When Is An Injury Considered a Catastrophic Injury

While there are many personal injuries that may be considered serious, some could be considered “catastrophic”. But what does it actually mean when there is a “catastrophic” personal injury?

Catastrophic injuries typically mean there are injuries that often result in permanent disability, disfigurement, or even death. The injured party may also suffer from a shorter lifespan, excruciating back pain, paralysis, and impaired cognitive function. If the injury is catastrophic, the medical expenses could easily exceed the limits of the liability coverage on automobile policies. Prolonged nursing care, rehabilitative treatment, and extensive medical care is common in these cases. The victim’s family may be left with the responsibility of taking care of their loved one for decades to come.

If someone else caused the individual’s injuries, as often seen in car accidents, then the injured person could recover substantial damages against the driver who caused the injuries. The insurance companies will try to minimize their payouts as much as possible, so that’s why it is important to contact a personal injury attorney if you or a loved one has suffered catastrophic injuries.

While many serious cases are obvious, brain injuries that cause lasting cognitive problems may not be immediately apparent the day of the accident. Here are some classic examples of catastrophic injuries:

Head Injuries

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs if there is a major blow to the head, or when there is a force that causes a fast acceleration-deceleration movement. This impact causes the brain to strike the skull which leads to brain damage. Complications from a head injury include difficulty hearing, memory issues, or neurological disorders.

Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)

Many spinal cord injuries are serious, including thoracic spinal injuries, lumbar spinal injuries, and cervical spinal injuries. Any significant injury in the spinal cord region can cause breathing problems, loss of motor function, loss of feeling, and neurological disorders. All of these SCIs are considered severe or catastrophic injuries.


A SCI may cause a person to become a tetraplegic or a paraplegic. A tetraplegic loses all function in the four limbs. Paraplegics lose sensation in their legs and pelvic region.


Any loss of limbs, including the loss of a hand, arm, fingers, legs, feet, or toes would be considered a catastrophic injury. They could also be amputated after a car accident due to a severe injury.

Eye Injuries

In severe car accidents, permanent vision loss could change the victim’s life forever. Even partial loss of eyesight would be considered catastrophic.

Loss of Hearing

Depending on how the injury occurred, some catastrophic injury victims have permanent hearing loss or total deafness. Losing the ability to communicate with others can also lead to other mental health challenges too.

Internal Injuries

Internal injuries to organs that perform vital functions can have catastrophic consequences. In many severe car accidents, injuries to the brain, heart, lungs, spleen, kidneys, liver, or bowels are not uncommon.

Severe Burns

Burn injuries caused by an explosion, fire, toxic chemicals, or hot chemicals could keep someone in the hospital for weeks or months. Rehabilitation and treatment can include many surgeries, physical rehabilitation, and ongoing caregiver services.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a serious injury caused by the negligence of someone else, it makes sense to get professional legal representation. It is important to get an attorney involved as soon as possible to make sure you receive the appropriate level of compensation to cover your medical expenses. If you wait too long, it is possible the insurance company and legal system will question the severity of your injuries. Also, it is easier to collect evidence and speak with witnesses when the event is recent.

Call Craig Follis with Epperly Follis at 804-648-6480 to schedule a consultation as soon as possible.

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