What qualifies as a catastrophic injury in Maryland is subjective because it depends on the effect of the injury on the victim’s life and future. However, certain injuries are obviously catastrophic. If an accident leaves you as a paraplegic or a quadriplegic it’s clearly a catastrophic injury. A brain injury that leaves the victim in a vegetative state is also catastrophic. Fortunately, these kinds of injuries are rare. There are shades of gray with lesser injuries but an event that permanently changes your life is catastrophic.
What is a Catastrophic Injury?
Injuries that cause immense physical, emotional, or financial consequences for the victim can be classified as catastrophic. This is not a defined medical term but when injuries are life-changing a personal injury lawyer will often argue they are catastrophic. The victim of these life-altering injuries deserves high levels of compensation when his or her condition was caused by someone else. There are some limitations including the amount of insurance available and Maryland’s cap on pain and suffering (non-economic) damages which is $860,000 for injuries.
Common Catastrophic Injuries in Maryland Accidents
A catastrophic injury usually causes permanent or long-lasting incapacitation to one of the body’s major systems. They include:
Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord is vital to movement and functioning. It delivers messages from the brain to other parts of the body, allowing us to walk, run, sit or stand or move our arms and hands. When a violent blow to the spinal cord causes it to be severed or damages vertebrae, ligaments, and other important areas, victims can suffer from paralysis that can be temporary or permanent.
Your ability to control movement in your limbs after an injury depends on the location of the spinal cord injury and its severity. The Mayo Clinic points out complete paralysis involves the loss of all feeling below the break, while people who suffer an incomplete injury may retain some sensory or motor function. Both levels are considered catastrophic.
People who suffer spinal cord injuries may end up with.
- Tetraplegia (quadriplegia) – paralysis in your arms, hands, trunk, legs, and pelvic organs.
- Paraplegia – paralysis of the trunk, the legs, and the pelvic organs.
Spinal cord injuries often ruin the sufferer’s quality of life meaning they can no longer work and walk. They often need daily or even 24-hour care. They can suffer a loss of movement, loss of bowel or bladder control, loss of sensation such as feeling warmth and cold, exaggerated reflexes, intense pain, problems breathing, and loss of sexual function. These injuries are often associated with car crashes and are truly tragic. Paraplegia or tetraplegia often shortens the life expectancy of the victim. You deserve to be compensated for your lost time.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Traumatic brain injuries are complicated. People who suffer mild traumatic brain injuries such as concussions often make a full recovery. Although these injuries are not always catastrophic, more serious traumatic brain injuries can ruin your quality of life, impact your speech, movement, comprehension, ability to sleep, and mood for the rest of your life. TBIs are invisible injuries to some extent. They can be difficult to diagnose. If a TBI fails to heal and affects your home life and career, it can be a catastrophic injury. It’s incumbent on your Baltimore brain injury lawyer to make as strong a case as possible on your behalf for a settlement or verdict that meets your future medical and life needs.
Damage to Internal Organs
Damage to internal organs in an accident can be extremely grave and life-threatening. The intense force of a car crash or an industrial accident can cause damage to the abdomen and the spleen, causing considerable internal bleeding. The spleen is an organ that acts as a filter to the immune system. A damaged spleen often has to be removed. Although people can survive without their spleens, removal can compromise their immune systems and leave them vulnerable to life-threatening infections.
The liver is another organ that’s vulnerable to stomach damage in a car wreck or another accident involving a blow to the abdomen. The liver performs an important job. It filters the blood from the digestive tract before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver makes proteins for blood clotting and secretes biles that return to the intestines, states WebMD. Damage to the liver causes chronic health effects. You can die in an accident if you lose an excessive amount of blood from the liver.
If you suffer a blow to the lower back, your kidneys are vulnerable. You may need dialysis if your kidneys sustain damage. Even if surgery is not required, you can suffer life-altering complications including recurrent infections, blood pressure issues, and urine leakage.
Damage to internal organs after an accident is not always obvious. Always seek medical advice if you suffer a direct blow to the abdomen, back or another area. You could be bleeding from a major organ without realizing it.
Few injuries are as debilitating as the limb loss of an arm or a leg. Amputations are considered catastrophic because they impact your quality of life. Even the amputation of a finger or a toe can affect your career or your balance. You may no longer be able to do the activities you enjoyed before or earn an income. Family members often have to help you out. Amputations are considered catastrophic injuries because your life will likely never be the same again as it was before the injury.
Loss of Senses
Some accidents involve the loss of the victim’s sight, hearing, or sense of smell. Victims sometimes bring lawsuits against businesses or railroads for chemical spills or dangerous noise levels that harmed workers causing them to lose their sight or hearing. Scores of military personnel who served overseas and in the United States sued the manufacturer of 3M military ear plugs over devices that allegedly failed to protect them from the sound of explosions and live firings. Veterans claim they are suffering from hearing loss and a condition called tinnitus involving a ringing in the ears.
Burn injuries can be catastrophic depending on their degree. Fires, radiation, electric shocks, and chemicals can cause life-altering burns. There are three degrees of burns. First-degree burns cause redness and soreness but the symptoms are likely to clear up in days or weeks. Although a first-degree burn is unlikely to be catastrophic, second degree burns that affect the outer and middle layers of the skin may require a skin graft. Third-degree burns affect the outer, middle, and innermost layers of the skin. Damage may be permanent, particularly if nerve cells suffered damage. Burns can leave victims with scars that disfigure them for the rest of their lives.
What to Do If You Suffer from a Catastrophic Injury in Maryland
Most people who suffer catastrophic injuries in a car, truck, bus, or motorcycle wreck, a fall, a railroad accident, medical malpractice or a workplace accident, will realize the extent of their injuries immediately. Victims who suffer paralysis won’t be able to walk away from an accident scene. The severity of an injury that leads to amputation will be obvious at the scene. However, what qualifies as a catastrophic injury isn’t always evident as you stand at the roadside looking at your mangled car. Internal injuries can be masked by the adrenalin of a wreck. Traumatic brain injuries are often even more elusive to diagnose. A CT scan can fail to highlight these injuries, and you may need a more detailed MRI. Sometimes, a victim’s family is more adept at identifying mood and behavior changes that are a telltale sign of a TBI.
Always seek medical advice and don’t rush into setting an offer with an insurance company until the full extent of your injuries is known. Talk to a Maryland personal injury attorney early in the process if you have a catastrophic injury in Maryland, you will need to recover as much money as possible.
Talk to an Experienced Baltimore Catastrophic Injury Lawyer Today
Attorney Randolph Rice has represented many people who suffered catastrophic injuries. Accident victims don’t like to think their lives will never be the same again after such an ordeal. This is understandable. However, denial is dangerous. You can end up with a payout that doesn’t cover your medical bills or fails to meet your future needs. Payouts for pain and suffering and medical costs are typically higher when you suffer a catastrophic injury. Don’t be shortchanged. Talk to the Law Offices of Randolph Rice today at (410) 431-0911 for a free consultation.