Proving Liability: Key Elements in Catastrophic Injury Cases

Posted in: Catastrophic Personal Injury | Oct 27,2023

A relatively harmless injury in the big picture (like a fractured wrist) can still have immediate consequences that set you back. However, when injuries go from run-of-mill to catastrophic, the toll they take multiplies exponentially. Lives are uprooted, careers are often ended, and day-to-day activities never look the same. Those who suffer catastrophic injuries often find themselves in precarious physical, emotional, and financial positions. To understand the key elements of a viable catastrophic injury case, continue reading this post.


What Does The Law Deem As A Catastrophic Injury?

Catastrophic injuries aren’t cut and dry, but they often involve injuries that lead to the following adverse outcomes:

  • Irreversible central nervous system damage
  • Permanent functional disability (must be severe)
  • Serious spine, neck, or head trauma (doesn’t need to include a permanent disability)
  • The inability to be employed or work gainfully
  • Incapacitation

Accident victims most typically experience any of the following catastrophic injuries:

  • Traumatic injuries to the brain
  • Several bone fractures
  • Amputations or limb loss
  • Disfiguring burns
  • Hearing or vision loss
  • Internal injuries
  • Neurological disorders

Often, catastrophic injuries lead to paralysis, permanent impairment, or other potentially life-threatening disabilities. Being left in any of these conditions typically necessitates extensive and costly life-term medical treatments and care.


What Factors Are Considered When Determining Liability?

When determining liability, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show that the defendant’s negligence resulted in your catastrophic injury. The following four elements are integral to proving a defendant’s negligence in causing your (or your family member’s) catastrophic injuries:

  • Duty of care
  • Breach
  • Causation
  • Damages


What Are The 4 Elements That Must Be Proven For A Negligence Claim?

When determining liability, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show that the defendant’s negligence resulted in your catastrophic injury. The following four elements are integral to proving a defendant’s negligence in causing your (or your family member’s) catastrophic injuries:

  1. Duty of care means the defendant was legally obliged to ensure your safety and act reasonably. Establishing a successful personal injury claim means proving the defendant owed you a duty of care first.
  2.  Breach of duty enters the equation after establishing the duty of care. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached their duty. Proving breach might entail showing they failed to take the required steps to prevent harm or acted negligently.
  3.  Causation further solidifies your case. The duty of care alone isn’t enough to prove the defendant negligent or legally responsible for the catastrophic injury. Specifically, a direct link between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s injury must be established. It must be shown that their negligence caused your harm directly.
  4.  Damages are another component of a personal injury claim. You’ll need evidence of the damages you’ve experienced due to the defendant’s actions. These can include pain and suffering, lost wages, medical bills, and other losses (tangible and intangible).


What Damages Are Typically Awarded In Catastrophic Injury Cases?

Factors involved when assessing a case’s value include:

  • An injury’s extent
  • The required medical treatment
  • Recovery time anticipated

Catastrophic injury victims often collect more compensation than less severe personal injury cases. Examples include:

  • Covering surgery, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and medical treatment costs
  • Compensation for wage loss due to the inability to work or earning capacity loss
  • Counseling expenses related to psychological trauma stemming from the injury’s severity
  • Home renovation costs for medical device and equipment accommodations
  • Covering the loss of spousal support or support from a partner or loved one


What Are The Most Common Types Of Personal Injury Cases?

Motor vehicle accidents are among the most common catastrophic personal injury cases. These include car crashes, motorcycle accidents, road construction accidents, pedestrian accidents, and bus accidents. Often, motor vehicle accidents result from driver negligence (e.g., drunk driving, speeding, and distracted driving).

Product liability can also result in catastrophic injuries. You have the right–as a consumer–to expect that products won’t cause you harm. Unfortunately, unsafe products do end up being sold. An individual has the right to sue if such a product results in catastrophic injury.

Product liability cases include hazardous personal care/household products, defective consumer goods, dangerous medications/medical devices, automotive parts, etc. Design flaws and construction defects are often the cause of such injuries.

Construction accidents, hazardous substance exposure, and industrial accidents are all examples of workplace injuries. While workers’ compensation typically covers these accidents, some situations of this ilk call for personal injury cases. For instance, some employers don’t carry workers comp or will intentionally cause harm. Either circumstance can lead to a personal injury case.

Catastrophic injury cases involving life-altering injuries like spinal cord damage and head trauma can be devastating. While a lawsuit can’t heal your physical wounds, it can provide the resources to rebuild your and your family’s lives, offering necessary financial breathing room.

Contact Montross Miller today to schedule a confidential, complimentary case evaluation if you believe you or a loved one may have suffered a catastrophic injury at the hands of another.