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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

What Is a Catastrophic Injury? | Legal Definition Under Ohio Laws

After an accident, wounds can take only a few days to heal, while others may feel devastating and cause excruciating pain. Unfortunately, some are much worse, resulting in serious health conditions and even permanent disability. They're known as catastrophic injuries.

Generally speaking, a catastrophic injury is a physical injury that happens suddenly and has direct and proximate consequences, causing severe and permanent or long-lasting damage to the body. Although this description is correct, the legal definition of this term under Ohio law is more specific.

This article contains more information about the legal definition of "catastrophic injury" and why this term can be critical in personal injury cases. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also answer questions such as what if my personal injury was partially my fault Ohio?

What is Considered a "Catastrophic Injury" in Ohio?

According to the Ohio Revised Code §2315.18(B)(3), injuries can be considered "catastrophic" if they involve the following:

  • Loss of use of a limb

  • Loss of use of a bodily organ, system, or function

  • Permanent and substantial deformity

  • Permanent physical functional injuries, which are the ones that affect people's ability to care for themselves and perform life-sustaining activities

Many injuries fall into this legal definition because they're severe enough to cause sudden and great damage, such as paralysis, serious burn injuries or scarring, and amputation. However, some that aren't immediately visible can also be considered catastrophic if they permanently affect people's well-being, disrupt their lives, or impact their ability to make a living.

Those who plan to file a catastrophic injury claim against the person who caused the accident that harmed them should understand the description set forth in ORC 2315.18 (B)(3). This is crucial because negligent parties often try to avoid recognizing the catastrophic nature of some injuries in order to reduce the damages they must pay to victims.

Types of Catastrophic Injuries

Types of Catastrophic Injuries

The following are some of the common types of catastrophic injuries:

  • Severe burns: Besides experiencing excruciating pain and emotional distress, many people who sustain severe burn injuries are left with disfigurement.

  • Amputation: The loss of a body part, such as a hand, arm, or leg, can affect a person's ability to work, earn an income, and take care of their loved ones.

  • Eye injuries: Victims can suffer partial or complete vision loss.

  • Fractures: Some physical injuries are so severe that they cause a complete break in the bone and damage orthopedic function.

  • Loss of hearing: Ear injuries can range from mild to life-threatening. If someone experiences loss of hearing, their ability to work and handle everyday tasks will be affected. Also, they may need accommodations at home or the workplace.

  • Brain injuries: Severe injuries can affect the brain and how it works. Injured individuals can remain in a vegetative state, have cognitive impairments, or experience changes in their personalities. Some develop neurological disorders, such as locked-in syndrome.

  • Spinal cord injuries: Most of them have serious consequences on people's lives, causing everything from muscle weakness to paralysis in the worst-case scenario.

  • Facial injuries: If they cause deformity or disfigurement, wounds and scars are considered catastrophic.

Other injuries that aren't listed above may fall within this category if they have long-lasting or permanent effects and affect victims' well-being, professional life, and ability to work, such as nerve damage, mesothelioma, and occupational illnesses.

Common Causes of a Catastrophic Injury

Catastrophic injuries can happen anywhere and at any time, as they have different potential causes. These are the most common:

  • Motor vehicle accidents, including car crashes and motorcycle collisions

  • Falls

  • Workplace accidents

  • Product defects

  • Swimming and diving accidents

  • Medical malpractice, including birth injuries

  • Sports accidents

Are Catastrophic Injury Cases Different from Other Personal Injury Claims?

In Ohio, people who sustained injuries in an accident caused by someone else can pursue legal action to recover compensation for such damages through a personal injury lawsuit.

Although compensation is also available in catastrophic injury cases, there are significant differences between the two.

Compensation for Catastrophic Injuries

The main difference between a personal injury claim and a catastrophic injury lawsuit lies in the type of compensation that victims can recover and how those damages are determined.

Non-Economic Damages Aren't Capped

If someone files a personal injury claim and wins the case, they can recover the following:

  • Economic damages, which include quantifiable expenses, such as lost wages and medical bills

  • Non-economic damages, which are the ones that aren't tied to a specific amount or are considered intangible losses, such as mental anguish, pain and suffering, and emotional trauma

Although Ohio has placed a cap on non-economic damages, the amount that a jury can award to a person who sustains a catastrophic injury can exceed that limit. In simple terms, that cap is removed.

Proving Damages is More Complicated

Since catastrophic injury cases are serious, putting a dollar value on economic and non-economic damages can be more complicated.

Injured individuals should work closely with an experienced attorney to gather sufficient evidence to support their claims and prove lost or diminished earning capacity, future medical expenses, the need for long-term treatment for emotional trauma, and other damages.

What if a Loved One Died After a Catastrophic Injury?

If a person dies from a catastrophic injury caused by someone else, their surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Under Ohio law, wrongful death claims are available if victims die because of another party's wrongful act, default, or neglect and if the deceased would have had the right to take legal action to recover compensation if they had survived.

State laws explain that a wrongful act is any intentional violent action, such as assault, while neglect refers to negligence, which involves breaching a duty of care and causing injuries as a result. These are some examples:

  • Failure to maintain properties in a safe condition

  • Drunk driving

  • Nursing home abuse

  • Defective products

  • Aggressive or distracted driving

Final Thoughts: Do Victims Need Help from a Catastrophic Injury Attorney?

Final Thoughts: Do Victims Need Help from a Catastrophic Injury Attorney?

A person who sustained a severe injury and plans to take legal action against the at-fault party may need the support of an experienced attorney. Trusted personal injury lawyers in Cincinnati OH can help victims understand their rights and build a solid case to pursue compensation for their damages.

An experienced catastrophic injury lawyer can explain what a Contrecoup Injury is and also do the following:

  • Investigate accidents to determine the causes of the catastrophic injuries and who is responsible for them

  • Assess injured people's likelihood of success in winning a case or settlement

  • Negotiate a fair catastrophic injury settlement with insurance companies

  • Calculate recoverable damages and collect evidence to prove them

  • File catastrophic injury claims on behalf of victims

  • Interview witnesses

  • Provide legal representation if the case must be resolved in court

Contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Today!

Catastrophic injuries can have permanent or long-term negative effects on people's lives, potentially affecting their well-being, professional careers, and ability to take care of their families. However, victims have the legal right to seek compensation.

Since a catastrophic injury case can be complex, injured people may need help from an experienced attorney. Fortunately, they can find a reliable one at Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys.

Individuals looking for a seasoned catastrophic injury lawyer can contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys and schedule a free case evaluation today!


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