More than 400,000 motor vehicle accidents occur annually on Florida’s roads and highways. Fortunately, the majority of these accidents are minor fender benders with no bodily injury. However, over 250,000 of those crashes result in injuries. Not all injuries are severe, but those that are can permanently change the lives of victims and their families.
Catastrophic injuries result in chronic, long-term conditions or permanent disabilities that prevent victims from returning to work or seeking gainful employment in the future. Beyond the physical pain and emotional trauma that come with serious injuries, the extreme cost of treatment and a lifetime of lost wages make dealing with such injuries incredibly stressful and traumatic.
If you, your child, or another close family member has suffered catastrophic injuries in an Orlando traffic accident, you are likely experiencing a life-altering transition. You have the right to hold the party accountable who caused you harm. Our Orlando personal injury lawyers have the empathy and compassion to help you through this challenging time and advocate for you, so you get the compensation you and your family deserve.
Our Results in Catastrophic Injury Cases
The qualified Orlando personal injury lawyers of Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney, have almost two decades of experience in negotiating, settling, and litigating auto accident cases, including those involving catastrophic injuries. The firm’s passionate commitment to client service, seeking justice, and case preparation have resulted in the recovery of millions of dollars in damages for injured clients.
Recent case results involving catastrophic injuries include:
- $600,000 for a family of three that suffered injuries in a traffic crash on the interstate
- $3.2 million in a wrongful death suit after a truck hit a vehicle head-on, killing one person and severely injuring another.
These cases serve as examples of the results we can achieve. However, they do not guarantee a specific outcome in your catastrophic injury case.
The legal team at Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney, has the resources and know-how to build a strong case against those who caused you harm, maximizing your chances for a positive outcome.
Types of Catastrophic Injuries
You might assume that all severe injuries are catastrophic in nature, but this is not the case. Catastrophic injuries are a specific legal classification of injuries in which the victim suffers an injury resulting in permanent disability or a chronic lifetime condition.
Any injury that prevents a victim from returning to his or her former job or finding employment in the future falls under the umbrella of a catastrophic injury. Some of the most common types of catastrophic injuries that victims experience in auto accidents include:
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
The impact of a traffic collision can lead to a traumatic brain injury when it jars the head or if an object strikes a person’s head during impact. Not all TBIs, however, are catastrophic injuries. Even mild TBIs, commonly called concussions, can cause lifelong damage and force victims to cope with many challenges. However, many TBI victims find ways to cope with their challenges and remain capable of working. In the event of a severe auto accident, a TBI can be catastrophic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that severe TBIs cause long-term difficulties in four areas of function:
- Cognitive function. Major struggles with cognitive functions can include difficulty learning because of short-term memory problems and trouble focusing.
- Motor function. Severe dysfunction of motor skills can include difficulties with coordination, balance, and general feelings of weakness.
- Sensation. Individuals who suffer from a TBI can experience a wide array of potentially catastrophic results, including struggles with hearing and vision. TBI victims might lose hearing or suffer from ringing in the ears. Such individuals can also lose some or all of their vision, depending on the area of the brain affected by the injury.
- Behavior. Changes in behavior remain one of the most common issues that TBI victims and their families must face. Victims often suffer from increased aggression, depression, and anxiety. Even more catastrophic is uncontrollable and inappropriate social behavior, making it difficult, if not impossible, to work, especially when combined with other functional loss.
Spinal Cord Injury
Not all spinal cord injuries are catastrophic, but many are. The location of the back or neck injury serves as the primary indicator of the level of functional loss that a person experiences. Unlike many other cells in the body, spinal cord cells don’t regenerate, so damage is often permanent.
Spinal cord injuries that occur in the neck, near the brain, typically result in full-body paralysis from the neck down, known as tetraplegia. Those with severe spinal cord injuries must be confined to a wheelchair for life and need ongoing medical treatment and nursing care.
Motor vehicle accidents, especially head-on collisions at high speeds, can lead to crushed limbs upon impact. Doctors can try to restore blood flow to crushed limbs, but it isn’t always possible. Amputation is the last resort and often the only way a physician can save a car accident victim’s life.
Amputees must deal with the pain of losing a limb as well as the emotional trauma of their loss. Amputation doesn’t always mean a person cannot work, but it does lead to challenges that can impact a person’s ability to do certain jobs and affect the amount of income they can ultimately earn.
Like other auto accident injuries, back injuries are not always catastrophic. However, a person who suffers a severe back injury can tell you it’s one of the most excruciatingly painful and debilitating injuries to experience. Severe back injuries, such as herniated discs, fractured vertebrae, and slipped discs, prevent victims from finding comfort, whether they are sitting, standing, or lying down.
Many back injury victims must have one or more surgeries to help alleviate pain and repair the issues, but even surgery doesn’t eliminate all the pain and suffering. Some back injury victims suffer pain for the rest of their lives to the extent that their injuries impact their ability to work.
Permanent Vegetative State (PVS)
Severe head trauma can leave an accident victim in a permanent vegetative state (PVS). This means that they can have sleep and wake patterns but remain unaware of their surroundings and have no self-awareness.
PVS is the most catastrophic of all injuries. Victims obviously cannot take legal action on their own, so someone must consult an attorney on their behalf. PVS requires costly, long-term nursing care, an expense that isn’t covered under insurance policies. Getting compensation from a car accident settlement after a victim is diagnosed with PVS can help provide the funds for needed care.
Catastrophic Injuries Create Massive Financial Burdens
Victims and their families can suffer massive financial difficulties after a catastrophic injury. Losses are much greater than other types of car accident injuries. Depending on a household’s situation before a catastrophic injury, some families can face bankruptcy, foreclosure, or repossession while accumulating credit card debt.
What Causes Catastrophic Injuries
Keep in mind, the extent of the financial burdens is dependent on the severity of the accident. Some types of accidents that could lead to catastrophic injuries would include:
What Types of Expenses Can You Recover Compensation From a Catastrophic Injury?
Some of the most costly aspects of a catastrophic injury include:
Medical expenses. The medical costs for treating a catastrophic injury are astronomical compared to lesser injuries. In addition to ambulance and emergency services, accident victims may need to spend weeks, maybe months, in the hospital, all while accumulating bills for doctor visits, medication, diagnostic imaging, and specialists.
It’s not uncommon for those who suffer catastrophic injuries to undergo one or more surgeries to keep them alive or try to correct one or more medical issues.
Rehabilitation expenses. Those who suffer catastrophic injuries, by definition, will never make a full recovery. Regardless, most need to undergo some sort of rehabilitation to help them improve as much as possible.
Rehabilitation typically includes a variety of different specialists. Physical therapists can help victims build muscle, regain strength, and possibly regain some lost function.
Occupational therapists can help accident victims learn how to complete daily tasks in different ways when a disability prevents them from performing tasks the same way they did before the injury.
If an injury results in challenges with speech and language, a speech pathologist helps victims communicate. Catastrophic injuries are also emotionally traumatic events, which means victims who have retained their mental capacity likely need behavioral therapy to deal with the trauma of their accidents and injuries.
Lost earning capacity. The inability to work and bring home a paycheck can be one of the most devastating financial aspects of a catastrophic injury, especially if the accident victim contributed a large portion of the household income.
Even when children are accident victims, a parent sometimes must quit his or her job to care for the child. Children who suffer catastrophic injuries may never have an opportunity to go to college or vocational school and build a career. Lost future wages are often a large part of a catastrophic injury claim because families often suffer when a team member cannot contribute.
Depending on whether you can return to your previous employment as you heal, financial compensation can help you cover your usual expenses while you heal from your injuries. It can also provide you with the means to go back to school or obtain another certification so that you can support yourself if you cannot return to your previous profession. Talk to an attorney to learn how to include this as part of your catastrophic injury claim.
Medical expenses. After a catastrophic injury, you may have lifelong medical expenses. The party that caused your injuries will not pay your medical bills for the rest of your life, but you may receive vital compensation that can help you cover those bills and help you move on with your life. Keep track of all medical bills related to your accident. You may need to include factors like:
- Emergency medical treatment
- Surgeries and procedures
- Medical equipment, including wheelchairs and prosthetic devices
- Therapy, including both physical and occupational therapy
- A long stay in a rehabilitation facility
- Ongoing skilled nursing care in your home
- Follow-up appointments and ongoing treatments
- Modifications to your home to help compensate for your injuries
Orlando Catastrophic Injury FAQ
You suffered a catastrophic injury in Orlando due to another party’s negligence. Now, you need help seeking compensation for your injuries. You may have substantial questions about how you’ll pay for medical bills, home remodeling, physical therapy, counseling, and other injury-related expenses.
Here, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about personal injury cases involving catastrophic injury claims. If you have questions about your particular case, contact our experienced catastrophic injury attorneys to review your case and learn more about your legal rights after a serious accident.
1. How much compensation should I expect after a catastrophic injury?
A one size fits all evaluation of the compensation you deserve for a catastrophic injury does not exist. Talk to a personal injury lawyer in Orlando to learn more about your specific claim and how its terms could impact the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Your personal injury attorney will evaluate:
The party that caused your accident. How much compensation you ultimately receive will frequently depend on who caused your accident and the compensation a relevant insurance policy offers in the event of an accident. Florida drivers who carry minimum auto insurance, for example, may carry just $10,000 of bodily injury liability coverage.
Other insurance policies, however, may offer substantially more compensation. Uber, taxi, and commercial drivers carry substantially higher-value insurance policies, as do construction companies and businesses involved in premises liability claims.
The extent of your financial losses related to the accident. Catastrophic injury claims help cover your financial losses related to any type of accident. Talk to an attorney to get a better idea of what losses you can include as part of your catastrophic injury claim.
2. Are workers’ compensation and catastrophic injury the same thing?
A workers’ compensation claim has several key differences from a normal personal injury claim.
- In a workers’ compensation claim, workers’ compensation insurance will cover all your medical bills. If you suffer injuries at work, workers’ compensation insurance, provided by your employer, will take care of all medical expenses. You will not have to worry about paying out of pocket for early medical bills related to the accident. The workers’ compensation company or your company may later reach a settlement with you that will cover future, long-term expenses related to your injuries, which will relieve your employer of future financial obligations to you regarding the accident.
- You can seek workers’ compensation coverage regardless of who caused your injury. Workers’ compensation insurance is no-fault: unless you caused your own injuries deliberately, you can seek coverage through workers’ compensation. In a personal injury claim, you seek compensation directly from the party that caused your injuries.
- Workers’ compensation does not usually offer coverage for pain and suffering. Instead, it pays for your medical bills directly and offers compensation for 2/3 of your lost wages while you remain out of work due to your injury.
- After a workplace injury, workers’ compensation can determine where you seek treatment. Workers’ compensation may have a specific policy in place that covers where you can seek treatment for your injuries. You may need approval for each procedure or visit before it occurs, except in the case of emergency treatment. If you go outside the policy recommendations, you may not receive repayment for your medical expenses.
If you suffer catastrophic injuries in a workplace accident, you can often expect to receive a settlement from your employer that helps cover lifelong injuries and losses. Consult an attorney at a reputable law firm to learn more about what your employer should include as part of this settlement and when to take an offer.
3. What is considered a catastrophic injury?
Catastrophic injuries cause permanent, life-changing impacts. If you suffer a catastrophic injury, you may need to rebuild or reorder your life to compensate for those injuries.
Catastrophic injuries may include injuries like:
- Severe burns
- Spinal cord damage
- Traumatic brain injury
While the injuries from many accidents heal quickly over time, the injuries from catastrophic accidents will likely continue to affect you for the rest of your life.
4. Who pays for my medical care after a catastrophic injury?
Unless you suffered your injuries at work—in which case, your workers’ compensation insurance will cover the cost of treatment for your injuries—you bear the initial responsibility for paying your own medical bills.
However, you do have several options that can help you recoup the cost of your medical bills.
- Personal injury protection insurance. If you suffer injuries in a Florida car accident, you may use your personal injury protection insurance to cover the initial $10,000 in medical expenses related to your injuries. Typically, after an auto accident, you will provide your personal injury protection insurance information to the hospital that provides the initial treatment. Personal injury protection insurance can provide immediate compensation regardless of who caused an auto accident, which means you will not have to wait for needed medical treatment.
- Your medical insurance. Like personal injury protection insurance, medical insurance provides vital coverage for expensive medical bills. Contact your medical insurance company as soon as possible after your accident to notify them about the accident, since this can streamline payment for your medical expenses.
- A catastrophic injury claim. A catastrophic injury claim can help provide reimbursement for many of your medical expenses after a catastrophic injury. The party responsible for your injuries does not bear direct responsibility for paying those bills, but rather will provide you with a settlement or cash award via a successful lawsuit, which you can then use to pay your medical bills.
5. What is a letter of protection, and how does it help me after a catastrophic injury?
A catastrophic injury attorney can put together a letter of protection after your accident and submit it to the doctors who provide treatment for your injuries. This letter indicates your intent to pay your medical bills after receiving a settlement or jury award for your injuries. Often, patients with catastrophic injuries cannot cover their medical bills until they receive that vital compensation from the liable party. A letter of protection helps ensure that you will continue receiving the treatment you need for your injuries and prevent your bills from going to collections.
6. Who bears liability for my accident?
When you suffer catastrophic injuries, you may need to clearly determine who caused those injuries. An attorney will help determine:
- Who bore a duty of care to you at the time of the accident
- How that party violated their duty of care
- How that violation led to your injuries
Suppose, for example, you visited a construction site to check on the construction company’s progress. You fell while walking across a tall building on a scaffold, and the protective railing, which was not properly secured, gave way. The construction company, therefore, failed in its duty of care to you as a visitor to that site by failing to secure the railing properly as required by OSHA standards.
Sometimes, you can clearly see who caused your accident. In some cases, however, an attorney may discover that multiple parties share liability for your injuries. The above construction accident example showed that the railing might have given way because of a manufacturer’s defect. In that case, the manufacturer may bear some liability for your accident. Identifying multiple parties that contributed to your accident can ultimately increase the compensation you receive.
7. If the insurance company that covers the liable party offers me a settlement, should I take it?
If you receive a settlement offer from an insurance company, consult us before accepting it. Sometimes, insurance companies take advantage of the confusion that comes immediately after a catastrophic accident, as well as the victim’s lack of knowledge. The insurance company may issue a settlement offer that does little to cover your medical expenses or does not reflect the full compensation you deserve for your injuries. You may deserve significantly more compensation than the company offers. An attorney can help give you a better idea of when to take a settlement offer and when to continue negotiating for further compensation.
8. When should I expect to receive compensation for a catastrophic injury?
Suffering a catastrophic injury leaves you with substantial medical bills. Many victims cannot work, which leaves them unable to cover their regular expenses. You may feel that you need a settlement fast. Unfortunately, settling your claim and receiving the compensation you deserve can take time.
You may need to consider:
- How long it will take to get a solid idea of your ultimate likelihood of healing. Your doctors may need six months or more to determine how much you will heal after your accident, especially if you suffer catastrophic injuries like spinal cord damage or traumatic brain injury. Individuals with these injuries often have vastly different recoveries, even if they present with the same initial symptoms.
- How much you want to negotiate. Each round of negotiation can add time to your claim. If you must go to court to seek compensation, it can take even longer to get compensation in your hands.
How much investigation your lawyer needs to determine all liable parties. Your lawyer may need to conduct a substantial investigation to identify all parties who share liability for your accident. The longer it takes to investigate, the longer it can take to settle your claim.
Contact an Orlando Catastrophic Injury Lawyer Today
If you live in the Greater Orlando, FL area, and you or a loved one has suffered a catastrophic injury in an auto accident, contact the experienced catastrophic injury lawyers at Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney. You can reach out to us online or at (407) 490-1271 for a free consultation and to determine the best path forward for you and your family.
The skilled legal team of personal injury lawyers at Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney, understands the challenges you face in the wake of a catastrophic injury, and we can help you through this difficult time of transition.