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What Is a Catastrophic Injury?

Nov 04, 2022

Any type of accident can lead to severe injuries. But what makes an accident catastrophic? What is a catastrophic injury?


An injury is considered catastrophic if it happens suddenly and leaves the victim with long-term consequences and life-changing impacts. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, something catastrophic is something that "causes sudden and very great harm or destruction." The Macmillan Dictionary defines the term catastrophic as something that "causes a lot of damage or makes a lot of people suffer."

The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research (NCCSIR) defines catastrophic injuries as "fatalities, injuries that result in permanent functional disability, and serious injuries that result in temporary functional disability with full recovery." Federally, a catastrophic injury means the "consequences of an injury that permanently prevent an individual from performing any gainful work."

Whether you've suffered a catastrophic injury or you are caring for a loved one facing such an injury, you may be overwhelmed by the information you need to understand. One minute your life is fine, and the next, everything is upside down. Everything may change in an instant. If this is your situation, reach out to a catastrophic injury lawyer to find out what is considered a catastrophic injury and whether you have a valid legal claim.

Catastrophic Injury Classifications

The causes of catastrophic injuries are seemingly limitless. Workplace accidents and motor vehicle crashes are some of the common causes of severe and catastrophic injuries. In particular, crashes with big rigs and semis on Wyoming roads can be quite devastating. 

Cases of medical malpractice, such as birth injuries or wrong organ removal, can also lead to catastrophic injuries.

Catastrophic injuries can present unique challenges when compared to soft tissue injuries. Since these injuries are extremely serious, they typically affect injured victims for life. The extent and severity of the damage may also be unknown for a long period of time.

Here are some medical elements that are involved in catastrophic injury claims:

  • Shortened lifespan
  • Permanent impairment
  • Paralysis
  • Scarring
  • Extensive pain and suffering
  • Total disability
  • Multiple health problems

Typically, catastrophic injuries have a profound effect on one's spine, brain, organs, or limbs. Some common catastrophic injury examples that accident victims sustain include:

Traumatic Brain Injuries

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) happens when a violent jolt or blow damages the brain. An object that penetrates through brain tissue, like car crash debris, can also cause brain injury. TBI is a broad term covering various injuries that happen to the brain. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 176 Americans died each day in 2020 due to TBI-related injuries. The CDC also reports over 223,000 TBI-related hospitalizations in 2019.

Falls, medical malpractice cases, motor vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, violence, sports injuries, and child abuse are some of the causes of severe head traumas. When it comes to auto crashes, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians have a higher risk of sustaining TBIs. 

Spinal Cord Injuries

This type of injury happens when one sustains damage to the spinal cord. Spinal cord injury (SCI) damages the bundle of cells and nerves that send and receive signals from the brain. The injury may be caused by direct injury to the spine or damage to the vertebrae surrounding the spinal cord. In rare SCI cases, the spinal cord may completely split or sever.

A spinal cord injury (SCI) is an extremely severe type of physical trauma that may have a lasting and notable impact on most aspects of a victim's life. Depending on the severity of your SCI, you may lose mobility or function in different body parts. 

SCI may affect:

  • Reflexes
  • Sensations
  • Breathing
  • Heart rate
  • Bladder and bowel function
  • Muscle movement
  • Metabolism

For severe cases of SCI, you may require lifelong physical therapy and specialized care. Medical treatments like medication and surgery may also improve your quality of life after sustaining a catastrophic injury. 

Internal Organ Injuries

These are injuries that occur underneath the skin and muscles. Internal organ injuries that lead to organ damage can be considered catastrophic — depending on the severity. Injuries to organs and body parts like the liver, spleen, pancreas, and kidneys may be life-threatening.

Organ damage typically happens when the abdomen experiences blunt or penetrating trauma. Hitting a seatbelt during a collision may qualify as blunt trauma. Such forceful impacts can rupture blood vessels and organs or lead to hematomas.

Severe Burn Injuries

Burn injuries, whether at work, in a car accident, at home, or when using a defective product, can be intensely painful and life-threatening. Severe burns may cause permanent disabilities, disfigurement, and mobility issues. This severe injury may also lead to permanent scarring and significantly affect one's quality of life. 

Common sources of burn injuries include friction, heat, chemicals, radiation, and electricity. If you've sustained first, second, or third-degree burns, seek medical care as soon as possible and contact a catastrophic injury lawyer from Wyoming to examine all available legal remedies.

Loss of Limbs

Amputations and disfigurement injuries are permanent and life-changing. Limb amputation happens when a doctor surgically removes your legs or arms. Loss of limbs can affect how you walk, eat, drive, work, or write. You may also experience immense pain after limb amputation.

Amputation may become necessary if a doctor can't save your life without removing your arm or leg. For example, if your leg is pinned during a car crash or if you have severe fractures after an accident, limb amputation may be necessary.

Potential Damages That May Be Awarded

If you or your loved one has sustained a recent catastrophic injury, you may be trying to figure out what your financial future holds. After a catastrophic injury, you may pursue a personal injury claim in Wyoming to recover compensation for economic and non-economic damages that include:

  • Medical bills (past, present, future)
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Lost wages and benefits
  • Diminished future earning capacity
  • Assistive devices such as wheelchairs and walkers
  • Prosthetics
  • Assistance from caregivers or home aides
  • Property damage

In cases involving gross negligence, an injured victim may also pursue punitive damages for their permanent physical injuries.

Seek a Personal Injury Lawyer To Represent You

Dealing with a catastrophic injury claim or lawsuit alone can be overwhelming. An experienced catastrophic injury lawyer can help you understand what a catastrophic injury is as well as if you have a valid claim. Still, a lawyer can help you navigate any legal challenges, ensuring your personal injury case is as strong as possible. This boosts your chances of a successful claim and fair compensation.

At The Spence Law Firm, our catastrophic injury lawyers from Wyoming are ready to help you and your family get the compensation and justice you deserve. Contact us now to schedule your free case review. Let us help you get your life back.

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If you are struggling with a serious injury, or are fighting against seemingly impossible odds against big corporations, insurance companies or the government, call us to speak with our team of trial lawyers who will fight for you. We take no fee unless we earn it by winning your case.