Personal Injury

When Is a Personal Injury Considered Catastrophic?

May 15, 2024
Personal Injury Considered Catastrophic

Table Of Contents


If you’ve been severely injured due to someone else’s negligence, the toll it takes on your life can be overwhelming. You might be wondering if your injuries qualify as “catastrophic” and what that means for potential compensation.

At the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Firm, our dedicated personal injury lawyers understand the complexities of such severe injury cases and are committed to helping victims seek the maximum compensation they deserve.

What Is a Catastrophic Injury?

A catastrophic injury is a severe injury that results in long-term or permanent disability, disfigurement, or loss of bodily function. These devastating and serious afflictions often require extensive medical treatment and ongoing care, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and vocational rehabilitation.

Catastrophic injuries dramatically impact all aspects of a person’s life, from their ability to work and earn an income to their day-to-day functioning and quality of life.

What Is a Catastrophic Injury?

Some key characteristics that distinguish a catastrophic injury include:

  • Permanent disability or disfigurement.
  • Need for lifelong medical care and assistance with daily living.
  • Inability to work.
  • Significant impact on mental health and emotional well-being.
  • Need for accommodating home and vehicle modifications.

Catastrophic injuries can take many forms, including spinal cord injuries. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, there are about 17,900 new spinal cord injuries annually in the United States alone — that’s 49 new cases every single day!

Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 1–44 and result in nearly 40 million emergency room visits annually.

These statistics highlight the prevalence and devastating impact of catastrophic injuries. The lifetime costs of treating a catastrophic injury can easily reach millions of dollars, further emphasizing the critical importance of securing full and fair compensation.

Common Types of Catastrophic Injuries

While a wide range of severe injuries may be considered catastrophic depending on the circumstances, some of the most common types include:

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

A severe blow or jolt to the head can cause complex and debilitating brain damage. TBIs often result in cognitive impairments, personality changes, physical disabilities, and emotional difficulties that forever change a person’s life. According to the CDC, about 190 Americans die from TBI-related injuries each day.

Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)

Damage to the spinal cord can cause partial or total paralysis, respiratory issues, loss of sensation and motor function, and other devastating impacts. Paraplegia (paralysis of the legs) and quadriplegia (paralysis of all four limbs) are common outcomes of catastrophic SCIs. The National SCI Statistical Center reports that about 38% of SCIs are “incomplete” tetraplegia, and 23% are “complete” paraplegia.

Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)

Severe Burns

Catastrophic burn injuries involve damage to multiple layers of skin and underlying tissue. Severe burns are incredibly painful, pose a high risk of complications like infection, and usually require skin grafts and extensive treatment. Permanent scarring and disfigurement are also common consequences of these burns. The American Burn Association states that approximately 40,000 burn injury hospitalizations occur annually in the U.S.


Losing a limb is an immensely challenging experience with lifelong ramifications. Traumatic amputations from accidents and surgical amputations due to medical negligence both have far-reaching physical and psychological impacts. The Amputee Coalition estimates that 45% of amputations are due to trauma, while 54% are due to vascular disease.

Organ Damage

Severe damage to internal organs can be life-threatening and cause permanent health issues. Organ damage often occurs due to traumatic accidents, medical negligence, or dangerous drugs.

For example, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reports that medication errors cause at least one death every day and injure approximately 1.3 million people annually in the U.S.

Common Causes of Catastrophic Injuries

Catastrophic injuries can happen in a wide variety of situations, but some of the most common causes include:

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Car accidents, truck crashes, and motorcycle collisions are a leading cause of catastrophic injuries. The immense forces involved in these accidents can cause devastating harm, such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, crush injuries, and amputations.

Workplace Accidents

Construction accidents, factory mishaps, and other on-the-job incidents can result in catastrophic injuries. Common injuries in workplace accidents include severe burns, electrical injuries, traumatic amputations, and head or spinal trauma. Falls from heights, being struck by objects, and equipment malfunctions are frequent causes of these injuries.

Medical Malpractice

Negligent medical care can have catastrophic consequences. Surgical errors, anesthesia mistakes, birth injuries, and delayed diagnosis or treatment of serious conditions can often lead to life-changing harm.

Defective Products

When manufacturers release unsafe products, the results can be disastrous. Auto part failures, dangerous drugs, faulty medical devices, and other defective consumer products cause immense suffering.

Is Your Injury Considered Catastrophic?

If you’re trying to figure out whether your injury is considered catastrophic, there are some questions you can ask:

  • Can you no longer work or perform daily tasks due to your injuries?
  • Have you suffered permanent scarring or loss of function?
  • Do you require ongoing medical treatment, therapy, or assistance with daily living activities?
  • Are you unable to return to your previous job or find suitable employment due to your injuries?
  • Has your injury caused anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
  • Are you facing a mountain of medical bills and ongoing healthcare costs?
  • Do you require adaptations to your living environment or vehicle to accommodate your injury?

If you answered yes to several of these questions, you might have a catastrophic injury case. To determine the strength of your claim, it’s necessary to consult with a qualified catastrophic injury attorney to discuss your specific situation and determine the best course of action.

What to Do After a Catastrophic Injury

The aftermath of a catastrophic injury is incredibly stressful. As you grapple with the immediate medical crisis and begin to contemplate the long road ahead, it’s important to take certain steps to protect your health and your legal rights:

Seek Emergency Medical Care

Call 911 and get emergency medical treatment right away. Follow all of your doctor’s instructions and referrals to specialists carefully. Your health should be your top priority.

Report and Document the Accident

If you were injured at work, file an accident report promptly. For other accidents, call the police to the scene. Take photos of your injuries and the accident site if possible, and get contact info for any witnesses.

Start an Injury Journal

As soon as you can, write down how the injury happened and how it has impacted your life. Memory fades over time, and this record will be helpful for your claim.

Don’t Accept Early Offers or Give Statements

Be very cautious in your dealings with insurance companies. Don’t accept their initial offers, give recorded statements, or sign anything without consulting a lawyer. Insurers do not have your best interests in mind and will make every effort to mitigate their losses.

Consult a Catastrophic Injury Lawyer

Reach out to an experienced personal injury lawyer who has specific experience with catastrophic injury cases as soon as possible. These cases are complex, and you will need help navigating the legal process and calculating your full range of damages.

What Sets Catastrophic Injury Lawyers Apart

Not all personal injury lawyers have the specific skills and experience to handle catastrophic injury claims. You need a law firm with a track record of success in complex, high-stakes cases.

When you choose Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Firm firm, you can count on us to:

  • Provide personalized attention and support throughout your case.
  • Thoroughly investigate your accident to determine liability.
  • Gather compelling evidence to build the strongest possible claim.
  • Consult with top medical experts to fully assess your injuries and future needs.
  • Aggressively negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf.
  • Take your case to trial if necessary to fight for maximum compensation.

At the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Firm, we offer free consultations to catastrophic injury victims and their families. Our knowledgeable catastrophic injury attorneys can analyze your case, identify all potential sources of compensation, and develop a comprehensive legal strategy to maximize your financial recovery.

What Sets Catastrophic Injury Lawyers Apart

Compensation in Catastrophic Injury Cases

Catastrophic injury compensation tends to be substantially higher than for less severe injuries because the medical impacts of a catastrophic injury are so extensive.

You may be entitled to compensation for:

  • Past, current, and future medical expenses
  • Rehabilitation and therapy costs
  • Lost wages and loss of future earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress and mental anguish
  • Loss of quality of life and loss of consortium
  • Assistive devices and home/vehicle modifications
  • Long-term care needs

Calculating these damages requires in-depth analysis by medical and financial experts. Your catastrophic injury lawyer will work with these experts to determine the full extent of your losses and develop a plan for seeking full compensation for all economic and non-economic losses.

Compensation in Catastrophic Injury Cases

Successful Catastrophic Injury Settlements

At the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Firm, our proven track record demonstrates a commitment to securing maximum compensation for our clients. Here are a few examples:

$7.5 Million Awarded for Defective Car Design

Our firm secured a $7.5 million verdict for a client who suffered severe injuries when the roof of their car caved in during a rollover accident. The investigation revealed a defective design flaw in the vehicle’s roof, and the jury held the automaker liable for our client’s losses.

$1.45 Million for Laborer Injured by Falling Steel Rods

A construction worker suffered a catastrophic head injury when a bundle of steel rods fell from an unsecured hoist at a building site. We secured a $1.45 million settlement for our client, who required extensive medical care and rehabilitation due to the accident.

$6.5 Million Settlement High-Speed Head-On Collision

One of our clients suffered a high-speed, head-on motor vehicle collision. Despite safety precautions, the client suffered life-threatening injuries. The client underwent emergency surgery and multiple medical procedures, necessitating lifelong care. Through litigation, the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Firm demonstrated negligence and reckless conduct by the defendants, leading to a $6.5 million settlement to cover the client’s lifetime medical needs.

These are just a few examples of the many successful outcomes we’ve achieved for catastrophic injury victims. While no amount of money can undo your suffering, maximizing your financial recovery can help provide for your lifelong needs and give you the best possible quality of life.

Let Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Firm Fight for You

At the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Firm, we’ve been representing catastrophic injury victims for over 40 years. Our nationally recognized attorneys have recovered over $1 billion for our clients, including numerous multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts. We have the experience, resources, and tenacity to take on the most challenging cases.

We also understand that catastrophic injury clients need extra care and support. You can count on us to be there for you, explaining the process in plain terms, promptly answering your questions, and connecting you with helpful services and resources. We aim to shoulder your legal burden so you can focus on healing.

If you or a loved one has suffered a catastrophic injury, don’t wait to get the legal help you need. Contact the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Firm today for a free consultation. We’re here to listen to your story, explain your rights, and fight for the full compensation you deserve.

Don’t Face Catastrophic Injuries Alone — We Can Help!

You have enough to worry about as you focus on your recovery and adapt to life after a catastrophic injury. Let us handle the legal burden and fight for the justice you deserve! Contact the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Firm today for a free consultation.

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