What is a Catastrophic Injury?

what is a catastrophic injury

A catastrophic injury is a physical injury with long-term life-altering consequences, significantly impacting the victim’s quality of life. Catastrophic injuries can occur suddenly, often as a result of accidents or traumatic events. These injuries often require extensive medical treatment and consequently can lead to financial strain for the victim and their family. 

If you sustained severe injuries in an accident caused by another person, it’s best to consult with an experienced catastrophic injury lawyer. Read on to learn more about catastrophic injuries and how a personal injury attorney can help your claim.


Types of Catastrophic Injuries

Common types of catastrophic injuries include:

  • Severe Burns – Burns that penetrate deep layers of the skin, causing tissue damage and potential complications such as infections and scarring.
  • Spinal Cord Injuries and Paralysis – Severe injuries to the spinal cord can result in partial or complete loss of sensation and motor function.
  • Organ Damage – Severe trauma leading to damage or failure of internal organs, such as the liver, kidneys, or lungs.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – Injuries to the brain caused by external force or impact, can result in cognitive, physical, or emotional impairment.
  • Amputations – The removal of a limb or extremity due to trauma, infection, or medical necessity.
  • Neck Injuries – Damage to the neck region, including fractures, dislocations, or a spinal cord injury.
  • Multiple Bone Fractures – Fractures involving multiple bones, often require surgical intervention, rehabilitation, and physical therapy.
  • Loss of Hearing – Partial or complete loss of hearing due to trauma or injury to the auditory system.
  • Loss of Sight – Partial or complete loss of vision resulting from eye injuries or damage to the optic nerve.


Common Causes of Catastrophic Injuries

Catastrophic injuries often occur as a result of accidents or negligent actions. Some of the most common causes of catastrophic injuries include:

Car Accidents

motor vehicle accidents

Road traffic accidents are a leading cause of catastrophic injuries and death in the US for people ages 1-54. Nationwide, 42,939 people lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents in 2021. High-speed collisions, reckless driving, impaired driving, and distracted driving are primary contributors to severe injuries and traffic deaths. In 2021, there were 4,232 victims killed and injured in car accidents across San Francisco County.

Pedestrian Accidents

Pedestrians are very vulnerable road users, especially in urban areas with heavy traffic. Pedestrian accident victims often sustain catastrophic injuries because they don’t have any protection against a motor vehicle. In 2021, there were 619 pedestrians injured and killed in traffic accidents. Factors such as driver negligence, speeding, distracted driving, and failure to yield are leading causes of pedestrian deaths.

Truck Accidents

Crashes involving large commercial trucks or tractor-trailers can have catastrophic outcomes due to the size and weight disparity between trucks and other passenger vehicles. In 2021, about 5,700 large trucks were involved in fatal auto accidents. Factors such as driver fatigue, improper loading, mechanical failures, and aggressive driving increase the risk of severe injuries and fatalities in truck accidents.

Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle fatalities increased by 3% from 2020 to 2021. In San Francisco County, 425 motorcycle riders were injured and killed in traffic accidents. Motorcyclists face a higher risk of catastrophic injuries compared to occupants of enclosed vehicles due to their lack of protection. Factors such as speeding, lane splitting, inexperienced riders, and driver inattention contribute to the severity of motorcycle accidents.

Bicycle Accidents

Cyclists are vulnerable road users susceptible to catastrophic injuries in collisions with motor vehicles. Factors such as driver negligence, failure to yield, inadequate bike lanes, and visibility issues increase the risk of cyclists sustaining severe injuries. In 2021, there were 424 cyclists injured and killed in auto accidents across San Francisco County.

Rideshare Accidents

Accidents involving Uber and Lyft drivers are unfortunately common in metro areas with a lot of traffic congestion, including San Francisco County. Factors such as driver distraction, fatigue, and inadequate background checks contribute to increasing rideshare accidents.

Slip and Fall Accidents

Fall accidents are a common cause of catastrophic injuries and account for over 8 million emergency room visits each year. Slip and fall incidents account for over 1 million emergency room visits annually. Hazards such as wet floors, uneven surfaces, inadequate lighting, and lack of handrails can lead to serious injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and hip fractures.

Workplace Accidents

workplace accident

Catastrophic injuries can occur in various occupational settings, including construction sites, manufacturing facilities, and industrial plants. Factors such as unsafe working conditions, lack of training, equipment failures, and negligent supervision increase the risk of severe injuries such as falls from heights, crush injuries, burn injuries, and electrocutions.

Dog Bites

Dog bites and animal attacks can cause catastrophic injuries, particularly in children and vulnerable individuals. In fact, over 29% of fatal dog attack victims are between the ages of 1-4 years of age. Each year, about 12,480 US citizens are hospitalized due to dog bite injuries. Dog bite attacks can result in severe lacerations, nerve damage, and infections that require extensive medical treatment.


Who is Liable for a Catastrophic Injury?

Determining liability for a severe injury is a complex process that involves collecting and assessing the evidence and identifying the responsible parties. Liability can involve individuals, entities, or organizations whose actions or negligence contributed to severe injuries. 

Parties that may be liable in catastrophic injury cases include:

  • Negligent Drivers: Individuals who act negligently or recklessly, resulting in harm to others, may be held liable for catastrophic injuries. Examples include drivers who cause car accidents due to speeding, distracted driving, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Employers: Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe work environment for their employees. Failure to maintain safe conditions, provide adequate training, or comply with occupational safety regulations can result in employer liability for workplace accidents leading to catastrophic injuries.
  • Manufacturers: Companies that design, manufacture, or distribute defective products or equipment may be held liable for catastrophic injuries resulting from product defects. Examples include faulty machinery, defective automotive parts, or unsafe consumer products that cause harm to users.
  • Property Owners: Property owners must maintain safe premises and warn visitors of potential hazards to prevent accidents and injuries. Failure to address dangerous conditions such as slippery floors, uneven surfaces, or inadequate lighting may result in liability for catastrophic injuries sustained on the property.
  • Government Entities: Government agencies responsible for maintaining public infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and public facilities, may be held liable for catastrophic injuries caused by negligence in design, construction, maintenance, or failure to address known safety hazards.

Establishing liability requires meticulous investigation, gathering evidence, and strategic legal advocacy to hold the responsible parties accountable. Experienced catastrophic injury attorneys can help victims pursue justice and obtain fair compensation for their losses and expenses.


What Type Of Damages Can I Receive For Catastrophic Injuries?

medical bills

Most catastrophic injuries are long-term or permanent, which means full recovery may not be possible. Unlike more minor injuries, it can be harder for a defense attorney to limit the damages awarded in a catastrophic injury case. Victims of catastrophic injuries may be entitled to various types of damages to compensate for their losses and expenses including:

Medical Expenses: Coverage for past and future medical treatments, medications, surgeries, physical therapy, and assistive devices.

Lost Income: Compensation for lost wages, including future earning capacity if the injury prevents the victim from returning to work.

Pain and Suffering: Damages for physical pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Victims can seek compensation if they can’t participate or enjoy their activities and hobbies.

Permanent Disability: Financial support for long-term or permanent disabilities resulting from the catastrophic injury.

Punitive Damages: Additional damages awarded to punish the responsible party for their egregious conduct or gross negligence.


Do I Need a Catastrophic Injury Lawyer?

If you sustained injuries in an accident caused by another person’s negligence, it’s best to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Navigating the complexities of a personal injury claim can be challenging, especially while dealing with the physical and emotional aftermath of the injury. An experienced catastrophic injury lawyer can:

  • Conduct a thorough investigation to gather evidence and establish liability.
  • Negotiate and facilitate all communication with the insurance company on your behalf.
  • Fight to secure a fair catastrophic injury settlement that covers your current and future needs.
  • Hire expert witnesses who can help strengthen your claim.
  • Represent you in court and advocate for your rights at trial if a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiation.


Consult Experienced Catastrophic Injury Attorneys Today

If you or a loved one has suffered a catastrophic injury due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, don’t hesitate to seek legal guidance from our San Francisco catastrophic injury attorneys.

At Golden State Accident Lawyers we are dedicated to helping our clients obtain maximum compensation. We have successfully recovered millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts for our clients. Our personal injury law firm has the experience and resources to handle catastrophic injury cases and get our clients the compensation they deserve. Call us for a no-obligation, free consultation.

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