There are no “good” injuries, but most would agree that some injuries are worse than others.
The American Medical Association (AMA) defines a “catastrophic injury” as a severe injury to the spine or brain. The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research (NCCSIR) has a much broader definition that includes fatalities, temporary or transient paralysis, cardiac arrest, and other serious injuries.
However you choose to define the term, there are a few things you should know about catastrophic injuries and how they’re treated under Indiana law.
The easiest way to think about catastrophic injuries is that they’re injuries that cause long-term damage. Common examples of catastrophic injuries include:
An American is accidentally injured every second and killed every 3 minutes by a preventable event, according to the National Safety Council.
Although there are countless ways in which you can suffer a catastrophic injury, there are certain accidents that are more likely to cause catastrophic injuries than others. These include:
As is the case with all personal injury cases, you must prove that someone is at fault for your injury in order to recover damages. Who’s at fault depends on the nature of your accident.
Let’s take a look at some common defendants:
|Type of accident||Potential defendants|
|Motor vehicle accident||Another driver, a motorcyclist, a bicyclist, a pedestrian, or the town or a private property owner who failed to properly maintain the road|
|Slip and fall accident||Owner or manager of the property|
|Dog bite accident||Dog owner|
|Medical malpractice||Doctor, nurse, or another healthcare professional|
|Plane crash or aviation accident||Pilot, plane owner, manufacturer of the plane or plane component, maintenance or repair facility|
|Defective product injury||Manufacturer, distributor, or seller of the defective product|
|Swimming pool accident||Property owner, town or city, or pool occupant|
In most catastrophic injury cases, the legal theory used to prove liability is negligence. Negligence requires the plaintiff to establish that:
In Indiana, most employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
Workers’ compensation covers most injuries so long as the injury occurs while you’re performing a work duty. For example, you’ll be covered if you fall from a ladder while working at a construction site, but you probably won’t be covered if you get into an accident on your way home from work.
Workers’ compensation provides benefits depending on the nature of your injury. Catastrophic injuries will pay out significantly more than minor injuries, but all injuries are subject to certain state caps. If, however, you’re injured by a third party (someone other than your employer or colleagues) while at work, you may be able to file a third-party lawsuit against the at-fault party and recover damages above and beyond what you receive under workers’ compensation.
The goal of a personal injury claim is to make the plaintiff “whole.” To put it another way, personal injury lawsuits are supposed to return the plaintiff to their pre-accident condition, financially speaking.
With catastrophic injuries, it’s impossible to return the plaintiff to their pre-accident condition. As a result, catastrophic injury claims generally result in large damage awards intended to ease the burden of the injury over the course of the plaintiff’s life.
In Indiana, plaintiffs can recover both economic and non-economic damages:
If the defendant acted intentionally or with gross negligence, the plaintiff may also be able to recover punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and deter them and others from engaging in similar behavior.
Like many other states, Indiana places limits on the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover in a personal injury case. Though damage caps don’t impact lots of personal injury cases, they’re more likely to impact catastrophic injury cases.
In Indiana, the following damages are capped: