Personal injury cases are designed to compensate people for their injuries. In a best-case scenario, an injury can be immediately paid for, and everyone can move on. There are times, however, when the injury is so severe that someone will need financial benefits for a long time, maybe for the rest of their life. Such injuries are often classified as “catastrophic.” Insurance companies want to settle out of court because it usually costs them less than a court trial.
What Is a Catastrophic Injury?
The American Medical Association (AMA) defines a catastrophic injury as a severe injury to the spine or brain. These injuries have a lasting effect on victims. Spinal injuries can paralyze someone, forcing them to live an entirely new life with a new body. Their homes and vehicles must be modified, and the costs of their injuries can be in the millions in the first year alone.
Brain injuries can also cause paralysis, but there are other devastating effects as well. They can damage a person’s emotional regulation, causing wild mood swings or severe depression and anxiety. Cognitive ability can be altered, making learning new things difficult. Some who suffer severe brain injuries lose their ability to remember most anything from one day to the next. Brain injuries can also cause someone to regress into a childlike state, affecting their intelligence and learning skills.
Legally, a catastrophic injury is classified into two categories: fatal and permanent disability.
- Fatal injuries kill the injured party. In most states, the death must happen within 30 days of the injury for it to qualify. When a loved one dies because of catastrophic injuries, it is possible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death suits help compensate survivors for medical costs, funeral expenses, loss of wages, potential earnings, and mental anguish.
- Permanent disability may be relative. Catastrophic injuries often appear as spine and brain injuries leading to death or disability. However, even minor injuries can be catastrophic in certain contexts. For example, an artist who loses the use of his hand may be able to claim a catastrophic injury. A dancer who suffers a debilitating knee injury could do the same.
Comorbidity is a huge concern with catastrophic injury sufferers. This is when one physical ailment creates another ailment that must be treated separately. A paralyzed person, for example, may suffer bed sores or have circulation problems.
It is easy to see how expensive a catastrophic injury becomes. This is the main reason why they are often settled out of court.
Insurance Companies Want to Avoid Lawsuits
When a defendant loses a personal injury case, their insurance company typically handles the compensation. This is an expected part of their business model. When it comes to a catastrophic injury, insurance companies want to avoid paying whenever possible.
Catastrophic injuries are expensive. As outlined above, they can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions. This is in the first year alone. Someone who has suffered such an injury can be affected for life, often needing continuous care. While the subsequent years are not as expensive as the first, they still can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars annually just to maintain a certain quality of life.
If a defendant loses a catastrophic injury case, their insurance company is looking at a huge settlement. Attempting to avoid this, they will offer a settlement up front. They do not want the injured party to know how much compensation is available in a lawsuit, so they will offer a sizable amount. This amount, however, is smaller than what a plaintiff could receive in a civil case.
Talk to an Attorney
Settlements are good for insurance companies, but they are also appealing to the injured. Insurance companies will try to convince you that a settlement is better than the time and struggle of a courtroom case. They will attempt to scare you by telling you that if you lose in court, you won’t receive anything, and you will wind up bankrupt as well as injured.
Before you agree to any settlements, talk to a lawyer. This cannot be stressed enough. Lawyers know how much you are entitled to, and they know when you are being deceived. No matter how attractive an offer looks, run it by an attorney first. They can see through an insurance company’s tricks. Even if a settlement is best for everyone involved, lawyers can negotiate for a better deal. Do not attempt to make this decision on your own. Your attorney is there to take care of you, so trust their judgement and leadership.
If you have suffered a catastrophic injury, reach out to us today. We can help you navigate the complexities of settlements and courtroom trials. Free consultations are available at (607) 228-8404 or online.