- A catastrophic accident is one that changes your life by seriously changing your body.
- The costs of treating catastrophic injuries are usually high and can go on for the rest of the victim’s life.
- Understanding who is responsible for the damages is not always easy.
- Proving damage can require in-depth investigation and discovery.
- A personal injury attorney can help you understand who can be held responsible and solidify your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve.
What Is a Catastrophic Injury?
If you or someone you know has had an accident so brutal that it changes life entirely, you may feel as if nothing will ever be “right” again. When an accident permanently alters your body by removing an arm or leg or leaves you paralyzed, it can make life as you know it seem impossible.
You may not know how to cope or go about moving forward. These life-changing events do not give you warning or allow you to prepare for the rest of your life in a compromised body.
Common Types of Catastrophic Injury Accidents
Devastating accidents can happen just about anywhere, even at the places we frequent for work, play, or travel. Common types of catastrophic accidents include:
- Workplace accidents
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Theme park accidents
- Boat and water accidents
- Train accidents
- Business premises accidents
Injuries from Catastrophic Accidents
The kinds of injuries we’re talking about when speaking of catastrophic accidents include:
- Spinal injuries/paralysis
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Organ damage, loss, and failure
- Long-term pain
- Vision/hearing loss
- Fatalities/wrongful death
Catastrophic Injuries Are Not Just Painful – They’re Expensive
Catastrophic accidents can burden their victims in many ways. It’s not just the pain and immobility that can complicate your life; the financial weight of such an accident can be crippling on its own.
When an accident is severe, you will need money to stay above water for medical care, long-term treatment, medication, and other necessities. Coming up with the money to cover these ongoing expenses can be especially difficult if you are unable to work due to your injuries as well.
Medical Costs Keep Going Up
In the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic accident, the crushing medical bills can surely seem insurmountable. And if your condition will require ongoing care or periodic treatment, you must also face the fact of rising costs in the years to come.
Even if you’re lucky enough to have health insurance, you’ll still have to deal with deductibles and co-pays. If you do not have health insurance, a catastrophic accident can seem like the end of the world for your finances.
Lost Income Can Ruin Lives
To make matters worse, catastrophic injuries can damage your ability to earn your living. What will you do if you are to be confined in a wheelchair for the rest of your life? What if you can no longer meet the physical requirements of your job description? In the wake of a life-changing accident, you may have to learn different ways to do what is required of you or find a new job. Sometimes this means a smaller paycheck.
When you must endure a change in physical circumstances, you may also face financial upheaval. In a world where many live paycheck-to-paycheck, a catastrophic injury can mark the beginning of a downward, and sometimes un-recoverable, economic spiral. Homes are lost, college is postponed or abandoned, and the stability a family needs is compromised.
How Is Compensation Calculated in Catastrophic Accidents?
Thankfully, if you’ve suffered a catastrophic injury from an accident, you may have legal recourse. If it can be proven that the accident that injured you was the result of someone else’s negligence, you may be able to recover some of what you’ve lost by making a legal claim against the at-fault party.
In Georgia, accident victims may recover some or all of the following damages:
Lost income: Not only can you recoup the hours of work you miss during your recovery, but also the losses you’ll experience in the future if your injury requires you to take a job that pays less or leave the workforce.
Physical and mental life changes: If you can no longer physically do the things you enjoy, like playing the guitar or participating in sports, it can impact the quality of your life. Some or all of those losses can be compensated through legal action.
Therapy: Physical therapy or ongoing treatments for your injuries are costs for which the negligent party should be held accountable.
Surgeries: Not only should initial surgeries to repair bodily damage be part of your compensation package, but also any future surgeries deemed necessary to restore your body, such as skin grafting or cosmetic procedures.
Pain and suffering: Your physical and emotional suffering caused by someone else’s negligence are valid losses for which the negligent party can be held liable. These losses can be difficult to quantify, but there are ways to recover.
Possible punitive damages: In accidents where the negligent party is found to have acted willfully, wantonly, or recklessly or broke the law prior to the event, punitive damages may be possible. For example, if the at-fault driver was driving drunk and caused the accident, punitive damages can be added to the damages listed above, where applicable.
Proving Damages Can Be Challenging
The more serious an accident is, the more difficult it can be to assign value to individual losses. Many of the damages accident victims suffer are not easily itemized or readily valued.
Measuring and Valuing the Cost of Catastrophic Injuries
While certain expenses, like medical bills and car repair costs, can be easily tallied, other costs, such as pain and suffering, can be more difficult to determine.
Involving an attorney with experience establishing such valuations can help ensure you negotiate and recover the full cost of these damages.
Insurance Companies Avoid Certain Expenses
Insurance companies are in the business of keeping claims to a minimum. Naturally, they would rather not pay you for emotional trauma or other inexact expenses. They will attempt to make such claims invalid if they can. Insurance companies will do everything within their power to dismiss, belittle, and otherwise ignore your non-tangible injuries.
Nevertheless, there is a process by which you can document the ways your life has been impacted and assign a value to those changes. Having an attorney handle the valuation will make it more difficult for the insurance company to short-change you.
Wrongful deaths and other catastrophic accident injuries are assigned values in courts across the nation every single day. The process of establishing that value is usually done by opposing attorneys who review similar, settled cases and eventually come to a fair and reasonable figure.
As you might imagine, insurance companies would rather negotiate with you than with an attorney. Experience in these matters is essential to fair settlements.
Knowing Who Pays the Cost of a Catastrophic Accident
When an accident occurs, it can sometimes be difficult to determine who is specifically at fault, and therefore who will pay, for the incident and any claims.
For example, if your accident was caused by a commercial vehicle driver, the blame could lie with the driver, the driver’s employer, the company that leases or operates the vehicle, or all of them.
In most cases, whether it’s one person, a few people, or a business that is found to be responsible, it’s their corresponding insurance policy that will pay out for any claims.
Identifying the Negligence
Before you can determine who will be responsible for paying damages, the negligent parties will first need to be identified.
In some cases, it’s easy to see where the negligence lies. For instance, when you lean against your neighbor’s deck railing, and it collapses, you can be sure there was a deferred maintenance issue. In auto accidents, the police report often states who is to blame and what specific act caused the accident. However, in other cases, the causes and fault may not be so obvious.
A personal injury lawyer can help determine any and all parties that may share the blame, so it’s recommended to consult with one as early in the process as possible.
Understanding Who Is Responsible for Payment
Depending on where the accident took place and who the responsible parties are can determine what insurance company will be required to pay out for reimbursement. If the accident took place in another person’s home, it can be a property insurance claim. If it took place at work it can be an employer’s insurance claim, etc.
If your accident took place at your job, your employer’s liability insurance might be required to pay for your injuries. Worker’s compensation may also be applicable, but you should understand that this kind of insurance may not be the best source for compensation, since its just meant to replace your paycheck, it doesn’t cover the cost of the accident..
Business Premises Insurance
If you slip and fall on the wet floor at a grocery store or trip over an improperly secured threshold as you enter the building, the owner or operator of the building is likely to be liable.
If the accident happened as a result of poor maintenance of the building’s structure, the building’s owner may be responsible for damages. In these cases, the business’s premises insurance would cover the costs for reimbursement. The person responsible for the accident typically will not have to pay out.
In nearly all cases, the fault in collisions between personal vehicles is established by the investigating officer and will be stated in the police report. This simplifies your post-accident work.
If your accident was with a private citizen, their insurance policy would likely cover your damages, up to their policy limits.
If your accident was the fault of a commercial vehicle, you’ll likely have more and better options for recompense. Commercial drivers must meet very high standards, and their employers must take great care in hiring, training, and monitoring such drivers’ safety records by the employer.
If the employer failed to carefully screen job applicants or train or monitor the drivers closely, the company may have failed in their duty to protect you and be liable for damages done to you. Of course, commercial entities are required by law to carry much larger insurance policies, which may actually cover your long-term costs.
Home Property Insurance
When your accident happens on private property, such as a neighbor’s house or yard, the first place to look for liability is the homeowner’s insurance. If you are attacked by the neighbor’s pet or slip on their icy porch steps, the homeowner’s insurance may pay for your injuries, too.
Owners of boats, as with cars or other vehicles, must maintain liability insurance to protect anybody who is injured by or because of the boat. When there is a serious accident or a fatality involving a boat, law enforcement will establish where the blame lies and who the responsible party is so that a claim can be filed.
Discovering who to sue is not something everyone is trained to do. Consulting with an experienced attorney is a good way to find out how to proceed in a personal injury case.
How Our Legal Team Takes on Catastrophic Injury Accidents
When you hire The Millar Law Firm to assist you with your personal injury case, you can rest assured that we will do everything in our power to get you the compensation you deserve for your catastrophic injury.
Here are the steps our experienced attorneys will take in a personal injury case:
Investigation: This includes discovering the cause of the accident, learning the extent of the injuries, and understanding the prognosis for healing. It also includes getting names and contact information for witnesses, obtaining video footage that shows the accident, and all other factors that could increase your chances of winning a full and fair settlement.
Gather witness testimony: Interviewing witnesses is an important part of the investigation process. In addition to finding actual eyewitnesses, your legal team may also find expert witnesses with appropriate information to prove your claim and improve your settlement. This includes medical testimony or an accident reconstructionist when necessary.
Collect evidence: This can be a big job in any accident investigation. When there is a question of when and how an injury occurred, it is sometimes necessary to obtain medical records that extend back into childhood. Medical testimony can also establish facts about the permanence of your injury and how that injury will impact your life.
Other evidence that might be needed to establish your claim includes driving records, safety and maintenance records, and even criminal records, all of which might have a bearing on the accident that injured you.
Build strong legal claims: Your legal team will study the events leading up to your accident and build your claim in the most effective way possible. This means eliminating any questions about who was at fault and demonstrating how the accident is impacting your life now and will in the future.
Communicate with insurance companies: Dealing with insurance companies can be frustrating. Their job is to make your claim go away or shrink as much as possible. You and your legal team want to maximize the compensation for your legitimate damages. Accomplishing this is much easier if your advocate has plenty of experience dealing with the tricks and tactics insurance companies use to minimize your damages.
Negotiate and settle legal claims: Proving your claim will probably include lots of sparring with the insurance company’s lawyers. Establishing value for injuries, like lost limbs or paralysis, is difficult to begin with, but doubly so when the other side is trying to ignore the value of your lost opportunities and unwanted changes to your lifestyle.
Rarely file lawsuits: Interestingly, disputes over insurance claims rarely end up in court. According to the Cornell University Law School, only about 5% of claims actually go to trial. Instead, attorneys from each side will negotiate back and forth until a satisfactory result is found. Ultimately, the strength of your claim and the negotiating skills of your lawyer are the keys to successful settlements.
Contact The Millar Law Firm for a Free Case Evaluation
If you or someone you care about has suffered catastrophic injuries as the result of someone else’s carelessness or negligence, you may be facing a lifetime of unwanted and undeserved handicaps. Before you settle any claim, it is wise to discuss the accident and its consequences with a skilled personal injury lawyer.
The Millar Law Firm offers free case evaluations, which can help you know how to move forward with your claim. Call to schedule an appointment and discuss your claim with a member of our legal team: 770-400-0000