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Catastrophic Injuries


Frequently Asked Questions about Catastrophic Injuries

Q: What is a "catastrophic" injury?

A: Injuries are often called "catastrophic" when the physical injuries to a person are especially severe, and require extensive medical treatment. The injuries may involve damage to a person's central nervous system, and this may affect other bodily systems or functions. Catastrophic injuries include:

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Paralysis
  • Brain injuries
  • Amputations
  • Burns over a large portion of the body
  • Loss of an eye
  • Injuries to the nerves in the chest, shoulder, and arm (brachial plexus)
  • Multiple fractures

In addition, many people who suffer catastrophic injuries also suffer depression or other emotional problems because of the limitations put on them by their injuries.

Q: Are catastrophic injuries permanent?

A: Not all catastrophic injuries are permanent. Those injuries that are not permanent will usually take a very long time-months, or years-to reach a full recovery. In some cases, especially those involving children, the actual extent of the injury may not be known until much time has passed after the accident. Emotional injuries may also be a problem for a long time after the physical injuries have healed. The effects of a catastrophic injury may linger for a long period of time.

Q: What may cause a catastrophic injury?

A: Catastrophic injuries may be caused by almost any type of accident. Catastrophic injuries may result from

  • Motor vehicle collisions
  • Construction accidents
  • Fires
  • Sports injuries
  • Farm machinery accidents
  • Workplace accidents
  • Defective products

Almost any accident can result in catastrophic injury. It is the misfortune of the victim that decides if an injury is catastrophic.

Q: What kind of compensation may I recover for my injuries?

A: An injured person may be awarded compensation, or damages, for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Future medical expenses
  • Expenses to care for the injured person
  • Lost income
  • Loss of income in the future
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium, or spousal relations

In some cases, an injured person may be able to collect punitive damages, which are meant to punish a person who acted badly. Punitive damages, if any, would be in addition to the damages listed.

If you read reports of verdicts or settlements in catastrophic injury cases, you may be struck by the large amounts of money involved. Remember that this money is meant to pay for many different, and expensive, things: extra medical care, lost wages, pain and suffering. A catastrophic injury takes away part of a person's life, and money damages are the law's way of attempting to pay for that loss.

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