Fort Lauderdale Catastrophic Injury Attorney
When you leave your Fort Lauderdale home, you expect to return feeling as happy and healthy as you were when you left. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen when someone’s negligent actions cause you harm. Unexpected accidents occur when you’re at work, at play, or commuting to your destination. Catastrophic injuries occur more often than they should, and recovery is never easy. It usually involves lengthy hospitalizations, rehabilitation, long-term care, and a lifetime of medical complications and impairments. As catastrophic injury attorneys, we understand that you can’t always control or predict when a serious accident will injure you. That’s why it’s important to recognize the potential risks, injuries, and legal issues ahead of time. We created our Fort Lauderdale catastrophic injury lawyer FAQ, so you will know what to expect if an accident occurs.
About Our Fort Lauderdale Catastrophic Injury Lawyers
At The Levin Law Firm, we have seen what happens when negligent actions cause catastrophic injuries. We’ve represented many injured clients while they focused on recovering from their injuries. Our catastrophic injury attorneys have acted on behalf of our clients during the early post-accident stages. We have investigated their accidents, evaluated the evidence, and confirmed the negligent parties. We have placed responsible parties and their insurers on notice of our intent to make them pay.
Our legal team has worked closely with our clients to learn more about their injuries. We’ve seen how catastrophic injuries affected the injured person and their family. It has motivated us to do our best. We have always worked hard to protect our clients’ legal interests and recover optimum damages on their behalf.
What Is a Catastrophic Injury?
A catastrophic injury is severe enough to drastically change your life. Florida statutes contain two distinct catastrophic injury definitions.
Title XLV, §766.118 Medical Malpractice, describes catastrophic injuries as a permanent impairment.
Title XXXI Worker’s Compensation refers to the same injuries as a permanent total disability.
Catastrophic injuries may include:
- Spinal cord injuries: Florida statutes consider an SCI injury catastrophic when it includes arm, leg, or trunk paralysis. A person with an SCI loses function from the point of injury on the spine to everything below. When a person sustains spinal cord damage, they must often relearn the basics of daily living. They find new ways to interact with their families, drive, earn a living, and care for themselves.
- Arm, hand, foot, or leg amputations: When a person loses a part of their body, it diminishes their ability to function. As with spinal cord injuries, an amputee must learn how to function despite the loss. It’s another injury that forces the injured person to learn new ways of doing everything. An amputation causes lifelong impairments, lost earning capacity, and severe disfigurement.
- Severe brain or closed-head injury: A person with a severe brain injury must learn to function with cognitive, motor, physical, communication, neurological, or other losses. People with moderate to severe TBIs live with reduced life expectancies, poor quality of life, and continuous health problems. The most severe TBIs cause comas and vegetative states from which the injured person sometimes never recovers.
- Second or third-degree burns over 25 percent of the body’s surface: Second and third-degree burns are catastrophic, according to Florida statutes. Sadly, burns are sometimes far more damaging than that. Fourth-degree burns cause damage through the skin to the fatty layers beneath. Fifth-degree burns produce damage down to the victim’s muscle. Sixth-degree burns damage the injured victim’s muscles and bone. When burn damage is this extensive, it destroys outer and inner tissues, muscles, and bone. When a limb is this severely burned, it often requires surgical amputation.
- Total loss of vision
- Loss of reproductive organs causing an inability to reproduce
Do I Have to File a Lawsuit to Recover Damages for My Injuries?
You don’t always have to file a lawsuit to recover damages. Insurance companies often try to settle when a claim has the potential for high-dollar damages. When their insured is legally liable, a settlement is usually the only way to avoid a controversial court battle. At some point, after an insurance carrier resolves their liability questions, they will likely approach you about settling your case. You might have an opportunity to settle your claim without filing a lawsuit.
For these and other reasons, it’s probably not a good idea.
- You’re still under your doctor’s care
- You haven’t resolved your disability issues
- You don’t understand your claim’s true value
- You don’t trust the insurance company to make a fair offer
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Claim for My Injuries?
Florida Statutes, Title VIII Chapter 95.1, Limitation of Actions, sets the timeframe for filing a lawsuit or settling a liability claim. For most negligence actions in Florida, your statute of limitations runs four years after an accident. If you don’t settle your claim or file a lawsuit before your statute of limitations runs, you lose the right to make a claim. If you’re filing a wrongful death claim on behalf of a family member, you have two years.
In Florida, certain conditions stop the statute of limitations from running.
- You have seven additional years if you are incapacitated or legally declared incapacitated.
- If a product defect caused your injury, your statute of limitations doesn’t begin running until you learn about the causal connection.
- When a defendant resides in another state or avoids service for other reasons, it tolls the statute of limitations.
- An injured minor child’s statute of limitations begins running when he turns 18.
- An injured child has a maximum of seven years to settle or file a suit.
What Accidents Cause Catastrophic Injuries?
Catastrophic injuries are often surprising as they sometimes occur anywhere and at any time. For trauma to cause catastrophic injuries, the circumstances often include excessive force or inherent danger. Here are some of the most common causes of catastrophic injuries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe vehicle crashes as a leading cause of death in the United States. They are the number one cause of death for children. Vehicle crashes that are serious enough to cause fatal injuries, often cause catastrophic injuries as well. These types of accidents usually occur when a driver is moving too fast or is too incapacitated to recognize the danger ahead. Speed, inattention, and failure to act combine to generate a forceful damaging crash.
With tractor-trailers, the difference in vehicle size is the primary issue. Tractor-trailers weigh a minimum of 10,000 pounds when empty. When a vehicle that large crashes into a 3,000 to 5,000-pound private passenger car, the force of the impact easily causes heavy damage and catastrophic injuries.
The most damaging vehicle accidents often involve a combination of these risky driving behaviors.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol
- Driving Distracted
- Drug-Impaired Driving
- Drowsy Driving
Serious vehicle crashes cause some of the most disabling injuries. Motorcycle accident victims often sustain multiple severe injuries in a single accident. The Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems documented “vehicular crashes” as the cause of 50 percent of the traumatic brain injuries for the 18,126 patients in their database. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center determined that vehicle accidents caused 38.6 percent of the spinal cord injuries in their 34,130 person SCI database.
Slip and Falls
Slip and fall injuries occur in public, the workplace, and private residences. Florida Health’s local statistics show that in the Fort Lauderdale area alone, 47,353 people visited the emergency department in one recent year after sustaining fall-related injuries and 110 people sustained fatal injuries.
People sustain injuries when they slip or trip and fall in nursing homes, department stores, amusement parks, restaurants, residential common areas, and other public areas.
Such incidents often occur due to a property owner’s negligent acts or omissions.
- Poor maintenance
- Soiled or improperly maintained floors and staircases
- Worn and deteriorating steps and walkways
- Inadequate lighting
- Unresolved hazards
- Inadequate hazard warnings
Older people and young children are significantly at risk for fall-related injuries. The CDC determined that falls are the leading cause of injuries and fatalities for older Americans. In a recent year, twenty-eight percent of American adults over age 65 reported experiencing a fall. Approximately 8 million of those who fell sought emergency treatment. In older people, falls cause brain injuries, hip fractures, leg fractures, and other severe injuries. During one recent year in the Fort Lauderdale area, 29,513 people over age 65 sustained injuries due to falls. Ninety-two of the 110 people who were fatally injured were over age 65.
The CDC also determined that falls caused more non-fatal injuries in children ages 0 to 19, than any other incidents. The CDC estimates that 8,000 American children require fall-related emergency treatment each day. Recent statistics for the Fort Lauderdale area show that 13,129 children between ages 0 and 19 needed emergency treatment for fall-related injuries in just one year. Fortunately, there were no fatalities in that age range.
While falls don’t always cause catastrophic injuries, they are a factor in 28 percent of TBI injuries and 32.2 percent of spinal cord injuries. When older adults sustain hip fractures due to falls, sometimes, they never recover.
Large construction sites bring together multiple pieces of heavy equipment, large vehicles, and dangerous operations. Each day construction workers interact to complete complex tasks, usually on a tight schedule. Certain types of accidents occur so frequently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration once called them Construction’s Fatal Four.
OSHA now tracks a slightly modified list of construction hazards that cause the most serious injuries:
- Electrocutions: Construction workers sustain injuries when they come into contact with electrical lines while working on metal scaffolding and ladders. They also encounter unprotected or uninsulated electrical lines, both above and below ground.
- Falls: Falls cause one-third of all construction fatalities and numerous injuries. Workers fall when they slip and fall in ground-level work areas. They also fall from higher to lower elevations. These types of falls occur during roofing, glazing, steelwork, and other construction operations. Falls occur due to holes in working surfaces, unprotected walls, unsafe scaffolding, and inappropriate ladder use. OSHA requires personal fall protection for workers performing jobs six feet above the surface, or higher. Some construction operations disregard these and other safety mandates. Fort Lauderdale area Worker’s Compensation data show that 998 construction workers sustained injuries in falls during 2020.
- Struck-by: These incidents occur when workers drop tools and materials onto unsuspecting coworkers. Nail gun incidents are a type of struck-by incident that occurs more often than you might imagine. In the Fort Lauderdale area, 475 workers sustained injuries when struck by an object during 2020.
- Trenching and excavating: Trenching and excavation operations often collapse when construction companies make inappropriate safety choices. Collapses often leave workers trapped under the soil. They sustain fractures from the soil’s weight and anoxic brain damage due to oxygen deprivation. OSHA mandates soil tests to gauge the need for trench wall shoring, sloping, benching, or shielding. Accidents also occur when a crew positions heavy equipment too close to a trench’s edge. Loosened earth allows the equipment to fall into the trench and injure workers.
- Caught-in/between: Workers often sustain crush injuries while working with heavy construction equipment, insecurely stored materials, and industrial machinery. Fifteen Fort Lauderdale-area construction workers sustained injuries in 2020, due to caught-in/between accidents.
Manufacturing and Food Service Industry Accidents
Industries rely on equipment for faster production. As the emphasis is often on production, safety and training often take a backseat. Injuries often occur due to unguarded hazardous equipment, inadequate training, and inadequate warnings.
Amputations. Workers lose their hands, fingers, and limbs while working in factories, industrial operations, and food production industries. These incidents often occur when workers become entangled in power-driven cutting, shearing, pressing, punching, and other types of equipment.
These machines are inherently dangerous and incidents often occur due to improperly guarded mechanisms.
- Mechanical power presses
- Power press brakes
- Printing presses
- Forming and bending machines
- Meat slicers and grinders
- Band saws
- Drill presses
- Milling machines
- Power shears
Chemical exposures. Many manufacturing operations use chemicals to facilitate their processes. Lung injuries, chemical burns, and blindness occur when employees use toxic or hazardous chemicals. Lack of workplace ventilation increases the risk.
If I’m Injured In a Fort Lauderdale Workplace, Can I Sue For Pain and Suffering?
When you’re injured in the workplace, your employer’s Workers Compensation policy pays your medical bills and wage loss benefits. You may still have a right to recover damages for pain, suffering, and other non-economic losses.
You may file a claim against negligent third parties.
- A non-employer or non-coworker
- A contractor who does not meet the definition of your co-employee or coworker
- The manufacturer of a defective or malfunctioning product
- A driver who caused an accident that injured you
- A premises owner who isn’t your employer
Do Other Types of Accidents Cause Catastrophic Injuries?
Many other types of unexpected events cause catastrophic injuries. Near-drowning accidents cause brain damage when inhaled water disrupts a person’s oxygen supply. Defective toys cause suffocation accidents that sometimes leave children with brain damage. Children sustain traumatic brain injuries while playing contact sports. Doctors inflict catastrophic injuries on patients when they fail to meet the professional standards of medical care. Defective appliances cause fires that catastrophically injure people.
Do I Need a Catastrophic Injury Attorney?
Yes. When you sustain a catastrophic injury, you can’t afford to take chances with your future. When you work with a Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyer, you have a legal advocate on your side. Attorneys protect their clients’ interests and resolve complex liability issues. They evaluate their clients’ cases and negotiate to produce a fair settlement. When appropriate, attorneys initiate litigation, work with mediators, or allow a court to decide the outcome.
If you’ve sustained a catastrophic injury, call The Levin Firm at (954) 715-3260 or leave a message on our contact page. We can schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your case and explain your legal options.