"Catastrophic injuries" generally refer to those types of injuries that result in devastating, life altering short-term and long-term consequences. Examples of these injuries include spinal cord injuries (injuries to the spinal cord that result in loss of function, including movement or sensation), both closed and penetrating head injuries and amputation injuries, and ingestion of toxic substances that result in long term physical and cognitive problems.
Legal representation of persons who have suffered catastrophic injuries involves a number of unique that require special attention and expertise. The principal questions that arise often include the following:
- How have past medical, rehabilitation, etc. expenses been paid and how will they be paid in the future?
- In many cases involving significant catastrophic injury, not only private health insurance, but public benefits, including Medicare and Medicaid, are involved. Complicated questions often arise concerning whether and to what extent each of these payment sources result in liens that must be repaid or will be offset from future benefits. Complex questions involving insurance policy provisions and federal and state statutes and regulations must be considered. Handling such cases requires careful attention to these issues and thorough planning in order to ensure that the injured person only obtains adequate compensation for their claims but maximizes their eligibility for future private and governmental benefits
- Long-term catastrophic injuries typically involve substantial capacity. In order to ensure that compensation for these losses is recovered, it is commonly necessary for the attorney to consult and retain several experts, including: a) a physician who is familiar with the standards for assessment of permanent impairment, b) a vocation rehabilitation expert and/or an economist to calculate loss of future earning capacity resulting from the injury or death, and c) a life care planner to develop a thorough, individualized life care plan after careful consultation with both medical professionals and a life care planner to assure that adequate compensation is obtained for each of the many medical and personal needs of those with serious permanent injuries. The attorney who brings a catastrophic injury case must be familiar with the standards and methods used by each of these professionals and the legal requirements for assuring that their testimony will be admitted.
- In cases of catastrophic injury and death, the injured or deceased person is only one of many who have suffered losses that may be legally recovered. Other family members whose lives have been shattered by these losses have legally recognized claims that must be separately evaluated and pursued.