A catastrophic injury changes your life forever. Survivors of catastrophic accidents often face the prospect of a long recovery and even lifelong disability.
Establishing liability in catastrophic injury cases plays a crucial part in your claim process. You and your catastrophic injury attorney will need to prove that someone else’s negligence caused the accident and your injuries. When you understand the process of investigating a catastrophic injury case to determine liability, you’ll know what to expect as you work with your attorney on your claim.
What Is a Catastrophic Injury?
A catastrophic injury is an injury that causes severe, long-term, or permanent damage and often prevents the victim from working and supporting themselves for the rest of their lives. Injuries that may count as “catastrophic” include:
- Severe damage to the head or brain
- Spinal cord damage
- Extensive burns
- Permanent hearing loss
- Chronic internal organ damage
Who Is Responsible for Compensating Catastrophic Injury Victims?
Catastrophic injuries can happen under many circumstances, such as on the road, in the workplace, or in public places. Your lawyer will assess your accident to determine who may be liable for damages in your case.
Potentially liable parties could be:
- Reckless motorists
- Employers and supervisors
- Medical practitioners
- Defective product manufacturers
- Property owners and managers
In some cases, a catastrophic injury claim may involve multiple defendants. For instance, if your injury occurred in the workplace, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance provider would be responsible for compensating you. However, if you can prove that faulty machinery or defective equipment contributed to your accident, you may also be able to sue the manufacturer for damages.
The Process of Proving Liability in Catastrophic Injury Cases
To prove someone’s liability in your catastrophic injury case, your catastrophic injury lawyer will need to show that:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care
- The defendant violated their duty by acting or failing to act
- The defendant’s action or inaction led to your accident
- The accident caused you significant and measurable damages
Here’s an example: You tripped over loose flooring near the entrance to your rented apartment, fell down the staircase, and suffered a severe spine injury. This occurred after you and other occupants of the building had repeatedly contacted the landlord and complained about the unsafe flooring section over the course of several weeks.
In this case, the landlord was under a duty to exercise “reasonable care” in keeping the building safe. Repairing hazardous loose flooring clearly falls under this definition. The landlord should have foreseen that an accident could occur because of the dangerous condition, and they had plenty of time to remove the hazard before the incident happened.
It would also be possible to prove the connection between the accident, your injury, and its long-term effects, like extended medical care and reduced ability to work.
Crucial Evidence in Catastrophic Injury Claims
Reliable evidence is vital to prove liability in catastrophic injury cases. Relevant evidence may include:
- Photos of the accident scene, with a focus on the hazard that led to your injury
- Your medical records
- A police report, if available
- Witness testimonies
- Expert witness statements
- A detailed written record of the incident, with dates, times, and the exact sequence of events
You should gather evidence as quickly as possible since it’s often time-sensitive. In the example above, the landlord could quickly fix the loose flooring and claim the hazard never existed, and potential witnesses might forget what they saw. Act fast and preserve every available piece of evidence to support your claim.
What Happens if You Share Part of the Fault for the Accident?
California is a pure comparative negligence state, which means that you can claim partial damages for your injury even if you share some of the fault for the accident.
For instance, let’s say you suffer a catastrophic brain injury in a slip-and-fall accident in a shopping mall. The total worth of your claim is $100,000. However, the investigation determines that your accident happened partly because you disregarded a “Caution: Wet Floor” sign. If you share 50% of the fault, you’ll only collect half of your claim’s worth, that is, $50,000.
Compensation You May Expect After a Catastrophic Injury
Every catastrophic injury case is different, but generally, you may expect your settlement to cover:
- Medical treatment costs
- Lost wages
- Prospective losses, i.e., an estimate of your lifelong medical needs and reduced income due to the accident
- Pain and suffering
- Various accident-related costs, such as equipping your home to make it wheelchair-accessible or traveling to and from medical appointments
Additionally, in cases that escalate to a trial, the court may award punitive damages at its discretion. You may be able to collect punitive damages if the defendant’s conduct involved especially gross negligence or malicious actions.
The Importance of Skilled Legal Representation in Catastrophic Injury Cases
Catastrophic injuries often involve high-stake claims and large settlements. When a lot of money is on the line, it’s highly likely that the defendant or their insurer will use underhanded tactics to deny or minimize your claim. The liable parties may try to pin your injury on a pre-existing condition, dispute the extent of the damage, or even argue that your own carelessness caused the accident.
A skilled personal injury attorney can defend your rights and handle the claim process so you can focus on recovery. Your lawyer can:
- Guide you through the catastrophic injury claim process
- Gather vital evidence and incorporate it into your claim
- Work hard to negotiate a settlement that covers the full extent of your damages
- Help you decide whether to accept a settlement offer
- Advise you on further legal steps, like appealing a claim denial or filing a lawsuit if necessary
Khalil Law Group Will Fight for Your Rights After a Catastrophic Injury in Orange County, CA
Determining liability in catastrophic injury cases is a vital step in pursuing compensation for victims. Our experienced, assertive team at Khalil Law Group will fight for your rights and use efficient legal strategies to help you secure an adequate settlement.
Call (714) 617-7870 or contact us online to consult a catastrophic injury lawyer in Newport Beach, CA.