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Severe Injuries, Disfigurement, and Suing For Damages

Updated: Dec 22, 2022

Suing For Catastrophic Injuries And Getting Compensation In California


A catastrophic injury will entirely change the victim’s life, as well as those of the people around them. It may cause chronic pain and lifelong disabilities, reducing a person’s quality of life. Even simple everyday tasks can be challenging when you carry permanent impediments from a severe injury.


That said, let's talk about catastrophic injuries, as a California Personal Injury Attorney would handle them.


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Unlike the broad definition of Personal Injury, Catastrophic Injuries are specifically debilitating. Victims cannot function due to their injuries’ seriousness, consequently affecting everything in their lives, and they struggle with large medical bills.

Defining Catastrophic Injuries

The legal definition of a catastrophic injury varies by state, but it usually applies to a personal injury that causes one or more of the following:

  • Health issues that last a long time

  • Life expectancy is decreased

  • Permanent physical and mental disability

  • It’s impossible to return to the quality of life the victim had before the injury occurred.

In terms of the damage’s scope and extent, a catastrophic injury is greatly from a normal personal injury. A traumatic accident results in a permanent change in your life due to an event. A California Attorney For Personal Injury can tell if your injury falls into this category and can forward a case that merits more payable damages.


The following are some of what’s considered catastrophic injuries:

  • Permanent disfigurement

  • Harm to internal organs

  • Severe burns

  • Injuries to the spinal cord that impair mobility (leading to full or partial paralysis)

  • Amputations that leave a person permanently disabled

  • Various forms of traumatic brain injury

These injuries can cause serious emotional distress and mental health problems. If you’ve suffered a traumatic injury, you will need long-term medical care, rehabilitation, counseling, and ongoing personal assistance.


They will likely affect your capacity to work or leave you utterly incapable of getting employed.


That said, each case is unique. Your California Personal Injury Attorney will be able to look at the facts, determine fault, and determine possible compensations you might be entitled to.


What Are the Leading Causes of Catastrophic Injuries?


Though a bike accident with the right circumstances can lead to severe physical and mental damage, several types of accidents are considered the usual causes. These accidents are customarily considered more serious compared to mere highway car collisions.


Here are examples:

  • Buses. Bus accidents have been known to cause serious injury and even death to passengers. Whether or not you are a passenger of a bus falling down a cliffside or colliding with another large vehicle or a pedestrian crossing the street just in time, incidents related to buses are pretty common and terrifying.

    • Seat belts are still missing from many schools and tour buses, and the large space inside a bus causes passengers to be tossed around and critically injured in bus crashes. Buses have been known to catch fire after colliding with each other.

  • Trains. Since few trains (like buses) have seat belts, there is a high risk of serious injury or wrongful death. In rush hours, passengers tend to stand when there are no available seats and are generally vulnerable to any jolting motion. Trains also operate at full speed, so any sudden halts or crashes are bound to toss everyone around when it happens. Lacking safety precautions that are usually found in private vehicles makes the passengers more vulnerable to serious injuries.

  • Trucks. These large vehicles usually take longer to stop and weigh several times more than common private cars, posing a significant risk. Due to their large size, any collisions are bound to cause severe human and property damage. If a truck’s brakes stop working and barrel straight into a residential building, it’s bound to leave more significant damage to everyone involved.

  • Planes and helicopters. Occasionally, serious accidents or wrongful death occur when an aircraft or helicopter crashes. Dismemberment, brain injuries, spinal injuries, burns, and nerve injuries are common among those who survive a major aviation accident. Many planes and helicopter crash survivors need lifelong support and treatment, regardless of whether they were injured while traveling on a major airline, a small private plane, or a helicopter.

  • Faulty Medical Devices. Medical instruments are often used in surgeries, but these instruments may also be used inappropriately or off-label. If the devices malfunction, it is either the fault of the manufacturer or the operator or both.

  • Pharmaceutical blunders. Certain medications can be administered in untested, inappropriate, or off-label ways, resulting in birth defects, debilitating side effects, withdrawal symptoms, and various other undesirable outcomes.

That said, these are just common personal injury lawsuit examples for catastrophic injury claims. Regardless of the type of accident you were in, the severity of your injuries would be the basis of your catastrophic injury claim. Make sure to work with top rated personal injury attorneys in Los Angeles to get the best results.


Can a Pedestrian Accident Lead to Catastrophic Injuries?


A lot of pedestrian accidents actually lead to severe injuries. Pedestrians are more vulnerable in comparison to the negligent driver of a vehicle. Since pedestrian accidents often result in serious injuries, compensation is normally high. A traumatic injury, such as brain damage or paralysis, can necessitate compensation to cover the cost of long-term specialized treatment.

Here are the possible outcomes of serious pedestrian accidents:

  • Internal injuries

  • Wounds from piercings and lacerations

  • Disfigurement (amputation, burns, severe scarring)

  • Bone fractures

  • Knee, ankle, hip, elbow, and wrist injuries are all normal.

  • Back, neck, and shoulder injuries

  • Soft-tissue injuries (torn ligaments and tendons)

A Catastrophic Injury doesn’t even have to be from a vehicular accident at all—it could be caused by another person, faulty building construction, or a bicycle crash—as long as the victim or plaintiff experiences serious repercussions like the ones mentioned above. Pedestrian collisions sometimes result in severe injuries, even though the injuries aren’t life-threatening.


This can also happen in medical procedures (like surgeries) gone wrong, as well as doctors and medical professionals prescribing medicines that ultimately permanently damage someone’s health and body.


That said, contact our prescreened top rated personal injury attorneys in Los Angeles for a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer.


How Do I Prove It?


Catastrophic Injuries are usually very obvious. If you lost a limb or suffered permanent scar burns due to an incident, that is proof enough. What needs to be proven in court, though, is that someone else’s carelessness causes the ill-effects you are experiencing.


Proving Negligence the Leads to Injuries


The main principle in defining “negligence” is the failure to exercise reasonable caution. To win a personal injury case, a plaintiff or survivor and their California personal injury lawyer must prove that the defendant in the claim was liable in some way that directly caused the alleged damages. It’s important to identify the breach of duty of care and include a thorough breakdown of all costs sustained due to the violation.


Note that a negligence claim doesn’t have to be against one person or culprit. In cases of malfunctioning medical instruments, faulty and dangerous pharmaceutical products, poorly-constructed buildings, etc., the plaintiff can pursue a lawsuit with the company or contractor. Whether the court zeroes in on a single responsible individual (or group) depends on how the case will proceed.

One of the most critical aspects of securing full compensation is proving the other party’s liability in the case. Most accident and injury cases would hinge on demonstrating the other party's negligence.


Your California Attorney For Personal Injury will warn you of any possible difficulties in the legal process. Personal injury claimants in California face several problems, including unpredictable liability among various parties and comparative negligence.

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What happens if there is more than one defendant?


Multiple parties are often held liable for a personal injury case. For example, if in train accidents, manufacturers, company owners, and operating personnel might all be held accountable. The plaintiff and their California Attorney For Personal Injury must demonstrate that each defendant included in the case is partly responsible for the damages sought.

Although this can make settlement negotiations more complex and require more extensive evidence collection, the court normally decides how much each named defendant is liable for the plaintiff’s damages.

Your personal injury attorney in Los Angeles will explain how each defendant in your case will be kept responsible for their role in the incident. When the case goes to trial, and the judge determines that the defendants are both guilty or responsible on various levels, the defendants are jointly and severally liable for the plaintiff’s damages. During mediation talks, claimants generally negotiate between themselves to determine their fault percentages.


California law recognizes comparative negligence.

Comparative neglect may be a factor in a personal injury case in California. The word “comparative negligence” applies to circumstances in which claimants share some of the responsibility for the losses they claim to have incurred.


In automobile accident situations, this is a normal occurrence. When a plaintiff makes a lawsuit, the defendant will challenge liability and may even show proof that the plaintiff or accuser is partially to blame for the issue. Comparative negligence laws may influence the amount a plaintiff earns from a valid personal injury lawsuit.

California has a pure comparative negligence rule, which ensures that a complainant will still claim compensation for damages that they contributed to, although there is no minimum award amount.


Many states have changed comparative negligence legislation to bar claimants from seeking awards if their liability reaches half of the total damages, but California does not. Just a fraction of the cash reward is lost because of the plaintiff’s percentage of the blame.


In a personal injury case, if the plaintiff or accuser is found to be partly responsible for the damages sought, they should expect to lose a portion of the settlement.


What Are the Payable Damages Related to Catastrophic Injuries?

In addition to past and potential medical expenses, payable damages should include the victim’s income loss, loss of future earning ability, and the cost of dealing with the injury—compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and subsequent loss of enjoyment of life.


When it comes to personal injury claims in California (and consequently Catastrophic Injuries), there are two forms of compensation: economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages are ‘out-of pocket’ expenses, usually to do with money.

  • Medical bills for treating the injuries

    • Whether you pay them yourself, your insurance company pays them, or they are billed on loan.

    • Experts will need to carefully sum up what may be needed for long-term care.

  • Loss of property

    • Including vehicle, electronic devices, or anything of value that has been destroyed during the incident.

  • Lost Wage

    • From getting stuck in the hospital or hampered on your way to a paid workday/commission

  • Reduction or Loss of Earning Capacity

    • Usually from permanent physical and mental damages that leave you incapable of finding work.

  • Rehabilitation


Non-Economic damages are ‘unseen’ or ‘intangible.’ It mostly has nothing to do with quantifiable wealth, but it’s might have significant loss or harm on the person. Often referred to as “Human Effects.”


Here are examples:

  • Physical suffering

  • Mental agony

  • Disfigurement

  • Emotional anguish

  • Physical and Mental Disability

  • Clinical Anxiety and Depression

  • Loss of personal relationships (usually the loss of a spouse or domestic partner)

  • Loss of enjoyment of life

How to Prove “Suffering”

Even the most serious injuries warrant proof of pain and suffering. While normally visible when it comes to obvious wounds and disfigurements, the plaintiff needs to prove the extent of the effects. The more pain and suffering a victim can prove in court, the more payable damages can be awarded.


This can be done in several different ways:

  • The injured party will testify to how much and how long they were in pain

  • The doctor, as well as witnesses like family and friends, will testify to the injured party’s pain

  • In court, evidence that the injured party obtained to address or reduce their pain and suffering (medical bills, etc.)

Aside from pain and suffering, damages awarded are made equal to both parties involved (because of comparative negligence), there are no fixed limits. Under Jury Instruction CACI 3905A, the jury is advised that there is no fixed standard and that they must determine “a reasonable sum based on the facts and common sense.”

As a consequence, there is no detailed and set legal standard; all that matters is that it is equal. The next problem is how your personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles can justify what is “fair”. While certain approaches have been used in the past, the lack of an actual guideline is still the main concern.


The California legislature has agreed that the state’s citizens should determine what is and is not equal. This is why legal representation from an experienced California Attorney For Personal Injury is advantageous. A good legal team can make sure you are paid or compensated what you are due.


Here’s how ‘suffering’ can be justified as a form of quantifiable compensation:

Obtaining records and proof for each day of suffering the plaintiff endured or has yet to endure. This is the most straightforward method. For the aggrieved person, there are no days off. The damages should represent the fact that the injury happens on a regular basis. Even after your release from the hospital, you still suffer from a slew of economic and non-economic damages to your person. Even after rehabilitation, you might still suffer PTSD or other psychological challenges.

Victims pay a monthly premium to stop the pain. We spend money to avoid physical and emotional pain, and extreme pain comes at a high price. If your injuries require you to take painkillers, then that is the cost of stopping pain. When you turn down good-paying jobs that require physical exertions that you can no longer do since the incident, that is the cost, too. A personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles might have to ask the jury to determine how much they will bill for the pain and suffering you’ve mentioned.

It’s no surprise that a jury believes a significant damages payout for pain and suffering is reasonable and sufficient, given the medical industry’s exorbitant prices. All of the above arguments have the potential to persuade. Nonetheless, the sum of the pain and suffering award will be decided by the jury, with the only criteria being fairness.

Punitive Damages: What Are They?

Punitive damages are compensation given to a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit that is in addition to the damages already awarded. These damages are normally given at the discretion of the judge and are intended to punish a criminal who has committed particularly egregious or horrifying acts.

This type of payable damages is unusual but not unheard of. Proof that the defendant or at-fault party behaved with intent, oppression, or fraud is necessary under Civil Code Section 3294. The courts may also award punitive damages to prevent a criminal from behaving in the same manner in the future.

Punitive damages may be required of a company or contractor whose actions were careless—endangering a large number of customers or clients—when it all could have been avoided. This may occur when a pharmaceutical corporation fails to supervise a product’s production process or knowingly introduces a faulty product into the marketplace, considering its illegality or the risk of serious injury if used.

What Are Damage Caps?


Many states restrict the number of punitive damages that a plaintiff may obtain in a personal injury case. “Damage caps” are the terms used to describe these restrictions. Damage caps are typically governed by state legislation.

A claimant must prove that the defendant’s conduct constituted deception, oppression, or malice in order to be liable for punitive damages in a personal injury case in California. The requirement of proof that a plaintiff must meet in these circumstances is “simple and compelling facts.” Based on which side has more weighty proof, the need for seeking punitive damages is much more difficult to follow than the standard for obtaining real damages.

Are there Damage Caps under California Law?


Unlike many other jurisdictions, California does not impose a cap on the amount of punitive damages that can be paid in a personal injury case. According to the Due Process Provision and Supreme Court precedent, punitive damages would fairly equate to compensatory damages granted to the plaintiff in such cases. As a result, all punitive damages payments in personal injury lawsuits in California must at the very least be equal to the real sum of damages. All medical expenses, lost wages, monetary costs, and other compensatory damages are covered.

The amount of damages a person can be awarded for pain and suffering damages, also known as non-economic damages, is usually unlimited in most personal injury cases.

However, there are exemptions in claims of medical malpractice. In medical malpractice cases in California, non-economic damages such as pain and suffering do have a limit; but it's the only exception.

Notes on Punitive Damages


Punitive Damages are not a stand-alone option. The plaintiff has to have been “substantial damage” for any punitive damages to be considered as an option. They cannot be awarded without the first two options (economic and non-economic damages) be awarded first.

The defendant’s net worth must be considered by the court. Punitive damages will then be calculated based on facts of the defendant’s wealth. However, the plaintiff should be able to prove injustice, ill-intent, or fraud by clear and convincing proof before any punitive damages could even be considered a possible award.

Punitive damages should bear an “equal relationship” to the real accident, but the jury would not be bound by that ratio. It’s once again a matter of what the jury finds to be fair. This is a subjective matter.

Proponents of “tort reform” often use punitive damages as a scapegoat to justify ridiculous compensation. Since the creation and practice of the “tort reform” movement, this has been an alleged problem. As previously stated, punitive damages are difficult to claim, but it’s the mode of measurement can be completely subjective.


If oppressive, dishonest, or malicious conduct has been done to cause the incident, the question becomes how can a repeat be prevented. Unfortunately, many of the defendants are not prosecuted in criminal court.


Wealthier Defendants Might Get Away with It


As mentioned above, the only way to prevent the wrongdoer from acting out again and anyone from watching the case is to enforce monetary penalties. If punitive damages were limited in amount, they would become a cost of doing business for unscrupulous companies or individuals. When you take a large portion of their profits, it’s the only way to get the point across.


As a result, punitive damages should be high when the defendant is rich, whether a corporation or a person. The higher the punitive damages, the more it reflects the defendant’s wealth rather than the perceived greed of the victims.


How Much Payable Damages Can I Expect?

You now know what losses and tantamount difficulty you are entitled to be compensated for after an accident. The next concern is the amount of money you will get in return. How much is your case worth in quantifiable prices?


There is no one-size-fits-all solution for this. Since every situation or incident is different, each case is unique as well. You will not suffer the same injuries as others and will heal in a different way. As a consequence, each case must be treated individually.

The at-fault party’s insurance agent will contact you and make you an immediate settlement offer. Proceed with caution if this happens. If you have minor injuries and wish to accept the settlement, make sure it covers both medical assistance costs and lost wages.


Reimbursement of Medical Expenses

Emergency care and assistance at the scene of the crash, as well as future treatments, physical therapy, and other options count. The plaintiff must show that any medical expenses claimed are fair in comparison to the cost and necessity of the medical care received.

The plaintiff can prove this through sufficient reporting of medical bills. The plaintiff can establish the treatment’s necessity by witness testimony, preferably that of the treating practitioner, but if there are issues with the practitioner’s availability, an expert witness can testify.

The claimant must prove that the following medical costs were incurred in order to be liable for compensation for future medical expenses:

  • Complete, itemized receipts (or other documentation) of medical costs

  • Proof of the possible treatments and medical expenses that the plaintiff might need to spend on in the future

To show this evidence in court, medical expert testimony would be needed. The testimony does not have to come from the prescribing physician. An economist may testify to the case’s cost element, for example, so there are other options when there are concerns with an expert’s availability. Medical expert evidence would, however, be needed to explain future medical costs.


In California, medical expenses covered by private insurance can be claimed as damages. In other words, medical costs are not solely financial. Special, economic damages may be sued for the losses incurred by the plaintiff’s insurance.

As a result, claimants are entitled to reimbursement for the following medical expenses:

  • Personal ‘out-of-pocket’ expenses

  • Expenses covered by an insurance

  • Any money they are still owed (either from insurance, reimbursement, etc.)

Damages for Lost Income, Wages, Salaries


Was your injury causing you to be unable to work? The loss of earnings includes any salaries, commissions, incentives, or other financial earnings or fringe benefits that would have been accrued had the accident not occurred. Many that have already worked will be entitled to recoup any earnings that the victim has lost or will lose in the future as a result of their absence.

As proof of missed earnings, pay stubs, paychecks, contracts, and other documentation are often needed. These will function as receipts that show the exact monetary losses you have incurred since the incident. Colleagues, accountants, and clients of the injured person will all testify to corroborate the documentation and provide a more solid basis for the jury’s decision.


Examples of losing future earnings:

  • You were unable to finish a commission work because of the accident

  • You can no longer work at your current job due to mental and physical disabilities

  • You can no longer find work that provides livable income similar to the one you had before your injuries

Benefits such as social security (and other assistance) are also included to account for any time or years that could have been contributed but were not. It’s important to note that the purpose of damages is to place the injured person back in the same position as if the accident never existed.

The criterion for claiming missed future earnings is identical to that for proving future medical expenses: you must prove that future earnings were reasonably likely to occur even though the accident did not occur.

To prove that the earnings were likely to occur, the injured would show two things:

How long will they be unable to return to their former job, if they can work again at all?

If the damage had not happened, how much would they have earned or saved monetarily?

In most cases, the jury will use a medical expert’s testimony to determine how long it will take for them to return to their previous job (or any jobs in the future). They should be able to give you an expert opinion on how long the injury will prevent you from working in general or at the same level as before.

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Calculating Lost Future Earnings


Unless the injured party can competently testify as to what they would have received, an economic expert or an expert in employment and wages will be called upon to calculate a fair but equivalent calculation of their earnings.

This method of calculation considers a variety of factors, including the plaintiff’s actual earnings at the time of the incident, his or her chances of promotion, life expectancy, overall economic patterns, and the economic trends of the injured party’s profession.


If the injury is severe enough that the injured party will be unable to pursue their desired career, they are also entitled to compensation. The number of payable damages should reflect the amount that would have been earned, minus the amount that the injured party will earn from any other employment, if that is even a possibility.

An economist’s expert witness testimony will be necessary to prove how much would have been earned. When deciding whether or not an injured person should pursue a career, a variety of factors are considered.


Obviously, witnesses (close friends and family) who have an idea of the injured plaintiff’s plans and how far the said plaintiff has progressed in pursuing those plans are crucial. It could be that the victim was working on a commissioned piece or was gearing up for a pop-up sale, as long as there is proof of a future income that’s been impeded by the injury.

The “intangible losses” mentioned earlier should also be compensated. Although it may be in your best interests to settle your case on your own, you should wait until you are sure you have fully recovered (if any pain relapses after the case has been settled, you will no longer be eligible to sue for damages) and have spoken with reputable top rated personal injury attorneys in Los Angeles who can give you an honest assessment of whether it is worth hiring a California Attorney For Personal Injury to represent you.

If you have more serious injuries or are still suffering from the effects, it is strongly recommended that you reject an insurance company’s settlement offer.

What to Do When it’s a Case of Wrongful Death

If you or a family member is involved in an accident that results in the death of one or more people, you may be able to pursue other legal options in addition to Personal Injury.

For a Wrongful Death in California, you can sue for damages. But only if one of the following applies to you:

  • A victim’s spouse or domestic partner whose name is registered in official documents

  • Still-living children of the victim

  • Any of the deceased grandchildren

  • If the victim died without a will and there were no living children, brothers, or other relatives to inherit,

  • If the victim’s parents and stepchildren were financially dependent on him, the victim’s parents and stepchildren


Survival Action Lawsuits


If the victim did not die instantly, a survival action might be filed alongside a wrongful death lawsuit. A survival action lawsuit is filed by the victim’s estate, and any estate beneficiary is entitled to a share of the recovery.

In most cases, compensation can be awarded due to loss of the following:

  • The victim’s spouse has a community property interest in any future earnings

  • Other monetary losses incurred by family members who would have been eligible for financial assistance if the victim had not been killed

  • The victim loses relationships with spouses or domestic partners (which in turn is a loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, culture, and moral support)

  • The victim loses the ability to look after, train, educate, or guide their children or stepchildren

The victim’s pain and suffering, as well as ‘out-of-pocket’ losses like hospital costs and wage loss, are all factored into survival compensation between the time of the accident and the time of death.


If this seems too complicated, or if you cannot decide whether your case fits the criteria of any of the claims mentioned above, it is best to find legal assistance from an experienced personal injury lawyer.


Is it possible to find a California Attorney For Personal Injury who specializes in this area?


You are entitled to compensation for the medical expenses, damages, missed income, and pain and suffering if an individual or company is to blame for the accident and injuries. Negotiating with an insurance provider or another entity can be challenging and time-consuming. You might end up with a lower payout than the accident and injuries warrant due to a lack of experience. Using the services of a professional personal injury lawyer will help you get the compensation you deserve.


Personal injury cases can become highly complex and entail a large number of individuals. Several insurance companies and legal staff are often involved.


Your California Attorney For Personal Injury will go through the following topics with you:

  • Obtaining all incident facts or evidence, such as accident reports, photographs and video, and eyewitness testimony, among other things.

  • Obtaining safety records is needed if the case includes a company or another agency.

  • Assuring that the medical records are checked by a competent medical professional.

  • Using medical and economic experts to calculate the cumulative damages.

  • Negotiating a fair settlement with the insurance provider and all parties, or, if possible, bringing your case to trial to ensure you are adequately paid.


Attorney’s Fees


In any personal injury case, you need to pay for services of top rated personal injury attorneys in Los Angeles. A California personal injury attorney and their clients typically enter into agreements before starting the litigation process. Whether or not your hired attorney decides for you to pay everything upfront or draft a contingency agreement is something that you in your personal injury lawyer should discuss.


In personal injury cases, a contingency fee plan is commonly used, in which the claimant owes the attorney a percentage of the final settlement or verdict as compensation. Contingency fees are typically about 33%, but they can exceed 50% in some cases.

Other Litigation Costs

Litigation costs are expenses incurred during the course of a lawsuit or a settlement that you also have to pay for. These aren’t included in the attorney fees.


They may consist of the following:

  • Filing fees in the courts

  • Costs of any case-related investigations, tests, or incident review

  • Costs of deposition

  • Fees for juries and witnesses

  • Fees for expert witnesses

  • Fees for copies (documentation, letters, etc.)


Some Lawyers Handle Certain Types of Cases More than Most

What would you do if you were involved in a terrible accident? If you had permanent, disfiguring damages that impede your everyday life? Contacting a legal team as soon as possible following a personal injury is the right thing to do. During your recovery, it will keep you from agreeing to unjust compensations. 1000Attorneys.com offers free initial consultations via live chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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