on the plaintiff's life. And a catastrophic injury is certain to increase the plaintiff's compensable losses ("damages") and the value of the case. In this article, we'll look at the potential spectrum of catastrophic injuries, issues common to these kinds of cases, and examples of settlements and verdicts in claims involving catastrophic/severe injury.
There's no universal definition of "catastrophic injury" in the realm of personal injury law, but the following types of harm would likely be categorized as "catastrophic":
In some sense, whether or not an injury qualifies as catastrophic or severe depends on who suffered the harm, and the impact of the injury on that person's life. For example:
Since the value of any personal injury case is typically based on the nature and seriousness of the claimant's injuries, it stands to reason that the more severe your injuries, the more you can expect to receive in the way of "damages". But the facts, arguments, and evidence needed to prove the full extent of the plaintiff's damages also tend to get much more complicated and elaborate.
That's because, after an accident that results in catastrophic injuries, the plaintiff may merely be at the beginning of a long initial recovery process, and could face a potential lifetime of necessary medical care. The attorneys for both sides must have a good understanding of the specific medical treatment that will be required now and in the future in order to value the plaintiff's case in a meaningful way and negotiate an injury settlement that will be acceptable to both sides. More likely than not, medical and economic experts will play a big role in laying out the necessary course of care, the anticipated costs of that care, the financial impact of the plaintiff's inability to earn a living, and other facets of economic damages.
On the non-economic side, the plaintiff's "pain and suffering," emotional distress, and other more subjective types of damages will need to be established, through the plaintiff's own testimony and that of medical experts including doctors and mental health care providers.
Here's a quick look at a few real-life personal injury cases (jury awards and out-of-court settlements) where catastrophic injuries played a part:
If you've been involved in any kind of accident that resulted in catastrophic or severe injuries, the complexity of the evidence inherent to these kinds of cases—and what's at stake financially—make it crucial to have the right personal injury lawyer on your side.