Auto accidents are an unfortunate reality and can occur to even the most cautious motorists. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, auto accidents are the leading cause of death and injuries. An auto accident can result in catastrophic injuries that require long-term medical attention and can prevent you from working. You should hire a personal injury attorney to help you seek compensation for injuries suffered. We invite you to contact the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney to help seek compensation for catastrophic injuries resulting from auto accidents.
When is an Injury Considered Catastrophic?
An injury is said to be catastrophic when its consequences prevent a victim from performing any productive work permanently. Usually, the injury occurs suddenly and can leave the victim with permanent disabilities for the rest of their lives. In other words, it is an injury that has long-term and severe effects on the victim.
Additionally, catastrophic injuries usually put stress on the victim's family. This is because the victim may require constant assistance or supervision for the rest of their lives, not forgetting a lifetime of costly medical bills and rehabilitation.
Usually, catastrophic injuries result in serious disruption to your central nervous system, which, as a result, affects various body systems. Common catastrophic injuries resulting from vehicle accidents include:
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
A TBI takes place when your brain tissues are damaged because your brain is hit against your skull. The primary cause of traumatic brain injury is direct trauma to your head. The damage can happen on the brain's side, where the trauma happened. It can also occur on the opposite side if your brain was hit back and forth in the head. Additionally, a brain injury can be worsened if the brain is bleeding or has substantial intracranial pressure.
One of the most devastating effects serious brain injuries have on victims is loss of consciousness. A victim could be in a coma for several days or even months after the auto accident. Sometimes the victim may never regain consciousness and understanding of their environment and should remain in intensive treatment unit facilities for the rest of their lives.
If the victim gets from the coma, they may be required to endure difficulties in:
- Speech and communication
- Memory loss
- Ability to comprehend simple instructions and focus
- Emotional control
- Physical movement, balance, and coordination
Another common type of catastrophic injury resulting from auto accidents is burns. Usually, burns occur when a truck or vehicle catches fire, especially if you are trapped in the car for long. Also, friction burns happen when you are ejected from your car and skid across the motorway at a very high speed. In both instances, burns cause severe damage to all skin layers and in some cases to the bones, tissues underneath your skin, or muscles.
Burns completely alters a victim's life since they may require many months or years of treatment. The victim may also need several surgical operations, lose severely damaged digits, or could be left severely disfigured or scarred. As a result, the victim may suffer both emotional and mental trauma, which could prevent them from interacting with others or working.
Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)
An SCI is as a result of damage to the spinal cord vertebrae, disks, or ligaments of the spinal column. An auto accident can cause a sudden and traumatic blow to your spine that compresses, fractures, dislocates, or crushes one or more of your vertebrae.
A spinal cord injury can also take place days after the accident as a result of swelling, bleeding, fluid accumulation, and inflammation around your spinal cord.
Trauma from the auto accident can damage nerve fibers that pass through the injured area and impair some (if not all) muscles and nerves below the area of the injury. Thoracic or lumbar injuries can alter bladder and bowel regulation, sexual function, legs, and torso. A neck injury, on the other hand, affects your respiratory system as well as the ability to move your hands and arms.
Paralysis happens below the area of the injury. It can be complete (no motor or sensory function) or incomplete (affects some ability to regulate movement).
A spinal cord injury has symptoms such as:
- Loss of ability to move your body parts
- Loss of feelings such as the sensation of touch, heat, and cold
- Exaggerated reflexes
- Loss of ability to regulate bladder or bowels
- Intense pain
- Experiencing challenges like clearing out your lungs, breathing, or coughing
When a fatal car crash occurs, the occupant inside the car may suffer the loss of a limb. This could be due to crush injury or metal or debris or sharp glass severely injuring your limb. When you lose your arm, hand, foot, leg, toe, or finger, it is known as amputation. Also, you could have your bone completely shattered or crumpled; hence unrepairable. Consequently, medical practitioners may decide amputation is the best treatment option.
Depending on the seriousness and nature of the injury, it is possible to reattach the digit or limb provided, it is well taken care of. However, most patients experience loss of nerve function after the reattachment hence limiting the viability of the option. More often than not, auto accident amputation requires a prosthetic limb.
The prosthetic limb can be fitted a few weeks or months following the first surgery. How fast they are fitted depends on how your wound heals.
The most significant portion of the recovery after amputation is rehabilitation (both occupational and physical therapy). Rehabilitation focuses on strengthening the victim. It improves endurance and let the body recover from the amputation. Physical exercise will assist your body to learn how to function, perform daily tasks, and how to use the prosthesis.
An auto accident amputation requires significant time to recover, learn how to use a prosthetic limb as well as come into terms with the alterations.
Damage to your internal organs is another common kind of catastrophic injury. These damages can lead to an emergency need for the removal of the organ or transplant. On top of that, internal bleeding can happen, and your physician may be required to perform a surgical procedure to stop the bleeding. Internal organ injury is life-threatening and could affect you for the rest of your life.
Challenges with Vision
About twenty to forty people suffering from TBI have vision disorders associated with an auto accident. Blindness, loss of sight, and other vision challenges can be as a result of the trauma to the eye. Depending on the type of injury, vision-related injuries can be permanent.
What to Do After an Auto Accident that Caused a Catastrophic Injury
These steps are vital after being involved in auto accidents:
- Check on Every Occupant
Check whether any of the people in your car and other vehicles require immediate medical treatment. Also, observe the scene to check if there are risk factors that might cause further injuries such as electrical sparks or leaking gas. If there are any casualties, call for help as soon as possible.
- Report the Auto Accident
The law requires you to report the auto accident; the report will help you later in the compensation process. Additionally, obtaining a police report is essential, particularly when you are not at fault.
- Talk to Other Motorists
Exchange details with other motorists. Be sure to get their name, driver's license number, license plate number, and address. However, don't apologize or discuss what caused the accident. This is because the statements can be used against you.
- Capture Photographs
Take as many photographs of the accident scene as possible. Make sure you capture:
- Position of the cars at the place of impact
- Both damage to your car and the other car
- Damage to things at the accident scene like curb and stoplight
- Any injuries sustained
- Nearby traffic signals
- Look for Witnesses
Assess the accident scene and see if there are any witnesses. Request the witnesses to give you their contact information as well as to stay at the accident scene to provide the auto accident statement.
Also, look for surveillance cameras nearby that could have captured the events.
- Take Note of the Accident
While the accident events are still fresh in mind, note what happened. Write down the time and date of the auto accident, weather, and environmental conditions that could have caused the auto accident.
- Seek Immediate Medical Attention
Most injuries don't manifest immediately after an accident. Therefore, it is essential to seek medical attention after the accident to ensure that you're okay. If there is an issue, early diagnosis is highly recommended. Also, if you experience pain or any symptoms, consulting your doctor after the accident can assist you in establishing the relationship between the accident and the catastrophic injury.
Be sure to keep copies of medical records and bills originating from the auto accident.
- Consult a Qualified Attorney
The essence of hiring a lawyer immediately after the accident cannot be emphasized enough. Your attorney will help you know your rights and also handle all communications between you and the insurer. They could also give you suggestions as far as the evidence you should gather is concerned.
Understanding Personal Injury Law in Florida
The Sunshine State is a no-fault state. That means all motorists are required to pay for their damages and injuries that stem from an auto accident irrespective of who is responsible for the auto accident. The law requires every motorist to have at least ten thousand dollars in personal injury protection (PIP) per occupant for every accident. More often than not, victims use their car coverage policy to cover their medical bills and lost wages.
However, the same law allows you to bring a personal injury claim against another party after an auto accident as long as the car crash caused a severe injury.
If you think that your injury meets the catastrophic injuries threshold, it's wise to consult a personal injury attorney about the likelihood of bringing a personal injury lawsuit.
Most personal injury lawsuits are founded on negligence. Negligence takes place when a defendant's action falls below the standards of a reasonable person and injuries you. To prove negligence, you should prove the following elements:
- That the accused owed you a duty of care
- The accused did not uphold the duty or acted negligently
- The negligence caused you to be injured
As a victim, you should prove by proof of a preponderance that the above elements were present. The above-discussed actions you should take after sustaining the catastrophic injury are very instrumental when protecting your case and presenting evidence.
Getting Down to the Settlement
After bringing your catastrophic injury claim, the next step is the settlement. In the settlement phase, you accept the negotiated amount from an insurance firm. By doing so, you give up your right to take any other legal action. The proof supporting your case and the case's fact play a huge role in the settlement amount the insurer offers you.
Always, bear in mind that the insurer will have their interests in mind and will try to give you the least amount possible. Therefore, you ought to be satisfied that the compensation amount is enough to cater for not only your current medical bills but also future medical costs related to the auto accident before accepting the offer.
Based on that conviction, it pays to hire a personal injury attorney. The attorney will help get the most satisfying amount as possible.
What Happens if You're Partially Responsible for Catastrophic Injury
The state of Florida uses a comparative negligence rule when determining your total damage amount. Under pure comparative negligence rule, your compensation amount is reduced depending on your degree or percentage of fault in auto accidents.
For example, if you were chatting on your phone during the time of the accident, the jury can conclude that you're thirty percent responsible for the accident. If the total damages are $100,000, the compensation amount will be reduced by 30% and your damages will be $70,000.
Statute of Limitations
The deadline for bringing a personal injury case in Florida is four years. Usually, this statute of limitations begins from the date of the auto accident. If you wait until after the deadline has passed, your claim will be barred irrespective of how strong your evidence is.
It is important to note that the statute of limitations is three years when bringing a lawsuit against a government agency.
Also, there are exemptions to this deadline. If the catastrophic injury is discovered later after the accident, like in a case involving fraud or medical malpractice, the deadline is extended by two years from the date of discovery of your accident. Nevertheless, you should file the claim within seven years from the date of the car crash.
There are instances in which the statute of limitations could be paused or tolled, giving you more time to bring the claim. Tolling of the deadline could happen if the responsible party is not in Florida or has tried to hide their location as a way of avoiding service of process.
Another common reason for tolling the statute of limitations is a victim's mental incapacity. If the alleged victim was mentally-ill before the accident, the statute of limitations could be put on hold during the incapacity period and begin to count when the victim is healed. Nonetheless, the claim should be brought within seven (7) years from the auto accident's date.
Catastrophic Damages Resulting from Auto Accidents Compensation
Generally, personal injury lawsuits require the responsible party to pay the victim damages. Compensation for catastrophic injuries is essential to a victim to pay medical expenses and other bills when they are not able to work until they recover fully. These damages can be grouped into:
- Economic Damages
These are the primary damages and could include medical expenses, lost income, and property damage.
In some cases, you could be awarded rental payments for a vehicle when you must use another vehicle if yours was damaged. This is to help you get to the court or your doctor.
Usually, lost income is available through a percentage of what you make in a given period of time, such as a month or week.
You are also entitled to compensation for household services you can't perform as a result of the injury. These services may include purchasing groceries, cleaning your house, and mowing the lawn.
- Non-economic Damages
It is difficult to put a dollar value on non-economic damages without using formulas. Common non-economic damages include pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and inconvenience.
- Punitive Damages
When the jury feels that the responsible party needs punishment for egregious behavior, they use punitive damages. Under Florida law, punitive damages are reserved for intentional infliction of injuries or careless actions that occur through deliberate conduct. These damages are above the standard compensation and add to the total.
Common Misconceptions in Catastrophic Injury Lawsuit
Many people will tell you what you should do and not do with the lawsuit as well as how to continue with the legal action. It is, therefore, essential to go through the misconceptions below. They will help you understand what is true and how the myths can affect your lawsuit.
An Attorney is a Not a Must-have
Most people argue that the fact that they are insured is enough to stop the importance of hiring an attorney. However, there are instances where the insurance provider will fail to communicate, pay the settlement, or offer a settlement amount that is too low. A lawyer will determine if your lawsuit is valid as well as contact and handle all communications with the insurer. If the settlement offer is too little, the lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf or even assist you to file a claim in court.
Hiring an Attorney Later is Okay
If you are suffering from a catastrophic injury caused by a negligent motorist, you need to seek compensation immediately. Consulting a legal expert at that point, strengthens your case. If the statute of limitations passes, you may not be able to file your case.
The Need to Take a Legal Action
Some victims feel that filing a lawsuit is wrong. Nonetheless, if you sustained catastrophic injuries due to negligence, you need an experienced lawyer who will help you understand the importance of the claim. The compensation will take care of items such as medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. Other factors to put into consideration are emotional trauma and future medical treatment.
Insurance providers will perpetuate myths that seeking compensation for injuries sustained is greed as a way to keep profits. The insurer will make you feel guilty about bringing the lawsuits. It is vital to communicate your feelings with your lawyer. Any experienced lawyer will support you throughout the entire compensation period.
Lawsuits Take Time to Resolve
Most people with catastrophic injuries believe that personal injury lawsuits take time to close. However, the length varies depending primarily on the case's strength, witness testimony, and evidence. You may not realize how much time passes if you are still receiving medical attention. Consulting a legal representative early helps you seek medical treatment while the attorney is working in the background progressing your claim.
Your Other Attorney Can Handle Your Case
Another common misconception is that your estate, bankruptcy, or family law attorney can handle your personal injury lawsuit. However, like in other professions, attorneys are different, and hiring a person with training and background is imperative. The other lawyer may not have adequate experience or knowledge to obtain the best possible outcome from the responsible party.
Find A Jacksonville Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me
If you or your loved one has been injured in an auto accident that was someone else's fault, you need an experienced lawyer who is committed to fighting for compensation. This is because catastrophic injuries have long-lasting and devastating effects on your health, career, finances, family, and life. At Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney, we are ready to protect your rights and fight for the compensation that will get you back on your feet. To book your initial consultation, contact us at 904-800-7557, our team of legal professionals will be glad to answer your questions and address your concerns.