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How Are Catastrophic Injuries Defined?

Home » How Are Catastrophic Injuries Defined?
September 01, 2020
Edward Smith

Understanding Catastrophic Injuries

In personal injury law, we often use the term “catastrophic injury,” but what does that actually mean?  There may be differing definitions, but one key aspect of an injury that makes it catastrophic is that the victim’s life never returns to the way it was prior to the injury.  Perhaps the simplest definition for catastrophic injuries is that they are life-changing.

Catastrophic injuries are permanent and often prevent the injured person from returning to work, or even fully caring for themselves.  The medical bills associated with a catastrophic injury are usually astronomical.  Because of the ramifications of catastrophic injuries, it is crucial that those who have suffered such injuries due to another party’s negligence find experienced legal counsel to help them recover monetary damages.  

Examples of Catastrophic Injuries

Many injuries are described as catastrophic due to their effect on the central nervous system – traumatic brain injuries (TBI), for example.  Here are some side effects that can be caused by TBI:

  • Difficulty concentrating and/or thinking clearly
  • Chronic headaches
  • Difficulty recalling new information
  • Photosensitivity
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Changes to sleeping patterns
  • Anxiety/Nervousness

Other common types of “catastrophic” injuries include:

Injuries to the Spinal Cord

Every year in the United States, more than 17,000 people suffer spinal cord injuries.  This type of injury often has devastating effects, including partial or full paralysis.  Depending on the level of paralysis, those with spinal cord injuries may require live-in care as well as have a permanent dependence upon assistance devices.

Spinal cord injuries also increase the risk of other medical problems, including:

  • Blood clots
  • Skin sores
  • Reduction of heart rate and blood flow
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Problems swallowing or speaking
  • Reduced bone density

Severe Burn Injuries

Not only are severe burns some of the most painful injuries to endure, but they also can cause permanent disabilities.  The treatment for severe burns often requires skin grafting, hospitalizations, and home health care.  Even after the burns have healed, the affected areas may suffer reduced or complete loss of mobility.  


More than 180,000 Americans become amputees each year.  Some amputations result from surgeries, others from traumatic injuries.  Amputations that are caused by injuries are called traumatic amputations.  Because such amputations take place outside of a sterile and controlled environment, excessive bleeding or infection can occur with traumatic amputations, both of which may cause long-term or permanent problems.

Causes of Catastrophic Injuries

There are countless ways in which a person may be catastrophically injured.  The world is full of inherent dangers.  Some of the most common events causing such injuries are:

  • Automobile, truck or motorcycle accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Sports accidents
  • Fall accidents
  • Uncontrolled infection
  • Assaults

Catastrophic Injury – Recovery Process

A seriously injured person requires skilled and compassionate medical care, and victims of catastrophic injuries should seek the same qualities in legal counsel.  If the injuries resulted from another’s negligence, there may be avenues of financial compensation that can help defray some of the economic damage sustained, such as high medical bills and income loss. 

Some of the damages that may be recoverable in a personal injury lawsuit are:

  • Medical expenses – past and future
  • Loss of income – past and future
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of Consortium (If applicable, your spouse may be entitled to economic recovery because the marital relationship changed.)

An experienced and skilled personal injury attorney can make sure you have the resources needed as you go forward in life.  Such resources may include:

  • Rehabilitative therapies
  • Assistive and adaptive devices
  • Prosthetics
  • Alternative transportation
  • Home modifications for accessibility
  • Household replacement services

Watch this TEDx Talk about assistive technology.

Roseville Personal Injury Lawyer 

I’m Ed Smith, and I have been a practicing Roseville personal injury lawyer for nearly four decades.  If you or a family member were injured in an accident caused by a negligent party, my firm is here to provide free and friendly legal advice.  My local phone number is (916) 921-6400 and the toll-free line is (800) 404-5400.  There is also the option to contact us online.

Below are a few links that can provide further information about the quality services offered by our law firm.

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