Suffering a life-changing injury because of the negligence of someone else can leave the victim needing a lifetime of support.  We at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer have decades of experience representing and helping seriously injured victims to recover monetary damages that can cover their losses, provide the lifetime support that they will need, and compensate them for the change in their lives.  While some victims recover from painful injuries, people who suffer catastrophic injuries may be left with permanent life-changing disabilities.  If you have been seriously injured in an accident due to someone elses actions, contact a knowledgeable and sympathetic attorney at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer for a free consultation.

What is a catastrophic injury?

Catastrophic injuries are debilitating injuries that cause severe disfigurement, a substantial loss of a bodily function, and/or permanent disabilities.  Catastrophic injuries result in the diminution of the victim’s quality of life.  Often depending on the nature and the severity of the injury, the ability of the accident victim to independently care for him or herself may be significantly impaired.  The routine activities of daily living or “ADLs” as they are sometimes called, such as bathing, combing ones hair, brushing teeth, showering, and toileting may no longer be possible.  Most people who suffer catastrophic injuries will not be able to work and may require 24-hour care after they return home.  Common types of catastrophic injuries include the following:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Amputation
  • Birth injury
  • Spinal cord injury

A Traumatic brain injury or “TBI” is an injury that is caused by a bump, a blow, or a penetrating object to the head.  A severe “TBI” can lead to long-term impacts on a person’s ability to think, feel, speak and control their emotions.

Amputations occur when an accident causes a body part to be severed.  In some cases, partially amputated limbs might be reattached.  In other cases, people will go through the remainder of their lives without the amputated body part.

Birth injuries are serious injuries that may result from medical negligence or complications during childbirth, such as cerebral palsy in infants or excessive loss of blood in mothers.

Severe spinal cord injuries may result in paralysis of the parts of the body that are below the injury site, including paraplegia or quadriplegia.

Compensation for catastrophic injuries

When people suffer catastrophic injuries because of the negligence or intentional actions of others, they may be able to file lawsuits against the responsible parties to seek compensation for their losses.  There are two primary types of compensatory damages in injury claims, including economic damages and noneconomic damages.

Economic damages include damages for your monetary losses, including the following:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future income losses
  • Property losses
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Ongoing care needs
  • Cost of modifications for the home

Noneconomic damages are monetary amounts that are paid for the following types of losses:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional or mental anguish
  • Disfigurement
  • Disability
  • Loss of the ability to enjoy life
  • Loss of consortium – the deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship due to injuries caused by a tortfeasor (the individual, company, or entity that is found liable for committing wrongdoing)

Because of the extent and severity of the injuries and large economic losses, people who suffer catastrophic injuries may recover damages in the tens of millions of dollars.  In cases in which the defendant’s conduct was egregious or intentional, the jury might award punitive damages to the plaintiffs.  These are monetary amounts that are meant to punish the defendant and are in addition to the compensatory damages awarded to the victim.

Common causes of catastrophic injuries

Many different scenarios can result in catastrophic injuries.  Some of the most common include the following:

  • Motor vehicle or truck accidents
  • Construction accidents
  • Defective products and machinery
  • Medical malpractice
  • Common carrier accidents

Some of the most common scenarios are described below with some examples of our client’s cases:

Motor vehicle and truck accidents are a leading cause of catastrophic injuries and deaths in the U.S.  These include occupants of all types of motor vehicles, motorcyclists, and people who are struck by cars while they are walking or riding bicycles.

  • A construction company and engineering firm had been repaving a road surface which created a dangerous roadway, a build-up of traffic, and caused an accident. 
  • Dangerous conditions on trolley tracks caused driver to lose control of his vehicle and suffer serious injury. 
  • Man suffered fatal burn injuries when his car was struck by a tractor-trailer. 

Construction sites have lots of heavy equipment and work that must be performed at heights.  If you are injured in a construction site accident at your job, you may be limited to recovering benefits from your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.  However, if a third party at the site caused your accident, you may be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits and file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent third party.

  • Ironworker was rendered quadriplegic due to failure to enforce fall protection.
  • Laborer was paralyzed in a fall from a scaffold due to improper use of an extension ladder for an elevated work platform. 
  • Roofer suffered partial paralysis when he was forced to work without fall protection

Defective products and machinery lead to many serious accidents every year.  People may be injured while using defective products in the way in which they were meant to be used.  Malfunctioning machinery can cause severe injuries to people, such as getting caught in machines or shocking people.

  • Mason fell one hundred feet to his death due to a design defect in a mast climbing work platform which needlessly created a large opening whenever the platform was raised or lowered. 
  • Defective airbag failed to deploy resulting in severe fatal injury. 
  • Young boy severely burned when a stove tipped over due to the stove manufacturer’s failure to provide essential safety information and the landlord’s failure to follow building codes. 
  • Man was ground to death by a highway milling machine due to a defective design that created a blind spot. 
  • Young man was stuck by a SEPTA transit bus while he was legally in the crosswalk due to a defective mirror placement by the manufacturer which needlessly created a large blind spot. 

Medical professionals must follow an accepted standard of care for their specialties when they treat patients.  When they fail to meet this standard, they may be liable to pay damages when catastrophic injuries result.

  • Traumatic spinal cord injuries during delivery result in the largest verdict ever rendered in Delaware County. 
  •  Failure to diagnose viral encephalitis causing severe brain damage in 36-year-old woman. 
  • Physician failed to recognize the signs of distress from a drop in fetal heart rate during the delivery of a baby which resulted in decreased oxygen going to the baby’s brain and cerebral palsy.
  • Pediatricians failed to detect that a newborn suffered from maple syrup urine disease (MSUD), a newborn metabolic disorder which caused permanent neurological damage

Common carrier accidents involving trains, buses, and aircraft can cause catastrophic injuries and fatalities.  These types of accidents may devastate the lives of many people in a single incident.

  • Train derails causing passenger to suffer massive injuries.
  • Chinook helicopter crashed off the coast of Scotland due to defect in helicopter, killing 46.
  • Sikorsky helicopter crashed off the coast of New Foundland due to a defective titanium bolt which the manufacturer knew could fail and lead to killing 15 passengers and leaving 1 lone survivor. 

Liability for catastrophic injuries

After you suffer catastrophic injuries, the first step in recovering damages is to establish liability.  Your attorney will carefully review the evidence in your case to identify all of the parties that are potentially liable for your accident.  Frequently, accidents have multiple contributing factors.  Identifying all of the possible parties to name as defendants to a lawsuit is crucial for obtaining maximum compensation.

How an attorney can help you after a catastrophic injury accident

An experienced attorney can help victims who have suffered catastrophic injuries to deal with their legal issues.  The attorneys can help their clients to build strong cases demonstrating that the defendants should be held accountable to help the victims to recover compensation for their losses while the victims concentrate on their rehabilitation.

Statute of limitations on personal injury cases in Pennsylvania

Like all other states, Pennsylvania has a statute of limitations for personal injury claims.  This is a limitation period that sets a deadline for filing claims, and it is two years starting on the date that your injury occurred.  If you fail to file a claim within the limitation period, your ability to recover compensation will be time-barred.  In some cases, such as medical negligence, the statute of limitations will be tolled and will not start running until you discovered or reasonably should have discovered the negligence.  You need to talk to an experienced lawyer as soon as possible after your accident.  This can help to ensure that you meet all of the court deadlines while providing your attorney with sufficient time to conduct a thorough investigation.

There are some exceptions to the statute of limitations, such as the discovery rule that was previously described.  Another exception exists for minors who suffer catastrophic injuries.  The statute of limitations for minors will be tolled until they turn age 18, giving them until they turn 20 to file lawsuits.  Finally, claims against the government have shortened statutes of limitations, making it crucial for people to talk to attorneys as soon as possible after their accidents when a government agency is at fault.

Contact a catastrophic injury attorney

If you have a catastrophic injury due to the actions of another person or entity, the attorneys at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer might be able to help.  We have decades of experience representing those who have suffered catastrophic injuries not only in Pennsylvania and New Jersey but across our country.  Contact our firm today to schedule a free consultation by calling 800.535.1797.

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