What Is a Catastrophic Injury?

If you have experienced an injury in Florida due to another person’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses, medical bills, pain, and suffering. Catastrophic injuries can lead to significant financial awards because of the extreme impact that such injuries can have on a person’s life. But you need to engage the services of an expert personal injury attorney who knows how to demonstrate the full breadth of damage to receive just compensation.

Definition of a catastrophic injury

What constitutes a catastrophic injury? Generally, “catastrophic” refers to an injury that causes significant damage that dramatically impacts your life and is expected to persist over an extended period of time, perhaps permanently. 

Florida law does not clearly define catastrophic injury; however, Florida Statutes 440.15, which covers Workers’ Compensation, does give a list of injuries that would be considered permanent, total disability. This list is a guide for the types of injuries considered catastrophic in a legal sense. Those injuries include:

  1. Spinal cord injury involving severe paralysis of an arm, a leg, or the trunk
  2. Amputation of an arm, hand, foot, or leg involving the effective loss of use of that appendage
  3. Severe brain or closed-head injury as evidenced by:
    1. Severe sensory or motor disturbances
    2. Severe communication disturbances
    3. Severe complex integrated disturbances of cerebral function
    4. Severe episodic neurological disorders, or
    5. Other severe brain and closed-head injury conditions at least as severe in nature as any condition provided above.
  4. Second-degree or third-degree burns of 25 percent or more of the total body surface or third-degree burns of 5 percent or more to the face and hands
  5. Total or industrial blindness 

These injuries are clearly catastrophic. While this list precisely defines injuries that could provide a person with Worker’s Compensation payments, the person would also have to be unable to do even sedentary work within a 50-mile radius. This is a pretty high bar. Proving catastrophic injury in a court of law to receive compensation is not as strict as proving disability to receive Workers Comp.

For instance, an expert personal injury attorney can demonstrate that your severe spinal cord injury has dramatically affected your quality of life and your ability to continue in your chosen career, as well as present the significant medical costs that will continue into the future. Whether or not you can do sedentary work is not an issue. Your injury has dramatically affected your life and will do so for many years to come. You deserve compensation. 

What can cause catastrophic injuries?

Catastrophic injuries can be caused by almost any incident. In my practice, I have seen catastrophic injuries resulting from any number of these causes:

  • Vehicular accidents: car, boat, ATV, motorcycle, bicycle, jet ski, airplane, etc.
  • Pedestrian injuries
  • Slip and fall, trip and fall
  • Dog bites, animal attacks
  • Reckless driver, distracted driver, road rage
  • Unsafe premises
  • Unsafe, defective, malfunctioning products
  • Amusement park equipment, outdoor adventure or sports equipment
  • Medical malpractice
  • Toxic substances, allergic reactions 

Since March 24, 2023, Florida has followed a modified comparative negligence standard. This means that, in a lawsuit, fault is distributed between parties, and if your share of responsibility is found to be 50% or less, you can be compensated for your damages. For example, if you are injured due to a defective jet ski, but you were also driving it erratically, a jury may decide you are 50% at fault for your injury, so you would get 50% of whatever they award you for your injuries. This could still amount to a significant sum of money since awards for catastrophic injury are usually quite high. 

Compensation for catastrophic injuries

Your catastrophic injury has impacted every aspect of your life, and you should receive compensation for all of them. These areas may include:

  • Medical costs, current and future
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental health issues and therapy expenses
  • Loss of companionship, relationship damage
  • Home renovation expenses to compensate for your injuries
  • A special vehicle to transport you with your injuries
  • Other expenses caused by the accident 

One of the most important aspects of a lawsuit for long-term, catastrophic injury is properly calculating future lost earnings and future medical expenses. I leave no stone unturned when determining the extent of the losses you have experienced, including consulting experts in the medical, financial, and mental health fields in order to calculate future costs accurately and present the most powerful and compelling case. 

Every case I take on becomes personal to me, as if one of my own friends or loved ones had been injured, and I work vigorously to uncover every possible expense or complication for my clients to help them get the maximum settlement for their injuries. I’m not afraid to go to court if necessary, and I have a track record of winning significant awards. Contact me today from anywhere in Florida, 24/7, at (954) 448-7288, to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

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