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Catastrophic Injuries

Claiming Personal Injury Compensation After A Catastrophic Accident And Injury In California

Claiming Personal Injury Compensation After A Catastrophic Accident And Injury In California

Most Californians will experience some form of car accident at least once in their life. In this article, we’ll explain the personal injury system that exists to provide financial compensation and medical coverage – particularly for those who have suffered devastating and life-changing injuries. It covers:

  • What qualifies as a catastrophic injury in California personal injury law.
  • The damages and compensation you can recover after a catastrophic accident and injury.
  • What happens when catastrophic injury victims pass away during the personal injury claim process.

What Qualifies As A Catastrophic Personal Injury In California?

While all accidents and injuries are serious and can be used to claim personal injury compensation, some are far more devastating than others. Any injury that causes a major life change – either loss of employment or an inability to continue providing household services – qualifies as a catastrophic one.

Thus, it is not necessarily the severity of the physical injury from a medical perspective that defines them, but rather the effect of the injury on the life of the person and the people around them. Fortunately, the personal injury process can provide compensation for both the injuries and the impact on your life.

What Kinds Of Compensation Are Available In A Catastrophic Personal Injury Claim?

Under personal injury law, you can claim compensation for all damages suffered as a result of the accident and injury. First and foremost, this includes reimbursement for any out-of-pocket costs spent as a result of injury. (This will obviously include medical bills and care, but also even expenses like a rental car.)

Then, you can add the costs of any current, ongoing, or future medical treatments, including medicine and things like physical therapy to help you recover. If you are not able to cover the medical costs yourself, many doctors will work “on lien” and agree to be paid back only after the personal injury case is resolved in your favor.

After medical costs, perhaps the biggest source of compensation in catastrophic injury cases is lost wages, including future earnings forgone because of the injury. And finally, there is an amount added for your non-economic harm, notably the pain and suffering endured by you and your family.

In cases where the defendant’s conduct has been particularly harmful, such as an injury caused intentionally or with a conscious disregard for safety (for example, on products sold despite safety test warnings), punitive damages might be added on to punish the defendant.

How Much Compensation Will A Catastrophic Injury Victim Receive In A Personal Injury Case In California?

Obviously, each case is different, and you will only get an approximate idea of the total compensation you are eligible for by adding up all the factors present in your case. Some of these can be calculated relatively easily, like medical expenses. Others are calculated with greater difficulty and require the help of experts.

Of course, some claims are impossible to calculate because large portions depend on the will of a jury. It is up to a jury to decide how much to compensate for non-economic damages such as pain, suffering, emotional distress, inconvenience, and other changes to your life that are not easily to put a value on. Still, while one can never predict exactly how much might be awarded, it is almost always a reasonably significant amount.

Will A Personal Injury Settlement Include Cost For Future Medical Care? How Are Future Costs Determined?

Of all the compensation discussed, future damages are some of the most important and complicated. They include future medical costs, ongoing treatment, and lost wages that are reasonably certain to occur.

The future medical care costs are determined by estimating the cost of medical care in the area, especially if you do not have insurance or might not have insurance in the future. The idea behind this form of compensation is to make sure you will be able to purchase insurance or afford your medical care.

If needed, we also hire experts to determine what your future medical care would need to be. For some of the most catastrophic life-altering injuries, like paraplegia, a life care planner can be hired to look at what kind of help and assistance would be needed in the future. So, in that sense, medical care is more than just doctors; it could include home care if that is necessary after that injury.

In general, when talking about the likelihood of something happening in the future, you have to have experts who have dealt with the issues in the past to give some kind of probability for the events. In addition to medical experts, you might need vocational rehabilitation experts to talk about whether you will have to change careers or be able to work at all. And finally, an economist can add up all these factors and figure out what the present cash value is.

All this, of course, assumes you will survive your catastrophic injuries, which, unfortunately, is not always the case.

What Happens If A Catastrophic Injury Victim In California Dies After Filing A Personal Injury Claim?

If someone dies because of the effects of their catastrophic injuries, their personal injury case is not necessarily over. It can be refiled, or a new complaint can be filed for wrongful death on behalf of the family members. Your loved ones would become the plaintiffs in the case, and your estate would be able to benefit.

If the cause of death was unrelated to the accident at all, however, it pretty much ends their case. Generally, the only things that would still be recoverable are the medical costs that have already been spent and other economic damages; however, this has started to change.

For cases that started between 2022 and the end of 2025, the law temporarily allows the pain and suffering damages to also be collected by surviving family members. This is an exception, as the general rule is only the economic damages get passed on in a survival action.

Given the importance of those economic damages, including medical costs and lost wages, to your family, it can certainly be worth continuing to file.

Do I Need A Lawyer For A Catastrophic Personal Injury Claim?

Some accident and injury victims try to represent themselves in lawsuits, but catastrophic injury claims are very complicated, especially considering all the long-term damages and effects and the need for expert witness testimony. Speaking to a personal injury attorney is going to, at the very least, inform you about the law, your rights, and what you will need to succeed.

How Do I Choose The Right California Personal Injury Lawyer For My Catastrophic Accident Case?

Ideally, you’ll want to work with an attorney who is going to be in contact with you personally because the value of your case is often driven by the pain, suffering, and emotional distress damages. So, having an attorney who is communicative, empathetic, and present will help you and your case.

Obviously, you also need an attorney who is experienced in this area of the law. Someone who has catastrophic personal injury experiences and successes, both in and out of the trial. You should also verify that they have experience with your specific kind of injury, be that a traumatic brain injury case, back or spinal injury case, and so forth.

While a past victory on a similar case cannot guarantee you one now, it will improve your chances of having a lawyer on your side who can speak to your pains and life changes when negotiating with insurance or convincing a jury.

For more information on Catastrophic Personal Injury Claims In California, a FREE initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (415) 966-4471 (San Francisco Office) | (831) 387-7871 (Monterey Office) today.

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