Some accidents are so severe that the victims sustain long-term or permanent disability or disfigurement. Injuries of this type often have a very long recovery process, which may affect them for the rest of their lives. If the injured person can no longer perform all of life’s functions, then the injury is often considered “catastrophic,” as that term is defined by law. These types of injuries frequently result in the victim being unable to return to the same line of work, or a substantially similar line of work, as they were performing before the injury occurred.
Examples of Catastrophic Injuries
In determining whether an injury is “catastrophic,” insurance companies will often look at the severity and duration of the injury, disfigurement, or disability. Common examples of catastrophic injuries include:
What Damages Could I Be Entitled To?
After a catastrophic injury, the person, business, organization, or entity liable can be required to pay damages in an effort to “make the plaintiff whole again.” This means that plaintiffs who are able to prove that their injury was the result of negligence, recklessness, or intentional conduct are legally entitled to receive money to pay for all of the expenses incurred as a result of their injury, including damages for pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, emotional damages, loss of family, social and education experiences, etc.
Determining the extent of damages in a catastrophic injury case can be very complicated. These types of cases should be handled by a lawyer with significant experience litigating this types of claim, because of the difficutlies in anticipating and projecting the full extent a catastrophic injury will have over a person’s lifetime. Costs can fluctuate as new research, development, and treatments change over time. At Davis & Brusca, LLC, we supplement our considerable experience by working with top experts to ensure we address the true cost of our clients’ injuries will have over the course of their lifetime.
Depending on what state you are in, there may be a cap on “non-economic” damages such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment. Some states place a cap on punitive damages. However, many of these caps contain exceptions for severe catastrophic injuries and a defendant’s intentional conduct. Other practical limitations, such as the extent of insurance available, liability factors, and the financial resources of the defendants may also act to “cap” a recovery, even in a catastrophic injury case.
When insurance companies are facing a claim, they often use formulas or other statistical data to determine how much compensation the case is “worth.” Although an insurance company’s goal is always to pay out as little as possible, the quantified worth of a claim is usually a moving target during settlement negotiations. The first part of such formulas often calls for a calculation of “medical special damages,” or simply “specials.” These include the actual total medical expenses related to the injury and other “out of pocket” losses, such as lost wages or reduced earning capacity. Next, insurance companies often attempt to quantify the value of the “general damages,” which includes the pain and suffering, emotional harm, and permanent disability. Some companies may use a multiplier of the special damages to reach the “worth” of the general damages, where others may use a statistical analysis of the reported verdicts in the area where the action is based which had the same type of diagnosed injury. Ultimately, any such approach can only provide a guideline. At Davis & Brusca, we understand that each case is as unique as the person who has been harmed and we strive to present each person’s unique story in a compelling manner, which sets it apart from the ‘average’ case.