You might feel lucky to be alive after a serious car crash. Whether you were hit at high speed, were one of the multiple cars in a pile-up, were hit by a semi-truck, or were involved in a head-on collision, you are well aware that you probably narrowly escaped death. However, that doesn’t mean you got off easy. In these types of devastating crashes, victims often suffer catastrophic injuries that will have a permanent effect on their lives. When the crash was caused by another driver, you are entitled to “be made whole” by the at-fault driver.
While you could probably handle the insurance claim in a fender-bender with minor injuries, you should not take on a catastrophic injury claim by yourself—or with a personal injury lawyer who does not have experience winning lawsuits for permanent disabilities. At Keller & Keller, our experienced Indianapolis car accident lawyer takes pride in our team's track record with catastrophic injuries, and you can be sure we will put our experience to work to get you the compensation you deserve.
What Kind of Personal Injuries Are We Talking About?
Indiana legislation defines catastrophic injuries as “bodily injury so severe that a person’s ability to live independently is significantly impaired for a period of at least one year. The term includes injury-causing blindness, deafness, paralysis, or an intellectual disability.”
In terms of car accidents, catastrophic injuries tend to be those that require emergency treatment at the scene, surgery, ongoing medical care, and long-term rehabilitation. Some victims of devastating car crashes are permanently disabled and require care for the rest of their lives. The types of injuries that can have this kind of effect include:
- Traumatic brain injury. When the brain is damaged by the force of a collision, the victim can experience physical, cognitive, and emotional effects. Even when the head is not directly impacted in the crash, the brain can be shaken up to the point that serious damage is done. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause total or partial paralysis, loss of physical control, intellectual disabilities, personality changes, depression, headaches, communication deficits, and more. A person who sustains a TBI might need ongoing medical care, educational remediation, physical rehabilitation, and help with daily tasks for the rest of their life.
- Paralysis. Whether caused by a TBI or by damage to the spinal cord, a car accident victim who is paralyzed by the crash faces a lifetime of expensive medical care and very difficult challenges. In addition to life-saving surgery following the accident, the person will likely need further surgeries, extensive rehab, adaptive equipment, and, for some, admission to a long-term care facility.
- Loss of limb. High-speed violent crashes can result in the loss of a limb or the need to amputate a badly damaged limb. While some people can proceed with fairly normal life after losing a limb, they will require rehabilitation, prosthetics, physical therapy, trauma counseling, and more to get there. If you lost a limb in a crash that was not your fault, you should have access to the best possible care and equipment to be made whole.
- Fractures. A compound fracture of any bone can affect a person for life, but some breaks are particularly devastating. A fractured pelvis, for example, can be very difficult to recover completely from. Likewise, a broken femur, shattered vertebrae, or skull fracture can be catastrophic as well.
- Back and neck injuries. Even if you escape without a damaged spinal cord or fractured vertebrae, your back could be strained to the point that you will have limited mobility and be in pain for the rest of your life. Ruptured discs, soft tissue injuries, whiplash, or another injury could affect your ability to work and earn a living.
- Mental health injuries. Whether caused by a TBI or by post-traumatic stress from being in a violent crash, some car accident victims struggle with their mental health for years after a crash. Therapy can help, but years of counseling carry a big price tag that victims should not have to pay.
Looking back at Indiana’s definition of a catastrophic injury, it is clear that any type of injury that leaves you unable to live independently for at least a year is considered catastrophic, even if it does not fall into one of the above categories.
Cost of a Catastrophic Injury in Indiana
We have already mentioned some of the costly effects of a catastrophic injury, but in order for a car accident attorney to determine the full value of a catastrophic claim, they will have to understand the scope of your injury, the future care you might need, and your potential ability to earn a living. To do that, they will likely wait for you to reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). This could mean waiting months before reaching an agreement with the insurance company for the at-fault driver or filing a lawsuit to get you what you are owed. Your attorney will try to determine the cost of your life-long needs, which could include any or all of the following:
- Medical care
- Admission to a long-term care facility
- Adaptive equipment
- Alterations to your home or car to accommodate a disability
- In-home personal care
- Professional services to take care of your home and yard
- Much more
After a catastrophic car crash, you are already facing a lifetime of challenges. Don’t add to your burden by not getting full compensation for your losses.