Personal Injury Attorney

What is a Catastrophic Injury?

A catastrophic injury is any injury that will permanently alter a person’s ability to live and function normally. These types of injuries are usually disabling or disfiguring in nature. The most common catastrophic injures are associated with traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, severe burns, dismemberment, or multiple related injuries at once, such as crushing injuries. Such severe injuries can result in varying levels of paralysis, decreased cognitive functions, physical impairments, and chronic pain. Catastrophic injuries can cause lifelong emotional, physical, and financial problems. Usually these types of injuries will make it impossible for a person to return to work for a long period of time or completely stop the victim from ever holding a job again and requiring specialized care for the rest of their lives. This can cause extreme financial distress, especially when coupled with the high medical costs associated with treating extreme and life-long injuries.

What Causes a Catastrophic Injury?

Our firm has handled catastrophic injury cases stemming from a wide range of causes. Such injuries are not always the fault of others, but when someone else’s negligence causes a catastrophic injury, it can be especially egregious. Below is a sampling of incidents that can cause catastrophic injuries.

Truck Accidents – When a semi-truck collides with a passenger vehicle, the injuries can easily become catastrophic. Hundreds of people each year receive life-changing injuries in truck accidents. These larger vehicles take longer to stop and outweigh personal vehicles several times over, making them extremely dangerous to those in the smaller vehicle during an accident.

Bus Accidents – Bus accidents have been known to cause catastrophic injuries and death to many passengers. Many school or tour busses still do not have seatbelts installed and the large space inside a bus gives ample room for people to be thrown about and severely injured in a bus crash. Busses are also known in some cases to catch fire after impact. For example, the Orland bus crash, where a Fed-Ex truck crossed the median and collided with a charter bus filled with students visiting a college, burst into flames following the crash.

Train Accidents – Like buses, very few trains are equipped with seat belts and when an accident occurs there is a good chance of catastrophic injury or wrongful death. Because of the speed at which most trains travel, a train crash can be especially devastating to passengers and can cause a wide variety of devastating injuries. Over the years we have handled cases in some of the largest train disasters in the U.S. and we are familiar with the complex nature of these injuries.

Airplane or Helicopter Accidents – when an airplane or helicopter crashes or has some type of accident, the event almost always results in catastrophic injuries or wrongful death. Brain injuries, spinal injuries, dismemberment, burns, and nerve injuries are all common for those who survive a major aviation accident. In our experience, many survivors of aviation accidents need lifelong support and care, regardless of whether the injuries were received while flying with a major airline, a small private plane, or a helicopter.

Traumatic Brain Injury – A traumatic brain injury is usually the result of a significant blow to the head. A large impact from a slip and fall, a sports-related injury, or a motor vehicle accident can all cause a traumatic brain injury. Traumatic brain injuries can also be caused by a lack of oxygen in the brain or damage caused by improper medical techniques. These injuries can result in paralysis, decreased cognitive function, impaired mobility or dexterity, and a host of other disabling qualities.

Spinal Cord Injury – spinal cord injuries are usually caused by an impact from falling or being hit or crushed. Spinal injuries can cause paralysis or extreme debilitating pain. However, catastrophic spinal injuries are not limited to breaking or fracturing the spine. The network of nerves that run through the spine can be damaged enough to qualify as a catastrophic injury as well. Improper medical treatments can be another cause of spinal injuries.

Harmful Pharmaceuticals and Defective Medical Devices – Certain drugs can be prescribed in untested, improper, or off-label manners that can cause birth defects, painful side effects, withdrawal symptoms, and many other unwanted effects. Similarly, medical devices often used in surgeries can be used in incorrect or off-label ways. For example, a mixture of Stryker’s OP-1 Putty and Calstrux has been illegally implanted in many unsuspecting patients during spine fusion surgery. For clients like ours, this untested mixture caused unwanted bone growth in the nerve channels, resulting in debilitating pain and disfigurement.

After a Catastrophic Injury: The Initial Legal Steps

When you hire personal injury attorneys, you are hiring a law firm that will act as a team working closely with you and your family for some time to come. You should hire a firm with whom you feel comfortable because they will be guiding you and your family through a difficult time. The firm should be one which has been there before and knows the ropes – one that has successfully handled many similar cases. That firm must also be able to bear all of the considerable up-front costs necessary for the team of lawyers, paralegals, clerks and experts necessary to prepare and successfully litigate your case.

There are a number of firms which possess these qualities. Perhaps the most important decision for you is to choose the firm which best suits your particular needs.

Dedicated group of attorneys | Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, P.C.

There are several actions a personal injury law firm must accomplish as soon as it begins working on the case:

  • Ensure that the injured person has received all necessary treatment and that all of the relevant records and bills are procured and organized
  • Determine which individual and/or entity is or may be at fault
  • The personal injury attorney may also have a choice as to whether to file in federal or state court, and thus is able to select the more advantageous forum.
  • Determine which “notice” provisions are required
  • Develop a discovery strategy

Selecting the Jurisdiction and Choice of Law for Filing the Personal Injury Claim

An essential consideration in a case is to determine which courts are legally empowered to hear the case. These courts are said to have “jurisdiction” over the causes of action and the parties. The personal injury attorney looks at all the states that could hear the case and selects the state in which the resultant law will best encompass your interests. The personal injury attorney must balance the applicable states’ laws, the profiles of the judges who might hear the case, and the jury makeup of the various courts in which the suit may be filed. Only after weighing and balancing these factors can an appropriate decision be made as to where the action should be filed. Then, of course, the attorney must scrupulously follow whatever detailed procedural rules apply to the chosen jurisdiction.

The Preparation and Prosecution of the Claim or Suit

Traditionally, defendants settle claims favorably to a claimant only when they must; they tend to hold onto a claim as long as possible in order to keep their money actively earning interest for them and in anticipation of possibly a less expensive settlement later. Optimum settlements usually occur because the defendants recognize that your law firm will be ready to conduct an aggressive, vigorous trial if they do not come to reasonable settlement terms.

To counter this tendency, the attorneys representing the claimant must maintain constant pressure on the defendants. This is done by successful preparation and prosecution of the claim.

Damages in Personal Injury

When injured by someone’s negligence or careless conduct, the law entitles you to payment for your “damages” (losses). The law on damages varies from state to state, but the different kinds of damages that the law allows you to receive are:

1. Compensatory Damages:
Medical Expenses
Lost Earnings
Property Damages
Other Damages
Future Damages

2. General Damages: Money for all the physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation, shock, shortened life expectancy, predisposition to future injury, and disruption of your life. These damages are very often the largest dollar value in a personal injury case but vary widely due to individual circumstances, e.g., a scar on a model may be very different in value from the same scar on a boxer.

3. Loss of Consortium: Money paid to your spouse because of the loss of your love, care, services and cohabitation (sex) while you are recovering from your injuries.

4. Dillon vs. Legg Damages: Named after a famous case, this is compensation to an immediate relative who saw, heard, or immediately came upon, a serious injury to a close family member as payment for their emotional shock and trauma from witnessing the injury.

5. Punitive or Exemplary Damages: Punitive damages are a monetary penalty deemed necessary to punish and deter a defendant and other potential wrongdoers from committing the same or similar willful, malicious and intentional acts. The amount of punitive damages is usually based, in part, on the net worth of an individual or company. These damages can, and often do, amount to many millions of dollars against wealthy companies in the rare cases when such damages are awarded.

The respective defendants and their insurance companies will most certainly be represented by legal experts and claims adjusters with years of experience in just this area of law. They will have the research staff, nationwide databases, the ability to conduct legal research in all of the fifty states, and the financial means to vigorously defend your case for their own ends. Baum Hedlund can and will, given the opportunity, level the playing field and do the same for you.