An injury is considered catastrophic if a full recovery is not expected. Catastrophic injuries are considered permanent or expected to last for years or even decades. If a person does ever regain full function or mobility, it will only be after a long and painful period of intensive rehabilitation.
Medical professionals will evaluate your injuries and give testimony to the likelihood of recovery, as well as their professional prediction on the length and cost of your path to that recovery. This may include a treatment plan and future therapy requirements.
If your injury is catastrophic, a medical evaluation will highlight the extent of the injury, and it will be taken into consideration with your personal injury claim.
Examples of catastrophic injuries include:
- Spine damage
- Injuries that require amputation
- Severe burns
- Injuries that require long-term care or post-injury care
- Brain damage leading to a coma
- Accidents that leave the victim with debilitating psychological trauma
Other factors that may indicate you have suffered a catastrophic or serious injury include losing the ability to work, support yourself, go out in public or function sexually.
A personal injury attorney will need to accurately ascertain the severity of your injuries to calculate damages. If you’ve suffered more, you’ll need to recover more to be made whole. The goal of your personal injury attorney will be to pursue the compensation you deserve, including compensation to cover complications that may come with injuries that inflict lifelong consequences.
Why It’s Important to Classify the Extent of Damages
The extent of the injury is the foundational factor a personal injury attorney uses to determine what compensation or settlement amount they should pursue on your behalf. The pain and suffering you endure, the cost of medical treatment and the impact on your career will all be dictated by the seriousness of your injuries and your chance at physically recovering. The extent of damages may include injury or harm sustained in the present, as well as potential expenses that can be attributed to that harm in the future.
Damage awards may cover:
- Medical costs
- Limited mobility home modifications
- Physical therapy
- Caretaker costs
- Emotional trauma
- Mental trauma
- Support devices for recovery, like wheelchairs, special vehicles or heart monitors
In determining the extent of damages, your personal injury attorney will consider the extent of the harm you suffered. They will look at how much of the injury sustained can be attributed directly to the event.
Some factors may complicate attribution of an injury, like pre-existing conditions. The responsible party is not responsible for your pre-existing conditions, so if your injury was a direct result of those pre-existing conditions or your injuries were more severe due to those conditions, it may impact your ultimate recovery.
Certain types of calculations are easy to quantify – particularly economic damages. An injury like a broken arm may only require surgery and some physical therapy, all of which will have a bill directly tied to the treatment. If you’re dealing with a catastrophic or serious injury that resulted in your loss of function, you will likely have expenses that correlate to the way that your life has changed as a result of the injury. Those costs can be harder to predict and may not be immediately apparent or clear in the days, weeks or even months following your accident.
Damage Cap Consideration
The extent of damages also plays a role in how the damage cap affects potential compensation award amounts. In Georgia, there are generally no caps on economic and non-economic damages. However, some exemptions may be relevant if you have suffered a catastrophic injury.
There is an exception for punitive damages, which are capped at $250,000 unless the defendant was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or acted with specific intent to cause harm, in which case there is no cap.
Differences Between a Catastrophic Injury Case and Personal Injury Case
The main difference between catastrophic personal injury cases and other personal injury cases is the assessment of compensation and penalties for extreme long-term consequences. This may look like:
- Increased compensation for the severity of the injury
- The statute of limitations can be amended to accommodate for delayed assessment of injury due to severity
- The at-fault party may face criminal charges if any aspect is seen as intentional or criminally reckless
- Different types of long-term trauma need to be assessed when evaluating award amounts
Our Atlanta Personal Injury Attorneys Are Committed to Fighting for You
At the Dressie Law Firm, our experienced personal injury attorneys are ready to fight on your behalf. We won’t hesitate to take your case to trial if it helps to maximize your compensation. We serve Atlanta residents and offer free case evaluations, so you can hear your options before moving forward. Contact us at (678) 726-1429 today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.