Accidents that Might Cause Catastrophic Injuries
Catastrophic injuries can be caused by a number of scenarios, including workplace accidents, car accidents, truck and tractor-trailer accidents, and motorcycle accidents.
In a recent year, 4,472 people died while on the job in the U.S. This statistic includes workers who worked in various markets, including industrial sites, construction zones, and warehouses, to name a few.
The number one cause of unintentional serious injury-related deaths is falling. In a recent year, 805 workers died in falls, and 211,640 were injured badly enough to require time off work due to falls.
Falls are also the number one cause of death in the construction industry. Workers who sustain a fall can suffer from life-threatening injuries, such as neck and back injuries, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries.
In other work environments, workers may be exposed to toxic chemicals. Toxic substances pose a myriad of health risks to workers, and workers are exposed just by being in the vicinity of the chemicals.
Exposure to toxic chemicals can lead to the following:
- Difficulty breathing
- Vision damage
- Chemical burns
- Lung, liver, or kidney disorders
- Birth defects
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers readily make available the identities and hazards of toxic chemicals to employees.
An accident can occur in a matter of seconds. Too many drivers have been rear-ended simply because the rear driver thought they had enough time to send a text message.
Driving is the main form of transportation for many of us. Most car accidents are due to driver negligence: such as speeding, distracted driving, failing to stop at a red light, and not using turn signals.
Car accidents are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in the United States. Car accidents can also result in internal organ damage, bone fractures, lower limb injuries, torso/chest injuries, and paralysis.
A truck collision can take a serious toll on those involved due to the sheer size and weight of a tractor-trailer. Tractor trailers are 20 to 30 times heavier than passenger vehicles.
Alarmingly, a tractor-trailer truck traveling at 65 miles per hour could take up to two football fields to come to a complete stop. When needing to stop at less than a moment’s notice, it simply can’t be done.
In a recent year, 4,965 people lost their lives in crashes involving large trucks in the United States. Since the size of tractor-trailers makes it more challenging for them to brake, especially going downhill, injuries from these accidents are often more severe.
Nothing can take away the thrill of riding on the open road. With this freedom comes a higher risk of catastrophic injuries.
In a recent year, over 5,500 motorcyclists died from riding injuries, and over 180,000 were treated in emergency departments for crash injuries. In most crashes, a motorcyclist will suffer road abrasion as they make contact with the pavement, often leading to more serious injuries and complications.
Catastrophic injuries are all too common for motorcyclists, given their lack of protection. Back and spinal cord injuries are common for motorcyclists in crashes, resulting in herniated discs, torn ligaments, and paralysis.
How Catastrophic Injuries Can Affect Your Life
Depending on the type of serious injury, a victim may experience decreased mobility and even require multiple surgeries and procedures in order to return to their pre-injury condition.
Catastrophic injuries not only have a major impact on your physical health but can also affect your mental and emotional health. Side effects may include:
Those who have suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) may experience a host of symptoms, including:
- Loss of balance
In more severe TBI cases, a person may suffer:
- An inability to awake from sleep
- Unequal pupils (anisocoria)
- Prolonged loss of consciousness
A person who suffers a spinal cord injury may experience any of the following symptoms:
- Loss of movement
- Loss of or altered sensation, including the ability to feel heat, cold, and touch
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Difficulty breathing, coughing, or clearing secretions from your lungs
- Pain or intense stinging sensations due to damage to the nerve fibers in the spinal cord
Other physical disabilities, such as lower limb injuries, paralysis, or an amputation, will force the victim to change their way of life to cope. They will have to learn to adapt to life as a disabled individual.
Take, for instance, a person whose leg is mangled in a motorcycle crash and must undergo an emergency amputation. The injured person will be subjected to hours of physical therapy in order to learn to walk on a prosthetic leg.
Even if the pain from amputation subsides, most amputees suffer from phantom pain. With phantom pain, the body part that was amputated hurts like it is still there. Besides physical challenges, an amputee will have to overcome the emotional trauma of losing a body part.
Out of all serious injury groups, victims who sustain a TBI are most likely to experience cognitive impairment.
Symptoms of a cognitive disability may include:
- Memory loss
- Language loss (aphasia)
- Concentration problems
- Visual-perceptual impairment
Cognitive impairments are often so severe that the victim cannot return to work and must have assistance to complete daily tasks.
Emotional or Behavioral Impairment
Any traumatic event can cause injured persons emotional turmoil for a number of reasons. An injured person who has physical and/or mental limitations may experience low self-esteem.
Take, for example, a TBI victim. A person who suffers from a TBI may become agitated, combative, and experience mood swings. The individual may feel self-conscious about getting lost in a conversation or embarrassed that they cannot go hiking with their friends anymore. Due to this, brain injury survivors often feel a profound sense of loss.
TBI sufferers are not the only victims who will experience emotional conditions. A new study suggests that people who have experienced spinal cord injuries are at higher risk of developing anxiety disorders and depression.
A catastrophic injury survivor will have medical expenses piling up. A victim may be unable to continue medical treatment if they are missing work and not receiving their regular paychecks.
Damages for Future Medical Treatment
Damages are awarded to victims of catastrophic accidents in an attempt to make the injured party “whole” again.
Catastrophic accident victims can recover damages for losses, such as verifiable monetary losses (economic damages) and those losses that affect the victim’s emotional state (non-economic damages).
As previously mentioned, a victim can recover for medical expenses. In traumatic accidents, a victim’s future medical treatment will also be taken into account when factoring in the amount of damages to be awarded.
Since catastrophic injuries are more severe, the award amounts are usually higher, with more extreme personal injury cases reaching seven figures.
Damages for Disfigurement
Texas law allows all personal injury victims to recover for disfigurement. This is listed as separate damage from other general damages, such as pain and suffering.
In Superior Mining Co. v. Industrial Commission, 309 Ill. 339 (1923), the Illinois Supreme Court defined disfigurement as “that which impairs or injures the beauty, symmetry, or appearance of a person or thing; that which renders unsightly, misshapen, or imperfect or deforms in some manner.”
Texas courts have implemented the same definition for disfigurement in determining damages. Texas law allows victims of catastrophic injuries to not only recover damages for current disfigurement but also for future disfigurement.
In Armellini Exp. Lines of Florida v. Ansley, 605 S.W.2d 297 (1980), the Court of Civil Appeals of Texas, Corpus Christi, upheld a judgment of $88,000 for a woman who had suffered permanent disfigurement of her face and body following a motor vehicle collision.
In Armellini, Marilyn Ansley was driving a pick-up truck when it collided with a semi-trailer truck owned by Armellini. In the trial court, the jury found the Armellini truck driver responsible for causing the crash.
As a result, the plaintiff had a negative self-image of herself, saying that she felt “like an old hag,” viewing herself as ugly. She was able to recover separate damages for her disfigurement.
Insurance Companies Will Downplay Your Injuries and Losses
No matter how much evidence you present documenting your injuries, insurance companies will try to pay out as little as possible on your claim.
If you were in a car accident, an insurance company might offer you a settlement that is significantly less than you deserve. The reason for this is two-fold:
- The insurance company may claim that you are less injured than you testify
- The insurance company is not factoring in future medical treatment and surgeries
Insurance companies will develop certain tactics to use as evidence against you. For example, an insurance adjuster may call you following an accident and ask you about your rib injuries and not ask you about the more significant whiplash injury you sustained.
If you agree to have the conversation recorded, the insurance company can use it against you to claim that you are less injured.
Always contact an experienced personal injury lawyer before agreeing to provide recorded testimony to anyone, especially an insurance carrier.
Time Limits on Catastrophic Injury Claims
According to Texas law, you have two years to file a catastrophic injury claim. In most situations, the injured party will not be able to recover from injuries after this time has passed. Under the statute of limitations, the two-year time limit begins running on the date of injury.
However, there is an exception under this rule for asbestos-related or silica-related injuries. According to the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code §16.0031, the cause of action (a legal claim that allows a plaintiff legal relief) begins on the earlier of the following dates:
(1) the date of the exposed person’s death; or
(2) the date that the claimant serves on a defendant a report complying with Texas law for claims involving either asbestos-related or silica-related injuries.
Even if you think that it is too late to file an injury claim, you should still contact a personal injury lawyer to find out what options may be available to you.
Finding the Right San Antonio Catastrophic Injury Lawyer
If you are looking for counsel following a catastrophic injury, you will want an attorney who has a successful track record.
The personal injury lawyer at Cesar Ornelas Injury Law has decades of combined personal injury experience. When you come to us, we take a special interest in your situation. Whether you are negotiating with an insurance company or pursuing litigation, we will give your case the attention it requires.
In finding a catastrophic injury lawyer, you want someone who has a strong connection with a network of professionals. At Cesar Ornelas Injury Law, we strive to provide you with the highest level of legal representation. We rely on specialists in their field to gather the most accurate information to help you succeed.
Most of us never expect that we’ll face a life-changing accident, but the truth is that such accidents happen every day to those who least expect them. Catastrophic accidents–those accidents in which everything changes in a split-second – can turn your world upside-down. These severe accidents and the debilitating injuries that result from them aren’t looked at like normal injuries defined by pain and damage. Instead, such accidents are defined by how much they negatively change the victim’s life.
Have you experienced a Catastrophic Accident in San Antonio?
Injuries resulting from catastrophic accidents can have life-altering consequences. While there is no set legal definition as to what counts as a catastrophic injury, the distinguishing factor in general between catastrophic injuries and non-catastrophic injuries is the seriousness of the damage and the potential for recovery. Catastrophic injuries encompass the most severe injuries that a person can sustain; recovery can be long and arduous, and in some personal injury case, full recovery is simply not possible.
What Categories an Injury as Catastrophic?
Many people with catastrophic injuries will require long-term or permanent live-in care or nursing assistance. Permanent disabilities such as paralysis often result from catastrophic accidents and many who have gone through such an accident experience a permanent reduction in their quality of life.
Common catastrophic injuries include:
- Severe burns
- Loss of a limb or other significant disfigurement
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Organ damage
- Spinal cord injuries
In all of these personal injury cases, the victim often needs multiple surgeries to help correct the damage and extensive long-term rehabilitation therapy. Commonly, those who have experienced a catastrophic injury face a physical change that can affect their lives deeply and forever.
How a Catastrophic Accident Case Differs From the Typical Personal Injury Claim
The severity and long-term nature of catastrophic injuries mean that both medical expenses and the pain and suffering that the victim faces are going to be much higher than in a minor personal injury case. The level of compensation needed to cover the loss of function and long-term care following a catastrophic injury can be very high. Moreover, Texas law allows catastrophic accident victims to claim both economic and non-economic compensatory damages, including lost wages, emotional trauma, future medical expenses, and pain and suffering.
Legal Help With a Catastrophic Injury Lawyers San Antonio
Unfortunately, the higher amount of monetary damages required to care for and compensate for catastrophic accident victims often requires a greater legal effort. If the party responsible for the catastrophic accident was a corporation, their legal team can mount a formidable personal injury case. When the responsible party is an individual, their insurance company can become a barrier. Insurance companies typically fight high claims for ongoing medical expenses and pain and suffering, and the defendant’s insurance policy may have limits in place. If the damages exceed these limits, you’ll need to seek compensation from the defendant’s personal assets in a separate lawsuit.
Contact a personal injury lawyer in San Antonio For Catastrophic Injuries
In essence, the need for adequate compensatory damages following a catastrophic accident combined with the potential challenges to getting the full damages you are entitled to necessitate hiring an attorney with a strong track record representing catastrophic accident victims. At the Cesar Ornelas Injury Law Firm, we have the experience and expertise necessary to handle your personal injury case and fight to protect your rights.