What Is a Catastrophic Injury?


When you sustain a catastrophic injury through no fault of your own, one thing becomes apparent immediately. Your life just changed forever. All the feelings you have because of that realization likely make it difficult to know what to do next.

That’s understandable. If you sustain a catastrophic injury, you likely face new limitations with your work, social life, family, and enjoyment of your favorite activities. Your next step should be to hire a skilled personal injury attorney.

Types of Catastrophic Injuries

Catastrophic injuries can affect any part of the body. The ones we most frequently see include:

  • Spinal cord injuries, including paralysis
  • Organ damage to kidneys, intestines, and lungs
  • Severe burns
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Severed limbs
  • Multiple fractures
  • Amputation

These injuries are set apart from other injuries by their long-term or lifetime consequences. For example, severe burns may cause disfigurement or lead to amputation, making it more difficult to participate in public life.

Traumatic brain injuries can cause blindness, deafness, or cognitive issues, which can interfere with previous activities, work, or relationships. At the very least, you face a long period of adaptation as you learn to live with a disability.

Life Impacts of Catastrophic Injuries

The impacts of catastrophic injuries are physical, mental, and emotional. There is pain, but also the mental toll of adapting to a new way to live. Rehabilitation and treatment offer hope but are often exhausting and time-consuming.

Even if an accident victim doesn’t lose sight, hearing, or mobility permanently, they may face chronic pain and other limitations that keep them from fully recovering. Pain has a demoralizing effect on a person’s quality of life.

Emotional pain and distress often result too. On top of physical symptoms, a catastrophic injury survivor may suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or anxiety. These conditions require therapy and medication, adding to the list of ongoing medical treatments.

Catastrophic injuries also affect families. A spouse may have to quit a full-time job to become a caretaker. You may need to move into a more accessible home or modify your current one. Change is never easy, and that is especially the case when another person’s negligence makes it necessary.

Causes of Catastrophic Injuries

Any accident can lead to a catastrophic injury, including:

  • Bicycle accidents
  • Construction accidents
  • Defective products
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Fires and explosions
  • Medical devices or drugs
  • Medical malpractice
  • Motor vehicle crashes
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Slips and falls
  • Sports and recreation
  • Workplace accidents

New York Serious Injury Threshold

New York is a no-fault state for vehicle collisions and auto insurance. Each party in an accident will turn to their own insurance company first for coverage of their medical and other accident-related expenses. Suing a negligent driver is not an option until you’ve exhausted your insurance policy’s personal injury protection coverage and unless your case meets the serious injury threshold.

State law defines a serious injury as one that results in:

  • Death
  • Dismemberment
  • Fracture
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Permanent loss of use of a body system, function, organ, or member
  • Permanent significant limitations of a body member or organ
  • Significant body system or function limitation
  • Significant disfigurement

The statute includes the 90/180-day rule. Under this rule, an injury must prevent an injured person from performing their usual and customary daily activities for at least 90 of the 180 days after an accident to be considered “serious.” For example, you may meet the serious injury threshold if you could not go to work or bathe without assistance for at least 90 days within the six months after the accident.

You must document these limitations. Your records must show consistent medical treatment and evidence of your limitations. Doctor reports and expert testimony can also support your claim.

What Compensation Can I Receive for a Catastrophic Injury?

You could pursue compensation from the person responsible for your catastrophic injury. Our attorneys could review your case to assess the value of your claim, create a settlement demand, and start negotiating with the responsible party’s insurance company.

Depending on your circumstances, you could be eligible for compensation for

  • Emotional anguish
  • Future medical expenses
  • Home and car modifications
  • Long-term care costs
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Lost income
  • Medical costs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Required mobility and medical devices

While many of your accident-related losses are easy to quantify, pain, suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment are more subjective. You can document these losses by journaling about your experience, recovery, and how the injury has affected your life.

How Can a Catastrophic Injury Lawyer Help Me?

An attorney’s primary job is to handle legal and insurance issues to obtain the compensation you need. They’ll handle the legal details so you can focus on rehabilitation and finding a sense of normalcy after an accident. As you attend to your medical needs, we will:

  • Collect medical information: Serious injury cases depend heavily on medical evidence. We will order your records, request doctor reports, and seek expert input to paint a complete picture of your injuries and how they affect you.
  • Handle the insurance claim: You don’t need to worry about talking with insurance adjusters while facing life-changing circumstances. We can file your claim and start negotiations to settle your claim for a fair amount.
  • Hire experts: Accident reconstructionists and biomechanical experts often prove vital, especially if you don’t remember the accident. They can explain why and how another party is responsible for your injury.
  • Investigate: We will look into your accident to see what caused it and who is responsible. That also includes finding police reports, interviewing witnesses, and taking photos of the accident scene.
  • Trial: If a defendant or insurance company fails to offer an adequate settlement, we could take your case to trial.

We offer these services on a contingency basis, meaning we don’t get paid unless we secure compensation on your behalf. You never have to pay any money upfront for top-tier service.

Catastrophic Injury? Call Finz & Finz, P.C. Today

The New York personal injury attorneys of Finz & Finz, P.C. will dedicate themselves to pursuing compensation and justice for you. If you sustained catastrophic injuries due to another person’s carelessness, call us at 855-TOP-FIRM or contact us online for a free case review.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.