Frequently Asked Questions About Catastrophic Injuries

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Frequently Asked Questions About Catastrophic Injuries

Q: What is a "catastrophic" injury?

A: Injuries are often called "catastrophic" when the physical injuries to a person are especially severe and require extensive medical treatment. The injuries may involve damage to a person's central nervous system, which may affect other bodily systems or functions.

Q: Are catastrophic injuries permanent?

A: Not all catastrophic injuries are permanent. Those injuries that are not permanent will usually take a very long time — months or even years — to reach a full recovery. In some cases, especially those involving children, the actual extent of the injury may not be known until long after the accident. Emotional injuries may also be a problem for a long time after the physical injuries have healed.

Q: What may cause a catastrophic injury?

A: Almost any accident can result in catastrophic injury. Catastrophic injuries may result from motor vehicle collisions, construction accidents, fires, sports injuries, farm machinery accidents, workplace accidents and defective products.

Q: What kind of compensation may I recover for my injuries?

A: Depending on the particular circumstances, an injured person may be entitled compensation, or compensatory damages, for things such as past and future medical expenses, past and future lost income, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of consortium. In some cases, an injured person may be able to collect punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.

Q: What are punitive damages?

A: Unlike compensatory damages, which are meant to compensate an injured person for his or her losses, punitive damages are meant to punish a person who acted badly. In general, punitive damages may be awarded when the wrongdoer's conduct was particularly egregious. Punitive damage awards may also serve to deter others from engaging in similar wrongful conduct.

Q: What are examples of "catastrophic" injuries?

A: Catastrophic injuries include spinal cord injuries, paralysis, brain injuries, amputations, burns over a large portion of the body, loss of an eye, multiple fractures and injuries to the nerves in the chest, shoulder and arm (brachial plexus). In addition, many people who suffer catastrophic injuries also suffer depression or other emotional problems because of the limitations put on them by their injuries.

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