The term “catastrophic injury” is often reserved for major, life-threatening situations. The AMA (American Medical Association) defines the term specifically as an injury to the brain or spine. Such injuries can lead to a myriad of problems. Spinal injury can lead to paralysis. Brain injury can lead to cognitive issues and chronic emotional imbalance. At worst, sufferers could be left in a vegetative state.
From a legal perspective, however, catastrophic injuries have a broader definition. Any injury that leads to death or permanent disability can be considered catastrophic. In this way, even injuries that many consider minor could have a lasting, devastating effect on someone. If an injury drastically alters the course of your life, it can be legally defined as catastrophic.
Injuries That Change Your Life’s Trajectory
Imagine losing a finger to a defective tool. The pain is immeasurable, and you certainly want to have it reattached. Unfortunately, the damage is too severe, and you lose the appendage forever. You endure a couple surgeries, and you attend regular physical therapy sessions to keep the rest of your hand useful. Eventually, the pain subsides, and you go on living as normal with an interesting story to tell. Now, imagine everything in the above scenario, only you are a professional piano player.
To many, losing a finger is tragic, but they wouldn’t consider it catastrophic. To a professional musician, however, it can change every aspect of their lives. They may lose the ability to play altogether. Now, they’ve lost their income, and they’ve lost a craft to which they’ve dedicated their lives. For them, they have a very legitimate, legal justification to claim their injury is catastrophic.
“Minor” injuries like this can affect anyone’s vocation. A construction worker could lose their ability to grip tools. A dancer could injure their leg, developing a limp. An artist who suffers an impact injury could be cursed with blurred vision. All of these are catastrophic injuries that don’t involve the spine or the brain.
Injuries That Affect Your Quality of Life
Catastrophic injuries can affect more than just your occupation. Imagine developing a slight limp after a car accident. This could seem insignificant to some, especially if you work in a white-collar, office environment. However, anyone afflicted with this problem can develop comorbidities.
Comorbidities are secondary problems that result from another affliction. If you develop a limp, that will affect the way you walk, stand, and move. You may put pressure on other joints, wearing them down, causing musculoskeletal disorders. A limp could inhibit your ability to exercise, causing weight gain that leads to obesity. Obesity comes with its own comorbidities such as heart problems and diabetes.
Other “minor” injuries could lead to hearing or vision loss, speech problems, sexual dysfunction, and more. If an injury affects your overall quality of life, it is never minor. It is catastrophic.
Insurance Wants to Settle
Catastrophic injures are expensive, and those expenses can last a lifetime. Those who suffer brain or spine injuries can pay over one million dollars in their first year of treatment alone. Each subsequent year is a little less expensive, but it can still take hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to sustain their quality of life.
Even with the “minor” injuries described above, there can be a lasting financial impact. If someone’s career is affected by their injuries, that lost income counts toward their overall cost. You can even include the loss of potential income. Someone may have been on the verge of making a career breakthrough right before they were hurt.
Insurance companies want to avoid paying for this at all costs. They are most concerned about their bottom line, and they do not want the financial burden of sustaining someone indefinitely. In a personal injury lawsuit, the negligent party’s insurance company usually pays the damages to the plaintiff. By offering you an attractive sum of money up front, the insurer is trying to avoid a big payout. Taking this settlement could cut off your access to further benefits, which is exactly what the company wants.
Consult with a Lawyer
Before taking any insurance settlement, bring it to an attorney to look it over. They may be able to catch tricks and caveats that will hurt you in the long run.
Tell the lawyer the details of your injury. Explain both the event and its impact on your life. If your injury could be considered catastrophic, your attorney can advise you on how to proceed. You may find that a personal injury lawsuit is the best course of action.
Ultimately, there are no “minor” catastrophic injuries. If someone else’s negligence has greatly impacted your life, you deserve financial compensation for your pain.
If you’ve suffered a catastrophic injury, contact our firm today for a free consultation. Our number is (817) 591-4222, and you can reach us online.