What does catastrophic really mean in personal injury law?

On Behalf of | May 11, 2023 | Personal injury |

To the victim, any serious injury can feel catastrophic. For example, a broken hip requiring weeks of recovery can feel catastrophic if it means you cannot work and provide for your family.

You could search through legal codes state-by-state and still not find a proper definition of catastrophic injury. That’s because it is often the outcome of the situation rather than the injury itself that is the catastrophic element.

Substantial physical harm

Of course, some severe physical injuries result in a catastrophic outcome. The impact of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), for example, can plague victims for decades or perhaps forever.

Once the injury site heals, many TBI victims continue struggling from:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Amnesia or memory problems
  • Recurring headaches
  • Problems focusing or concentrating

Some TBI patients suffer permanent brain damage that affects their cognition and abstract thinking skills, two things necessary to hold down most jobs.

Other potentially catastrophic injuries are spinal cord damage, amputation or disfigurement and internal organ damage.

Significant psychological trauma

Sometimes, an injury might be catastrophic because it seriously affects the victim mentally or emotionally. For instance, you might become permanently afraid of motor vehicles after a severe car accident hurts you.

Other psychological effects include:

  • Persistent depression or anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Chronic sleep disturbances
  • Personality changes

When severe physical harm opens the way for psychological issues, your injury could be deemed catastrophic.

You cannot know how an insurer or court will classify your harm until your injury claim is underway. If you believe you deserve extra financial compensation after an accident disrupts your entire life, guidance from a legal representative could improve your odds of success.