What Qualifies as a Catastrophic Injury?

Some injuries only hurt for a little while. They might come with some medical bills, but in the end, you’re able to recover and go back to normal eventually. However, there are some injuries that don’t let us go back to normal, injuries that come with a life sentence of chronic pain and limited mobility. These injuries are what doctors and the law calls “catastrophic injuries”—harm that permanently lowers our quality of life, cognitive ability, or mobility. 

Catastrophic injuries can happen in any context, at work or in your car or at home. So what qualifies whether an injury is catastrophic?

According to the American Medical Association, a catastrophic injury is specifically an injury to the brain, spine, or spinal cord. These are the injuries that either cause paralysis, brain damage, limited or painful mobility, and other serious issues. 

However, according to 42 U.S. Code § 3796(b), a catastrophic injury is any injury that:

  • Is permanent, and 
  • Keeps you from performing “gainful work”

The hardships of a catastrophic injury are financial, emotional, and physical. A permanent injury might require years of treatment and rehabilitation, which most families aren’t able to afford. At the same time, catastrophic injuries often rob families of their primary income earner, which means their financial stability is at stake even before they factor in medical bills. 

Why Knowing If Your Injuries Are Catastrophic Is Important

Why does it matter if your injury is “catastrophic” or not? Because catastrophic injuries allow plaintiffs to claim more than their medical bills or lost wages. If your accident claim involves catastrophic injuries, then you’re entitled to damages for your long-term emotional and physical losses. Specifically, you’re able to claim “general” damages, also called “noneconomic damages.” 

Catastrophic injury claims entitles you to claim losses like:

  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Emotional suffering and mental anguish
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Loss of lifetime earning capacity

Noneconomic damages is any hardship or suffering that cannot be measured by economic loss. There’s no way to put a dollar value on the ability to play with your kids or hold your spouse or go for a walk. As a result, noneconomic damages are often larger than economic damages. 

If you want to know if your injuries qualify under the law as catastrophic or learn your recovery options after an accident, speak with Clayton, Frugé & Ward in a free consultation. Our team has won record settlements and verdicts for our clients, including the largest single-injury verdict in Louisiana history.

Call (225) 209-9943 or use our short online form to get your free consultation.