Just like with every bad thing in life, no one ever thinks a catastrophic event could happen to them – until it does.
You hear the clichés all the time – “Enjoy every minute of life because it’s not promised,” “Nothing in life is guaranteed,” and, “Accidents happen.” Clichés may be overused but they are based on an idea that has truth behind it, which is why they are so common. These oft-used phrases pertain to the knowledge that no one is immune to accidents or life-changing events; a fact of life we know but don’t expect to be put to the test.
When it is, though, and we or our loved ones are victims of catastrophic accidents, the only thing left to do is to regroup and move forward as best as possible. This means that you must focus on healing from your injuries, both physically and mentally.
For many people who suffer from injuries inflicted through a catastrophic event, they need significant medical help and assistance with this new transition. The compassionate and knowledgeable attorneys at Hershey Law in California are there to help you get the compensation you deserve to start this new road in your life off on the most balanced foot possible.
Knowing your rights and what you can expect in this new stage of your life can make each step easier to travel. Here is everything you need to know to guide you when catastrophic events result in life-changing injuries.
What Is Defined as A Catastrophic Injury?
By definition, a catastrophic injury is classified as a severe injury to the spinal cord, spine, skull, or brain, but it can go beyond this basic explanation. If the central nervous system in the body is impacted, the effects are almost always far-reaching.
Catastrophic injuries are legally placed into one of three categories: spinal cord injuries, physical injuries, and cognitive injuries. Spinal cord injuries directly affect the spinal cord and only the spinal cord, usually resulting in paralysis issues. Physical injuries go beyond the spinal cord but affect the body in some way. Cognitive injuries result in brain damage, preventing the victim from being able to communicate, work, or use their memory correctly.
Damage with the definition of “catastrophic injury” typically results in serious conditions that are life-altering, such as:
- Traumatic brain injuries,
- Paraplegia or quadriplegia,
- Damage to organs,
- Loss of limb(s),
- Significant burns, or
- Other paralysis.
In essence, a catastrophic injury’s consequences have permanent far-reaching effects that keep the victim from being able to live his or her previous quality of life or perform gainful work. But the effects of catastrophic injuries don’t stop at the victim. The family members and close friends are also impacted with the damages that were incurred.
What if Someone Else’s Negligence Caused Your Injury?
Although accidents can happen anywhere, catastrophic injuries are often the result of collisions involving large trucks or motorcycle, high-speed car accidents, drowning, medication errors, defective products, and injuries on construction sites or from construction errors.
One of the most common types of personal injury cases is the basic car accident. The numbers are intimidating:
- Globally, almost one and a quarter million people die in road accidents, or over 3,000 people every day.
- Additionally, between 25 and 50 million people are injured in car accidents every year.
- Car accidents have become the number one cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 29 and the second leading cause of death for children between 5 and 14.
- Almost every one of these accidents was caused by someone’s negligent behavior.
But car accidents aren’t the only form of injury, of course, and a very small percentage of these are considered “catastrophic.” Catastrophic injuries from car accidents usually occur when one of these factors is involved in one, both, or all of the vehicles:
- Distracted driving – Quickly becoming the number one cause of accidents, far surpassing drunk driving in its number and deadliness, distracted driving happens when the driver is not focusing on the road. Most commonly, the distraction anymore is the phone, but it can also include playing with the music stations, eating, talking to passengers, or anything else that takes the attention from the road.
- Driving under the influence – Drunk driving used to be the main culprit in this category, but it now has spread to include driving while using prescription pain medication, illegal drugs, and legalized cannabis.
- Speeding – The easiest law to break, speeding is dangerous on multiple levels. The driver can quickly lose control of their vehicle. If another vehicle crashes into the speeding car, the impact will be significantly worse. Speeding creates an increased potential of catastrophic injury or death in an already hazardous situation.
Other examples of catastrophic injuries not caused by car accidents but still due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness include, but are not limited to:
- Traumatic brain injuries – These brain injuries result in cognitive impairment that keeps the victim from living as they would have normally. They may have trouble speaking or forming language processing skills, difficulty processing emotions, and issues with movement. TBIs are frequently the result of slip or trip and falls, construction accidents, sports impacts, and assaults.
- Spinal cord injuries – When a person’s spinal cord is injured, even with bruising, that person can become paralyzed. They can also experience problems with their respiratory and circulatory system, since both of these crucial systems rely on the spinal cord to relay messages. The effects of spinal cord injuries are extensive. This type of injury is usually sustained from car accidents, falls, violent acts, and sports injuries.
- Severe burns – Beyond the physical surface damage, which is significant and life-changing in itself, burns can cause the victim to lose limbs from infection, become disfigured, and, if the burn is extensive enough, even become disabled. Catastrophic burns occur as scalding from hot liquids or steam, flammable liquids and gases, chemical burns, and building fires.
Legally Speaking: What Compensation Comes from Catastrophic Injuries?
Catastrophic injuries are devasting in their far-reaching impacts. The victim sustains life-long, life-altering damages and the loved ones close to them have pain and suffering, as well. Because of the severity of the consequences from the event, these types of personal injury cases often result in higher compensation than other lawsuits.
It may sound like a big award at the end, but the numbers add up a little differently when you analyze them closely. These catastrophic injuries are the catalyst for which all of the victim’s future activities will be based on, including their inability to work, bring in an income to support themselves and their family, and get medical treatment for their conditions.
Additionally, there is a significant consideration placed on the victim’s pain and suffering, mental anguish, and emotional concerns with a catastrophic injury. Loss of consortium and companionship from personal injuries is another category that is considered when the benefits of a family relationship are deprived due to someone else’s negligent behavior.
When you add up the emotional price and financial annual cost that the injured person must pay because of their suffering, that final total doesn’t always look quite as impressive as it did at first. But it does help the victim have a measure of financial security, cover their medical bills, and take care of their basic needs as much as possible.
However, California follows the standard of pure comparative negligence. This means that if the victim has any fault in their injuries, that level of fault will be turned into a percentage. The victim will then lose that percentage of their otherwise final award. For example, if the victim is determined to be 20% responsible for the accident that resulted in their injuries, they would only receive 80% of the final award (100% – 20% = 80%).
It’s important, then, to ensure that you obtain a lawyer who is skilled and knowledgeable in catastrophic injuries, like those at Hershey Law, to keep the defendant from claiming any negligence on your part.
Living with Catastrophic Injuries
When you have received a catastrophic injury, it can be difficult to do the basic things that once helped you enjoy life. You may have forgotten how much you enjoyed once-favorite hobbies, you may be unable to work or do the simple things to take care of yourself, and you may have to relearn how to live again. In some cases, you are taking care of a loved one who can no longer provide for themselves due to their catastrophic injury and both your life and theirs are irrevocably changed.
It’s common for victims of catastrophic injuries and their loved ones to suffer from anxiety and depression, PTSD, or other mental health concerns, on top of their physical damages. You are not alone.
But as you are working on healing from the emotional and bodily distress, you shouldn’t have to worry about financial concerns or legal red tape. Contact Hershey Law today for your free consultation to see how we can help you get the compensation you deserve for your catastrophic injuries.