In some cities, advertisements for personal injury lawyers can seemingly be found on every other billboard. However, when you’ve suffered a catastrophic injury and need to begin a serious search for a qualified lawyer, it will become quickly apparent that legal representation comes in a wide range of different specialties and experience levels. This can make for both a stressful and intimidating task of choosing the right personal injury attorney for your Elk Grove personal injury case – and the last thing you need while recovering from a catastrophic injury is additional stress.
The Ward Firm, working out of offices in Sacramento and Oakland, has comprehensive experience navigating the California court systems and securing high-value settlements. Our approach to personal injury law is both compassionate and comprehensive. Our work doesn’t stop until we get our clients and their families the resources and compensation they need to move beyond traumatic events. If you’ve been injured, you deserve to heal and overcome the impact of thosetraumatic events, and The Ward Firm is here to help make that possible, whether you are suing a negligent party for compensation or fighting to have your insurance claims processed in a fair and timely manner.
What Is a Catastrophic Injury Claim?
In the broadest possible terms, a catastrophic injury refers to any injury that both immediately impacts a person’s ability to get through their daily routine as well as one that will continue to do so for the remainder of their life. This can be a difficult concept to measure objectively in a court of law because someone’s life can be altered by injury on several different levels, some more serious, more direct, or otherwise more permanent than others.
Obviously, you won’t usually know in the immediate aftermath of an injury whether it will continue to affect the rest of one’s life or not. This may remain unclear even after medical professionals have evaluated the injury. To determine whether an injury might qualify as catastrophic, you can consider a few factors about the injury and its consequences:
Did the injury result in a permanent disability?
Is the injured party unable to care for themselves or hold meaningful employment as a direct result of the injury?
Can it be reasonably expected that the injured party will require care and accommodation for the rest of their life due to the injury?
Is the injured party permanently scarred or disfigured from the injury?
Is it expected that the injured party will need to remain on medication for the remainder of their life to treat the injury?
Has the injury resulted in the need for a wheelchair, walker, or other medical device that can be reasonably expected to last the rest of the injured party’s life?
Has the injury resulted in the need for a prosthetic device?
If you can answer “yes” to any of the above questions, it’s possible that the injury in question will qualify as catastrophic in a court of law. Depending on the nature of the injury, this may change your legal status and the legal tools available to you in seeking damages and compensation. In California, workers’ compensation cases, for example, in particular, can be affected when an injury is designated catastrophic.
In a court of law, labeling an injury “catastrophic” often has just as much to do with the aftermath of the injury as it does the nature of the injurious event. This is to say a catastrophic injury does not always occur in the form of a dramatic car crash or violent assault. A simple, accidental fall on a slippery floor can lead to a catastrophic injury if it results in permanent or life-altering damage. The definition of catastrophic injury under federal law is an injury with direct, immediately-felt consequences that hinders someone engaging in meaningful employment thereafter – in other words, a serious injury with permanent consequences.
“Catastrophic injury” is also a term that appears in California state law, although those laws have not always provided a clear definition of what exactly constitutes a catastrophic injury. The references to catastrophic injury in California labor laws really tell us only two things directly:
Catastrophic injury appears among a list of legally recognized causes of “serious chronic conditions.” The term “serious chronic condition” is also somewhat open to interpretation in court, however, so this link between the two phrases offers limited guidance.
Catastrophic injuries may include (but are not limited to) the following conditions: paralysis, loss of limb, severe burns, and severe head injury. While this list offers some specific circumstances to consider, it is not exhaustive, and terms like “severe” may still require interpretation in court.
Precedent set by recent California cases offers a bit more guidance into what constitutes a catastrophic injury in the eyes of the law. In May of 2019, an appeals board overseeing the workers’ compensation case of a disabled firefighter (Wilson v. State of California CAL Fire) ran into a legal conundrum hinging on the definition of “catastrophic injury.” A judge had previously awarded the firefighter permanent disability but did not factor psychiatric injury, which was believed to be appropriate to the case. This judgment was appealed on the grounds that the law does not apply to cases where a catastrophic injury has been suffered.
The appeals board then established a list of factors that should be considered for an injury to qualify as “catastrophic” in workers’ compensation cases:
Did the employee receive intensive or serious treatment for the injury, and was this treatment reasonably required to deal with the effects of said injury?
Does the injury result in a permanent impairment that cannot reasonably be expected to heal with time?
Does the physical severity of the injury impact the employee’s ability to perform routine daily activities?
Did the injury result in or closely resemble any of the conditions specified in loss of limb, paralysis, burns, or head injury?
Does the injury constitute an incurable, progressive disease?
This list is neither exhaustive nor legally binding and was established by the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board as a guideline. Not every factor needs to be met for a workers’ compensation applicant to prove their injury is catastrophic.
What Is Catastrophic Injury Law?
Catastrophic injury law is a specialized sub-field of personal injury law that focuses on seeking settlements and damages for people who have wrongfully suffered a catastrophic injury. Because of the legal statutes in which the phrase “catastrophic injury”are found, these are often workers’ compensation cases. However, catastrophic injury law can also take the form of civil suits wherein one party sues after being catastrophically injured in a dangerous situation due to the negligence or malfeasance of a property owner, motorist, or some other at-fault party.
Because catastrophic injuries can occur under a wide range of circumstances, catastrophic injury law can include any of the following situations and more:
On-the-job injuries and workers’ compensation cases
Injuries sustained by way of assault or violence
Serious slip-and-fall injuries, especially when resulting in blunt-force trauma to the head
Burns (will typically be third- or fourth-degree burns covering a significant percentage of the victim’s body to be considered a catastrophic injury)
Any injury involving damage to the spine or spinal cord and resulting in loss of motion or sensation
Injuries involving either the direct loss of a limb or the need for an immediate medical amputation
Medical malpractice resulting in permanent disability
Can an Injured Person be Compensated?
Yes. In the State of California and throughout the United States, injured parties (and citizens in general) have specific, inalienable legal rights they can use to seek recourse and appropriate compensation when they’ve been injured. Two of those rights relevant in a catastrophic injury case include:
Your right to sue a person or entity you believe has harmed you (and to have that case heard in a court of law if necessary)
Your right to seek legal representation from a qualified attorney
In a catastrophic injury suit, these two rights go hand in hand. Certain conditions must be met to successfully file a personal injury lawsuit: you should have adequate evidence, you must not have exceeded the time frame in any relevant statute of limitations, and you need to file specific paperwork with specific parties, which may include defendants, court officials, and insurance companies. The highly qualified personal injury team at The Ward Firm can help manage all of these details and seek commensurate damages on your behalf while you focus on your recovery.
In the State of California, a personal injury settlement can range from hundreds of dollars to several million. The size of any compensation package that might be awarded will depend on several factors:
The severity of your injury, the permanence of its effects, and the extent of treatment required
The ability of you and your attorney to establish liability for the injurious incident and demonstrate that another party was at fault in a legally actionable way
Actual damages incurred in the form of medical bills, lost wages, destroyed property, etc.
The likelihood that the injury will result in a negative impact on lifetime earning ability (i.e., that it will leave the injured party unable to support themselves and their dependents)
The testimony of witnesses and medical professionals
The quality of your legal representation (and that of the party you’re suing)
Any relevant insurance coverage
The defendant’s ability to pay
Most personal injury cases never see a jury trial. This is largely due to the fact it is in many companies’ best public relations interests to stay out of high-profile courtroom battles – especially when they know they’re at fault. This can work in your favor if you are seeking to be compensated on an expedited timeline without a lot of tedious courtroom visits, but be wary of any hasty offers made to you by a responsible party or their representatives. Only an experienced personal law attorney familiar with the Sacramento courts can tell you exactly what your injury is worth.
Many of these cases that get settled out-of-court will include language in the settlement that legally prohibits the parties involved from discussing most aspects of the payout afterward. This can make it difficult to collect good data about personal injury payouts or calculate any sort of average compensation for catastrophic injury settlements, but they are routinely in the tens of thousands of dollars and are often even higher.
Any offer of compensation can seem like a lifeline when you’re unable to work and are struggling to survive, but injured parties should be extremely wary of representing themselves in any sort of settlement negotiations. If you’ve been seriously hurt, you should never accept a personal injury settlement offer that does not meet the standards set forth by the law, is made before evidence can be collected and reviewed, or fails to cover your family’s expenses while you heal from your injury.
When an insurance agent, employer, or at-fault party tries to offer you an insufficient or suspicious settlement, end negotiations immediately. Document all your conversations and seek qualified legal assistance before proceeding. Retaining high-powered representation from The Ward Firm ensures that your Elk Grove catastrophic injury case will result in the maximum possible compensation, whether your case is settled out of court, requires a trial, or gets handled through the workers’ compensation system.
Getting Help From an Elk Grove, CA Catastrophic Personal Injury Attorney
If you have suffered an injury in Elk Grove or the surrounding areas that has resulted in long-term hardship or permanent disability, discuss your situation with our firm. You may be entitled to significant compensation under current personal injury law. The Ward Firm, under the leadership of our experienced founder Justin L. Ward, will develop a winning strategy to help you acquire the maximum possible compensation as efficiently as possible. Contact us through our website today. The well-trained and compassionate staff at The Ward Firm will be happy to review your circumstances and help put you on the road to meaningful recovery with a comprehensive legal strategy.
Schedule a Free Consultation
At your free initial consultation, you will meet directly with Justin, and he will explain how he can best help you with your case. If you decide to work with us, we will immediately get started on creating a strategy that protects your interests.
To get more information, call our office at 916-443-2474 or send us an email using our contact form. We are available by phone 24 hours a day. Se habla español.
The Ward Firm is open and actively assisting clients with personal injury, criminal, and employment related matters, and we do not anticipate any interruption in representation. However, please understand that all appointments will be telephonic as we observe the CDC's recommended social distancing.