Being involved in a catastrophic accident is an overwhelming experience. Not only may the accident initially be shocking, painful, and upsetting, but it could also leave you or a loved one with serious long-term disability and harm. At the Law Offices of Glenn & West, LLC, our catastrophic injury attorneys will work with you to help you understand your right to damages and to recover a fair settlement or verdict that fully compensates you for all of your economic and noneconomic losses. If you or a loved one has been involved in a catastrophic accident or incident, our law firm can help. Call us today to learn more about your options and the settlement process.
Types of Catastrophic Injuries
A catastrophic injury is an injury that permanently causes disability and/or loss of a bodily function. Catastrophic injuries can arise out of car accidents, bicycle and pedestrian accidents, workplace accidents, dog attacks, truck accidents, slip and falls, trip and falls, and even accidents involving defective products. Some of the types of injuries that are often classified as catastrophic include:
- Traumatic brain injuries. A traumatic brain injury occurs when the brain is hit with an object with force, punctured by an object, shaken rapidly or exposed to rotational forces, or when the brain is deprived of oxygen. A traumatic brain injury can cause complications with speech, memory, language, learning, emotion, thinking, and sensation. Sometimes, traumatic brain injuries are so severe that they permanently render the affected individual unable to care for themselves or maintain the work they once did.
- Spinal cord injuries. A spinal cord injury happens when the spinal column, which runs the length of the spine and protects the spinal cord, is impacted with force, causing damage to both the spinal column and the inner spinal cord. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves and cells that carries messages between the brain and the rest of the body, allowing for the feeling of sensation, muscle control, and movement. Spinal cord injuries are permanent and can cause partial or complete paralysis from the site of the injury downwards.
- Severe burn injuries. A severe burn injury is painful, disfiguring, and sometimes disabling. Third- and fourth-degree burn injuries refer to burn injuries that are so severe that the skin and the layers under the skin, such as the fat (and muscle and bone in the case of fourth-degree burns), have been damaged. These types of burn injuries can be fatal, and can lead to permanent loss of use of the affected area, amputation, and permanent disfigurement.
- Amputation injuries. If an extremity is badly damaged in an accident, such as severely burned or crushed, it may be beyond repair and require medical amputation. An amputation can also happen as a result of a limb becoming caught in an object/heavy equipment/machinery.
- Other. The above are not the only types of catastrophic injury—loss of vision or hearing, severe bone fractures and internal injuries, nerve damage, and facial injuries, amongst others, may also be severe. Birth injuries are also sometimes categorized as catastrophic injuries.
Calculating Damages in a Catastrophic Injury Case
One of the most complex elements of catastrophic injury claims is not that of proving liability, duty, breach of duty, and causation, but proving damages. Damages are the losses, both economic and noneconomic, that a victim of a catastrophic injury has suffered. While economic damages—which refer to the actual monetary losses suffered, such as medical bills and lost wages—are more straightforward to calculate, noneconomic damages are more elusive. Referring to the value of a person’s pain, suffering, emotional distress, impacted quality of life, and mental anguish, noneconomic damages are often calculated by considering the following:
- The amount of economic damages
- The age of the victim and therefore the number of years that noneconomic damages will be felt
- Whether the victim is a parent or spouse and the impact of the injuries on these relationships
- The victim’s general health at the time of the accident
- The victim’s quality of life, education, work history, etc. at the time of the accident and how these things are likely to be impacted by the injuries
- How the injuries affect the victims quality of life and what they can and cannot do each day
- The amount of damages local juries have awarded in similar cases
Will My Catastrophic Injury Claim Settle?
If you or a loved one has been involved in a severe accident and you are thinking about pursuing monetary damages, you may be wondering whether your case will settle or if you’ll have to file a lawsuit to recover the damages that you deserve. The vast majority of catastrophic injury claims settle out of court. These claims are more likely to settle for a number of reasons, including that because of the value of damages involved, insurance companies have an incentive to settle these claims out of court rather than risk a larger verdict in a jury trial. Similarly, plaintiffs also have an incentive to settle—going to trial is taking a large risk, and it’s also a very emotional process that can be traumatic in the wake of a severe accident.
The Settlement Process
The settlement process typically happens after Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) has been reached—the full extent to which the plaintiff/victim in the case is expected to heal. After other elements of the claim have been established, both sides will work to calculate the plaintiff’s damages. The attorney for the plaintiff will file a demand letter (a/k/a settlement proposal) with the insurance company of the defendant that outlines how much the plaintiff (i.e, injured person) is requesting in compensation and the details of that request. Typically, the insurance company will counter and offer a lower settlement offer. This process can go back and forth during the negotiations process. Sometimes, negotiations can take multiple weeks or months. When negotiations drag on for up to a year and reaching an agreed-upon settlement seems impossible, the plaintiff may decide to file a lawsuit and bring the case to court. Again, however, reaching a settlement is much more common than actual litigation in catastrophic injury claims.
Call the Law Offices of Glenn & West, LLC, today to get started
At the Law Offices of Glenn & West, LLC, our skilled catastrophic injury lawyers have experience representing clients during settlement negotiations and in the courtroom. For an aggressive lawyer who will put your best interests first and work hard to achieve the settlement you deserve, call our law firm directly today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.