After an accident, there can be a lot of confusion. Do you have a valid personal injury claim? And if you do, then do your injuries only qualify you for a personal injury claim, or can you file a catastrophic injury claim? What is the difference between a personal injury and a catastrophic injury?
It’s reasonable to have so many questions about your rights and your legal options—that’s why the best thing to do after a serious accident is to contact a qualified attorney. While you may be unsure of what to do, an experienced attorney will be able to point you in the right direction. However, not every personal injury lawyer is going to be familiar with general personal injury and catastrophic injury claims, so it’s important you have a general understanding of the differences.
What Is a Personal Injury?
An ordinary personal injury case is when someone is hurt through the fault of another individual or entity, but the injury doesn’t meet the threshold of a catastrophic injury. Common examples of personal injury cases include:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Slip-and-fall accidents
- Dog bites
- Truck accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Product liability
While all these accidents or incidents have the potential to cause catastrophic injuries, not all of them do. Injuries that may be sustained during these accidents but don’t qualify as catastrophic include:
- Lacerations and bruises
- Puncture wounds
- Certain bone fractures
- Road rash
- Emotional distress
There are a variety of injuries that can occur during an accident that is serious enough to warrant a personal injury claim but not necessarily a catastrophic injury claim. Most of these injuries will eventually heal, and the person is likely to make a full recovery. However, if someone sustains a catastrophic injury, the chance of making a full recovery is slim to none.
What Is a Catastrophic Injury?
As mentioned above, the significant distinction between catastrophic injury and personal injury is the severe long-term effects the injury has on an individual. How catastrophic injury is defined often depends on the state. Federally, a catastrophic injury is one that permanently prevents the individual from working again.
Colorado has a similar definition of catastrophic injury. In Colorado, the definition of catastrophic injury is “an injury, the direct and proximate consequences of which permanently prevent an individual from performing any gainful work.” Most of the definitions of catastrophic injury focus on long-term disability, the person’s inability to work, and the extent to which they may require assistance to perform basic life tasks. Common examples of catastrophic injury include:
- Severe burn injuries
- Severe neck and back injuries
- Loss of limb
- Loss of vision
- Loss of hearing
- Traumatic brain injury
- Multiple bone fractures
- Severe nerve, ligament, or tendon damage
The most notable difference between a catastrophic injury and a personal injury is an injury reaching the maximum medical improvement (MMI) threshold.
What Is Maximum Medical Improvement?
A general definition of maximum medical improvement is when the victim’s injury sustained during an accident has improved as much as medically possible. The person may continue to experience a disability and pain because of the injury for the rest of their life, but a medical professional determines that they will not continue to get better, that there is no chance for improvement—they have reached the maximum medical improvement threshold.
Consult an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer at Mintz Law Firm
At Mintz Law Firm, you can find experienced and skilled personal injury and catastrophic injury attorneys ready to help you pursue the compensation you deserve. Regardless of your case’s complexity or injury, we are equipped to take on your case and provide you with the legal support and guidance you need to achieve the best possible results for your claim.
We understand that you have many questions and are here to help provide clarity. Contact our office to schedule a consultation at (303) 462-2999 or fill out our contact form so we can get back to you.