What Makes an Injury "Catastrophic"?

Posted By Power Rogers & Smith, P.C. || Jun 29, 2016

While there is no strict legal definition of a catastrophic injury, it generally means a severe injury that leads to either permanent or long-term disfigurement or disability. These types of injuries often include a lifetime of medical treatment, multiple surgeries, and a difficult recovery process. Two main factors to be considered when determining whether or not an injury can be defined as “catastrophic” is the extent of the disability, and how long the disability is expected to continue.

While not a strictly legal definition, the American Medical Association defines a catastrophic injury as a severe injury to the spine, spinal cord, or brain, and can also include fractures to the skull or spine. Other injuries that are often included in that list are the loss of a limb, severe burn injuries, and injuries that result in significant scarring.

  • Traumatic Brain Injuries: Traumatic brain injuries are caused by blows or impacts to the head or body, but the extent of the damage depends on factors including the force of the impact and nature of the impact. Traumatic brain injuries can include damage to brain cells, tearing of cellular structures, damaged blood vessels, damaged protective tissues, and bleeding in or around the brain. According to the Mayo Clinic, five of the most common events that can cause traumatic brain injuries are explosive blasts, falls, sports injuries, vehicle-related collisions, and violence, which can include gunshot wounds, among other things.
  • Spinal Cord Injuries: Spinal cord injuries are the result of damaged vertebrae, ligaments of the spinal column, discs of the spinal column, or to the spinal cord itself. While the initial injury may be severe, additional damage can occur over the following days or weeks due to bleeding, inflammation, swelling, and fluid accumulation in and around the spinal cord. If the injury affects the nerve fibers passing through the area, it could permanently impair or disable the corresponding nerves and muscles below the injury site. According to the Mayo Clinic, most spinal cord injuries in the U.S. are caused by acts of motor vehicle collisions, falls, violence, and sports and recreation activities.
  • Severe Burn Injuries: Severe burn injuries can be caused by a wide variety of sources, including electrical currents, fire, radiation, chemicals, and steam. Certain lines of work have a much higher risk of sustaining burns than others, but victims of vehicle crashes often sustain severe burns if gasoline leaks out and catches fire. While the burns can be incredibly painful and dangerous on their own, they often lead to complications like infections and permanent scarring.

Do you have a catastrophic injury? At Power, Rogers & Smith, L.L.P., our catastrophic injury lawyers have the experience and skill necessary to fight for the results you deserve in your time of need. Contact us today through our website for a free case evaluation, or call us at (312) 313-0202 to set up a meeting with one of our personal injury lawyers.

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