paramedics at accident siteWhile the media often overuses the words “catastrophe” and “catastrophic,” when it comes to car and truck accident injuries, there's an acceptable standard for using those words.

A catastrophic injury is one from which the sufferer is not likely to ever fully recover. These types of injuries leave victims permanently disabled, disfigured, or in need of significant long-term care.

When your injuries following a crash are designated catastrophic, you can be sure the word isn't used lightly and isn't an exaggeration. Not only are you facing a difficult physical recovery, but also the possibility of an uphill legal battle.

Types of Injuries That May Be Considered Catastrophic

The determination of whether an injury is catastrophic is based on the results of that injury, not so much the severity of the crash or the type of injury suffered. For example, a person could suffer a debilitating neck injury in a fender bender or could suffer a broken leg that leaves him unable to walk.

However, there are certain injuries that typically result from trauma sustained in a serious car crash that very often are considered catastrophic. These injuries include the following:

  • Spinal cord injuries. Trauma to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal often causes permanent changes in strength, sensation, and other body functions below the site of the injury.
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI). TBI usually results from a violent blow or jolt to the head. An object penetrating the skull, such as debris from a shattered windshield or metal shards from a damaged vehicle, also can cause traumatic brain injury.
  • Partial or total paralysis. Paralysis is the inability to control motor function in a particular part of the body. Partial paralysis affects a limited area of the body—for example, the legs—while total paralysis affects everything from the neck down. Spinal cord damage and TBI are common causes of paralysis resulting from a car crash.
  • Loss of a limb. Any limb can be damaged enough that it must be amputated—or be amputated in the accident itself—as a result of a collision, particularly for motorcyclists or vehicle occupants who are thrown outside.
  • Severe burn injuries. People with severe burns often require skin grafts to cover large wounds or to minimize scarring with deep wounds. They may require long-term stays at specialized burn centers and may never recover full use of the burned areas of their bodies.
  • Disfigurement and significant scarring. When a vehicle is mangled in a collision, the occupants are often just as damaged. Whether from flying debris, impact forces, or fire, accident victims can suffer cuts and burns that require treatment that leaves them scarred and disfigured.

These and many other types of injuries require victims to undergo specialized treatments that take months or years to complete. Some people will require lifelong care as a result of the disabilities they experience following a car crash. If they sustained these life-altering injuries in a crash that wasn't their fault, it's important that they fight to obtain the compensation they need to make maximum medical improvement.

Special Legal Considerations for Catastrophic Injuries

When a defendant is found liable for causing someone else’s injuries, personal injury law requires that he pay damages to “make the plaintiff whole.” In minor injury cases, this is fairly easy to determine. The victim needs enough money to cover all medical costs and any income lost until he has fully recovered. With a catastrophic injury, however, the victim may never be whole again. It's up to the plaintiff’s attorney to argue for damages that compensate the individual for a lifetime of treatment, personal care, rehabilitation or nursing home care, and more. The victim should also be compensated for pain and suffering and loss of quality of life—a dollar amount that's difficult to determine. 

Have You Been Injured In a Kansas City Area Car Accident?

If you've been injured in a car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.


James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.