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The Difference Between Catastrophic Injury vs. Personal Injury

The Difference Between Catastrophic Injury vs. Personal Injury

“Do I have a personal injury case?” is the most common question we hear.  It is important to distinguish between an ordinary personal injury and a catastrophic injury because the average personal injury victim suffers a non-catastrophic injury. Stracci Law Group is a personal injury law firm headquartered in Crown Point, Indiana who can help you win your personal injury claim.

Catastrophic Injury Cases

What are catastrophic injuries? Catastrophic injuries are serious injuries that result in long-term lifestyle adjustments. Different authorities define these injuries in different ways. According to the US federal government, for example, an injury is not catastrophic unless it permanently prevents you from working again.

The state of Indiana, by contrast, defines an injury as “catastrophic” if it significantly impairs your ability to live independently for at least a year. Most definitions of catastrophic injury focus on long-term disability, loss of your ability to work, and the extent to which you require assistance to perform basic life tasks.                      

So what is considered a catastrophic injury, specifically? Common examples include:

  • Severe burn injuries;
  • Serious neck and back injuries that produce paralysis;
  • Amputation or loss of a limb;
  • Traumatic brain injury;
  • Loss of vision or hearing;
  • Multiple bone fractures;
  • Severe nerve or ligament damage;
  • Disfigurement; and
  • Certain other serious injuries that produce long-term disability.

Personal Injury Cases

What is a personal injury case? An ordinary personal injury case arises when someone is injured through the fault of another person, but the injury fails to rise to the level of a catastrophic injury. Some personal injury case examples include auto accidents, slip and fall claims, and dog bites, among other types of claims. Common personal injuries include:

  • Whiplash,
  • Concussion,
  • Bruises and lacerations,
  • Sprains and strains;
  • Puncture wounds;
  • Limited bone fractures,
  • “Road rash” (particularly in motorcycle accidents), and
  • Emotional distress.

Many more non-catastrophic injury examples are possible. What they all have in common is that you eventually make a full recovery. In a catastrophic injury, by contrast, you might reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) without regaining all of your pre-accident capabilities. You might be confined to a wheelchair, for example.

The Main Differences Between Catastrophic Injury and Personal Injury Cases

Both ordinary personal injury cases and catastrophic personal injury cases might involve serious injuries. The main difference is your condition after reaching MMI.

Damages & Impact on Families

The families of catastrophically injured relatives suffer a great deal. Losses to families typically include the following elements, among others:

  • Loss of earnings. A family member might even have to abandon a career to care for a catastrophically injured loved one.
  • In-home assistance devices such as elevators, special bathrooms, etc.
  • Loss of time and money by family caretakers;
  • Loss of companionship and emotional support due to the injured relative’s inability to provide these benefits.

Some of the damages should be set aside to benefit the victim’s family members.

Long-Term or Lifelong Repercussions

Victims of catastrophic personal injury frequently suffer from permanent losses and disabilities, such as:

  • Partial or total occupational disability;
  • Inability exercise or to engage in sports or hobbies;
  • Inability to engage in sexual relations with their spouse;
  • Paralysis;
  • Loss of a body function such as vision or hearing;
  • Permanent disfigurement such as facial scarring; and
  • Mental or cognitive defects.

The full extent and duration of disability might not be known at the time the claim is asserted or a lawsuit is filed.

Higher Stakes and Greater Challenges

When you suffer a catastrophic injury, the stakes are unfathomably high. Underestimate your future damages, and you could end up destitute as well as disabled years from now. Damages for catastrophic personal injuries may include:

  • Future medical expenses, perhaps for a lifetime;
  • Long-term lost earning capacity;
  • Medical devices; and
  • Pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, and other psychological losses.

Because you will need to claim high damages, the insurance company will use every weapon in its legal arsenal to reduce the value of your claim.

Expert Testimony

Catastrophic injury claims tend to be complex, in terms of their scientific and medical aspects as well as their financial aspects. You may need testimony from the following types of experts:

  • Medical experts,
  • Scientific experts,
  • Accident reconstruction specialists,
  • Occupational therapists (to prove the amount of your reduced earning capacity),
  • Rehabilitation experts, and
  • Economic experts (to calculate, say, the present value of future damages).

You might need other types of experts as well. Expect the other side to call its own experts.

Amount of Compensation

The most obvious difference between an ordinary personal injury claim and a catastrophic personal injury claim is the amount of damages you are likely to seek. You might be wise to pay the amount by adding extra to cover the possibility that you have underestimated your future expenses. Consequently, the likelihood is much higher that the insurance company will fight your claim all the way to trial rather than agree to a high settlement.

Bold Action Makes the Difference Between Success and Failure

Fortune favors the bold, it is said, and so does the Indiana civil compensation system. If you have a viable personal injury claim, or if you are not sure, we can use our 80 years of experience to help determine the value of your claim and make sure you get it.

Contact Stracci Law Group today at (219) 525-1000 or complete our online contact form for a free case evaluation. We serve clients throughout Northwest Indiana.

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