Victims and their loved ones may be left in ruins after suffering a catastrophic injury. Spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, amputations, and severe burns are just a few examples of the catastrophic injuries that can leave victims with lifelong impairments, excruciating suffering, and astronomical medical bills. You may be able to sue for compensation if you or a loved one has a life-threatening injury due to the carelessness of another person.
In this article, we’ll look at both the economic and non-economic damages that may be awarded in a case over a catastrophic injury. There are approximately 17,730 new cases of spinal cord injuries each year in the United States, and the average annual expenses for someone with a high tetraplegia injury exceed $1 million the first year and $184,891 each year thereafter, as reported by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center. Understanding the potential for compensation in a catastrophic injury litigation is essential in light of the significant costs and life-altering implications that may result from such an injury.
What is Catastrophic Injury Lawsuit?
A catastrophic injury is one that is extremely serious and has the potential to have long-lasting or even permanent effects on the victim. Brain and spinal cord injuries, severe burns, amputation, and other catastrophic losses of body function sometimes fall into this category.
Related: What to Look for When Choosing a Catastrophic Injury Lawyer
Explanation of Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Damages are the monetary compensation given to the affected party in a personal injury lawsuit. This may be because of the negligent or purposeful actions of the defendant. Damages can be either monetary (medical bills, lost pay, property repair) or non-monetary (pain and suffering, emotional anguish, loss of pleasure of life).
Punitive damages are intended as a kind of punishment for outrageous behaviour and may be awarded in some instances. A personal injury lawsuit’s award of damages is determined by a number of factors, including the seriousness of the injury, its effect on the plaintiff’s life, and the degree of carelessness or fault of the defendant.
Economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit are the actual monetary losses sustained by the injured party as a direct result of the incident. Actual costs and losses will be used to determine the amount of these damages, which may be:
- Medical expenses: Ambulance fees, hospital bills, surgical expenditures, doctor appointments, physical therapy, and medication are all included in this category.
- Future medical expenses: Compensation for future medical expenses may include fees for ongoing medical treatment, rehabilitation, and long-term care if the damage is severe enough to warrant such treatment or care.
- Lost income and future earning capacity: If the accident prohibits the victim from returning to work, they may be entitled to damages for their lost wages and potential future earnings. Lost wages or salary, as well as potential future earnings lost because of the injury’s effect on the victim’s employability, are included in this category.
- Property damage: If the injury caused the injured party’s property to be damaged, such as in a car accident or with personal possessions, the injured party may be eligible to receive compensation to cover the cost of repairs or replacement of the damaged property.
In a personal injury case, you can seek both economic and non-economic damages. Less quantifiable than monetary damages, non-economic losses are intended to compensate the victim for the emotional toll of an incident. Examples of damages that are not monetary include:
- Pain and suffering: This includes not only the victim’s bodily suffering, but also his or her mental and emotional sorrow as a result of the damage.
- Emotional distress: Depression, worry, terror, and insomnia are all examples of emotional injury that can result from an accident.
- Loss of enjoyment of life: Damages for loss of enjoyment of life may be sought if an injury prohibits the victim from engaging in pleasurable activities or pursuing satisfying pastimes.
- Loss of consortium: The wounded person may be entitled to compensation for loss of consortium or companionship if the damage has an adverse effect on the relationship between the two parties.
- Punitive damages: Punitive damages are monetary awards given to the victim of extremely heinous wrongdoing. Deterrence and dissuasion from repeat offences are the goals of punitive damages.
How to Determine Financial Losses After a Major Accident
The method of determining monetary compensation is essential in catastrophic injury lawsuits. Economic and non-economic damages are both types of compensation that may be awarded to an aggrieved party. In a lawsuit involving severe injuries, the jury’s award of damages may be affected by a number of variables, including:
- Severity of the injury: As the severity of an injury rises, so does the likelihood of a large damages award being issued. Injuries that change a person’s life irrevocably, such a spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury, typically result in larger damage awards.
- Impact on the injured party’s life: The wounded party may be entitled to compensation for the negative effects the injury has had on their livelihood, social life, and general quality of life.
- Level of fault: Damages may also be affected by the degree to which the at-fault party was negligent. If the at-fault party’s actions were especially flagrant or irresponsible, a larger award of damages may be warranted.
- Economic and non-economic damages: Damages awards are influenced by both the monetary value of losses and the emotional toll they take.
Expert witnesses and other evidence may be utilised to establish damages in a catastrophic injury litigation. An expert witness in medicine could be invited to testify regarding the nature of the injury and the associated costs.
It’s possible to hire an economist to figure out how much money was lost and how much potential future income was affected. The damages claim can be supported by evidence like medical records, payroll records, and bank statements.
Limits on Damages in Catastrophic Injury Lawsuits
1. State-specific limits on damages
State laws in the United States vary with respect to caps on damages that can be awarded in cases of catastrophic injury. Certain states cap just non-economic damages, while others also cap economic losses.
Some states have very low restrictions (a few hundred thousand dollars), while others have none at all. To learn about the precise rules and limitations that apply to your situation, it’s best to speak with a local attorney who has experience in your area.
2. Caps on non-economic damages
The term “non-economic damages” is used to describe monetary payments made to a plaintiff for “non-monetary” losses. The amount of non-economic damages that can be paid in catastrophic injury claims has been capped by legislation in some states.
Proponents of these caps believe that they assist avoid large jury awards and keep insurance rates low, while opponents argue that they can unfairly limit compensation for victims of significant injuries.
3. Impact of comparative negligence on damages
If the plaintiff can prove that the victim was somewhat at fault for their injuries, the amount of compensation that can be awarded in a catastrophic injury claim may be decreased in some states. The concept of “comparative negligence” applies here. If the victim is judged to be more than 50% at fault, damages may be lowered proportionally or eliminated altogether, depending on the state.
Because of the complexity of the problem, it is recommended that you speak with an expert attorney to determine how comparative negligence may affect your catastrophic injury claim.
Getting Compensation after a Terrible Accident
1. Role of insurance companies
In catastrophic injury claims, insurance companies are often pivotal in determining how much money will be awarded to the afflicted party. The defendant’s liability insurance policy will typically pay for the plaintiff’s damages up to the policy’s limits if the plaintiff wins the lawsuit. The insurance company may play a role in reaching a settlement agreement and may be the entity required to pay any damages determined by the court.
2. Negotiating a settlement
As an alternative to going to trial, parties in catastrophic damage claims may attempt to negotiate a settlement. Attorneys can mediate settlement talks, which can involve sharing information, presenting proof, and negotiating a monetary sum for any damages sustained.
Working with an experienced attorney who can help ensure any settlement offer is fair and adequate might be a faster and less expensive method to resolve a catastrophic injury litigation.
3. Going to trial
It’s possible that the matter will go to trial if a settlement isn’t reached. While going to trial can be time-consuming and costly, it may be required to secure the full amount of damages to which the injured party is entitled.
A judge or jury will hear testimony and deliberate over the evidence to reach a verdict on responsibility and damages. It is crucial to choose a skilled trial lawyer who can assist in building a compelling case and presenting it in court.