Catastrophic injuries are the most serious level of injury short of death. Examples of catastrophic injuries include spinal cord injuries, paralysis, and traumatic brain injuries. These types of injuries typically result form vehicle accidents, motorcycle accidents, and construction accidents.
You can normally file a personal injury lawsuit against:
- people who negligently caused their injuries,
- product manufacturers (in product liability cases),
- private landowners (in premises liability cases),
- dog owners, and
- parent corporations, partners, and other legal entities.
Personal injury attorneys can help file a suit against any of the above parties. They can also help you:
- manage your ongoing medical treatment,
- investigate an injury to identify all liable parties, and
- file catastrophic injury claims with the insurance companies of all liable parties.
The Shouse Law Group is a California-based personal injury law firm that represents people in catastrophic injury cases. Attorney Neil Shouse is a Harvard Law School graduate and former prosecutor with 25 years of experience fighting for accident victims.
What is a catastrophic injury in California?
The law states that a catastrophic injury is any injury that permanently prevents you from performing any gainful work.1 It typically involves permanent or long-term pain or loss of the use or function of a limb or organ.
Examples of types of catastrophic injuries include:
- spinal cord injuries,
- injuries causing blindness or deafness,
- amputations or other losses of a limb,
- injuries involving permanent disability,
- severe burn injuries,
- chronic lung damage (for example, from asbestos),
- traumatic brain injury (TBI), or
- other brain injuries that result in permanent cognitive impairment, physical disability, or mood imbalance.
Catastrophic injuries commonly arise out of:
- motorcycle accidents,
- truck accidents,
- construction accidents,
- auto accidents or car accidents, and
- cases involving defective products.
If you suffer from a catastrophic or serious injury, you typically undergo extensive medical care and a life-changing experience that often involves a diminished quality of life.
Who is liable in the State of California for catastrophic injuries?
Defendants in these cases normally include:
- negligent parties,
- product manufacturers of the defective product that injured you,
- property owners where the accident occurred,
- employers, and
- animal owners.
Note that someone acts “negligently” when they fail to act the way a reasonably careful person would in the same situation.2 If you were injured by a particular employee, you may be able to sue the employer under the theory that the employer has vicarious liability over its employees.
Sometimes there is more than one person or entity who is responsible for your injuries, and you can sue them all.
Note that even if you are partially to blame for your injury, you can still recover damages under California’s pure comparative negligence laws. The total amount of money you receive will just be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault: So if you were 50% to blame for a car accident that caused you $1 million in damages, you should be able to recover $500,000.3
If you are successful in filing lawsuits or personal injury claims, you can receive compensation for:
- medical bills for medical treatments, hospital stays, and other medical expenses, such as prescription drugs, therapy (occupational, physical, or psychological), and home health care (short- or long-term),
- lost wages,
- lost earning capacity,
- property damage, and
- pain and suffering, which comprises grief, anxiety, physical and mental pain, loss of enjoyment of life, humiliation, physical impairment and disfigurement, inconvenience, and emotional distress.4
If a person was killed because of a catastrophic injury, their family can likely file a wrongful death lawsuit against the party responsible for causing the accident. Damages can include (but are not limited to):
- burial and funeral expenses,
- amounts the deceased would have earned as income,
- value of household services, and
- compensation for the loss of the deceased’s companionship, consortium, comfort, love, and support.
How long do I have to sue?
In medical malpractice cases, you typically have one year after the injury to sue. Though you may have as many as three years to sue if the doctor concealed the malpractice from you.5
Meanwhile, you typically have two years to sue in regulation personal injury cases (such as a car accident).6
In any case, contact an attorney as soon as possible to start working on your case. It takes time to craft a winning prosecution and negotiate a favorable resolution.
What is the role of personal injury lawyers in catastrophic accident cases?
Attorneys play an enormous role in personal injury cases involving catastrophic injuries.
They interview you, or a victim’s surviving family members, to learn all the important facts of a case. Attorneys also:
- evaluate insurance reports;
- track down and subpoena video or audio of the accident;
- investigate the defendants’ backgrounds; and
- search for signs of evidence tampering by the defendants
Injury attorneys help you receive immediate medical attention and manage your ongoing medical care. An attorney can also help you find doctors who work on a lien basis so you do not have to pay until you get your settlement.
Catastrophic injury lawyers also assist you in gathering critical evidence in a case. If necessary, they will appoint experts to assist in interpreting evidence and explaining a case to a judge or jury.
When a party has an insurance policy that will reimburse you, a lawyer can file a demand letter on your behalf outlining your injuries, financial demands, and intention to file a personal injury claim with their insurer. A good demand letter can often lead to a favorable resolution without any litigation.
Though if negotiations with the defendant’s insurance company do not work, injury lawyers can then file a lawsuit on your behalf. During trial your attorney will present all favorable evidence and witnesses while impeaching the credibility of the defendant’s witnesses.
As long as your attorneys can convince the jury by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant is liable for your injuries, the jury should return the verdict in your favor.7
What is the benefit of a catastrophic injury attorney?
Catastrophic injury attorneys help you receive the maximum compensation for your injuries.
They know the value of these cases, and therefore, will hold liable parties to pay their fair share of an accident.
Attorneys also know where to uncover hidden value in a case to help boost your payout.
They also know how to negotiate with insurance adjusters and won’t back down from insurance companies.
Personal injury lawyers take care of all of the complexities within a case so that you can focus on healing.
Note that most catastrophic injury lawyers provide free case reviews. A free case evaluation means you can get your legal questions answered without spending a dime.
Note, too, that the communications between an attorney and you are protected by the attorney-client relationship. Lawyers cannot disclose these communications unless you agree.
For additional help…
If you or a loved one suffered an accident that caused catastrophic injuries, get medical help right away. Then contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our California personal injury attorneys provide both consultations and legal advice you can trust.
We work tirelessly to get you the maximum compensation available for your case. Our lawyers represent clients throughout California state, including those in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and southern California.
- See Code of Civil Procedure [CCP] 4660.1.
- See, for example, California Civil Jury Instructions (“CACI”) 400. See also California Civil Code section 1714(a).
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 406 (CACI). Li v. Yellow Cab Co. (1975) 13 Cal.3rd 804.
- CACI 3905A. See also CACI 3922 (re. loss of minor children).
- CCP §340.5.
- CCP §335.1.
- See Packard v. Moore (1937) .