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Catastrophic Injury: What Is It?

Catastrophic Injury: What Is It?

A Belfast Telegraph on February 28, 2019 was entitled Drink Drive Belfast Woman Who Hit Pedestrian Causing Catastrophic Injuries Jailed. It reported how the male pedestrian suffered catastrophic injuries from the accident. These injuries included “the loss of his left eye, multiple fractures throughout his body and a punctured lung”. The article went on to say that he had suffered both ‘financially and mentally’. The question then is what is a catastrophic injury?

What makes an injury catastrophic?

The term catastrophic injury can apply in a ‘many different contexts, from emergency rooms to NFL Broadcasts’. The truth is that  generally, there is no accepted legal definition made for catastrophic injury. However, a common one is “consequences of an injury that permanently prevent an individual from performing any gainful work.” In addition, other definitions give more information explaining catastrophic injuries. Such as:

  • ‘any injuries that have serious long-term effects on the victim
  • and that can leave a person suffering from permanent disabilities for the rest of their life’

There are a number of noticeable differences between a standard personal injury case and such injury claims. The standard personal injury case proceeds through normal processes, however, the catastrophic injury is generally worse by significant standards. This means the:

  1. Severity of the damages caused is normally much greater and has a permanent effect on the victim’s life. For example, the person may remain permanently disabled, suffer brain damage and may need help from another person
  2. Recovery time may extend the need for hospital medical procedures. It can take years or decades for an individual to recover or recovery may not be possible

Injuries linked to catastrophic injury are unique as to the severity, seriousness and permanence of the damage they pose. Some examples of catastrophic injuries include:

  • traumatic brain damage,
  • amputations,
  • spinal cord damage,
  • severe burning,
  • loss of a sense such as hearing or vision
  • permanent disfigurement

However, in other personal injury cases the victim has a high chance of recovering from their injuries.

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