If you have been involved in an accident in the state of California, and sustained catastrophic personal injuries due to the negligence of another, you are legally entitled to compensation covering all of your damages. These damages may include any or all of the following: medical expenses, property damage, pain and suffering, and loss of current and future earnings.
Once you have begun your medical treatment, you must establish whether the nature of your injuries would be classified as “catastrophic”. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you establish this, and can also help you document those injuries. Be prepared for a fight from the insurance companies involved. They will very likely attempt to downplay the severity of your injuries in an attempt to lower their cost of compensation for your damages.
There is no specific legal definition of "catastrophic injury", but it is widely accepted that a catastrophic injury is one in which you are severely injured. The injury leads to long-term damage including disability and disfigurement and may require several surgeries, and ongoing medical treatment for the rest of your life. There is usually a difficult and painful recovery process, and qualify of life may never be that which it was prior to the accident that caused the injuries. Permanent disability and an inability to return to work in their chosen field or in any capacity are often the outcome of catastrophic injuries sustained in a car accident. Your attorney will be able to help you seek compensation in the event of a life-changing catastrophic injury.
Whether an injury is judged to be truly "catastrophic" depends greatly on the precise nature of the injuries sustained, and the debilitation they cause and can expect to continue to cause. If the injuries will render you unable to perform basic life functions over an extended period of time, and/or you will require in-home assistance or nursing home care, your injuries are likely to be designated as catastrophic in nature.
An additional important factor that is considered in deeming injuries catastrophic is the overall effect the injury or injuries has on the life of the victim. If one’s ability to earn a living is impacted due to permanent disability from injuries, those injuries are likely to be deemed catastrophic in nature.
Loss of limb(s) - When a limb is lost due to injury or surgery following an accident, it signifies a catastrophic event. Your ability to function in daily life with regular activities is greatly reduced or possibly eliminated. You will experience severe psychological trauma due to this loss, and you’ll need to re-learn how to do simple activities that you took for granted before your accident. Your life will undergo significant change as you learn to live without your limb.
Head, neck, and spinal cord injury - Whether your head, neck, or spinal cord injury is deemed catastrophic will depend on the severity of the injury. A case of whiplash could be minor, or it could be catastrophic, depending on the severity. If you are permanently disabled due to these injuries and are left unable to perform daily functions, your injuries are catastrophic.
Extensive debt due to medical treatments - It goes without saying that any personal injury can result in mounting medical bills and debt. A catastrophic injury, though, will result in hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical debt and is often a scenario of years or possibly a lifetime of ongoing medical treatment, and subsequent bills.
After an accident with injuries, the at-fault driver is required to pay for the damages the victim has sustained. The victim usually receives compensation for the medical expenses they’ve incurred, as well as the pain and suffering they’ve been through due to the accident and subsequent injuries. They’ll also be compensated for any loss of quality of life they experience due to the injuries. In a catastrophic injury case, the damages are much higher, but this also comes with the burden of proof in presenting evidence supporting the claim of catastrophic injury. Obtaining and presenting the evidence to prove catastrophic injury is often a complicated, involved process, and one that you will need a qualified attorney to accomplish successfully.
You should contact a qualified California personal injury attorney if you believe that your injuries are catastrophic in nature. An attorney can give you their experienced opinion and can advise you whether they believe your injuries are catastrophic from a legal standpoint, and what the value of those damages might be. A personal injury attorney is well-versed in the process of collecting evidence and proving that your injury is catastrophic. It is very unlikely that you would be able to prove these damages of your own accord.
Medical Records - Your medical records are of great importance when you've sustained a catastrophic injury. They are the most vital piece of evidence your attorney can present to show the nature and extent of the injuries you've sustained. Your medical records will recall the events surrounding the accident, your immediate treatment afterward, and the treatment you've had from the accident to the present day. The more detailed and complete these medical records are, the better your attorney will be able to utilize them as evidence to prove your case.
Since your medical records are absolutely essential in proving your case, there are some things you should be aware of as you visit your medical provider for treatments:
Tell your doctor everything in detail. Do not hold anything back. Disclose each of your symptoms in a very specific manner. Do not generalize.
Do not miss your scheduled appointments. Doing so can make it appear as if you are not in need of medical care, and that your injuries are not as severe as you claim. This can make a huge difference in the amount of damages you recover.
Keep records of any pre-existing conditions or injuries. This will be used as a “baseline” to compare to your condition after sustaining catastrophic injury.