If you’ve been in an accident and have suffered a catastrophic injury, you likely have a lot of questions. You may wonder whether your injury is actually categorized as catastrophic. You may also wonder whether you can file a lawsuit for your injuries, or if there is any way to claim compensation.
A Texas catastrophic injury attorney can help you understand whether you have a case. In the meantime, below are some of the most commonly asked questions about catastrophic injuries, and the answers to them.
What Exactly Is a Catastrophic Injury?
Federal law defines a “catastrophic injury” as any injury that has direct and immediate consequences that permanently prevent a person from gaining meaningful work. In simpler terms, a catastrophic injury is any serious and permanent injury.
Texas law does not have a specific definition for catastrophic injury but does define “serious bodily injury” as one that leads to:
- Serious permanent disfigurement
- Protracted loss or impairment of the function of a body part
- A substantial risk of death
What Are Common Types of Catastrophic Injuries?
Although any permanent injury that prevents a person from working is considered catastrophic, there are four types of these injuries that are more common than any other. They include:
- Severe burns that are typically third and fourth degree and cover a large portion of the body
- Spinal cord injuries, often involving loss of movement and function
- Traumatic brain injuries, typically caused by blunt force trauma to the head
- Traumatic orthopedic injuries, including fractures that require multiple surgeries and sometimes amputations
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Catastrophic Injuries?
Catastrophic injuries are permanent, and their effects are felt over the course of a person’s entire life. The impact these injuries have on accident victims include:
- Permanent loss of function or disability
- Inability to gain meaningful employment
- The need for care, accommodations, or lifelong assistance
- The need to remain on medication
- The need for prosthetic devices
- The need for assistive devices, such as walkers and wheelchairs
- Permanent scarring or disfigurement
After suffering a catastrophic injury, a person may never be the same again.
What Medical Treatments Are There for Catastrophic Injuries?
After suffering any injury, particularly one that is catastrophic, your focus should be on your health. There are many medical treatments available for catastrophic injuries, but the treatment path depends on your particular injury. Possible treatments for these injuries include:
- Emergency medical care to prevent the injury from becoming worse
- Surgeries and operations, of which there are typically many in catastrophic cases
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy, particularly if you have lost function or mobility in a part of your body
- Medication to treat the injury or manage pain
- Skin grafts, if the injury involved extensive burns
These are just a few of the treatments available for catastrophic injuries. Your treatment plan will depend on the nature and severity of your injuries.
Can I Sue for a Catastrophic Injury?
Texas law allows accident victims to sue at-fault parties for their injuries in order to recover economic and non-economic damages. These are the losses you sustained as a result of the accident.
To file a lawsuit, you must be able to prove that the other party was at least 51 percent at fault for the accident. If you were partly at fault, your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of blame. However, if you were more than 51 percent at fault for the accident, you are barred from receiving compensation.
It’s important to understand that catastrophic injury cases are more complex than claims involving less severe injuries. This is because settlements and awards are often much higher, and insurance companies are much more likely to fight to keep payouts as low as possible. It’s for this reason that anyone filing a lawsuit for catastrophic injuries must speak to an attorney who has extensive experience with these complex claims.
How Much Is My Catastrophic Injury Case Worth?
Of all the questions catastrophic injury lawyers are asked, this is one of the most common. Unfortunately, no one can determine how much any case is worth without first analyzing the facts. However, there are certain factors you can use to make an approximate estimation of your claim.
The first is liability, the concept that most personal injury cases rest on. If the other party was solely at fault, your injury case will be worth more. However, if you were partially at fault, your compensation will be reduced and your claim will be worth less. Additionally, if the at-fault party showed gross negligence or blatant disregard for the safety of others, the courts may award you punitive damages. In this instance, your case will be worth more.
The other factor that will affect the value of your claim is the damages, or losses you incurred. The more damages involved in the case, the more your claim is worth because you can be compensated for all of them. Some of the most common forms of damages include
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of earning capacity
- Permanent disfigurement or disability
Finally, the ability of the at-fault party to pay will also affect how much your claim is worth. Typically, when a person is sued, they have insurance that will provide coverage for the compensation. That insurance will only pay up to the policy limits, though. For example, if you sustained a catastrophic injury in a car accident, you would have to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. Texas law only requires motorists to carry a minimum of $30,000 in liability insurance. If the other driver only purchased the minimum amounts, which most do, this means that is the maximum amount you can receive from insurance.
When the insurance payout is not enough to cover the costs of your catastrophic injury, you can file a lawsuit directly against the at-fault party. This is very difficult in Texas, though, especially if the at-fault party is an individual. In most cases, it’s difficult to receive more compensation than what insurance provides, which could limit the amount of your claim. However, if the at-fault party is a major corporation that is self-insured, this may not be an issue.
Why Hire a Catastrophic Injury Lawyer?
If you have suffered a catastrophic injury, you should not try to file a claim for compensation on your own. These cases are some of the most complicated and typically require extensive investigations to prove liability and exhaustive collection of evidence to substantiate your claims.
At Burch Law Firm, our New Braunfels catastrophic injury lawyers can help. We understand that this is a time of recovery for you, and that you need to focus on getting better. We’ll help you do that by taking care of every detail of your claim and fighting for the full and fair compensation you deserve.
Contact us today for your free consultation to learn why we’re the right attorneys for your case.