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New York Personal Injury Attorneys

When is an Injury Considered “Catastrophic”?

February 3, 2020 in

An injury that is considered catastrophic is typically more severe than other types of personal injuries. While many types of trauma will heal and allow for a complete recovery, when catastrophic, the result is often significant disfigurement, permanent disabilities, or death. Those who suffer such an injury, or the family of a deceased loved one, may be entitled to compensation if it was caused by someone else’s negligent actions.

Catastrophic injury

What Does Catastrophic Mean?

Although there is no specific legal definition for catastrophic injuries, they typically permanently and significantly alter victims’ lives and future. The resulting after effects can include a disability, shorter life expectancy, decreased quality of life, and/or the need for on-going medical treatment. Life-long care may even be necessary, and typically, the victim is likely unable to return to work.

Types of Catastrophic Injuries

Claims of catastrophic injuries caused by negligence, commonly involve one of the following:

Head Injury

This includes traumatic brain injury (TBI) or brain damage. They often occur from a violent blow or jolt to the head, or from a force that causes an acceleration-deceleration movement of the head. This type of movement causes the brain to strike the inside of the skull leading to localized or generalized damage. Serious head injuries can result in a wide variety of long-term complications, such as memory problems, issues with speech, or neurological disorders.

Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)

Cervical spinal injuries, lumbar spinal injuries and thoracic spinal injuries are all forms of severe SCIs. A major injury to the spinal cord can lead to loss of feeling, excruciating pain, neurological disorders, respiratory problems, weakness and loss of motor function, and more.


Depending on the location of an SCI, a victim can become paraplegic (loss of sensation and function in the pelvic region and legs) or tetraplegic (paralysis of all four limbs).

Amputations and Loss of Limbs

Arms, legs, hands, fingers, feet, and toes can be amputated in serious accidents, such as a collision or a workplace incident. In some cases, the limb may be severely crushed and require emergency surgical amputation.

Eye Injuries

Severe eye injuries causing partial loss of sight or blindness can permanently affect the life of accident victims and cause many challenges.

Loss of Hearing

Trauma to the head, whether by a physical event, loud environment, or a surgical procedure, may cause a loss of hearing. The victim’s quality of life will typically suffer a dramatic change.

Internal Injuries

Since the body’s major organs perform critical functions, such as the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, spleen, or bowels, any type of injury to them can be catastrophic.

Severe Burns

Fires, explosions or contact with hot fluids or a toxic chemical can cause serious burns. Burns of this magnitude are exceptionally painful, difficult to treat, and may require several surgeries.

Catastrophic injuries may require long periods of hospitalization, multiple corrective surgeries, physical rehabilitation, and potentially the services of a professional caregiver.

Damages Available to Victims of Catastrophic Injuries

The costs associated with a catastrophic injury can place an undue burden on the victim and their family. Therefore, the available damages in these types of negligence cases can be significant. An injury so severe is likely to meet New York’s serious injury threshold, potentially giving the right to the individual to sue the at-fault party for past and future medical care, pain and suffering, loss of income and/or earning capacity, and more. However, even if the state’s injury requirements are not met, victims can still obtain benefits through their no-fault insurance to cover a portion of their financial losses. Workers injured on the job can notify their employer to receive benefits under worker’s compensation.

Contact Us Today

Claims for compensation, whether against the at-fault party or through no-fault insurance, must be filed as quickly as possible. Don’t delay in reaching out to our NYC personal injury attorneys to discuss your case and legal rights in a free consultation. We have an online contact form, or you may call (212) 732-9000.

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Our fee is on a contingency basis. If we don’t recover money for you, we will never charge you. If you are unable to come to any of our offices, we are happy to visit you at home or in the hospital.

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