Philadelphia Catastrophic Injury Attorney
What Legal Help Exists For Victims With Catastrophic Injuries?
An injury is catastrophic if it permanently prevents an injury victim from performing any gainful work. Catastrophic injuries leave serious, long-term effects on their victims, and can leave them suffering from permanent disabilities for the rest of their lives. Because victims may need constant supervision or assistance for the rest of their lives, as well as a lifetime of rehabilitation and medical bills, catastrophic injuries can put a great degree of stress on victims and families alike.
Common injuries that result in catastrophic consequences include:
Below, we’ll take a more in-depth look at some of these injuries and explore a few of the ways that victims can seek legal recovery.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
A traumatic brain injury is caused when an external mechanical force causes brain dysfunction. This is normally caused by violent blows or jolts to the head, causing the brain to move back and forth inside the skull. Because the brain heals differently than other body parts, the effects of traumatic brain injury can be very difficult to overcome, if at all.
The prognosis of a traumatic brain injury will depend to a large degree on its seriousness. Diuretics, anti-seizure drugs, and various coma-inducing drugs can often treat mild brain injuries. However, more serious injuries often require surgery to remove blood clots and repair skull fractures. Regardless of the injury’s seriousness, most traumatic brain injury patients will need to undergo some form of rehabilitation, which can involve psychiatrists, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, and even vocational counselors if injuries damage work abilities.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries result from damage to the vertebrae, ligaments, or disks in the spinal column or to the spinal cord itself. Sudden and traumatic blows to the spine that fracture, dislocate, crush, or compress one of the vertebrae often cause these injuries. They can also arise when spinal columns are abruptly cut or severed, such as from gunshot or knife wounds. Injuries, however, can also result from non-traumatic causes such as arthritis, cancer, inflammation, infections, or natural disk degeneration. The most serious spinal cord injuries can result in tetraplegia, paraplegia, and triplegia, which can significantly alter the rest of the victim’s life.
Amputation is a violent trauma that can occur from a cut or a tear. An accidental amputation usually involves the fingers, though it can also claim entire limbs. An amputation may be complete (having the entire body part completely removed or cut off) or partial (having a greater portion of the body part removed, though keeping part of it attached to the rest of the body). Depending on which limb is accidentally amputated (and whether doctors are able to reattach it), amputations can severely compromise the victim’s ability to work.
Of the different forms of burn injuries, the most severe, third degree burns, reach into the fat layer beneath the skin, causing burned areas to appear charred black or white. Third degree burns can cause the skin to look waxy or leathery, destroy nerves, and cause numbness. These burns always require emergency medical attention and can lead to serious, long-term scarring, or even death.
Legal Recovery for Catastrophic Injuries
Depending on the accident’s cause, victims of catastrophic injuries can pursue several options to recover compensation. If you suffered a catastrophic injury in an accident that you suspect was the result of negligence, you should have an attorney conduct an investigation to identify any responsible party or parties. If your accident occurred at work, your most likely option would be to go through the workers’ compensation system. If your accident occurred outside of work—for example, in a car accident—you may recover compensation by alleging the other driver’s negligence. If your injury was caused by a product—for example, your coffee maker exploded and gave you third degree burns—then a product liability action would be your best option. Occasionally, you may recover compensation from multiple parties. A competent personal injury attorney can evaluate the merits of your individual situation and recommend the best courses of action.
Philadelphia Catastrophic Accident FAQ
A catastrophic accident can leave you with many questions, both about your future and about your legal rights. Consult the Levin Firm’s catastrophic injury attorneys to discuss your claim in more detail or to learn more about your legal rights as they pertain specifically to your accident and your injuries.
1. How does a catastrophic injury differ from a normal accident injury?
Catastrophic injuries have life-changing consequences. You will not simply recover and go back to your everyday life within weeks or months after a catastrophic injury. Instead, you may need to alter your everyday activities and routines, or you may lose a portion of your independence or capability, following the accident. Victims of catastrophic injuries may also have substantial medical bills that continue for the rest of their lives, especially if they require ongoing therapies or treatments.
Catastrophic injuries may include:
- Traumatic brain injury. A traumatic brain injury may leave you suffering physical, mental, and emotional effects. Some victims suffer ongoing ringing in the ears or headaches. Many deal with memory challenges in the immediate aftermath of the accident. Traumatic brain injury can also cause confusion and disorientation, loss of cognitive function, difficulty concentrating, and emotional disturbances. Some traumatic brain injury victims may deal with ongoing impact for the rest of their lives.
- Spinal cord damage. Victims with spinal cord damage may lose motor function and sensation below the site of the injury. While victims with incomplete spinal cord injuries may suffer some limitations in their movement, victims with complete spinal cord damage may need to learn to compensate for complete paralysis below the site of the injury.
- Severe disfigurement. An accident that causes substantial scarring can permanently change a victim’s self-esteem and self-concept. Many victims who suffer severe disfigurement also suffer from anxiety and depression.
- Limb amputations. The loss of a limb can cause loss of independence or the inability to perform some normal daily functions. While a prosthetic device can help restore some function and independence, the victim will need to make alterations to his daily life to accommodate his limitations.
Catastrophic injuries may cause a shortened lifespan, decrease in overall independence and function, or significant changes to quality of life. Not only do they often require substantial medical care, they may lead to long-term pain and suffering.
2. What compensation do I deserve following a catastrophic accident?
Consult a lawyer for an estimate of the compensation you deserve for the specific injuries you suffered in your accident. An attorney can help put together an estimate that includes:
- Your medical expenses. Following a catastrophic accident, you may have significant medical expenses. In the case of some injuries, including traumatic brain injury and spinal cord damage, you may also face ongoing, long-term medical costs. Amputees may need to replace their prosthetic devices regularly, especially if they participate in athletic pursuits. In filing a personal injury claim after a catastrophic accident, an attorney will generally include both current medical expenses and future anticipated medical expenses as part of your claim.
- Your lost income. Catastrophic injuries can make it difficult, if not impossible, to go back to work. You may find yourself missing work throughout your recovery, for procedures and treatments, and even for therapy once you return to work.
- Lost earning potential. Many victims of catastrophic accidents cannot return to their former occupations. If you cannot return to your job after your accident, your attorney may include lost earning potential as part of your claim.
- Pain and suffering. Catastrophic injuries may cause significant emotional distress alongside staggering physical pain. You may miss out on activities that you once enjoyed or struggle to spend time with friends and loved ones socially. An attorney learns about these struggles to gauge an appropriate amount of money to seek as pain and suffering damages.
- Compensation for the tasks you once performed around the home. As part of the compensation for your direct economic losses following a catastrophic accident, your lawyer may include miscellaneous expenses incurred because of your injuries. For example, if you needed to hire someone to provide childcare or care for an elderly loved one, to take care of cleaning services, or to provide services you once performed for yourself, your lawyer may include those expenses as part of your personal injury claim.
The amount of money you should receive and the amount of money you can reasonably expect to receive may differ, however. The value of a personal injury claim also depends, to some degree, on the financial resources (through insurance or assets) of the party with a legal liability to you. Contact us for more information about your legal right to compensation after a catastrophic accident.
3. When should my lawyer file a personal injury claim after a catastrophic accident?
Your doctors may not know, immediately after your accident, how long you will need to recover from your injuries or how much of a recovery you will eventually make. Spinal cord injury victims and traumatic brain injury victims, for example, often surprise their doctors with their recovery—both in terms of what they can accomplish and in terms of what ground they do not regain after the accident.
Because a demand for compensation after a catastrophic accident typically includes elements like your medical expenses and your pain and suffering, including the long-term limitations you face from your accident, your lawyer may advise waiting until you have progressed further through your recovery before filing your personal injury claim.
Just because you have suffered injuries in a catastrophic accident, however, does not mean you should assume you can wait to get started on protecting your legal rights. Always consult with an experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorney as soon as possible after a catastrophic accident. If you wait too long to seek experienced, skilled, legal assistance, you may lose your right to recover compensation altogether.
Contacting an attorney as soon as possible after a catastrophic accident can also make it easier to collect important evidence to support your eventual claim for damages. Witness statements, for example, may prove more accurate immediately after a catastrophic accident, before memory has a chance to fade. Catastrophic accidents often cause substantial trauma for witnesses as well as victims. Witnesses may find those memories clouded soon after the accident. Similarly, physical evidence becomes more and more difficult to locate and collect the longer you wait after an accident to get started working with an attorney.
4. The person or entity that caused my accident did not face criminal charges for the accident. Can I still file a personal injury claim?
Yes. Your rights to recover compensation for a catastrophic accident in Philadelphia do not depend on the district attorney’s decision about whether to file criminal charges against the person whose actions harmed you. In many cases, a catastrophic accident results from someone’s carelessness which, although dangerous and destructive, may not amount to a crime. Start working right away with an experienced Philadelphia catastrophic accident attorney to determine whether someone has a legal liability to you for damages, rather than waiting to see if the district attorney decides to prosecute.
Of course, if someone does face criminal charges in connection with a catastrophic accident that injured you—a drunk driver, for example—then your attorney may find ways to use that criminal conviction as evidence in your favor.
5. Should I wait to start paying my medical bills until I receive compensation for my injuries?
We suggest you speak with a financial advisor before deciding not to pay any bills. As a legal matter, you may have an obligation to pay your medical bills even while you wait to receive money from a legal action against the party who caused your injuries.
In that case, you may have insurance that covers at least some of those expenses:
- Use your personal injury protection insurance. If you sustained injuries in a catastrophic motor vehicle accident, then you may carry personal injury protection insurance that covers the medical costs of your injuries. Not sure if you carry that insurance? Speak with an experienced attorney right away for help.
- Use your medical insurance. Your medical insurance, if you carry it, will likely also help cover medical expenses associated with your accident, subject to co-payments, deductibles, and coverage limits. Contact your insurance carrier to get a better idea of what coverage you have and what payment you may need to cover.
6. What should I do after getting hurt in a catastrophic accident?
In the aftermath of a catastrophic accident in Philadelphia, prioritize your medical care. Seek medical attention immediately, and follow all recommendations your doctors and therapists make. Not only will this significantly increase your odds of making a full recovery, it will also generate important records of your care that may prove useful in recovering compensation in a lawsuit.
Following a catastrophic accident, you should also:
Contact your medical and auto insurance companies to notify them of the accident. They can answer any questions you might have about your insurance coverage, and alerting them to your accident can also speed up claim approval. A denied medical claim can leave you with higher medical bills, especially if you do not notice them in time to file an appeal.
Notify your employer about the accident. Ask about what options your employer has available, including:
- Modifications that may make it possible for you to work in spite of catastrophic injury, including whether you can work remotely during your recovery.
- How long the business will hold your position open.
- What options you have with regards to your medical insurance, including maintaining your insurance if your employment ends.
- What expectations your employer has with regards to communications from you and your doctor during your recovery.
Note that you have important rights under federal and state labor laws if a catastrophic accident has left you disabled. Speak with an experienced attorney to learn more.
Keep track of all of your medical bills. Start a file that contains all bills you receive, including the ones you have already paid. Keep track of all the medical expenses associated with your accident so that your attorney can include them as part of your personal injury claim.
Contact an attorney. Do not wait to reach out to an experienced Philadelphia catastrophic personal injury attorney. The sooner you have an attorney working for your interests, the better your odds of recovering the compensation you deserve.
7. I received a settlement offer from the insurance company of the driver that caused my accident within days of the accident. Should I accept it?
No. Always consult an attorney before accepting any settlement offer. Many insurance companies will make a settlement offer soon after the accident. That offer may seem fair, but it will likely fail to account for the full compensation you deserve for your injuries. Many insurance adjusters hope to minimize the company’s financial liability following an accident by offering less than full compensation. An attorney’s advice can help protect you from these insurance company tactics.
8. Is the driver that caused my accident always liable for paying my personal injury claim?
If you sustained injuries in a catastrophic motor vehicle accident in Philadelphia, then you may have legal rights against the other driver if that driver caused the accident. However, you may also have legal rights against other individuals or entities who have legal responsibility for the driver’s actions.
- The driver’s employer, if the driver was working at the time of the accident.
- The vehicle manufacturer, if the vehicle had a defect that caused the accident.
- A mechanic who recently worked on the vehicle and failed to properly repair it or note a severe problem.
- A government agency that failed to design, build, or maintain a safe city street, leading to the accident.
Identifying all parties whose actions contributed to your accident can increase your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve for your injuries in a catastrophic accident. Contact the Levin Firm’s experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorneys for more information about your claim and the parties who may have a legal liability to you.
Contact a Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorney
If you suffered an injury that will leave you permanently disabled or unable to seek gainful employment, one of the methods outlined above may help you recover compensation. The attorneys at the Levin Firm are experts at representing victims of all types of catastrophic injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, burns, and others. All of our cases at The Levin Firm are based on a contingent fee agreement, which means that you only pay us if we win. Contact the attorneys at the Levin Firm for a free consultation through our website or at (215) 825-5183. We will evaluate your case and advise you of your best options.