How to recover as much compensation as possible
Out of all the possible personal injuries from an accident, catastrophic injuries are among the most debilitating and damaging of all. They can leave accident victims permanently disabled and possibly facing a lifetime of rehabilitation.
Stress is high for those suffering from catastrophic injuries and their families, and it can be difficult to know where to turn in the wake of such a serious accident and looming financial responsibilities. You're probably wondering how you're going to pay for it all or whether an attorney will be able to help you recover damages. If it’s a workplace accident, you’re probably concerned that your employer won’t give you a full payout. You may not even know if you or your loved one's injury is considered catastrophic or not.
This article is a guide to catastrophic injuries in Georgia and explains how to build your case in order to recover the compensation you need to help with your expenses.
What qualifies as a catastrophic injury?
What exactly makes an injury "catastrophic" in the first place?
The element that distinguishes catastrophic injuries apart from other injuries is the degree of seriousness. These types of injuries are very difficult to recover from, and in many cases, full recovery is impossible.
“Catastrophic injury” is not a specific legal term, so there are no criteria that need to be proven in court before you can recover damages. Instead, the common link among these injuries is that they cause long-term, debilitating symptoms and require a lengthy recovery process, if recovery is even possible.
Some other factors or events that can make an injury "catastrophic" are:
- The need for live-in care or constant assistance
- Permanent disability (i.e. paralysis)
- Permanent loss in quality of life
Some injuries that are commonly considered catastrophic include:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Severe burns
- Loss of limb or disfigurement
- Spinal cord injuries
- Organ damage
Each of these injuries can require multiple surgeries, extensive rehabilitation, or cause a physical change that affects the injured person for the rest of their life.
What makes compensation for catastrophic injuries different than other claims?
Medically, we know that catastrophic injuries are different from other accident-related injuries due to their long-term or permanent nature. Legally, catastrophic injuries differ greatly from other injuries, too. These cases almost always require a lawyer as insurance companies rarely offer the full cost of all medical expenses, future treatments and pain and suffering. In turn, a personal injury case involving a catastrophic injury will demand ample compensation to cover the short-term and long-term financial strain.
Compensation is also different when the catastrophic injury is part of a workers’ comp claim. Your case likely requires an attorney as a hearing is likely necessary to present all of your medical records and provide expert testimony as to the seriousness of your injury. In Georgia, permanent disability is also a possibility as part of your workers’ comp settlements, so an attorney will give you your best chances as achieving the maximum in damages.
Am I guaranteed full compensation for my catastrophic injuries?
Full compensation is a bit of a false term in the legal world. It’s nearly impossible to have every cost covered by an award of damages. For a catastrophic injury case, you may be hoping to have all of your medical bills covered as well as your loss of job/earning capacity.
Georgia awards pain and suffering damages, so loss of quality of life and other intangible costs are possible. An experienced personal injury or workers’ compensation attorney will give a ballpark estimate of how much compensation similar cases to yours have earned.
Additionally, an experienced attorney will know what evidence needs to be presented in order for you to receive the highest compensation possible.
Fault, however, can’t be overlook when it comes to awarded damages. Georgia is a modified comparative fault state. In other words, an accident victim can only recover damages if they are less than 50% responsible for their injury.
Furthermore, the accident victim’s fault will also impact their total damages. The victim’s compensation is reduced by their percentage of fault, as determined by the judge or jury. If, for example, the jury decides to award you $200,000 for your catastrophic injury damages but also finds you 25% at fault, then you will only receive $150,000.
Who can I sue for my catastrophic injury?
Catastrophic injuries are typically caused by either a workplace accident or by the intentional or accident actions of someone else. You can recover damages in any of those situations, but the processes and potential payouts vary. Let’s break it down by case type below.
Workers’ compensation in Georgia is available for anyone whose catastrophic came from a workplace accident. Georgia workers’ compensation benefits are comprehensive, but the proper filing and documentation must occur in order to receive a settlement.
As explained above, a hearing may be needed to prove the cause of your injury and the extent of your physical limitations or pain. We encourage you to speak with a workers’ compensation attorney in order to maximize your potential recovery.
Accident or negligence lawsuit
Accident or negligence claims are perhaps the most common method of recovery for damages covering catastrophic injuries. Here, someone else unintentionally caused your harm that contributed to your injury.
Though car accidents are the most common example, slip and falls, medical malpractice, insufficient supervision and product liability are all potential causes of injuries with permanent damage to your body. For all of these cases, a Georgia personal injury attorney will evaluate your claim and help you decide if you should settle or pursue litigation.
In particularly tragic cases, someone may have been trying to hurt you or a loved one. Domestic violence, assault, rape and attempted murder are all crimes where a victim may have suffered a catastrophic injury. The case itself will be a personal injury case like an accident or negligence claim, but the cause of action is called an “intentional tort.”
Punitive damages are also possible in these cases to punish whoever caused you harm. As the police report, criminal trial and other evidence may contribute to a higher payout for you, we encourage you to consult a personal injury attorney for these cases as well.
Resources for catastrophic accident victims in Georgia
Catastrophic injuries often coincide with paralysis or physical limitations. Adapting to this new lifestyle is a challenge, and you may need to modify your home and lifestyle. To help you do that, here are some local resources to consider:
This non-profit organization serves Northeast Georgia with training in life skills, and provides support and resources for all aspects of disabled life.
Serving Middle Georgia, this non-profit provides new lifestyle training and resources for the physically handicapped.
Largely an advocacy organization, the office also provides resources for the both the disabled and their caregiver.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.