When an accident results in devastating injuries, the priority must be getting the injured person appropriate medical care so that he or she has the best chance to recover. After that, families need to begin working out their finances and long-term solutions to problems arising from the accident.
A State College catastrophic injury lawyer could be a helpful ally to you and your family after suffering traumatic harm. An experienced personal injury attorney may be able to pursue a settlement or a lawsuit to get financial relief from the negligent parties responsible for the incident.
What Makes an Injury “Catastrophic” in Nature?
While there is no specific legal definition of a catastrophic injury in state law, the term generally refers to an injury that has permanent consequences for the victim. More specifically, a catastrophic injury is one that leaves the victim with some kind of disability or disfigurement that will never fully heal, significantly inhibits his or her ability to earn income, and in many cases will lead to a premature death.
The most common type of devastating injury is severe damage to the spinal cord, as this is very likely to result in lifelong paralysis. Other types of injuries that may be considered “catastrophic” include traumatic brain damage, third-degree and/or widespread burns, limb amputations, and sensory loss due to eye, ear, or nerve damage.
Recoverable Damages in a Traumatic Injury Case
A devastating accident can have a profound impact on a person’s life. Critical medical care is expensive, and health insurance rarely covers all the costs. There may be copays and deductibles, and often, health insurance companies will assert a lien against any settlement proceeds. Recovering from a catastrophic injury may take years, and some injured people never make a full recovery. In some cases, an injured person may need to renovate his or her home for a wheelchair or adapt the controls of an automobile to accommodate the loss of a limb. Additionally, a claimant may not be able to return to his or her previous employment or work again at any job.
There is also a severe impact on the injured person’s emotional well-being and family. People who suffer traumatic injuries may become depressed, and pain management may be challenging or impossible. Families can become stressed, and the relationships between the family members may become strained.
If a catastrophic injury is the result of someone’s negligence, the injured party and his or her family may have grounds for a civil claim. Pennsylvania allows a plaintiff to seek damages for:
- Economic losses —lost wages, future earnings, medical expenses, and other costs related to the injury, like long-term nursing care
- Non-economic losses — pain and suffering, disability, diminished enjoyment of life, and embarrassment
The injured person’s spouse or family members can also seek compensation for loss of consortium, which arises from losing the emotional and physical companionship the injured person provided before the accident. By speaking with an experienced catastrophic harm attorney in State College, a claimant could improve his or her chances of recovering fair compensation.
Could Punitive Damages Be Available in a Traumatic Injury Claim?
Since these injuries are life-altering by nature, it is understandable that some plaintiffs and their families want to punish the person who hurt them rather than simply recover for devastating losses. However, while plaintiffs can seek punitive damages under current state law, courts generally only award these damages in cases involving wanton disregard for public safety or intentionally malicious acts by the defendant, such as for drunk driving, texting while driving, or speeding in a construction zone.
A well-practiced lawyer in State College could offer further clarification about whether these damages might be available in a traumatic harm situation.
To recover damages in State College, an injured person and his or her attorney must show that his or her catastrophic injuries resulted from another party’s negligence. The plaintiff also must present proof of his or her losses and persuade an insurance company or court that he or she is entitled to compensation.
An attorney could investigate how the accident happened and gather evidence that the other parties were negligent. It is also important to obtain documentation of a claimant’s losses and expenses.
What Does Negligence Look Like in Catastrophic Injury Claims?
Despite the severity of a catastrophic injury, the standard of proof for this type of claim is no different than that associated with any other personal injury case based on negligence. In order to hold a defendant liable and recover compensation, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care, that he or she subsequently breached that duty in some way, and that the claimant’s compensable losses stemmed directly from the defendant’s breach of duty.
The specific duty of care depends on the circumstances surrounding the traumatic injury. For example, drivers on public roads owe a duty to obey traffic laws and pay attention to their surroundings, while medical professionals have standards of care they must meet based on the prior experiences and expertise of other professionals in the same field. A catastrophic injury attorney in the area could play a crucial role in determining what duty of care a plaintiff was owed and proving that a breach of duty led to his or her injury.
Deadline to File a Civil Claim in State College
Pursuant to 42 P.S. §5524, a person must file a suit for personal injuries within two years of the accident, with few exceptions. Failure to meet this legal deadline could result in a plaintiff being barred from recovery.
Get in Touch with a State College Catastrophic Injury Attorney
Do not hesitate to speak with experienced legal counsel. A State College catastrophic injury lawyer could argue for fair compensation in settlement negotiations or in court. Call the office of Marcus & Mack today for a free consultation and review of your case.