By: KGD Law
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Pain and suffering is severe and long-term when a catastrophic injury occurs. Life-altering injuries limit mobility and quality of life. As a result, a person may require long-term care or suffer lifelong limitations and pain. This leads to subsequent conditions like depression, and a person is left dwelling on the fact that things will never be the same. If you or you love one has suffered like this, you can get compensation for your catastrophic injury. It may not repair the damage, but it will ensure that you have what you need to live the best quality of life possible.
Quality of life may take on a different meaning once you are catastrophically injured, but the courts attempt to place monetary value on what you have lost. The occurs in civil court, and it is completely separate from any criminal case.
What is a Catastrophic Injury?
The definition of a catastrophic injury is somewhat subjective, and it basically means there is significant long-term damage as a result of the injury. Typically, catastrophic injuries involve damage to the spine, spinal cord, or brain. They could also be amputations, organ damage, or burn injuries that cause permanent pain and disfigurement.
The cause of the catastrophic injury is what can yield a successful lawsuit. Often, these damages are the result of pure accidents. Many times, there is also a factor of negligence or malfeasance. It may have been and auto accident or working conditions that caused a person to suffer injury. In other cases, it could be intentional wrongdoing. Usually, it is negligence.
Negligence is anything from not paying attention while driving, to failing to clean up a spill that results in a person getting injured. It may also be a tire company allowing a person to leave their facility with dangerous tires. There are countless causes for catastrophic injury.
Labeling an injury as catastrophic does not mean you must stop enjoying life if you have suffered. Plenty of people have suffered paralysis or disfigurement and found new enjoyment in life. The definition does not mean your life is over. What it means is that it has caused you to live with pain or limitations that aren’t going to go away soon, and this makes you deserving of damages if it was someone else’s fault.
A person does not have to be 100 percent at fault in order to owe damages. Florida has a comparative negligence law that will determine your damages and the percentage of fault. Then, it will limit the amount paid by the partially at-fault party to their own percentage. This is an effort to produce fairness in the justice system.
The percentage works out exactly as it seems. Let’s say the court determined your damages were $100,000. If the other person was considered to be 50% at-fault, they would have to pay $50,000.
It isn’t hard to think of situations where a person would be partially at-fault. For example, a driver who turns into an intersection and hits another car that was speeding could be partially at fault. If the person hadn’t been speeding, the wreck wouldn’t have happened. If the other person would have been paying more attention, he or she wouldn’t have turned. It is a shared fault situation.
Determining Damages in Catastrophic Injury
Damages for a catastrophic injury are determined by multiple factors. Pain and suffering are much higher in these types of injuries, so juries are likely to award higher amounts due to a higher amount of suffering and possible impossibility of a full recovery.
Policy limits typically provide the cap for monetary damages awarded to an injured party. This can involve auto insurance, homeowner’s insurance, and other liability policies like umbrella policies that increase liability limits beyond the basic policy.
Not all cases will warrant the entire limits of the policy. Juries will evaluate the extent of the injuries and how they will impact your life in the future in order to determine how much is awarded. They are likely to cover all medical costs and loss of income up to the policy limits, but pain and suffering damages will vary. It is important to discuss all of the impacts that the injury will have in the future. This includes relationship difficulties, as a spouse may have to become a caretaker.
In the case of auto accidents, Florida has a no-fault rule that requires people to rely on their own insurance policy to pay the first part of the medical bills. This may seem unfair, but sadly it’s the law in Florida.
In a few cases, the limits of a policy may be less than your damages, in which case, you may not be able to recoup the full amount of your damages.
It’s a Civil Matter
Regardless of what happens in a criminal case, the compensation for your catastrophic injury is a civil matter. Civil cases are meant to compensate a person for damages rather than punish a tortfeasor in criminal court. The burden of proof is less than in a criminal case, and you may be awarded damages even if a person is found not guilty in the criminal case. In criminal cases, a person can only be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, the evidence must show that it is more likely than not that the defendant caused the damages.
This may be difficult to accept when you have a catastrophic injury, especially if there is animosity toward the defendant. The damages awarded in the lawsuit are to compensate you and not to punish the person responsible for your injuries. If they were found not guilty, they will not be punished by the criminal courts. In any case, the goal of civil suits is to make things as right as possible. Juries will try to award a figure that recompenses you adequately, but if the insurance company handles it, the worst punishment a defendant may have is an increase in premiums.
Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have suffered a catastrophic injury and aren’t sure about whether or not to pursue compensation, please talk to a personal injury lawyer. There is a 4-year statute of limitations on most personal injury cases, and you cannot file a suit 4 years after the injury occurs with very few exceptions. Talking to a lawyer will allow you to find out if it is worth pursuing.
When you are looking for a lawyer, make sure you find one who has strong experience in personal injury law. He or she will understand your pain and suffering, and your medical bills and suffering will be a top priority for them. It takes time to win a lawsuit, and a good lawyer will make sure the bill collectors don’t come knocking. Also, make sure your lawyer is personally available when you need him or her. It’s okay to have a strong support staff, but access to your counsel should set you at ease.
If you would like a no-obligation consultation with an attorney, please contact Kirshner, Groff & Diaz. You’ll get to speak firsthand with an attorney who cares about getting you fair compensation for your injuries and one who prides himself in being available for each of his clients.