Generally speaking, there are four types of catastrophic injury cases. The first type of injury case is the type of injury that affects a person’s activities of daily living. It prevents them from doing things that a healthy person would be able to do in an ordinary day. These would be injuries like paraplegia, quadriplegia and amputations, all of which prevent folks from walking normally. This can affect their ability to get around and care for themselves in an everyday life setting.
The second type of injury is the type of injury that prevents a person from returning to the workforce or their occupation. Those would be injuries, such as, injuries to the back or injuries that can cause chronic pain preventing an individual from having the capacity to live and work in their daily life. If you have a severe burn, for example, it may allow you to do most of the activities of your daily living, but may not allow you to return to your occupation. If you have a severely injured back and the operation does not fix the problem completely, it may allow you to do most ordinary activities, but prevent you from lifting or bending over which your employment requires. These types of injuries are considered the second category of a catastrophic injury.
The third category would be the catastrophic injuries that cause significant scarring, such as a burn or laceration that significantly affects a person’s appearance, and therefore, affects their ability to appear comfortably in public places. A severe burn will often affect a person’s work and personal life.
The fourth category for catastrophic injuries would be a brain injury. With certain brain injuries, a person can become disabled in their ability to think and function at work or home. Those are the four general categories of catastrophic injuries.
In some of the accidents that are considered commonplace with minor forces involved, you can still have a catastrophic injury, such as a person who suffers a herniated disc from a simple auto collision. That herniated disc can turn into a fusion surgery, and now the spine is affected such that a person can’t lift or do their general job duties. Not all surgeries are effective or last and some people need to get a second surgery. This can be so disabling that it ends up being a catastrophic injury for them. Catastrophic injuries occur more often in collisions that are high speed, but they can occur in any collision, including from simple slips, trips and falls.
Therefore, it is not any particular type of accident that will cause a catastrophic injury, but they are more frequently occurring in high-speed collisions, high velocity, or high slip and falls where somebody falls from a great distance. It really is a question of physics applied to the body, which tells us that when there is more force applied to the body and there are greater speeds and greater heights involved, the more severe the injury. This does not necessarily mean you will not have a catastrophic injury with lower heights and speed involved in any accident, it just means that the probability of the injury being catastrophic goes up with the severity of the collision or the severity of the height with the fall.
The first type of damage recovery will be the recovery of the medical bills that a person incurs because of such an injury. The second type of damage is lost wages that a person has suffered because of this accident. In a catastrophic injury case, most of those folks have a loss of earning capacity, or future lost wages, because they are not able to return to their job and do the things that they used to be able to do. They are going to have a significant loss of future wage claim or lost earning capacity, and that needs to be properly analyzed by a vocational expert for a catastrophic injury case. The other type of damages that need to be evaluated in a catastrophic injury case are the pain, suffering, emotional and mental impairment or suffering.
In Kansas, those damages were limited until a recent Supreme Court case struck down the statutory cap on pain and suffering. Now it is up to a jury to decide the value of these types of damages. In catastrophic injury cases, you must illustrate that you are entitled to the value of your claim thru illustrations and explanations of how your injuries have caused you to suffer. You will need to show proof by providing photographs or videotapes that depict how severe the catastrophic injury is and provide all medical records from the victim. Many of these cases require a narrative report from healthcare professionals who are providing most of the treatment in these catastrophic injury cases. It needs to show the effect of this catastrophic injury on that person, how they suffered and how they are going to be affected in the future.