If you are severely harmed by the negligence of someone else, contacting a personal injury law firm is essential to protecting your rights. But what is a severe injury? Not all injuries are the same. Some injuries heal on their own over time. Some require costly surgery or medical intervention. Still others result in life-long consequences for survivors and their families. Those injuries that result in death, significant impairment, and protracted harm, are called catastrophic personal injuries.
If you or a family member have suffered, or survived, a catastrophic injury in California, we can help. At The Law Office of Scott R. Herndon, we represent victims of negligence across California, from the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California to the Central Valley. We take pride in helping make our clients whole, serving their interests with dignity, and fighting to obtain rightful compensation for the harms they have suffered. Drawing upon our experience on college faculties and in the courtroom, we provide reliable and honest guidance when our clients need it most. And the results speak for themselves.
What Qualifies as Catastrophic Injury In California?
A “Catastrophic Injury” is not a legally established classification within California state law. Instead, it is a term of art used to describe any injury that either affects certain vital areas of the body (such as the skull, brain, eye(s), neck or spine/spinal cord) and results in long-term or permanent disability, or otherwise impacts the victim’s life permanently. In other words, a catastrophic personal injury is serious and severe, and requires the utmost attention to legal detail at each stage of the case.
A few examples of catastrophic injuries are:
- Brain injury – Trauma to the skull or damage to the brain—the driver of human life—can lead to motor skill impairment, cognitive difficulties, memory loss, insomnia, headaches, and other long-term symptoms that alter daily life. Sometimes these are called traumatic brain injuries (or “TBIs”).
- Spinal cord injury – Damage to the spinal cord which can result in paresis (muscle weakness/numbness), paraplegia (partial paralysis), or quadriplegia (total paralysis), as well as other serious complications. Often the effects of these injuries are devastating and permanent. Expert medical intervention, though it is expensive and time-consuming, is often necessary help a survivor recover partial or full function from a spinal cord injury.
- Loss of limb – In severe accidents, in particular those involving motor vehicles or other heavy machinery, there is a heightened risk of dismemberment (losing one or more appendages or limbs). Sometimes a limb must be amputated after an accident or other traumatic event to save the survivor’s life. But the effects of such medical interventions are permanent.
- Internal injury – Internal organs can become damaged through traumatic injuries, deep wounds, or impalement, sometimes requiring a transplant or resulting in permanent loss of the organ and its functions.
- Severe burns – Commonly occurring in traffic or industrial accidents, such as when fuel ignites, or from electrical fires, serious burns can be permanently disfiguring and incredibly painful, requiring complicated skin grafts and countless other surgeries and therapies. Severe burn injuries also carry an especially high risk for infection and result in other complications.
How do Catastrophic Personal Injuries Occur?
Even though not all catastrophic injuries are personal injuries, they often occur as a result of reckless behavior, negligence, or otherwise foreseeable (and preventable) unsafe conditions. Examples of catastrophic personal injury claims include:
- Traffic accidents, including those involving cars, large commercial trucks, mass transit vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians.
- Dangerous premises (also known as premises liability), including unsafe walkways leading to slip and fall accidents and exposure to toxic compounds such as lead paint or asbestos.
- Dangerous products (also called product liability cases), including those with manufacturing or design defects, those with inadequate packaging or improper, misleading, or missing directions or warnings. Severe catastrophic food poisoning can also fall into this category.
- Failures of Mentorship Protocol or Culture, such as a coach’s decision to require an athlete to continue to practice against medical advice, or sexual abuse by mentors within athletic or social institutions.
- Work accidents, such as those involving defective products, causing injuries on construction or other labor sites.
- Sexual Assault, Assault, and Murder, where the parties fail to protect victims from known or reasonably foreseeable harm.
San Francisco Catastrophic Injury Statistics
In the United States, preventable catastrophic injuries are soaring. Consider a few national statistics from the National Safety Council (NSC):
- Catastrophic accidents are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.
- 200,955 preventable injury-related deaths occurred in 2020.
- Additionally, our citizens suffered more than 55 million non-fatal, preventable injuries.
In California, statistics are staggering:
- Vehicular accidents remain the leading cause of adult traumatic amputations in California.
- In 2020, drivers, passengers, and pedestrians suffered 3,723 motor vehicle fatalities.
- According to Vital Signs, San Francisco has one of the lowest fatality rates per capita, but one of the highest fatality rates per mile driven. Solano, Napa and Sonoma Counties have the region’s highest fatality rates per-capita and per-mile.
- Pedestrians and bicyclists account for the majority of San Francisco accident fatalities
What Damages/Financial Compensation Can I Collect In My Catastrophic Injury Claim?
California law provides for compensation for people who are injured due to the negligence of others. If your catastrophic personal injury is due to someone else’s wrongdoing or negligence you should consult with an experienced attorney to analyze your claim and protect your rights. Determining the negligent party may not always be obvious, especially in complex cases. Negligent parties may include individuals, employers, corporations, insurance providers, property owners, vehicle owners/operators, and manufacturers, to name only a few.
Obtaining compensation depends on a successful analysis and demonstration of liability. California is a comparative negligence state. What this means is that liability may be shared among multiple parties, including the survivors of accidents themselves. However, even if a survivor is found to be more than 50% at fault, they may still receive compensation. This makes California different from many other states and makes calculating compensation for catastrophic injuries complex, requiring skilled counsel.
Additionally, survivors of catastrophic injuries can receive compensatory damages, non-economic damages and punitive damages, as explained below:
- Compensatory damages include funds to recover items such as lost wages, future income, medical bills, and cost of living expenses.
- Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life.
- Punitive damages may also be awarded by a judge or jury to punish another party for the malice or recklessness that caused an injury, and to deter such behavior in the future.
Why Should You Hire A California Catastrophic Injury Lawyer?
Given the complexities of proving a catastrophic injury case, retaining an experienced lawyer is essential to protect your rights. Even more importantly, one must find a personal injury lawyer who can empathize and understand your family, your values, and support your status and reputation in your community.
At The Law Office Of Scott R. Herndon, we pride ourselves on our care and respect for our clients, and we work tirelessly to ensure that their interests are protected, and their needs met—particularly when the consequences are severe and lifelong. We have received national recognition for the quality of our legal services, and hold ourselves to the highest standards. We only accepting a few cases each year, ensuring that we can devote our full attention, intellectual firepower, and cutting-edge expert resources to our client base.Call us at (415) 360-5477 or contact us online.