What Is A Catastrophic Injury? - Adamson Ahdoot LLP

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What Is A Catastrophic Injury?

December 22, 2022 Alan Ahdoot
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When an injury leaves a person unable to enjoy their life the way they did before the accident, it’s considered a catastrophic trauma. And though most people try their best to go about their lives safely, catastrophic injuries can still happen to anyone at any time. 

Undeniably, this injury affects many facets of a person’s life. It can leave victims unable to work or require lifelong medical care and assistance. Regardless of the cause behind these traumas, victims are entitled to catastrophic injury compensation from the at-fault party. 

Filing for claims can be challenging, and the legal process can be extremely confusing without a legal representative’s help. For this reason, it’s worth seeking help from a personal injury lawyer in this situation. 

To know whether your trauma falls under this category, we’ll discuss what is considered a catastrophic injury, the claims you can file, and how a lawyer can help you file them.

What Is A Catastrophic Injury?

The legal definition of a catastrophic injury differs from state to state. Still, it generally means a personal injury that results in any of the following:

  • Long-term medical problems
  • Permanent disability
  • Difficulty maintaining the same quality of life as before your injury
  • Decreased life expectancy

A catastrophic injury differs from a standard personal injury in terms of scale and duration of the damage. The traumas are not always permanent, but they may take months or years to heal. If an incident results in severe injuries that change your life permanently, the injury qualifies as catastrophic.

The causes of catastrophic trauma vary, from vehicular incidents to dangerous workplace conditions. Should you decide to hire a legal representative, they will examine whether your trauma falls under the category of catastrophic injuries, depending on their severity.

Five Common Types of Catastrophic Injuries

Catastrophic injuries range from severe physical trauma to mental health conditions. If you sustained a catastrophic injury, you might require extensive medical treatment, rehabilitation or therapy, or permanent personal assistance. 

The most common catastrophic injuries include:

Traumatic Brain Injuries

A victim who suffers from a severe brain injury may experience locked-in syndrome or become vegetative. In other cases, patients lose their speaking ability or experience drastic personality changes. 

Severe Spinal Cord Injuries

If a patient survives severe trauma to their spinal cord, they may suffer from permanent muscle weakness and a loss of sensation in their limbs. At its worst, spinal cord injuries lead to full-body paralysis, which would mean lifelong specialized care.


An amputation can drastically affect someone’s way of life. When they lose one of their limbs, they may not be able to work again and take care of their family. 

Severe Burns

Traumatic burns can lead to excruciating physical and emotional pain. Furthermore, certain victims are left with lifelong disfigurement that could ultimately impact their mental health.

Loss of Sight or Hearing

When a person loses sight or hearing, there are several adjustments they would have to make. They will require certain accommodations in their home to live a somewhat normal life. 

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Elements of a Catastrophic Injury Claim

Typically, a catastrophic injury claim must prove that the injured party suffered harm due to the at-fault party’s breach of duty and that there is proof of financial loss due to the injury. 

Duty of Care and Breach of Duty

If someone else caused your catastrophic injury, you have the right to hold that party responsible and file a claim. As the plaintiff in a catastrophic injury compensation claim, you must prove that the person who caused the injury owed a duty of care.

A duty of care represents a legal obligation that a person must adhere to a standard of reasonable care when carrying out any action that presents a potential danger to others. For example, a motorist owes a duty of care to pedestrians and others on the road to drive safely.

Additionally, the plaintiff must show that the defendant committed a breach of duty. A breach of duty can occur through a person’s actions—for example, reckless driving. A lack of action can also constitute a breach of duty, including failure to replace worn tires on a vehicle.

Causation represents another element of a catastrophic injury claim. The damages the plaintiff suffered must directly result from the defendant’s breach of duty.


In addition to the duty of care, a breach of duty, and causality, the plaintiff in a catastrophic injury case must prove that they suffered harm due to the defendant’s conduct. In personal injury cases, the term “damages” refers to a financial measurement of the harm caused by the breach.

There are two types of damages: economic and non-economic. Economic damages involve tangible losses, such as medical care or rehabilitation costs. Economic damages also include the cost to repair property damages that resulted from the incident. The plaintiff can prove economic damages with bills, bank statements, and other transactional documents.

Meanwhile, non-economic damages cover the plaintiff’s intangible harm due to the incident and injury. Pain, suffering, emotional trauma, and mental anguish fall under this category.

No standard exists for assigning a financial value to psychological harm or other intangible losses. The plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer can submit documentation to prove their claims, including the documented opinions of doctors, mental healthcare providers, or an expert in a field related to the plaintiff’s injury.

In the case of wrongful death, the victim’s family can claim catastrophic injury compensation for economic damages such as loss of income and the deceased’s medical costs. They may also be able to claim non-economic damages that resulted from the wrongful death.

In some cases, insurance companies will make a settlement offer. However, these offers may be significantly lower than you can successfully claim. Without a personal injury lawyer representing your interests, your personal injury can result in severe losses. 

How to File For Catastrophic Injury Compensation

You’ll need to follow these steps when filing for catastrophic injury compensation.

Prepare Your Documents

Once you receive the proper medical treatment, you must start documenting all the injuries and damages you’ve sustained from the incident. Some documents you should collect include your medical bills, official diagnosis, prognosis, and an estimated cost of any damaged property. 

It will also help if you have any evidence that may help legal representatives determine the primary cause of the accident. This documentation will help establish whether the at-fault party was negligent or failed to use reasonable care in the particular instance. 

These documents will help you create a stronger case and support your claim for financial recovery. 

Attempt to Mediate

If the at-fault party has an insurance policy, it would be best to try to mediate with their insurance providers first. Typically, legal representatives recommend settling an agreement with the at-fault party’s insurance company before proceeding with a lawsuit or claim. 

If you and the other party’s insurance provider cannot reach an agreement that satisfies both parties, the next reasonable move would be to seek legal consultation.

Find A Personal Injury Lawyer

A personal injury lawyer will help you determine whether your injuries fall under the catastrophic category. Furthermore, they will conduct their discovery investigation to determine the scope of your claim. 

Typically, they will ask you for the documents mentioned above and other information they may need to build a strong case on your behalf. They may also help you recover these pieces of evidence. Some factors they may consider include photographs from the accident scene, police reports, CCTV surveillance, witness statements, and more.

Hiring a lawyer will not only make the legal process much easier on your part, but they will also help you maximize your claims. They will ensure that the jury awards you the compensation you deserve and prevent you from settling with low offers. 

Legal representatives will also ensure that victims have the support they need in the future. They will use your official prognosis to determine the kind of financial assistance and medical treatment you would need in the future. 

In other cases, they seek the help of medical and economic experts to ensure that you receive an adequate settlement.

Lastly, having a skilled legal representative guarantees that the right party is held accountable for their negligence. Proving negligence can be difficult for certain parties, especially if they are still recovering from their injuries.

Experienced attorneys will help you successfully navigate this step and guide you through the entire filing process. From the filing date to your civil trial, your personal injury lawyer will be there to help you.

Schedule a Free Consultation Today

Suppose you suffered a catastrophic personal injury in Los Angeles, CA. In that case, you’ll benefit most from the legal assistance of a personal injury attorney with extensive experience in this area of the law.

At Adamson Ahdoot, you can trust that the best motor vehicle accident lawyers handle your case. Our law firm offers the intimacy and attention to detail of a boutique firm, with the resources and expertise of a larger one. We are proud to serve a diverse clientele with their car accident cases, and we offer free consultations available in both English and Spanish.

We’re a full-service civil litigation firm with over 100 years of combined legal experience handling catastrophic injury compensation. Call us at (800) 310-1606 today to schedule your free consultation, or visit our blog for more information.

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