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.