If you have sustained a catastrophic injury due to another person's negligence, you need to seek compensation from the liable party. This is because a catastrophic injury often comes with permanent or long-term disability, inability to maintain employment, and financial strain. Consulting a catastrophic injury lawyer like San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm is one of the steps to take to protect your rights. For many years, we have assisted thousands of accident victims in proving negligence and fault.
The Meaning of Catastrophic Injury
According to 42 U.S. Code § 3796b, catastrophic injuries are ones that prevent a person from engaging in any productive work permanently. These injuries can derail your life, relationships, career, and family.
Also, you require extensive immediate medical attention and treatment, continuing medical attention, rehabilitative therapy and medications, and permanent and long-term help.
More often than not, a victim does not recover fully from the injury. Moreover, the victim will struggle emotionally and financially following the accident.
Who is Responsible for Catastrophic Injuries in California?
There can be more than one party responsible for your catastrophic injuries. In addition to the negligent party, your employer, insurance provider, or parent company can assist in compensating you for the damages.
For example, if you are a victim of slip and fall accidents while performing your official duties in a construction site, your boss may be accountable. Or the tools you were using were defective. Or the property's owner was negligent in ensuring the building is in good shape.
Any competent personal injury attorney should be able to assist you in determining the responsible party. Common liable parties include:
- A negligent employer
- Manufacturer, seller, or distributor of a defective product
- Manager or owner of a property that hurts you
- Insurance companies
- The owner of a dog that attacks or bites you
- Negligent person's parent if you were injured by a child below 18 years of age
- Partners, parent corporations, among other legal entities
What are the Most Common Types Catastrophic Injuries in San Diego?
A catastrophic injury is an injury that disrupts your central nervous system. The section below discusses different types of catastrophic injuries in San Diego. Each of them has an impact on the victim and their family.
- Head Injuries
One of the most common catastrophic types of injuries suffered in an accident is head injuries. A head injury is an injury to the scalp, skull, and brain. It can be a bruise, traumatic brain injury, or a mild bump. The effects and treatments vary depending on what caused the injury and how serious it is.
A head injury can be either open or closed. An open injury is an injury in which something breaks the skull and scalp and enters the brain. A closed head injury, on the other hand, does not break the skull.
It is difficult to assess how severe a head injury is by looking. This is because some minor head injuries bleed a lot, while some severe injuries do not bleed at all. It is, therefore, essential to ensure a medical practitioner checks your injury.
Discussed below are different types of head injuries:
A concussion is a category of traumatic brain injury (TBI). It happens when your brain strikes in the skull due to a sudden change in momentum or movement. Concussions range in severity and have symptoms like loss of consciousness, dizziness, vomiting, nausea, fatigue, slurred speech, and challenges in concentration.
Contusions are bruises on the brain that originate from direct impact to your head. It occurs when an external object hits a victim's head upon impact. Common symptoms include slurred speech, cognitive changes, memory loss, numbness, and challenges in coordination and balance.
A penetrating head injury happens when a substance penetrates a skull. Penetrating injuries can be fatal and have severe complications like paralysis, loss of consciousness, bladder and bowel challenges, and difficulty in breathing.
- Diffuse Axonal
Diffuse axonal injuries happen as a result of serious shaking or rotation. It can result in the tearing of brain structures. For instance, in a motor vehicle, a diffuse axonal happens when a car stops abruptly upon impact when your brain isn't moving as fast as your skull.
- Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)
A spinal cord injury is damage to the spinal cord (the long bundle of nerves in your body that transfers messages from and to the body and brain). SCI can result in partial or total loss of motor sensation and control. This injury can leave you paralyzed in the paraplegic (lower body parts) and quadriplegic (four limbs) area. The spinal cord is responsible for bodily functions such as bladder regulation, sexual functioning, body temperature, and breathing. Consequently, you can suffer a wide range of serious and permanent health conditions.
What are the Causes of SCI?
Usually, SCI is due to a blow or traumatic injury to your spine. The spinal cord is injured when a bone fragment tears or bruises the spinal cord tissue. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center reports that the following are the common causes of SCI:
- Car accidents cause 42.1% of the total accidents
- Falls (26.7%)
- Recreational sports activities (7.6%)
- Violence acts (15.1%)
You can also suffer a spinal cord injury caused by medical malpractice during a surgical procedure involving the neck and back.
Physically demanding jobs like construction also place employees at a high risk of sustaining an SCI. Construction workers are required to climb tall scaffolding and operate heavy machinery. That puts them at an increased risk of falling or being crushed by heavy equipment hence injuring their spine.
Living with an SCI
The medical bills linked to a severe spinal cord injury can be expensive. This is because the victim will spend a few days in the hospital after the accident and a couple of months of rehabilitation and therapy.
The victim will suffer psychological and emotional scars. This makes coping with life after the accident difficult for both the victim and their loved ones.
- Hearing Loss
Have you recently been involved in an accident, and apart from the physical discomfort you expect, you've noticed an uncommon symptom- a ringing in your ears or hearing loss? While you do not know how the accident led to the hearing condition, you are sure the hearing loss or ringing sound happened after the accident.
If you're experiencing the following symptoms, you need to consult a doctor straight away:
- Listening to TV or music louder than usual
- Ear pain
- Asking people to speak up after talking to you
- Avoiding social interactions
- Challenges in understanding what others are saying
Ear injuries or hearing loss can be as a result of an accident in ways such as:
Hearing Loss Following Whiplash
According to Segal et al. (2003), hearing loss can be a result of direct and blunt neck trauma such as whiplash. The effect of whiplash could lead to an inner-ear concussion that can lead to hearing loss.
Hearing Loss After a Head Impact
If your head is hit at the time of the accident, the impact could cause you to break a few bones in your ear. As a result, your eardrum may not vibrate the way it should.
Ear Damage After Airbag Deployment
Although airbags are life-saving at the time of a car accident, they can cause a loud explosive noise and strong impact. The loud sound of the airbag deployment could lead not only to a ringing noise but also a pain in your ears.
Moreover, if the airbag directly hits your head, the impact direct may damage the bones in your ears.
- Vision Loss
An eye is a sensitive part of the body. Even minor damages to your eye could lead to a devastating catastrophic injury. Therefore, if you sustained the injury in an accident caused by another person's negligence, you need to consult a personal injury lawyer immediately. The attorney will help you in determining whether you are entitled to compensation.
Every vision loss case is unique and requires individual attention. This is because eye injuries manifest themselves in several ways. While some victims recover from their injuries, other injuries could lead to permanent impairment.
Your attorney could be able to handle the following conditions:
- Tracking Ability Loss
This is the ability that allows your eyes to read or follow objects. When your eyes are not in a position to track, you will be able to see only what is in the immediate view.
- Fixation Loss
Fixation permits your eyes to pay attention to one item within a visual field. It is essential to direct attention to perform tasks related to hand-eye coordination as well as assess threats.
- Depth Perception Loss
Most left-turn car accidents are related to reduced depth perception, especially to senior motorists victims. Depth perception is the ability to tell how far another vehicle is and correctly determining its speed.
- Peripheral Vision Loss
You are also likely to lose the ability to detect things at your visual field edges that alerts you of potential risks and dangers.
Burns is another type of catastrophic injuries sustained in accidents caused by negligent parties. A burn can occur when:
- A hot liquid like gas or oil comes into contact with your skin, or
- When you get involved in a motor vehicle accident that catches fire, and you are trapped inside the vehicle.
The injuries range from minor to severe and can sometimes be life-threatening. Burns are grouped based on the size of the affected area and how severe they are. Different categories of burns include:
- First Degree burns
A first-degree burn causes damage to the outer skin layer, pain, and redness. Usually, it can heal on its own.
- Second Degree Burns
A second degree burn damages both the dermis and epidermis leading to pain, blisters, and swelling. Your skin may look moist as well as have white and red splotches.
- Third Degree Burns
A third-degree burn is a serious burn that reaches the innermost skin layer. It could look blackened or charred.
- Fourth Degree Burns
These burns affect all skin layers and could also damage your bones and muscles.
Burn Injuries Treatment
Treatment for burn injuries depends primarily on the seriousness of the burn. Doctors will use topical creams, ointments, or sterile bandages to fight infections. Usually, minor injuries are treated at home and take a couple of days to heal. Severe injuries, on the other hand, require treatment such as pain medication, surgery, or IV fluids.
If your burn exceeds 10% of your body or involves feet, hands, major joints, or genitals, your physician will admit you for specialized medical attention. You could require skin grafts to cover severe injuries and therapy and rehabilitation for a few months.
Burns can also change how you look, possibly forever. Even with plastic surgery or skin grafts, you may not go back to your previous appearance. This could lead to trauma that has a serious emotional impact on a victim's life. A victim is likely to experience the following:
- Depression or hopelessness
- Anxiety about the future
- Quick loss of temper
- Loss of confidence
Nothing can describe the shock of waking up in a hospital bed and realizing that one of your limbs is missing. Amputation is the removal of a digit or body part. It can be as a result of internal medical emergencies like bacterial infections or external trauma. It can be caused by dog bites, road rash, fire, amputations from an accident, and chemical burns.
The immediate medical cost of this catastrophic injury is incredibly expensive. Even the most pocket-friendly prosthetic limb can be almost unaffordable to an average family. Besides, the prosthetics will require constant adjustment and refitting for the patient's safety and comfort.
To say the least, coping with life after amputation can be overwhelming. This is because the injury has a long-term impact on the victim's life. Even the most high-end, state-of-the-art prosthetic limb cannot replace a lost leg, arm, or hand.
- Internal Organ Damage
Severe accidents could lead to internal organ damage when a body organ slams against another or into other body structures or penetrated by a foreign body. Additionally, medical malpractice victims, especially surgical mistakes, are prone to bleeding and internal organ damage.
More often than not, this catastrophic injury requires surgery and could lead to loss of the organ or a portion of it, such as a bowel section. Sometimes internal bleeding and organ damage are overlooked because most symptoms do not manifest. This results in infection or death.
Victims require emergency medical attention, hospitalization, surgery, diagnostic tests like MRIs, and rehabilitation therapy. The law allows victims of internal organ damage to file personal injury claims for compensation of the expensive medical expenses.
You can also seek compensation for the loss suffered after a loved one succumbs to the internal organ injuries caused by negligence.
A fracture means a cracked or broken bone. It occurs when trauma exerts pressure that is stronger than a bone on the bone. The seriousness of the fracture is determined by:
- The area damaged,
- Damage to blood vessels and nerves near the bone
- The amount of damage
There are two types of fractures:
- Open Fractures
Open fractures are fractures that pierce through your skin, leaving it scraped, torn, or cut. It often requires immediate surgery.
- Closed Fractures
Also known as simple fractures, closed fractures are fractures that don't break through your skin.
How to Tell You Have Suffered a Fracture
Sometimes an accident victim with a fracture may not tell initially hence decide not to seek medical care. Common symptoms of a fracture include discolored skin, bruising, and swelling. Additionally, you might not be able to put weight on or move the injured body part. If the fractured bone has affected a joint, you will experience a grating sensation whenever you move the joint.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims in California?
Like most states, California has a statute of limitations. This is the amount of time you have to file a claim after suffering an injury. For personal injury cases, the statute of limitations is two (2) years from the accident's date. Failure to file the claim within the two-year timeframe, the judge will not hear the case.
Claims against a state government authority, county, or city should be filed within six months from the date of the catastrophic injury. You should also comply with the stringent procedural rules.
Are There Exemptions to Statute of Limitations?
Certain factual scenarios can pause or delay the statute of limitation clock hence extending the two-year deadline. They include:
- You didn't discover and wasn't aware of facts which would have caused you to suspect that you had sustained an injury caused by another person's wrongful act,
- You were below eighteen years of age or lacked the legal capacity to decide at the time of the accident, and
- The defendant left California after causing the accident and before your claim was filed.
What Happens When You Are Partially Responsible for the Injury?
Sometimes, the defendant could argue that you are partially to blame for causing the accident which injured you.
If you share some level of accountability, it will affect the amount of compensation you will receive from the at-fault party. This is because California uses a pure comparative negligence rule. In other words, the amount of damages you are entitled to will be reduced by the percentage of your fault.
Assuming you are involved in a car accident where a motorist ran a stop sign, but you were driving above the required speed limit. The judge could rule that you share 20% of the accident liability. If your total damages are $100,000, you will receive $80,000 under comparative negligence rule.
Strict Accountability for Dog Attack and Bite Cases
Unlike in most states, California makes a dog owner strictly liable for a dog bite that results in a catastrophic injury. That means the owner of the dog is lawfully accountable when their dog bites a person, and no amount of negligence or fault should be proved.
Damages Awarded In a Catastrophic Personal Injury Claim
In a successful personal injury claim, you are entitled to receive damages or compensation from the liable party. Compensatory damages are designed to make you whole after the catastrophic injury. Although it isn't possible to make you whole, the goal is to put you back to the position you would be should the catastrophic injury not happened.
Compensatory damages awarded in personal injury claims in California fall into two categories:
- Economic Damages
Economic damages are damages which a dollar value can be attached with ease. They are meant to compensate for the out-of-pocket money you have spent or will be required to pay in the future. They include:
- Medical expenses- You are entitled to recover medical costs damages if you underwent treatment or received medical attention like hospital stays or physical therapy.
- Lost wages- This includes payment for any work you had to miss as a result of the injury or treatment.
- Property damage
- Lost earning capacity
- Non-economic Damages
These are damages that do not necessarily consist of out-of-pocket expenses. They involve subjective losses like:
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of life enjoyment
- Physical impairment
Do Personal Injury Cases in California Have Damage Caps
There is no cap on damages in personal injury claims in California. The judge or jury can award any reasonable and fair sum.
However, medical malpractice claims are an exception. There is a $250,000 cap on pain and suffering, among other non-economic damages. This cap applies irrespective of the number of defendants and how severe the injury is.
Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are meant to punish the at-fault party for egregious wrongful conduct.
Finding a Catastrophic injury Attorney Near Me
Suffering a catastrophic injury as a result of another person's negligence or omission can be traumatic. It is also reasonable to wonder who caused the injury and if you're entitled to receive compensation from the liable party. The main challenge is proving negligence and fault. Well, this is possible with the assistance of a proficient personal injury attorney. At San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we have experience in handling different categories of personal injury cases. No matter the kind of accident led to your catastrophic injury, call us at 619-478-4059 to book your initial consultation.