Q: What is a "catastrophic" injury?
A: A catastrophic injury or illness usually occurs suddenly and without warning. Injuries that are considered catastrophic, due to the enormous impact they have on the lives of the individuals who experience them, include the following: brain injury, spinal cord injury, accidental amputation, severe burns, multiple fractures, or other, neurological disorders. A catastrophic injury or illness very often causes severe disruption to the central nervous system, which in turn affects many other systems of the body. In addition to possible loss of movement, sensation, and communicative and cognitive abilities, the injury or illness may impact respiration, circulation, skin, the urinary system, the gastrointestinal system, and other body systems. Management of such an injury is complex and requires the expertise of a team of health professionals including physicians, consultants, nurses, therapists, and counselors. Clearly, the long-term needs of someone who has experienced this type of injury far surpass those of individuals with less severe injuries. Individuals may recover from some catastrophic injuries if they receive proper, early medical treatment; however, others may experience permanent disability, significant suffering, and reduced life spans.
Injuries are often called "catastrophic" when the physical injuries to a person are especially severe, and require extensive medical treatment. The injuries may involve damage to a person's central nervous system, and this may affect other bodily systems or functions. Catastrophic injuries include:
- Burns over a large portion of the body
- Injuries to the nerves in the chest, shoulder, and arm (brachial plexus)
In addition, many people who suffer catastrophic injuries also suffer depression or other emotional problems because of the limitations put on them by their injuries.
Q: Are catastrophic injuries permanent?
A: Not all catastrophic injuries are permanent. Those injuries that are not permanent will usually take a very long time-months, or years-to reach a full recovery. In some cases, especially those involving children, the actual extent of the injury may not be known until much time has passed after the accident. Emotional injuries may also be a problem for a long time after the physical injuries have healed. The effects of a catastrophic injury may linger for a long period of time.
Q: What may cause a catastrophic injury?
A: Catastrophic injuries may be caused by almost any type of accident. Catastrophic injuries may result from
* Motor vehicle collision
* Construction accident
* Sports injuries
* Farm machinery accident
* Workplace accident
* Defective product
Almost any accident can result in catastrophic injury. It is the misfortune of the victim that decides if an injury is catastrophic.
Q: What kind of compensation may I recover for my injuries?
A: An injured person may be awarded compensation, or damages, for:
* Medical expenses
* Future medical expenses
* Expenses to care for the injured person
* Lost income
* Loss of income in the future
* Pain and suffering
* Loss of enjoyment of life
* Loss of consortium, or spousal relations
In some cases, an injured person may be able to collect punitive damages, which are meant to punish a person who acted badly. Punitive damages, if any, would be in addition to the damages listed.
If you read reports of verdicts or settlements in catastrophic injury cases, you may be struck by the large amounts of money involved. Remember that this money is meant to pay for many different, and expensive, things: extra medical care, lost wages, pain and suffering. A catastrophic injury takes away part of a person's life, and money damages are the law's way of attempting to pay for that loss.
Injuries that are considered catastrophic, due to the enormous impact they have on the lives of the individuals who experience them, include the following: brain injury, spinal cord injury, accidental amputation, severe burns, multiple fractures, or other, neurological disorders.