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What is Considered a “Catastrophic Injury?”

“Catastrophe” stems from the Greek word “katastrophē,” which means “sudden turn.” If you have suffered a serious injury, you may be familiar with just how quickly it can turn your life upside down. The phrase “catastrophic injury” can be appropriate indeed when you understand its ancient roots. However, this phrase also has legal, medical, and financial significance. In the aftermath of a serious accident, it helps to gain a more complete understanding of these factors. What is considered a <a“catastrophic injury” in Texas? Why does this definition matter?

The Medical Definition of a Catastrophic Injury

In simple terms, a catastrophic injury changes your life forever. In many cases, catastrophic injuries end lives. Although the ancient Greeks created the word “catastrophe,” the Romans subsequently used it to describe the final act of a tragedy. If you imagine your life as a movie, a catastrophic injury is the moment everything comes crashing down. It is the end of your story.

Most medical professionals agree that catastrophic injuries cause similar consequences:

  • Permanent disability
  • Permanent disfigurement
  • Extensive rehabilitation needs
  • Ongoing medical treatment
  • Numerous surgical procedures
  • A challenging recovery
  • Hobbies and activities become impossible

Note that the definition of “catastrophic injury” may vary depending on which doctor you ask. Some believe that catastrophic injuries are always permanent. Others say that this definition may also include temporary (yet severe) injuries. For some doctors, catastrophic injuries specifically involve the neck, spine, skull, and brain.

The Legal Definition of a Catastrophic Injury

The legal definition of “catastrophic injury” is even more elusive. Virtually no laws or regulations even mention catastrophic injuries in Texas. The phrase appears briefly in US Code 34, which deals with federal law enforcement. Under this section, a catastrophic injury “permanently renders an individual functionally incapable” of all work – including “sedentary” work. In other words, these injuries are completely career-ending. According to this definition, a catastrophic injury is so disabling that it even makes desk work (sedentary work) impossible.

“Serious bodily injury” means essentially the same thing as “catastrophic injury.” In Texas, this phrase is defined under the Penal Code as “serious, permanent disfigurement” or the “impairment of any bodily member or organ.”

Why Does it Matter Whether My Injury is “Catastrophic?”

Why go through the trouble of determining whether your injury is “catastrophic?” Why does this matter – and how will this definition affect your injury claim?

  1. In the context of workers’ compensation, serious injuries almost inevitably lead to more compensation. If you permanently lose the ability to work, you will receive considerable benefits. These benefits should continue for the rest of your life.
  2. If you file a personal injury lawsuit, the serious nature of your injury will likely lead to non-economic damages. These are emotional or psychological issues that only seriously injured people experience.
  3. Burns, scars, amputations, and similar injuries should lead to additional compensation for “disfigurement.” Your catastrophic injury may prevent you from doing something you love – such as walking your dog or playing soccer with your son. As a result, you can claim compensation for “loss of enjoyment of life.”
  4. A catastrophic injury is often fatal. If your loved one died in an accident, you may be eligible to file a “wrongful death” lawsuit on their behalf. This type of lawsuit helps cover the economic and emotional losses associated with a fatal, catastrophic injury. An obvious example is the cost of a funeral. However, spouses may also struggle to support their families after losing primary wage earners. Wrongful death claims can provide compensation for this loss of income.
  5. Catastrophic injuries lead to extensive medical costs, almost by default. Their permanent nature causes a lifetime of medical bills. For example, a spinal cord injury may require constant trips to the doctor. Periodic surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure on the spine or neck. Rehabilitation might continue for the foreseeable future as victims attempt to recover. Plaintiffs must pursue enough compensation to cover these ongoing medical costs. If they accept a settlement that is too low, it may be impossible to recover over the next few years.

Work Alongside an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in Irving

You will encounter a range of new, complex terms as you move forward with your injury claim in Irving. Many of these phrases and words may seem confusing, but you do not need to become a legal scholar to pursue compensation. Instead, you can work alongside an experienced personal injury attorney in Texas to make sense of it all. While internet research is a step in the right direction, you are not alone in this battle. With a quick phone call or email, you can team up with a legal professional in your area. Call David Sanchez Law Group, PLLC today at (972) 529-3476 – and confidently pursue compensation for your catastrophic injury.


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