Accidents that result in personal injuries can be traumatic and life-changing. However, if you sustain catastrophic injuries, things will be even worse. You and your loved ones will go through stress the rest of your lives because typically the effects of catastrophic injuries are long term. Medical bills accrue over time because the injuries last for a lifetime, leaving the family of the victim overwhelmed with bills. Some victims even lose their lives in the process while others are unable to work due to disability, thus losing their livelihood. If you have suffered such injuries, The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm is here to help you claim compensation for the losses. We will discuss the legal definition of catastrophic injury, liable parties, and the time available to sue to get compensated.
Definition of Catastrophic Injury
A catastrophic injury is that which leaves the victim with permanent or long term pain, loss of function of a specific body part or organ or disfigurement. Also, it can be defined as an injury that permanently prevents the injured from engaging in any gainful work leaving him or her unable to make a living. A catastrophic injury also prevents someone from engaging in normal life activities or critical tasks permanently or for an extended time.
The majority of those that have suffered catastrophic injuries are unable to walk, groom, or exercise, leaving them to be cared for by other people. Due to that, the injuries have a significant impact on the families of the victims by causing both emotional and financial burdens.
Types of Catastrophic Injuries
When injuries cause long-lasting symptoms, they are classified as catastrophic. Examples of injuries include:
Severe, disfiguring burn injuries
A serious burn can leave the victim with nerve damage and disfigurement that are permanent or long-lasting. Minor burn injuries do not fall under catastrophic. However, if the burns are severe and disfiguring, they are classified as catastrophic. The significant causes of burn injuries include contact with steam or boiling water, car accidents, chemical burns from bleach, and explosions. Burns leaves victims with much pain. Aside from the pain, they cause nerve damages and scars that require many costly surgeries to remove. Even if the patient doesn’t sustain severe burns, inhaling the smoke and chemical substances can cause deadly effects. Therefore, it is wise to consult with your injury attorney even when there are no visible severe burns.
Loss of limb or amputation
Amputation debilitates victims physically, plus it can result in other medical issues like infection or psychological disorders. These victims are also emotionally devastated, which is why they require prolonged counseling and rehabilitation after the accident. The majority of the victims that suffer these types of catastrophic accidents are those that are involved in car crashes or sustained work-related injuries. Due to the accruing medical expenses and emotional distress, people who suffer this kind of harm need compensation for medical bills and prosthetic tools, especially now when prosthetic technology keeps advancing.
Spinal cord injuries
Your spinal cord is an essential part of your body. It is a thick bundle of nerves that transmits messages or signals from the brain to the rest of the body. The main issue with the spinal cord is that it doesn’t self-repair, which means even the slightest injury on the neck or your back can cause paralysis. Any damage is permanent and will lead to loss of senses and function.
The brain controls the functionality of the body. A traumatic injury of the brain can be caused by exposure to chemicals or a blow to the head. The effects of such injuries are that they can lead to permanent memory loss and inability to perform daily tasks.
Chronic lung damage
Extreme exposure to asbestos can lead to severe damage to the lungs. The breathing system is affected, leaving the victim unable to perform normal activities and spending a lot of money in treatment. The side effects of chronic lung damage and last for a lifetime, which means the victims suffer for the rest of their lives.
Multiple bone fractures
A broken bone is an injury that can last for a few months, and you will be back to your healthy life. However, if you are involved in an accident that leaves you with multiple bone fractures, it means they will time long to heal, and you might never regain the strength you had in the beginning. Such an injury is devastating because the side effects are life-changing.
Causes of Catastrophic Injuries
Car accidents are the major causes of catastrophic injuries. The standard kinds of car crashes whose injuries are catastrophic include head-on and T-bone collisions. Other things that can cause these permanent or long-term injuries include:
- Slip and fall accidents,
- Vehicle fire,
- Worked induced accidents,
- Scaffolding collapse, and
- Loader accidents.
Despite the source of injury, you should take legal action against the person at fault. That way, you can get the financial support you need to cope with your current condition.
Liable Parties in Catastrophic Injuries
Some accident cases have people who were at fault or those whose negligence led to the accident. Your personal injury attorney should conduct investigations to find out the person who was liable for the accident so that the responsible party can compensate for the damages. Aside from the party at fault, your employer, company, or insurer can pay you for the losses.
Some of the accidents that occur in the place of work include slip and fall. Often, the employer or the owner of the business premises can be liable for negligence in maintaining a safe premise or supplying defective equipment. Below are some examples of people who can be held responsible for catastrophic injuries:
- Negligent individual’s employer. If the employer failed to offer a safe working environment or failed to provide training to employees to enhance safety, he or she will be responsible for catastrophic injuries that occur. A victim can opt to pursue a catastrophic injury claim with a personal injury attorney or choose a worker’s compensation claim.
- Producer, distributor, or a seller or a defective product can be liable.
- Property owner or manager of the premises where you were injured can be responsible too. A debilitating injury that stems due to the hazardous condition of a business or residence premises, the owner will be accountable.
- The owner of a dangerous dog that attacked you can be held accountable.
- The parents of the negligent person if the injuries were inflicted by a minor.
- Doctors and hospitals. Any negligent or wrongful conduct such as misdiagnosis or administering too much or very little medication can cause catastrophic injuries. The doctor responsible and the hospital will all be held liable for the damages.
- Educational institution. If a student suffers catastrophic injuries while taking part in school events such as sports, the institution will be responsible for the damages even if the injury occurred outside school.
If you develop a skin rash due to a defective product without a warning label, then you can pursue the manufacturer for the injuries sustained. The same case will happen if you are involved in an accident with a drunk driver. The drunk driver will be liable for the damages suffered.
Overview of Liability of an Employer Under the Respondeat Superior Law
If another employee’s negligence causes catastrophic injuries to another person or client, the employer of this worker will be held liable under the respondeat superior law. The law states that if an employee is acting under the scope of his or her job description, and in the process, someone is injured due to the wrongful conduct of the employee, the employer will be vicariously responsible.
The rule aims at making employers instead of employees liable in such cases because of the following reasons:
- To deter the recurrence of such wrongful acts,
- To increases the hopes of recovering damages among the victim, or
- To make sure the victim’s losses are covered by who reap benefits from the entity that caused the injuries.
Keep in mind that injuries are inevitable risks in the employer’s entity by the employees, which is why the employer is always held liable.
For instance, Peter is a waiter at a restaurant. While serving tea to one of the clients, some of the tea spills on the floor. After taking the tea, when the client is leaving, he steps on the floor where tea and spilled and slips and falls, hurting his neck and back.
The client undergoes several months of treatment without performing his normal life activities. The owner of the restaurant will be held liable for the negligence and will pay the lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering damages because spills are an inevitable risk of owning a hotel. Peter will not be held liable for the negligence.
Overview of California Dog Bite Laws and Lawsuits
In California, an owner of a dog that bites another person even for the first time will have strict liability for dog bites imposed on him or her. Keep in mind that dog bites can cause severe injuries that can change the way of life of the victim. If you file a catastrophic injury claim or any other claim in this case after being bitten by a dog and suffered debilitating injuries, the owner of the dog will pay for medical expenses and lost income.
The owner of the dog will be held responsible for the debilitating injuries if the victim:
- Never triggered the dog and
- Was in a public place and or in a private legal property.
If you were trespassing, provoked the dogs if the dog was protecting the owner or someone else, and if the dog that bit you was a military dog working in pursuant of the written policies of the military or the police, then you cannot sue under a California dog bite.
Comparative Fault and Catastrophic Injuries
Despite suffering a catastrophic injury, the victim can also be at fault for the accident. Even though you will be compensated, the responsibility will be shared. It means that you will recover compensation only for the percentage of fault by the defendant. Under comparative negligence, the plaintiff doesn’t get compensated for the damages which he or she is liable. The reason being he or she was partially at fault.
For instance, John’s wife is pregnant, and one evening the pregnancy water breaks, and John is afraid the wife might give birth before getting to the hospital. He gets his wife in the car and drives to the hospital with the wife in the back seat. Because he is in a hurry, he drives through traffic lights just after it turns red. His car crashes head-on with Peter’s truck which was moving in the opposite direction. John suffers traumatic brain injuries that leave him with paralysis, but the wife isn’t hurt. Peter, who was driving the car that was involved in a head-on collision with John, is also not injured.
After John files a catastrophic injury claim against Peter, the jury determines that he should recover damages amounting to $200,000. However, the jury also established that John, although being the person who suffered the injuries, was partially at fault and he was responsible for 80% of the damages. The same jury also determines that Peter was partly at fault for 20% of the catastrophic injuries sustained by John. John will, therefore, recover 20% of the damages awarded by the court.
If the jury establishes that Peter was responsible for 50% of the accident, John will get 50% of the amount awarded. Remember that most of these percentages where the plaintiff is partially responsible for the crash are settled outside the court through negotiations. Having an excellent catastrophic injury attorney can help you reduce the rate of the fault being blamed on you, thus increasing the number of damages you will recover.
Compensatory or Recoverable Damages for Catastrophic Injuries
Catastrophic injuries have many unanticipated costs. Besides, victims undergo psychological issues such as depression stemming from frustration and stress for being overly dependent on the family or for not being able to provide for the family. As a result, these victims need compensation for all these struggles in addition to the physical injuries sustained. Some of the damages your catastrophic injury attorney can help you recover from those liable for your injuries include:
If someone inflicts catastrophic injuries or any other kind of harm to another person, then the person responsible for the damage should foot the victim’s or plaintiff’s medical bills. The medical expenses can be footed by the liable party directly, through the liable party’s insurance policy carrier or the company of the responsible party. Getting compensated is not an easy process as it takes time with some liable parties seeking to delay settlement, forcing the victim to seek court settlement.
For you to recover medical expenses compensation, you need:
- Private health coverage,
- Government health insurance,
- California Med Pay car insurance, or
- A medical practitioner ready to work on a lien basis.
The liable person’s attorney will need copies of medical bills and transcripts of test results. Due to that, it’s vital to keep proper records if you are seeking to recover medical bill damages.
Lost current and future wages
A victim who has sustained a catastrophic injury like a brain or spinal cord injury might receive treatment for a very long time. During this period, the person will not be working. The plaintiff, therefore, deserves back pay for the wages they have lost as a result of the wrongful act by the defendant.
Also, the person who has suffered the injuries deserves compensation for anticipated future loss of income. If the damage is permanent, the victim might never work again. He or she, therefore, deserve compensation for the lost earning capacity.
A life care plan is the anticipation or projection of the medical care a victim of a catastrophic injury will require during the rest of his or her life. The damage is provided in personal injury cases where the injuries sustained by the victim are severe and have been caused by someone’s negligence or wrongful conduct. Lifecare plans involve compensation for medical bills, therapy and rehabilitation, pain and suffering, medical equipment and costs for modifying the victim’s car or house if they become disabled.
Pain and suffering
In California, there is no cap for this type of damage. However, one is entitled to recover damages for the pain and suffering endured after suffering a catastrophic injury. However, if you suffered catastrophic injuries while driving when uninsured, you cannot recover compensation for pain and suffering unless the other driver was driving under the influence.
Also, you are not eligible for pain and suffering compensation if you were injured committing a felony or when driving under the influence. There is no measure for calculating the amount of compensation for pain and suffering because it is non-economic damage. What is required is for the plaintiff to prove that he or she sustained harm that caused pain and suffering. After that, the jury will agree on a reasonable amount based on the evidence presented.
Keep in mind that these types of damages have high chances of being awarded if the injury results in long-term loss of function, and the recovery was harsh and took a long time. The victim will also not require to undergo mental counseling to recover damages for pain and suffering. However, getting counseling will make the recovery of these damages a cakewalk because the professional’s testimony will count as strong evidence to prove that the plaintiff underwent pain and suffering. Symptoms that can show pain and suffering are depression, PTSD, and insomnia.
Also, if you have suffered a catastrophic injury, you need to be compensated for:
- Punitive damages,
- Loss of enjoyment of life,
- Wrongful death,
- Permanent disability, and
- Mental anguish.
The effects of catastrophic injuries are life-changing. You will, therefore, need to make the recovery of the above damages a priority so that you and your loved one can recover your losses.
Statute of Limitations and Catastrophic Injury Claims
A catastrophic injury is a personal injury, and the statute of limitations for this type of injury is twenty-four months. Some causes of actions might, however, take a shorter time while others might take an extended duration.
For a catastrophic injury caused by medical malpractice, the plaintiff has up to a year to sue for damages after he or she has discovered or when they ought to have seen the injuries. In catastrophic injuries were the damages accrued over time, such as brain injuries or lung problems resulting from exposure to asbestos, the plaintiff is not limited by the statute of limitations. The reason being the injuries take long to manifest, which allows you to sue many years after the negligence or wrongful conduct by the liable party.
The reason there is a statute of limitation is to create a sense of fairness. If victims of personal injuries had no limit for suing, some would wait for a long time to the extent memories of the catastrophic injury fades away, the witnesses to the wrongful conduct move on or evidence destroyed. With a limitation, no claim will go stale because plaintiffs will be forced to sue liable parties before the expiry of the time provided by the statute of limitations.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
In the event you have sustained a personal injury in California, the first thing you should do is to contact The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm. Our core objective at the firm is to help victims of devastating injuries and their loved ones to get back their lives, make the liable individuals be held responsible for their actions so that the victim can get closure and also obtain financial security. Aside from ensuring you get compensated, our catastrophic injury lawyers will prove recklessness to help you recover punitive damages. Call us at 619-625-8707 for a zero obligation analysis of your case to help you know the amount you might recover if you pursued a claim.