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Catastrophic Injury vs. Personal Injury Claims: What’s the Difference?

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

Catastrophic injury and personal injury cases can impact a victim in different ways leading to varying outcomes both in quality of life and compensation. Victims who experience injuries as a result of negligence, faulty equipment, or an accident have the right to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.

The compensation awarded varies by case and it is important for personal injury lawyers to make a distinction between a catastrophic injury and a personal injury claim.

Catastrophic Injury Cases

Catastrophic injury cases are life-altering incidents that permanently affect the patient’s life and wellbeing. These injuries usually mean that a patient may not make a recovery, or a partial one at best, and will need to adjust to a new way of life.

Many victims of catastrophic injuries may be unable to resume normal activities and may need constant care or support performing everyday tasks. These injuries can be extremely painful, very expensive, and difficult to adjust to physically and emotionally.

Some common examples of catastrophic injuries include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Amputation or loss of limb
  • Spinal cord injuries or paralysis
  • Severe burn injuries
  • Loss of hearing or vision
  • Paraplegia or quadriplegia
  • Multiple broken bones and orthopedic injuries
  • Severe nerve or ligament damage
  • Disfigurement

Catastrophic injury claims may affect a victim all of their lives, and directly impact the lives of their family members as well. Insurance companies should compensate victims and families accordingly, considering the long-term effects as well as the need for lifetime medical and domestic care

Personal Injury Cases

A personal injury case is usually temporary. While they can be serious injuries that take several months to heal, the injury eventually heals and the patient can return to their daily activities and achieve a full recovery.

Some common examples of physical personal injuries are lacerations, broken bones, bruises, and other similar conditions. Personal injuries can also be mental or emotional, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Family members, friends, or medical care providers may be needed to support the patient during some part of their recovery, but the patient eventually regains their independence.

In these cases, insurance companies usually cover the patient during their recovery period. This period may or may not have a designated ending date, especially if the coverage includes follow up care or support, such as physical or emotional therapy, medication, or follow up procedures.

Main Differences Between Catastrophic Injury and Personal Injury Cases

While both cases may contribute to severe injuries, the main consideration is what the victim’s life may look like after the immediate recovery, if one occurs at all.

1. Damages & Impact on Families

Families of victims who have suffered a catastrophic injury may have to support, care for, and assist the victim for their entire lives. Many families cannot afford this, whether financially or by being able to devote the necessary time. It is important that insurance companies properly compensate families for their support or to provide a caretaker for the victim.

At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. we will fight for you or your loved one’s future medical needs. Calculating future medical needs ensures victims and their families have the financial income they need for ongoing medical care and assistance.

2. Long-term or Life-long Repercussions

These injuries are something that the victim will have to live with for many years or possibly their whole life, and they must plan accordingly. While immediate medical care is necessary to promote the victim’s recovery, these claims must consider the victim’s needs for years to come.

Our law firm will fight for the justice you or your loved one deserve. Insurance firms and companies that have been named as defendants typically dispute fault and liability more aggressively in a catastrophic case because it can cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

3. Higher Stakes and More Challenges

Many victims of catastrophic injury have to focus on recovery as well as adapt to many everyday tasks becoming challenges. Basic needs such as getting in and out of bed, eating, or using the bathroom and getting dressed may require assistance.

Our legal team ensures you or your loved one is compensated for non-economic damages.

4. Expert Testimony

In order to gain a better understanding of how an injury will affect someone for the remainder of their lives in both the long- and short-term, expert testimony is needed. Detailed medical documentation during the course of the evaluation as well as in-person testimony in possible trials, medical and legal experts need to be consulted heavily to best determine the scope of the injury.

Final Thoughts

As professional personal injury lawyers, we offer legal advice for any individual on a one-on-one basis, providing accurate information and feedback to your specific case.

Our team at Cochran, Kroll, and Associates, P.C. is experienced with both personal injury and catastrophic injury cases, and know the nuances between the two. We will stand by your side during this difficult time, and negotiate with insurance companies and other defendants to provide the best support possible for you or your loved one. If your injury case is indeed a catastrophic one, we will make sure you get the long-term care and support needed.

Eileen Kroll, one of our partners, is both a registered nurse and attorney, making her an expert in medical law. She and the rest of our team will fight hard to ensure you get what you are entitled to, and make the recovery process of you or a loved one’s injury as smooth and easy as possible.

Our team is standing by 24 hours a day to take your call at 866-MICH-LAW. Contact us to schedule your free consultation.

Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.

Steve is a former criminal justice worker. With degrees in psychology and social work, he spent most of his life helping those with addiction issues before switching to criminal justice. He was responsible for writing court reports and advising judges on sentencing. He also supervised offenders, including sex offenders, in the community and carried out risk assessments and probation appraisals. He now lives in SE Asia and is working on his 5th novel.



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