If you’ve heard about car accident injuries that were “catastrophic” in the past and weren’t sure what that meant, it’s a good idea to learn a little more about them. Catastrophic injuries refer to those that leave the victims with long-term (sometimes lifelong) injuries and consequences from an accident. Catastrophic injuries usually refer to severe burns, brain injuries and spinal cord injuries, but they can include other kinds in some cases.
Catastrophic injuries can vary fairly significantly from person to person, so the term has to be reflective of how the injury affects them. For example, someone who loses a limb will be said to have a catastrophic injury because they have lost a body part. Someone with a spinal cord injury could have a catastrophic injury if it is serious enough to cause paralysis or debilitating pain.
Not all injuries in the same categories are catastrophic, however. Burns, when severe and across the body, might constitute a catastrophic injury, for example, but burns that only affect a person’s forearm might not be.
The severity of the injuries determines if they’re catastrophic
Realistically, it’s the severity of the injuries that will determine if they fall into the catastrophic category. Your injuries might be catastrophic injuries if:
- You have been debilitated because of them.
- You are expected to pass away from those injuries in the future or see a shorter life expectancy as a result of them.
- You have significant pain that has negatively impacted your life and ability to work permanently.
- You have lost a limb.
- You have brain damage that affects the way you interact with others.
- You need a long recovery period and may not fully recover.
All of these are times when you might be said to have a catastrophic injury. The definition has gray areas to allow for injuries of all types to fall into the category, because even badly broken bones or internal damage could constitute a catastrophic injury in some instances.
If you have suffered a catastrophic injury or do suffer from one in the future, keep your medical records. You will need them when you make a personal injury claim against an at-fault party for your injuries.