What Qualifies as a Catastrophic Injury?
Catastrophic injuries are serious, life-altering events that usually cause significant disfigurement or severe disability limiting your physical abilities. People who suffer catastrophic injuries can no longer work or earn a living. At the same time, they may face a lifetime of medical and caregiving bills for healthcare, mobility aids, and other assistance they will need. If this sounds familiar, there may be options for seeking compensation, and the sooner you act, the better.
A skilled catastrophic injury attorney can assess your situation and the circumstances that led up to your injury, determine which parties may be liable, and work to achieve financial security so you can get the help you need. There is no reason for you to pay anything upfront. At Darrigo & Diaz, we always offer a free initial consultation so you can better understand the ways in which you might move forward. You have no obligation, but if we take your case, there is no fee until we win.
What Is A Catastrophic Injury?
Florida statutes on medical malpractice and workers’ compensation define injuries that are considered catastrophic. In workers’ comp cases, these are also known as “permanent total disability.” Here are some catastrophic injury examples:
- Severe spinal cord injuries or paralysis usually result in a person developing paraplegia (unable to walk or use their legs) or quadriplegia (unable to use their arms or legs).
- Limb loss or amputation, such as losing an arm or leg.
- Severe burns typically cause serious scarring and disfigurement.
- Loss of sight or hearing.
- Severe head injuries or traumatic brain injury (TBI). Some patients can fully recover from TBI, but they usually suffer permanent brain damage or disability in catastrophic injuries. Frequently this means permanent difficulties with communication, loss of motor skills, sensory difficulties, seizures, memory or cognitive difficulties, or other neurological issues.
- Loss of reproductive organs or ability to have biological children.
- Loss of vital organs or organ function often results in the need for a transplant.
How Do Catastrophic Injuries Happen?
A catastrophic situation can happen almost anywhere. Most commonly, they occur during motor vehicle accidents, plane or train crashes, construction or other workplace accidents, or other situations involving heavy machinery. Occasionally, people have catastrophic injuries in a public place or on private property. Often these are slip and fall accidents, but the victim may also be injured by falling objects, toxic chemicals, fires, or other hazards on the property.
Sometimes, these accidents are just that – unlikely situations that no one could have expected to happen. But in other cases, they may result from a person or entity’s negligence – for example, someone driving recklessly or a factory floor manager failing to enforce safety protocols. If you even suspect that your injury resulted from negligence, please seek legal advice immediately to help protect your rights.
Catastrophic Injuries in the Workplace: Is Workers’ Compensation Your Only Option?
In most cases, worker’s compensation is your best chance at recovering some damages for your injuries. Florida law requires all businesses with at least four employees and all construction businesses, regardless of the number of employees, to carry workers’ compensation insurance. If you’ve suffered a catastrophic injury on the job, you are entitled to file for permanent total disability (PTD) benefits.
Unfortunately, the employer’s insurance company may give you a hard time approving your claim. We’ve met many people who were denied or asked to take multiple steps to submit further documentation. Having an experienced worker’s compensation attorney on your side can make this process easier and improve your chances of success.
If approved for PTD, you’ll receive two-thirds of your current weekly salary for as long as your disability persists until age 75. The good news is that this provides a way for you to have a regular income, even if you cannot work. The bad news is that, depending on how much your salary was to begin with, you may not be able to live on that income. Some people are understandably concerned because they barely got by on their full salary before being hurt. Living on two-thirds of their usual income indefinitely may not be feasible.
If your PTD benefits are insufficient, your attorney will look for other ways to secure additional compensation. In some circumstances, you may be able to sue a third party, like a manufacturer of a defective piece of farm equipment that caused your injury. This is also possible if your injury happened while driving for your employer. For example, if you worked for a flower shop and a drunk driver crashed into your delivery van, causing a catastrophic injury, you would be eligible for workers’ compensation. You could also sue the drunk driver or their insurance carrier for your pain and suffering and any other costs not covered by workers’ comp.
In most situations, it is not possible to sue your employer directly since Florida laws are designed to direct most workplace injuries through the workers’ compensation system. However, some exceptions exist, such as when your employer ignored the law and failed to secure workers’ compensation insurance. Your lawyer will work to find any avenues to help you cover the costs of your catastrophic injury.
Non-Workplace Catastrophic Injuries
For personal injuries that didn’t happen on the job, we usually start by identifying all liable parties and determining if any of them have applicable insurance. If so, we may be able to make a claim on the at-fault party’s insurance policy. In car accident cases, your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance will cover about $10,000 in medical expenses, but this is usually not enough for catastrophic injuries. When this happens, you have the option to sue the other driver if they don’t have liability insurance (which is not required in Florida). In less common situations, you may also have a third-party claim here.
Darrigo & Diaz Catastrophic Injury Attorneys
Whether you were hurt at work or in another situation, a catastrophic injury can be devastating, and many people may feel overwhelmed or believe there is nothing they can do. Some injured parties tell us they cannot afford physical therapy, mobility aids like power chairs, or other accommodations they need for their condition. As upsetting as the situation is, you may have options for pursuing the compensation you need to get your life back on track.
If you are dealing with a catastrophic injury, please contact the Darrigo & Diaz Law Firm for a free, no-obligation consultation. We’ll explain the steps that can be taken, and if you want to move forward with a claim, we won’t charge you anything until we achieve a settlement. Call us at 813-734-7397.