In injury law, catastrophic injuries are understood as those that create profound and lifelong adversity for the victim, such as inability to work anymore or enjoy life the way they once did.
Some examples include:
- Severe Burns
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Spinal Cord Injury/Paralysis
- Organ Damage
- Loss of Eyesight
Fort Lauderdale catastrophic injury attorneys know the consequences of these injuries can be devastating, with a ripple effect that impacts entire families, workplaces and communities. Victims often endure years of surgeries, therapies, medication, nursing care and other follow-up treatment. Especially in the beginning, the injury becomes all-consuming in the victim's life. The physical, emotional and financial toll this can have an an individual and a family is enormous.
We work to help victims and their families regain their financial footing by fighting for just compensation where injuries were the result of another's negligence. Usually, these cases stem from:
- Car Accidents
- Medical Malpractice
- Construction Site Accidents
- Intentional Acts of Violence
In determining the best approach for legal action, it's imperative to consult with an attorney who has extensive experience in these complex cases. Often before the process even begins, there is a detailed analysis of potential liability, as well as a meticulous research into projections of future costs and financial implications, including:
- Medical Expenses
- Loss of Income
- Projected Loss of Future Income
- Value on pain and suffering, emotional trauma and loss of life enjoyment
In many of these cases, spoues and/or children may also be entitled to damages for loss of companionship, guidance and household help - the kind of thing that is often taken for granted when our loved ones are able-bodied and healthy.Who May be Sued for Catastrophic Injury?
The question of who may be held responsible for these injuries will depend heavily on the way in which the injuries occurred and whether there are multiple parties that may be held responsible, as is the situation in many cases.
For example, let's say a person suffers severe injuries as a result of a drunk driving accident. Obviously, the drunk driver and/or his auto insurance company will face potential liability. But sometimes, the insurance available isn't sufficient to cover the insurmountable costs and damages incurred by the victim. Or in other cases, the driver may not have any insurance at all. In those cases, we'd want to look into filing an uninsured/ underinsured motorist claim with the injured person's own auto insurance policy (or one under which they may be covered). Beyond that, we may look to see if the owner of the vehicle was someone other than the driver, in which case vicarious liability may come into play. This legal principle allows someone else to be responsible for the negligent acts of another - even if they personally did nothing wrong. The same principle could be applied to an employer if the drunk driver was working at the time of the crash. Or, if the victim was on-the-job at the time of the accident, workers' compensation benefits may be in order. We might also look at whether dram shop laws apply. F.S. 768.125 allows bars, restaurants and clubs to be liable for drinks served to underage and habitual drinkers who go on to cause harm to someone else by drunk driving.
A construction site injury is another example. First and foremost, workers' compensation benefits may apply - but only if the worker was an actual employee, and not an independent contractor. Permanent total disability benefits can be a lifeline to workers and their families. But beyond that, we may examine whether there are additional parties that may be held accountable. If the worker wasn't an employee, he or she may sue the company for whom she was working for negligence. In some situations, a defective product or dangerous machine may have played a substantial role, in which case a product liability lawsuit may be filed against the manufacturer.
In a medical malpractice case against a doctor or other health professional, action might also be taken against the hospital or care facility where the incident occurred.
These are just examples, and the individual facts of each case will determine the appropriate course of action.What Kind of Damages Are Available?
This is one of the most critical elements of any catastrophic injury case because the financial implications are substantial.
Most cases involve significant economic damages, such as lost income, medical expenses and out-of-pocket costs. Additionally, there are also non-economic damages to consider, which include mental anguish, pain and suffering, permanent disability, disfigurement, loss of life enjoyment and loss of consortium.
These types of damages are under the umbrella of compensatory damages, intended to make whole the victim, to whatever extent that is possible. There may also be grounds to pursue punitive damages, intended to punish the defendant. There is specific criteria for punitive damages, as spelled out in F.S. 768.72.
Defense lawyers in these cases will often work to limit damages by asserting contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff. Although such a finding will not prevent the victim from collecting damages, it could greatly reduce the overall amount received if jurors find plaintiff played a significant role in the accident.
That's why it's critical to work with an attorney with extensive experience in these high-stakes cases.