What does South Carolina consider catastrophic injury?

Catastrophic injuries are severe and have long-term or permanent effects on a person’s life. Frequently they lead to permanent disability or disfigurement, such as losing a limb or developing extensive scarring. These injuries can happen in a wide variety of accidents and have a profound effect on your everyday routine.

catastropic injury victim meeting with her doctor

While trying to recover, you may be faced with large medical bills for your treatment, even if you’re out of work due to your injuries. If this has happened to you or a loved one, the best thing you can do is contact a South Carolina personal injury attorney to talk over the situation and learn more about your options.

For now, let’s take a look at some of the more common types of catastrophic injuries:

  • Traumatic brain injury, also called TBI. These most frequently happen as the result of a blow to the head, but may also occur due to whiplash or a penetrating wound to the head. Head trauma can injure the brain, causing a wide variety of symptoms depending on which areas of the brain are affected. Getting medical attention right away when you experience a head injury will help reduce the risk of permanent damage, but can’t eliminate it completely. Sometimes patients are left with permanent difficulties, ranging from chronic head pain to memory or cognitive difficulties. For some people, a TBI can leave them permanently disabled. They may no longer be able to work or care for themselves, and may even need round-the-clock care in severe cases.
  • Other serious head and neck injuries. In some instances, head or neck injuries can permanently damage a person’s hearing or result in chronic pain.
  • Eye injuries. Sometimes these are minor and are easily treated. However, any time you have an injury in or around your eye or eyes, there is a possibility you could lose your vision. Permanent vision loss is considered a catastrophic injury. Even partial vision loss can result in a person losing the ability to drive and do many other activities.
  • Losing a limb can be physically and emotionally devastating. Although many people learn to function and resume their lives after limb loss, the process can take months. Patients may spend a lot of time getting fitted for a prosthetic, getting used to wearing it, and learning to use it. While prosthetics become more advanced every day, there may still be some activities you can no longer do. In some cases, this may mean the patient can no longer do their job or leisure activities they love. Prosthetics also need to be replaced, lasting around 3-5 years on average.
  • Back or spinal cord injuries. Often injuries to the spinal cord result in paralysis, and the patient may need to use a wheelchair for the rest of their life. Depending on the kind of job they do, they may not be able to work anymore. Back or spinal cord injuries can also result in chronic, debilitating back pain that may be hard to manage, and can also limit the patient’s ability to work.
  • Organ damage. If a vital organ is injured, a person’s life may be in danger. Medical intervention may save their life, but in many cases, the accident victim may need a transplant. The wait can be lengthy, and even when the patient receives a successful transplant, they will need to take multiple medications to reduce the risk of rejection. This can leave them at risk of infection and potentially shorten their lifespan, as well as limit their activities.
  • These are extremely painful to treat and often leave the victim with significant scarring.

How Do Catastrophic Injuries Occur?

There are many different situations in which catastrophic injuries happen. If yours doesn’t fit into one of these categories, it doesn’t necessarily mean your injury wasn’t catastrophic, just that it may not have happened in a common way. Right now we’ll take a look at some of the more frequent causes of catastrophic injuries:

  • Motor vehicle accidents. This is the most common situation that results in a catastrophic injury. Cars and other vehicles travel at high speeds, and when they crash, serious injuries may happen to drivers or passengers. Airbags and seat belts greatly reduce the risk of catastrophic injury, but sometimes nothing can prevent serious harm in a crash. Drivers or passengers may suffer catastrophic injuries due to being crushed, hitting their head in a rollover, severe lacerations from broken glass or other debris, burns if the vehicle catches on fire, and more.
  • Accidents in the workplace. These can also happen in a wide array of ways. Construction accidents are very prevalent – there are many ways to get hurt on a construction site, especially if a supervisor or member of management is negligent with safety protocols. A worker might fall, or have something heavy fall on them. Accidents with backhoes, tractors, and other heavy equipment also occur. However, any workplace can be dangerous under the right circumstances. Factory workers may lose limbs if the company’s equipment isn’t properly operated and cared for.
  • Slip and falls. This type of accident can happen in just a few seconds. One minute, everything is fine and you’re going about your day. Then your foot slips on ice or a wet surface. It’s bad enough when you fall and land on the floor. When these accidents happen on stairs, they can be even more serious, as you have a long way to fall. Either way, you can seriously hurt your back or hit your head, which may result in a TBI, spinal cord injury, or another catastrophic injury – before you even know what you slipped on.
  • Defective products. All kinds of products can cause harm when they’re defective, and this can overlap with other categories. For example, a defective airbag might fail to prevent injury as intended if you get in a motor vehicle accident. A firework that explodes in your hand instead of the air can leave you with finger or hand amputations. Defective drugs or medical devices should also be considered, such as a medication that causes permanent kidney or liver damage.
  • Fires, flammable items, or explosions. These often lead to severe burns, and in some cases like the firework example, lost limbs.

What Should You Do If You Or A Loved One Were Catastrophically Injured?

Dealing with a catastrophic injury can be all-consuming, especially in the early days after your accident. It may be days or weeks before you can even think clearly, particularly if you’ve had a head injury. Additionally, it may take time to get a definitive diagnosis or determine if your injuries will be permanent. You may need multiple surgeries, and it’s hard to know if they will be successful.

Eventually, most people who have catastrophic injuries realize that their life may never return to “normal,” whatever that may have been for them. At this point, many become depressed or anxious. It’s very common for the injured person to experience worsening mental health in the days or weeks following a severe physical injury. If you’re feeling depressed, anxious, or having trouble sleeping, speaking to a mental health specialist can help you to get the support you need.

There are also many long-term issues that you will need to face. Many people find that they have a lot of expensive medical bills, even when they have good health insurance. Healthcare for catastrophic injuries can cost in the tens or hundreds of thousands, and in some cases, may even cost a million dollars or more. If your health insurance covers 80 percent of your hospitalization expenses, you could still get a bill for more money than you make in a year…which you may not be making anymore if you’re still out of work because of the accident.

Meanwhile, you may still need more or ongoing treatment, like physical therapy, occupational therapy, being fitted for a prosthetic limb, etc. Most health insurance companies only pay for about 20 sessions of physical therapy per year. If you’ve had a catastrophic injury, you may need multiple sessions each week indefinitely. Worse, your insurance coverage may run out just when you’re starting to gain the most benefit from your physical therapy.

These issues can cause the injured person and their family a great deal of stress. They may try to make a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance carrier for liability coverage. For example, if you’re in a car accident that was the other driver’s fault, you can make a claim with their insurer. Unfortunately, this may not be the solution you’d hoped for. The insurance company could deny your claim for a variety of reasons – they may claim the accident was really your fault, they may say it isn’t covered due to some random clause in the policy, etc.

When this happens, you may understandably feel frustrated, angry, or even panicked. But don’t worry – in many cases, an experienced South Carolina personal injury attorney may be able to negotiate with the insurance carrier on your behalf. Don’t try to argue with the insurance company yourself – it’s possible you may inadvertently make things worse. Instead, speak with a qualified legal expert who can advise you on the situation, and talk with the insurance company on your behalf if needed.

However, you should also be wary if the insurance adjuster makes you an offer right away, especially if your injuries were catastrophic. Keep in mind that the insurance adjuster probably realizes they can’t get out of paying you… some amount. But they can make you a lowball offer that doesn’t begin to cover all your expenses and hope you accept, relieving them of any further responsibility. This is always a possibility when dealing with insurers, but it’s a much bigger concern with potentially permanent injuries because the compensation you deserve for your injuries is much higher. We strongly recommend you consult an attorney before accepting any offer from the insurance company.

What Kind Of Damages Should You Seek For A Catastrophic Injury?

This depends on your particular situation and injury, and your attorney will discuss it with you in detail. Here are some potential damages you may consider:

  • Medical costs, including emergency medical treatment, surgery, prescriptions, physical and other therapies, in-home care, prosthetics, mobility aids, etc.
  • Future medical costs as these sometimes last a lifetime.
  • Lost wages for the time you were out of work. If you have become permanently unable to work, you will need to seek a larger settlement taking that into consideration.
  • Pain and suffering, which can include both physical pain and emotional suffering.
  • If there is evidence that the defendant behaved willfully or recklessly, you may seek punitive damages, but these are meant to punish the defendant more than to compensate the victim. They are usually only awarded when the judge or jury is particularly horrified at the actions of the at-fault party.

Figuring out what to do next after a catastrophic injury can be overwhelming. If you’re not sure what to do, consider contacting Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers for a free consultation. There’s no harm in learning more about your options. If you decide to move forward with a claim, you can secure a car accident attorney to represent you and dig deep through the facts of your case to find the best strategies. We always keep clients informed of their rights and options, advising them as to their best choices – but the decisions are entirely up to you.

By negotiating with insurance companies, filing paperwork on behalf of victims, and locating any evidence we can find to back your case, we give you and your family a strong chance of resuming as close to as normal a life as you can following your injury.

There’s no reason to accept that you have to pay for the consequences of an accident that was someone else’s fault. Call one of our personal injury attorneys now, and talk to someone who cares.

Schedule your free, no-obligation consultation now when you call (800) 559-5741 or contact us online.