Catastrophic Injuries vs. Injuries Less Severe

In severe, long-term, or permanent injury lawsuits, the large compensatory money damages at stake require lots of legal work from the catastrophic injury lawyer on every side. Lawsuits claiming damages for catastrophic injuries and defending against such claims can present unique issues for claimants, the plaintiffs in legal terms, and those sued, the defendants.

Catastrophic Injuries

A catastrophic injury severely injures the claimant and causes long-term and sometimes permanent disability or disfigurement. A catastrophic injury often requires multiple surgical procedures, a long, difficult recovery, and a lifetime of medical treatment. Catastrophically-injured claimants may not be able to return to work in either their chosen fields or occupations or in any employment at all.

One factor in any evaluation of whether an injury is catastrophic is its disabling effects, the extent to which they may continue, and for how long. If the injured plaintiff cannot perform all essential life functions over a long term and will require some assistance for activities of daily life, the legal authorities are likely to consider the injury catastrophic. Lasting injuries that cause some permanent disability and prevent plaintiffs from earning their livelihoods in the same or similar lines of work they did before their injuries are also likely to be so considered.

Examples of be catastrophic personal injury claims are injuries to the spinal cord, to the brain, that cause partial or total paralysis, loss of a limb, severe burns, disfigurement, and significant scarring.

In every personal injury case, the plaintiff is entitled to damages as compensation for all losses from the injuries and their consequences. Not only are damages much higher in catastrophic injury cases, but proof of facts and legal arguments over causes and effects of plaintiff injuries and needs for damages are relatively complex, so a case consultation with a skilled, experienced catastrophic injury lawyer is always a good idea.

Catastrophic Injuries vs. Injuries Less Severe

Defendants liable for plaintiff injuries must pay damages that make the plaintiff whole, meaning compensation sufficient to pay all expenses of the injury and to make amends for the pain and suffering and loss of quality of life the injury caused. As noted, the damages are extraordinarily high in catastrophic injury cases, and the facts and arguments more complicated and elaborate.

A plaintiff may be at just the beginning of a long recovery followed by a lifetime of special medical care. Attorneys for both sides must understand the medical process clearly to negotiate a settlement reasonably and realistically, and medical experts probably will need to testify about future medical treatment its cost.

Limits on Compensation

Many states limit the damages medical malpractice plaintiffs can recover from defendant health care providers. These limits are typically on non-economic damages for pain and suffering and lost quality of life.

Caps vary within a general range from $250,000 to $750,000, but many provide that plaintiffs who suffer catastrophic injury may recover more than the usual limits, either higher or unlimited amounts, more than a million dollars, for example. A minority of states cap non-economic and punitive damages in all personal injury cases with some exceptions for intentional torts.

Catastrophic Injury Verdicts and Settlements

Here are a few jury awards and settlement amounts of damages in actual catastrophic personal injury cases:

  • $50 million to a plaintiff who suffered a broken neck after the defendant, who had been up all night, ran a red light and collided with the plaintiff’s car
  • $27 million to a construction worker who suffered severe brain injuries after falling from a scaffold
  • $17 million to a plaintiff who suffered severe brain injury from lack of oxygen after the defendant physician failed to intubate him after his airway closed down. This medical malpractice verdict was the largest ever in the State of Ohio
  • $11.3 million to two occupants, a pilot and a passenger, of an aircraft not properly maintained. The pilot suffered third-degree burns over 40 percent of her body and could not return to her profession. The passenger, a doctor, suffered pulmonary and multiple orthopedic injuries from crushed legs and burns over 40 percent of his body. He was able to return to work only after years of therapy.
  • $10 million to an ironworker who fell one story off a pre-fabricated metal building after slipping on excessive oil on the roof decking sheets. The injury rendered the plaintiff a quadriplegic.

Contact a Catastrophic Injury Lawyer

As a general rule, plaintiffs represented and assisted by attorneys in personal injury cases recover far more compensation in damages than do plaintiffs proceeding pro se on their own without professional counsel. The general rule becomes especially emphatic in catastrophic injury cases with their complex fact patterns and legal issues.

There is no substitute for the advice and advocacy of a skilled, experienced personal injury attorney. Attorneys are expert negotiators fully aware of how insurance adjusters by deception and delay can deny even catastrophically injured plaintiffs the full and fair compensation they desperately need to make their lives worth living. Insurers and defendants take claims much more seriously from plaintiffs represented by attorneys. They know that they may lose much more at a trial in a jury award of damages than they would pay in a generous settlement.

The inevitable conclusion is that anyone injured severely by intentional or negligent misconduct should contact a catastrophic injury lawyer as quickly as possible. For help from our catastrophic injury lawyer, contact Russell & Lazarus APC at (949) 851-0222.

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