Catastrophic Injury: Compensation for Your Pain and Loss
A favorable personal injury settlement can accomplish a lot. It can pay for property damage, cover medical bills, and compensate for pain and suffering. In some cases, it can even be used to punish bad actors and deter future wrongdoing. Ironically, though, no amount of settlement money can ever accomplish what damage awards were designed to do in the first place – put the victim back in the position he or she was in prior to the accident. Nowhere is this more evident than in a catastrophic injury case.
Catastrophic injuries are those that cause either death, or, at a minimum, a significant and permanent deterioration of the victim’s quality of life. A spinal cord injury resulting in paralysis is a classic example. For victims and their families, these cases do not end when a settlement check is issued or the jury renders its verdict – the consequences last a lifetime.
At McNeely Stephenson, we understand that financial compensation will not undo the harm you suffered. But that does not mean your catastrophic injury claim is something to be taken lightly. The fact that you or your loved one may never fully recover from the physical injuries inflicted during the accident makes proper handling of the legal claim imperative. Your future depends on it. Contact our team of Indiana trial attorneys now to learn more about your rights.
A Word about Childhood Injuries
One of the most heartbreaking things that can happen is when your child becomes injured. It’s even worse when the injury could have been prevented, if it hadn’t been for another party’s recklessness or negligence. Injuries to children feel especially upsetting to all of us because they have their whole lives ahead of them.
When is an Injury Considered “Catastrophic”?
There is no accepted legal definition that specifies what makes a personal injury catastrophic. However, a serious injury from which a person is not expected to recover that prevents them from performing gainful work is generally considered to be catastrophic.
A lifetime of lost wages, huge medical and rehabilitation bills, the physical pain suffered during recovery, the tragedy of disfigurement, and the financial and emotional distress of family members—all of these factors can deem an injury to be catastrophic. When another party is responsible for such devastation, it is fitting that they should bear the monetary costs of the injured party’s pain and loss.
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How Catastrophic Injuries Occur
You often hear the term “freak accident” used to describe horrific incidents. This terminology is meant to characterize one-of-a-kind accidents that no one could have foreseen or prevented. The truth is that very few accidents are without some type of fault. The facts surrounding a catastrophic accident are always unique, to be sure, but the conduct involved usually fits a familiar pattern. Here are the most common categories of catastrophic injury causes:
Vehicles of all types and weights can wreak havoc when they are not driven with care or when some other form of negligence is responsible for the victim’s injuries. The accident can be one of the following types:
- Large truck accidents
- Passenger vehicle accidents
- Drunk driving crashes
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bus and other commercial vehicle accidents
- Bicycle and pedestrian accidents involving motorized vehicles
- Recreational vehicle accidents
2016 figures indicate that almost one million workers were seriously injured on the job that year, a fairly typical annual number. Many types of catastrophic injuries can occur while you are on the job:
- Disabling burns resulting from electrocution, flammable substances, and corrosive materials
- Workplace explosions that create catastrophic injuries such as amputations, brain injuries, and internal organ damage
- Construction site accidents that are responsible for a wide range of injuries
- Workplace equipment accidents that can cause spinal cord injuries, amputations, and crushing accidents
Other Types of Catastrophic Injuries
Severe, disabling injuries can also come about from:
- Product liability Examples are the defective Takata airbags and accidents caused by malfunctioning workplace equipment.
- Intentional acts of assault and abuse by caregivers
What Are the Consequences of a Catastrophic Injury?
After 30 years of representing accident victims in Indiana, the attorneys at McNeely Stephenson have witnessed catastrophic injuries affecting every function of the human body. The worst of these injuries are the ones that permanently impede a victim’s . . .
- Cognitive skills
- Ability to communicate
- Physical appearance
Limitations in any one of these areas cause irreparable harm not just to the victim, but to the wellbeing of the victim’s dependents and loved ones. The amount of compensation obtained in a catastrophic injury settlement should reflect this fact.
Types of Catastrophic Injuries We Handle at McNeely Stephenson
Catastrophic injuries and catastrophic accidents do not necessarily go hand in hand. An accident that appears terrible, such as a high-speed traffic crash, may produce relatively inconsequential injuries. Conversely, a seemingly-minor accident, like falling off a work platform only a few feet above the ground, may lead to permanent disability. This is why, when it comes to proving damages, our lawyers focus on what matters most – your injury.
We represent persons who have suffered all types of catastrophic injuries due to another party’s negligence, including:
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis, which can result from scenarios as varied as a workplace crushing accident to a vehicular crash
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI), a significant cause of disability in those under the age of 40
- Severe burns, often from occupational situations
- Amputations and other loss of limbs
- Internal organ damage resulting from being struck by or against an object
- Multiple bone fractures and crushing injuries
- Vision and hearing losses
- Disfiguring injuries
Unfortunately, some catastrophic injuries result in death. When that occurs, a wrongful death case can be brought if another party is at fault.
What Types of Compensation Are Likely in a Catastrophic Injury Case?
The financial burdens of a catastrophic injury case can be staggering, and should not fall on your and your family’s shoulders if someone else is responsible for your pain, injuries, and disability. The typical varieties of monetary damages awarded to catastrophic injury victims include:
- Medical expenses, both past and future, that relate to the injury
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Physical, occupational, speech, and other therapies
- Modifications that are needed for a home and vehicle
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Loss of consortium and comfort
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
Amounts can vary widely, depending on the individual case. The catastrophic injury lawyers at McNeely Stephenson will take many factors into account when it comes to obtaining the compensation you deserve.
The Details about Comparative Fault
In Indiana, as in many states, personal injury cases are subject to the “comparative fault” rule, meaning that if the injured party is found to be partially at fault, monetary damages can be reduced or even eliminated.
Here’s an example: Suppose you are driving 5 mph over the speed limit when someone else abruptly moves into your lane, resulting in a crash that produces a catastrophic injury. It could be determined that you were at fault for a portion of the accident because you were speeding—let’s say the court decides you are 15 percent at fault. Under the comparative fault rule, any damages you are awarded would be reduced by 15 percent.
If you are found to be 50 percent or more at fault for the injury, under the comparative fault rule you would not be able to collect monetary damages from any other party determined to be at fault.
Existing Indiana Damage Caps
Some states limit the amount of monetary damages you can collect for non-economic injuries in personal injury cases. Limitations such as these are called damage caps. In Indiana, as of 2017, there are no damage caps for personal injury (tort) cases involving non-economic injuries. Non-economic injuries are situations that involve loss of function, such as the loss of a limb, blindness, mutilation, permanent disability, or reproductive or sexual harm. Non-economic injuries also include what is commonly called “pain and suffering,” which can be considerable after an amputation or catastrophic burn injury.
Economic damages in personal injury cases, generally meaning lost wages and any relevant medical expenses, are not capped in Indiana and in fact are rarely capped.
Wrongful death damage caps are a bit more complex in Indiana, and depend upon the victim’s age and marital status, and on certain details concerning the surviving parties.
Indiana Catastrophic Injury Statutes of Limitations
In Indiana, both catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases must be filed within two years from the date of the injury, regardless of the specific cause of injury, except when a government entity is the defendant. A claim against the state must be filed within 270 days from the date of the injury, and a claim against a city or county must be filed within 180 days.
Speak with an Indiana Catastrophic Injury Attorney Today
When an insurance company is notified that one of its insureds may have caused a catastrophic injury, it immediately goes to work strengthening its side of the case. As a victim, you need to do the same. The first step is to contact an experienced Indiana personal injury law firm for a consultation and case evaluation. McNeely Stephenson has offices in Indianapolis, New Albany, and Shelbyville.
We can also visit with you on the telephone, or even at the hospital or at home if necessary. Call 1-317-825-5200 or use our convenient and confidential online form to tell us about your case now.