While many accidents have little or no long-term effects, catastrophic injuries can result in a lifetime of unanticipated expenses. Under 42 U.S.C. 3796b, federal law states that a catastrophic injury “means consequences of an injury that permanently prevent an individual from performing any gainful work.”
If you have suffered a catastrophic injury as a result of someone else’s negligence you may be entitled to compensation for:
- Medical bills (both existing and future anticipated expenses),
- Psychological therapy,
- Physical or occupational therapy,
- Short- or long-term care,
- Lost wages,
- Lost earning capacity,
- Pain and suffering,
- Loss of enjoyment of life,
- Wrongful death, and/or
- A life care plan,
- Punitive damages.
Our California personal injury lawyers have an established record of victories in catastrophic injury cases. We invite you to browse our personal injury topics to learn about specific types of accident cases and what they involve.
And to help you better understand how to sue for a catastrophic injury in California, we discuss the following, below:
- 1. What is a catastrophic injury?
- 2. Who is liable for catastrophic injuries in California?
- 3. What if I was partially at fault?
- 4. How long do I have to sue for a personal injury in California?
- 5. How can a lawyer help?
A catastrophic injury is one in which someone suffers permanent or long-term pain or loss of the use or function of a limb or organ. Examples of catastrophic injuries include:
- Spinal cord injuries;
- Injuries causing blindness or deafness;
- Amputations or other loss of use of a limb;
- Severe, disfiguring burns;
- Chronic lung damage (for instance from asbestos exposure in California);
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI); or
- Other brain injuries that result in permanent cognitive impairment, physical disability, or mood imbalance.
Under California law, there may be more than one party liable for a catastrophic injury. In addition to the negligent person, there may be an employer, parent company or insurer who can help compensate the victim for damages.
For instance – let’s say you suffered a slip-and-fall accident while working at a construction job.
Your employer might be liable. Or perhaps the owner of the premises was negligent in keeping the property in good shape. Or maybe one of your tools was defective.
An experienced California injury attorney can help you determine who is legally responsible for a catastrophic injury. Such parties can include:
- The negligent person’s employer (under California’s respondeat superior law or California’s law against negligent hiring, retention or supervision of an employee);
- The manufacturer, distributor or seller of a defective product;
- The owner or manager of property on which you were injured;
- The owner of a dangerous dog that bit or attacked you;
- The negligent person’s parent (if you were harmed by a minor under 18);
- Insurers, or
- Parent corporations, partners and other legal entities.
Someone who is partially at fault for an accident or injury may still be entitled to compensation under California’s “comparative fault” law (also known as “comparative negligence” or “shared fault”).
Under California’s comparative negligence doctrine, a plaintiff is entitled to recover the percentage of his or her damages for which the defendant is responsible – even if the plaintiff was more than 50% at fault.
The percentage of fault will be determined by a jury (or more likely negotiated as part of an out-of-court settlement).
Example: Alexa, who is late to work, drives through a light just after it turns red. Her car is struck by a truck driven by Paul, who is speeding in the other direction. The impact of the
head-on collision flips Alexa’s car over and she suffers a serious brain injury. Paul is unhurt.
A jury determines that Alexa’s compensatory damages are $1,000,000. But they also determine that Alexa was 80% responsible for the accident and Paul was only 20% responsible. Therefore Alexa can recover $200,000 (20% of $1,000,000) from Paul or his auto insurer.
But if the jury were to determine that Paul was 50% responsible, Alexa would be awarded $500,000. Because the percentage of fault allocated is within the jury’s discretion, it is important to be represented by a lawyer experienced in catastrophic injury litigation in California.
California’s statute of limitations for personal injuries is generally two years. But some causes of action have shorter or longer limits.
For instance, most California malpractice claims must be brought within a year from when the patient discovered or should have discovered the injury.
On the other hand in cases in which the damage occurred over time and was only discovered later (such as traumatic brain injury or asbestosis) a plaintiff may be able to sue many years after the wrongful act.
For more information on this topic, please see our article on California’s statute of limitations for a personal injury.
An experienced California catastrophic injury lawyer can help you put together a compelling case for the opposing insurance adjuster or lawyer.
And in cases of recklessness or intentional wrongs, your lawyer can fight to get you punitive damages.
Our lawyers offer free consultations to help people determine whether and how much they might be able to recover if they sue for a catastrophic injury in California.
Did you suffer a catastrophic injury in California? Call us for help…
If you or a loved one has suffered a catastrophic injury, we invite you to contact our California personal injury attorneys for a free consultation.
Call us or complete the form on this page to discuss your case in confidence with an experienced lawyer.
We also represent people who have suffered a catastrophic injury in Nevada.