What Is Considered A Catastrophic Injury?

Updated: Jan 27

A Guide On Catastrophic Injuries In California

As much as we wish it wouldn't happen, some accidents leave people with lasting, life-changing injuries. In cases like these, the stakes a high. There are more medical bills, immediate expenses, lost wages, and future financial and emotional losses. When the stakes are this high, you need to get a Top Rated Personal Injury Attorneys In Los Angeles on your side.


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What Is A Catastrophic Injury In California?

Serious accidents frequently result in catastrophic injuries that permanently change a person's life. This could result in a severe decrease in their quality of life because it limits their ability to function in daily activities.

These injuries not only hurt the victim but also have severe consequences for the victim's family. They may have to care for their loved ones for an extended period, in addition to experiencing their pain. As a result, the family's finances may be severely strained.

In addition, because catastrophic injuries cause significantly more pain and suffering, the victim is entitled to substantially more compensation than those who suffer minor injuries.


How Is "Catastrophic Injury" Defined?

In layman's terms, an injury is considered "catastrophic" if it considerably limits your capacity to live the life you had before the accident. Six conditions are typically regarded as "catastrophic":

  • Amputation of a limb is both physically and emotionally distressing. In addition, accidents typically necessitate significant recovery and rehabilitation for people who have lost limbs. Although prosthetic technology has significantly evolved in recent years, the adjustment phase is extremely difficult. An amputation can also result in infections, Phantom Pain Syndrome, and psychological discomfort.

  • Vision Loss. Working in potentially hazardous environments or doing potentially dangerous activities can harm a person's eyes or vision. In addition, there are numerous other causes of partial or complete vision loss, including traumatic head injuries, vehicle accidents, acts of aggression, and chemical exposure.

  • Hearing loss. Many people who work in noisy environments such as factories, construction sites, and assembly plants have hearing loss over time. Although constant use of ear protection might help avoid this, some extremely loud sounds can cause partial or total hearing loss. Hearing loss can also occur as a result of a severe head injury.

  • Injuries to the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a dense bundle of nerves that transmits messages from the brain to the rest of the body through the spine. The spinal cord is one of the most vital sections of the body, yet it cannot self-repair. Therefore, any damage to the spinal cord is permanent, and it can cause loss of sensation, function loss, or a combination of the two.

  • Injuries to the brain. The brain can be damaged by a violent blow to the head, hypoxia, or chemical exposure. Because the brain is in charge of all of the body's processes, any harm to the brain will almost certainly have ramifications throughout the body. This can affect cognition, memory, and even the capacity to carry out daily chores.

  • Damaged Internal Organs. If an individual's internal organs are severely damaged, they may file a claim to recover the costs of treating or managing the resultant permanent ailment. Internal organ injury, medical malpractice during surgical treatment, infection, or intake of toxic drugs can result in this.

  • Death, fatal accidents. If a catastrophic injury results in death, the surviving family or estate representative can file a wrongful death claim instead of a personal injury claim.

It's important to remember that despite it being an apparent life-altering injury, the defendant's insurance provider or lawyer might still try to reduce the suffering you or your loved one had incurred. Therefore, to have the best chance of collecting your losses in the form of compensation, you should get legal guidance from an experienced California Personal Injury Attorney.

The Most Common: Injuries To The Brain And Spinal Cord


The most deadly and severe sorts of catastrophic injuries are the brain and spinal cord injuries. If even a minor amount of damage is done to either of these vital body parts, the victim may have instant difficulties and irreversible repercussions.


Because the nerves in the spinal cord and the neurons in the brain are so slow to recover, injury to the brain and spinal cord is usually irreversible.


The following are some of the long-term effects of a traumatic brain injury (TBI):

  1. Impediments to speech

  2. Loss of memory

  3. Learning and developmental disabilities

  4. Anxiety, distress, and emotional instability

  5. Losing control of certain biological functions

  6. Deafness, blindness, or other forms of sensory loss.

Damage to the spinal cord can cause permanent paralysis, which can be partial or total. A spinal cord injury victim will experience a more significant case of paralysis depending on how far up the lesion occurred due to the order of the nerves and spinal discs. For example, a wound to the head of the spinal cord might result in quadriplegia or full-body paralysis.


Other Types: Birth Defects, Injuries


Many birth injuries are avoidable. Doctors, on the other hand, are not always forthcoming when they make a mistake. If a doctor fails to behave safely, serious consequences may arise.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10,000 children with Cerebral Palsy are born in the United States each year. Congenital CP refers to CP caused by brain injury that occurred before or during birth. When a newborn is deprived of oxygen during delivery, birth trauma can result.

If your child suffered a birth injury as a result of prolonged or difficult labor, the attending physician's failure to detect an umbilical cord around your child's neck, the inability to perform an emergency C-section promptly, the failure to detect unfavorable fetal vital signs, or any other questions about a birth injury your child suffered, contact a California Catastrophic Injury Attorney.

Which Types Of Accidents Are Most Likely To Result In Catastrophic Injuries?


Catastrophic injuries can occur in any situation. However, some accidents have more unfavorable outcomes than others. The following are examples of accidents that potentially result in catastrophic injuries:

  1. Motorcycle Accident

  2. Pedestrian Accident

  3. Boating Accident

  4. Train Accident

  5. Truck Accident

  6. Construction Accident

  7. Slip & Fall

  8. Swimming Pool Accident

  9. Airplane Accident

  10. Defective Products

  11. Defective Medical Equipment

When you or a family member is involved in one of these accidents, the medical bills and lost income can be substantial. As a result, you should contact a California Personal Injury Lawyer right once.


The Immediate And Future Effects Of Catastrophic Injuries


Catastrophic injury impacts are immediate, persistent, and frequently long-term for the person and close family members. Victims of traumatic brain injury (TBI), severe spinal cord damage (SCI), burns, and other catastrophic injuries must adjust to drastic life changes.


Our Top Rated Personal Injury Attorneys In Los Angeles know what the fallout of these injuries and losses can do to victims and their families. The following are some of the issues that a typical victim and family will face:

  • Medical expenses. Hospital bills, routine doctor visits, physical and occupational therapy, medical equipment, in-home care, and other costs may be included. The victim and family must budget for significant annual out-of-pocket payments if the injury is permanent.

  • Past and future loss of earnings. The victim will almost certainly lose their job and may be unable to work at all. In addition, in order to give care, a close family member will frequently cease working.


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  • Pain and suffering. Physical discomfort can develop from any form of severe damage, including paralysis, which has a slew of unpleasant side effects. The trauma of the occurrence, as well as the losses that follow it, may cause emotional agony and suffering to the sufferer. The entire family is affected by pain and sorrow.

  • Overall reduction of the quality of life. Disabilities can put a stop to a profession, social positions, family relationships, and other aspects of life. A seriously damaged person may lose the capacity to help around the house and provide emotional support. A parent may be unable to care for a child, and a spouse may not provide their partner with the same level of affection and companionship.

And while you might see the same list of consequences for all types of accidents, catastrophic injuries are particularly debilitating. There is no coming back from a catastrophic injury.


Damages and Compensation For Catastrophic Injuries In California


The value of a claim is determined by the jury evaluating the amount of damages suffered by the plaintiff. With sufficient evidence, such as:

  1. Pay stubs

  2. Invoices

  3. Billings

  4. Receipts

Economic damages such as lost wages from missing time at work, property damage, and medical expenses are straightforward to prove. A good California Personal Injury Lawyer will know how to conduct their own investigations and get the evidence you need while you and your family focus on recovery.

However, non-economic losses are more difficult to establish.

The severity of the plaintiff's injuries will usually determine the amount of pain and suffering awarded by a jury. For example, a plaintiff who spent a specific amount of money in medical bills to treat a catastrophic injury may need to recuperate for several years or longer. Because the plaintiff is likely to be in constant agony, discomfort, and loss of range of motion throughout that time, the jury will likely award significantly more in pain and suffering damages.

While there definitive rule for determining these damages, it is safe to anticipate that pain and suffering damages will be several times greater than the plaintiff's stated medical expenses.

In some circumstances, determining the plaintiff's economic damages is more complex. For example, the jury will consider whether the plaintiff will require multiple subsequent recovery procedures such as:

  1. corrective procedures

  2. long-term physical therapy

  3. rehabilitation

  4. occupational therapy

  5. or any other form of long-term medical treatment.

Calculating the Value of Lost Future Earnings

Unless the injured party can competently testify as to what they would have earned, an economist or an expert in employment and pay will be hired to determine a fair but equivalent computation of their earnings.


This computation method takes into account several elements, including:

  1. the plaintiff's real wages at the time of the incident

  2. their prospects of promotion

  3. their life expectancy at the time of the accident

  4. overall economic patterns

  5. the injured party's profession's and its prospective trends

The injured party is also entitled to compensation if the harm is severe enough to be unable to pursue their intended career. The amount that would have been earned, minus the amount that the injured party will receive from any new occupation—if that is even a possibility—should be reflected in the number of payable damages.

As mentioned, to prove how much would have been made, an economist's expert witness testimony will be required. A multitude of criteria is evaluated while considering whether or not an injured individual should pursue a job or position in a specific industry.

Witnesses (close friends and relatives) who know the injured plaintiff's plans and how far they have come in achie