When is an Injury a Catastrophic Injury?

By Peter DePaolis

The vast majority of accidents do not cause any injuries. Most people who do get hurt in an accident suffer minor or moderate injuries. How do you know if your injury qualifies as catastrophic? Whether you got hurt in a motor vehicle collision, on the job, or walking down the sidewalk and getting attacked by a dog, any location has the potential to be the scene of an accident in which someone experiences life-changing harm.

A Virginia personal injury attorney could talk to you and evaluate your eligibility for money damages, compensation, or benefits based on your injuries and how they have affected your life. Let’s spend a little time exploring the question, when is an injury a catastrophic injury?

An Overview of Catastrophic Injuries

A person could sustain severe injuries from an accident and recuperate well. If they can eventually resume their former work and activities without substantial impairment, those injuries typically would not get considered as catastrophic. Generally, a catastrophic injury is one that changes the path of your life permanently.

Here are a few examples of things that can be catastrophic injuries:

  • Permanent paralysis or restricted mobility from spinal cord damage
  • Extensive, severe burns requiring skin grafts or causing damage to tissue like muscles or tendons
  • Amputations
  • Head trauma causing an altered state of consciousness, cognitive impairment, or personality changes

Often, a catastrophic injury results in death or reduces the individual’s life expectancy. In other situations, the person can no longer perform the tasks required for gainful employment, requires adaptive technology for everyday activities, has to change careers due to the ongoing impairment, or bears physical reminders like disfiguring scars or missing limbs that will never resume their former appearance. 

Compensation for Catastrophic Injuries

The compensation a person might pursue in the event of catastrophic injuries will depend on what caused the injury and who might be liable. For an on-the-job injury, a person might seek worker’s compensation benefits. For a military service-related condition, the person might seek veterans’ disability benefits.

If a catastrophic injury prevents you from being able to support yourself through gainful employment, you might be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. People who suffer catastrophic injuries because of the careless or intentional act of someone else might file a personal injury suit seeking money damages for their losses.

The compensation a person might go after in any personal injury claim or lawsuit will depend on the unique facts of the situation. Some of the more common categories of money damages in personal injury cases include: 

  • Medical bills. Typically, the reasonable cost of the medical treatment needed for the wounds is recoverable. This category can include the ambulance, emergency room, hospital, surgery, doctors, physical therapy, prescription drugs, and other necessary medical intervention.
  • Lost wages. If you missed paychecks because of your injuries, you can usually seek to recover this loss.
  • Pain and suffering. This category encompasses the physical discomfort and the emotional distress of your injuries.
  • Long-term care. Many people who experience catastrophic injuries need daily assistance with medical treatments and personal care because of ongoing impairment from their injuries.

These are just a few examples of the types of compensation a person might pursue for catastrophic injuries. If you got hurt and sustained catastrophic injuries, you will want to talk to a Virginia personal injury attorney about your legal options. Contact our office today for legal help, we offer a free consultation.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.