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FAQ: In Personal Injury Law, What Makes an Accident Catastrophic?

In personal injury law, we often hear the terms catastrophic accident and catastrophic injury. But what do these terms mean, exactly? What makes an accident catastrophic? If you’ve been involved in an injury accident, what might classify it as catastrophic?

The definition of the term catastrophic is further clouded by the fact that so many people use it to mean different things, and in fact the legal community has no established benchmarks for what constitutes “catastrophic.” However, insurance companies and the courts generally go by a set of American Medical Association guidelines for what they label a catastrophic injury. It follows that a catastrophic accident is one that results in a catastrophic injury to the victim.

What constitutes a catastrophic injury?

An injury is considered catastrophic when it causes severe and long-term repercussions, affecting the victim’s ability to work or function as he/she did before the injury occurred. Examples include:

  • Injuries to the brain or spinal column
  • Spine or skull fractures
  • Loss of limb
  • Nerve injuries resulting in paralysis
  • Paraplegia/Quadriplegia
  • Severe burns
  • Any other injury that causes a significant impairment (generally 55 percent or greater reduction in function)

What makes catastrophic accidents more legally significant?

If you or a loved one has suffered a catastrophic injury as described above, you don’t need to be convinced of its significance to you or your family. However, from a legal standpoint, it’s important to name the event as catastrophic because it raises the expectations as to how much of a settlement will be required to cover the loss. With a typical accident that results in a full recovery, we can measure more specifically how much the injury accident costs because there is an end point. However, in catastrophic events, the repercussions may go on for years, or even for the rest of the victim’s life. The resulting financial and emotional toll is much greater, so the settlement amount must be raised to match. Convincing the courts of the catastrophic nature of your injuries is key to getting you the compensation you need and deserve.

If your family has been impacted by a catastrophic accident, you need a skilled personal injury attorney in your corner to fight for the maximum settlement you’ll need in order to move forward. Our team is standing by to help. For a free case evaluation, call Sutton Slover at 404.768.0292.