What Classifies as Catastrophic Injury After a Car Accident?

Car accidents are always unfortunate events. If they’re relatively minor, you still have to deal with anger, questions, and uncertainties. But, if it was a major one, you also have the overwhelming experience of facing serious injuries — on yourself or a loved one. And when you’re living day after day experiencing medical appointments, hospitalizations, and — in a worst-case scenario — the death of someone close to you, it all becomes too much to handle. You need help navigating this new reality, as well as emotional support to help you keep going. Such is the case of catastrophic injuries after a car accident. But, what, exactly, does that mean? Is it a general term to describe a major injury, or does it have legal meaning? If so, how can it affect your case?

What is a Catastrophic Injury?

From a legal standpoint, Florida law does not define the term catastrophic injury. However, Florida Statutes section 627.737 specifically mentions permanent injuries. The law establishes that any person who is injured in a motor vehicle accident may recover damages that are additional to medical costs. These include pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconveniences arising out of the injuries. Such injuries include:

  • Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
  • Permanent injury other than scarring or disfigurement
  • Significant permanent scarring or disfigurement
  • Death

This is important to know because, unless your injuries fall into one of the categories listed above, you won’t be able to request relief for pain and suffering. If you’ve been involved in an accident where you and/or a loved one were injured but didn’t result in permanent injury or death, you are limited to recovering the following in damages:

  • Medical costs
  • Damage to personal property
  • Lost wages
  • Future medical costs
  • Future lost wages

In order to recover for future medical costs and future lost wages, such incidents have to be a consequence of the car accident. This may include aggravated injuries, complications from existing injuries, the need for surgery that you may have put off, medications for chronic pain, or anything else that may be reasonably necessary to treat your injuries from the accident.

It also includes lost wages that are the result of the accident. For example, a college athlete who was slated to sign with a professional sports team having to forego those plans due to their injuries; or a person missing out on a slated promotion due to having to miss work for several months while they recovered. The burden will be on you to prove that the future wages were a certainty and no longer a possibility.

What if you were partly at fault for the accident?

Florida is a comparative negligence jurisdiction. This means that if you were partly at fault for the accident, what you would be able to recover for your permanent injuries will be diminished by your percentage of fault. For example, if your damages can be calculated to be $100,000 and the defendant can prove that the accident was 50/50 your fault, you will only be able to collect $50,000 in damages. This percentage can be investigated through a process called discovery, and it takes into account:

  • Surveillance footage
  • Witness testimony
  • Expert testimony — this could be from a medical provider and/or an accident reconstruction expert

The process of discovery will also be used to determine all claimed losses. Therefore, if you did indeed experience a permanent injury, you will have to provide evidence regarding your lost wages, loss of future wages, and how the accident has affected you psychologically and emotionally.

Call Us at Clark Law for a Consultation

There are many factors that affect the outcome of a case. If you or someone you love was involved in a car accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. We’ll consider all circumstances to determine your best next step. We can also ensure that you receive proper compensation for any present as well as future medical expenses relating to your neck injuries.

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.