Any injury will significantly impact a victim’s life, and in many cases, the injury will also impact their family and friends; however, some injuries have much wider-reaching consequences than others and may ultimately be permanent. These types of injuries, which can cause an overwhelming burden of medical expenses, significant emotional trauma, and long-lasting or permanent disabilities, are known as catastrophic injuries, and they must be treated with care to ensure that the victim is adequately compensated.
The team at Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. is dedicated to helping victims and their families navigate these difficult times by providing comprehensive legal support and insights into the legal process surrounding these types of injuries.
Understanding Catastrophic Injuries
Catastrophic injuries are severe, life-changing injuries that types lead to permanent disabilities or long-lasting recovery times that require extensive medical care and dedicated rehabilitation. These injuries can have a profound impact on a victim’s quality of life, as well as their friends’ and families’ lives as they work to accommodate these injuries.
The emotional, physical, and financial impacts that catastrophic injuries cause can be overwhelming and go well beyond the standard damages that an insurer would typically pay out in a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
There are numerous types of catastrophic injuries, but some of the most common include:
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
A TBI can range from a mild concussion to severe, permanent brain damage that leaves a victim suffering cognitive impairments, memory loss, emotional or behavioral changes, coma, or brain death.
Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves running from the brain stem to the base of the spine and sends signals from the brain to the rest of the body, including information about movement and sensation. Spinal cord injuries typically require ongoing medical care, assistive devices, and major modifications to a victim’s home, workplace, and general lifestyle.
The skin is the largest organ of the body and is responsible for protecting us from infections, pathogens, and other environmental hazards. Severe burns can cause long-term damage to this protective layer, leading to scarring, disfigurement, and extremely limited mobility. These injuries may require multiple surgeries, significant skin grafts, and lifelong rehabilitation.
Losing a limb will have a significant impact on a victim’s life, including their ability to perform routine tasks, work, or enjoy recreational activities. Amputation injuries often require prosthetic limbs, significant medical care, and extensive physical therapy for a victim to learn to adapt to their new circumstances.
Permanent loss or damage to the senses will dramatically alter a person’s quality of life and their ability to interact with the world around them. This could include vision loss, hearing loss, or any other type of sensory impairment. Victims may need to get assistive devices, service animals, specialized therapy, and other support in order to adjust to these new limitations.
Legal Steps to Take After a Catastrophic Injury
After you or a loved one has suffered from a catastrophic injury, the most important steps to take are to ensure that the injuries get the proper medical care and that the victim has all of the necessary support to get through the difficult times. This support often means that medical bills and emotional stress will rise drastically, but it’s important to remember as your expenses mount that there may be a legal avenue for you to seek compensation if another party is responsible for the incident that led to these injuries.
The following steps will give you a general idea of how to move forward with your legal options following a catastrophic injury. Keep in mind that no two catastrophic injuries are alike, and your legal process may vary.
Contact a Catastrophic Injury Lawyer
After making sure that immediately medical concerns are addressed, a victim or their loved one should reach out to a catastrophic injury lawyer to begin making sense of their situation and their legal options. Very shortly after an accident, the insurance company representing the at-fault party will begin to aggressively make settlement offers that will have little bearing on the reality of the situation.
The days, weeks, and months after a catastrophic injury can cause significant stress, especially as medical bills mount and income declines. This is when insurers know they are most likely to reach a low settlement agreement, but when you are working with a lawyer, they will help you understand your financial situation from a long-term perspective that will help you stay strong against aggressive insurers.
Avoid Discussing the Case
Never discuss your situation with anyone other than your attorney. Never post anything about your injuries or your interpretation of the legal situation on your social media accounts because they may be used against you in court. Even if it seems innocuous or you believe that the information is entirely accurate, attorneys representing the at-fault party will attempt to use it to their advantage in any way possible.
Preserve and Gather Evidence
Collect and organize any evidence related to the incident that you have. This can include photos, videos, written journals, witness statements, police reports, and all medical records. Keeping a journal about the victim’s condition on a daily basis is a great way to prove a number of non-economic damages your lawyer will be seeking, which include things like the actual pain and suffering of an injury and the many emotional impacts that these types of injuries will have.
Follow All Medical Advice
After a catastrophic injury, a victim may work with a whole team of medical professionals and healthcare providers. It is absolutely essential that the victim follows all recommendations and recovery protocols. A demonstrable commitment to recovery can strengthen a victim’s case and improve their chances of maximizing the compensation they receive.
File a Claim or Lawsuit
When your attorney believes that it is time to move forward, they will discuss the best course of action with you, which may be a claim with an insurer or a lawsuit in the Florida courts. In many cases, a personal injury lawyer will work directly with insurers to negotiate a fair settlement, but there are plenty of instances where they decide to move straight into a lawsuit.
Your attorney will keep track of any deadlines for filing, such as the Florida statute of limitations for personal injury cases — typically four years from the date of the accident. Missing these deadlines will have a serious impact on your case, and will jeopardize your right to any compensation.
Contact Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. right away to request a free consultation with an experienced catastrophic injury lawyer at our personal injury law firm.
Frequently Asked Questions About Catastrophic Injuries
The following are just a few of the many questions the team at LJW Legal answers for personal injury victims, both during our free consultation and in greater detail throughout our work together. Keep in mind that the answers below are only meant to give you an idea of how your unique situation may be handled, so do not take the following as advice.
How long does it take to receive an offer of compensation?
There is no simple way to answer the question of how long it will take a personal injury victim to receive compensation, but Florida law does require that an insurance company makes an offer within 90 days. This offer is typically much lower than what a victim is owed, especially when there are serious injuries involved.
The initial offer is a jumping-off point for a personal injury attorney to begin negotiations where they will fight to reach a settlement agreement that fairly compensates their client for the multitude of damages they have suffered. These negotiations could last anywhere from weeks to years and may ultimately need to be resolved through a trial — which can take even longer.
Contact our team as soon as possible for your free consultation so we can talk about your unique situation and give you a better idea of how these timelines may work in your case.
What is catastrophic litigation?
Catastrophic litigation is the legal process surrounding severe, life-altering injuries that cause permanent or long-term injuries to a victim. These cases often involve complicated long-term financial and emotional considerations that factor in future medical expenses, long-term loss of quality of life, and a variety of other financial issues that will play a significant role in the victim’s life in the years or decades to come.