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What Classifies as a Catastrophic Injury?

Published on Jun 2, 2023 at 9:55 pm in Truck Accidents.

Conduct a quick online search of the cities with the highest amount of traffic, and you’ll find Houston on the top 10 list. From I-45 to I-10 and I-69, these are just some of the many interstates that traverse the greater Houston area, with many U.S. highways and state routes in between.

According to data compiled by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), in 2020, there were over 58,000 auto accidents in Houston, with many of them resulting in suspected injuries. More recent data reported by news sources suggests that crashes in general in our southeastern Texas metropolis are on the rise. Surviving a semi-truck accident may seem like a win; however, individuals involved in these crashes often suffer such catastrophic injuries that it forever changes their lives.

While the severity of any injury someone suffers is contingent upon what medical providers and the victim themselves classify it as, below, we’ll do our best to describe what an insurance company may perceive as a catastrophic injury. We’ll also touch on how that categorization of your injuries may impact the outcome of your case if you file an insurance claim to recover damages.

Types of Catastrophic Injuries

What Classifies as a Catastrophic Injury

When classifying potential injuries, someone may consider any illness or physical or mental impairment that significantly adversely impacts the victim’s quality as a catastrophic injury. Therefore, the following injuries may fall on that list:

  • Internal organ damage, resulting in surgical removal of it
  • Amputations
  • Any permanently disfiguring injury
  • Eye injuries, resulting in a loss of eyesight
  • Third or fourth-degree burns
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Multiple organ failure
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • A crush injury resulting in the insertion of pins or other medical devices for stabilization

Factors That Result in a Serious Injury in Truck Accidents

When it comes to truck accidents, there are a few different actions that have the potential of either causing serious injuries or fatalities. Ways in which truckers, their fleet companies, or the company who packed their load may contribute to a pedestrian, passenger car, motorcycle, or other type of accident include:

  • Reckless driving like speeding, failing to apply the brakes in a timely fashion, drowsy driving, or driving under the influence
  • Failing to regularly maintain their truck or inspect it before taking it out on the road for potential safety issues
  • An overweight truck or improperly packed load
  • Trucker inexperience

While there are certainly more factors than the ones listed above that can result in truck accidents that cause catastrophic injuries, the ones referenced above are some of the more notable ones.

The Impact Catastrophic Injuries Can Have on a Victim’s Future

Someone who suffers minor injuries like a broken bone, bruise, laceration, whiplash, or concussion will likely recover from their injuries without it having any lasting impact on their future life. That’s not necessarily the case with catastrophic injuries, though.

An individual who suffers a catastrophic injury may require some of the following care or accommodations depending on the nature of the harm they suffered:

  • To be life-flighted from the site of the accident to a Houston Level 1 trauma center like the Red Duke Trauma Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center or the nearby Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital
  • Initial triage care in an emergency room for stabilization and harm mitigation in preparation for their transfer to the intensive care unit
  • Surgical interventions, both in the initial aftermath of the injury incident and in the years following it
  • Rehabilitative care, which may include inpatient or outpatient respiratory therapy, physical therapy, or occupational therapy
  • Routine follow-up visits with physician specialists
  • Mental health counseling necessary to adapt to your new set of circumstances
  • The purchase of a wheelchair, hospital-style bed, shower chair, walker, handicap-accessible van, or adaptive devices
  • Home renovations, including adding a ramp, changing flooring type, or widening doorways to make them more wheelchair-friendly
  • Shift or around-the-clock caregiving support to aid with personal hygiene, medication administration, and other needs a victim can no longer handle oneself

While a person who suffers a catastrophic injury may be able to eventually return to work, they might not be able to do so in the same role they once held. Others may have to switch careers altogether or not have the ability to perform meaningful work once again. Situations like the latter two can be financially devastating to a family, especially if their entire livelihood is contingent upon remaining gainfully employed.

Why Does the Classification of an Injury as Catastrophic Matter?

We mentioned at the beginning how the way in which an injury is classified, whether it’s deemed as minor or serious, matters. The reason why that’s important is two-fold.

From a lay person’s perspective, you might assume that the more debilitating and life-altering an injury is, the more likely that it is that they’d readily offer up a settlement and that it would be a fair and just one. However, that’s not the typical way insurance companies do things. They like to keep expenses low in situations involving catastrophic injuries by attempting to deny liability with the hope they won’t have to pay anything.

So, from the perspective of an attorney who knows the tactics insurance adjusters play, we know how critical building a solid claim is if there’s going to be any chance of securing a financial recovery in the case. This is one of the reasons why you’ll often hear that the more severe a person’s injury, the stronger the reason they need a legal representative to help them navigate the insurance claim and potential litigation process.

How an Attorney Can Help You if You’ve Suffered a Catastrophic Injury

Accountability is important in any situation involving negligence. You owe it to yourself to hold the party who caused you harm responsible for their actions to ensure they second-guess ever inflicting the same harm on someone else in the future. Also, proving liability and filing a claim is the only way our legal system in Texas allows you to recover compensation for your mounting medical bills, lost wages, and other losses that you undoubtedly have and need to pay off.

If you’ve suffered debilitating injuries in a truck accident or any other type of collision or incident, we urge you to reach out to The Mejia Law Firm in Houston. We have a long track record of working with a wide range of clients who’ve suffered catastrophic injuries to secure maximum compensation for them, and we won’t stop short of fighting for a fair and just settlement in your case.

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