Have You Suffered A Catastrophic Injury? Our Firm Can Help
When serious accidents occur—including car crashes, boating collisions, truck accidents and slip and falls—they often lead to severe, life-changing injuries for those involved. Catastrophic injuries can result in permanent disability, inability to work, and costly bills for necessary medical treatment. In many cases, consulting with an experienced catastrophic injury lawyer is essential for mitigating this immense financial burden as much as possible.
WE HAVE RECOVERED
HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS
IN CATASTROPHIC INJURY CASES
If another person’s negligence led to you or a loved one suffering catastrophic injuries, you shouldn’t have to struggle with these consequences on your own. We can fight for fair financial compensation on your behalf. While it won’t negate the pain and suffering you have been through, compensation can ease the burden of unexpected medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.
With more than 40 years of combined experience, our Los Angeles catastrophic injury attorneys are focused on recovering the maximum compensation on your behalf, whether through settlement or at trial. We have represented clients who have experienced spinal cord injury/paralysis, traumatic brain injury, amputation, severe bone fractures, major organ damage, and more.
In this article:
- Introduction to Catastrophic Injuries
- Common Types and Causes of Catastrophic Injuries
- Traumatic Brain Injury Case Focus: Doe v. County of Los Angeles (2019)
- The Law Regarding Catastrophic Injuries
- Compensation for Catastrophic Injuries
- Spine Injury/Paralysis Case Focus: Pannu v. Land Rover (2011)
- Treatment and Rehabilitation for Catastrophic Injuries
- Amputation Injury Case Focus: Ekbatani v. State of California (2017)
- The Long-Term Impact of Catastrophic Injuries
- Support for Catastrophic Injury Victims
Introduction to Catastrophic Injuries
Any time you or a loved one is involved in an accident, no matter how serious the injuries, it can feel like a catastrophe. From a legal and medical standpoint, however, while there is no specific definition, there are certain components that qualify some injuries as “catastrophic.”
When injuries sustained directly from a collision are severe, permanent, and life-changing, they are referred to as catastrophic injuries. It is the most severe type of injury that a person can experience short of death.
This level of injury can permanently prevent you from returning to work or obtaining future work. These cases usually involve a loss of mental or physical capacity (permanent disability), and the associated medical costs can often be overwhelming. Catastrophic injuries are comparatively rare, but still affect thousands of people each year.
If someone else’s negligence has caused you or a loved one to suffer catastrophic injuries, you shouldn’t have to struggle with these consequences alone. We can fight on your behalf for fair financial compensation.
Common Types and Causes of Catastrophic Injuries
Catastrophic injuries are typically defined as those that permanently prevent an individual from returning to or obtaining future work.
There are some common types of scenarios that can cause catastrophic injuries, including:
- Car, motorcycle and truck crashes
- Defective consumer products, such as faulty vehicles
- Boat collisions
- Civil rights violations, such as excessive use of force by police
- Slips and falls
- Dangerously designed or poorly-maintained roads
- Pedestrian and bicycle collisions
- Drowning accidents
In terms of the actual injuries that fall under the term “catastrophic,” some of the most common are:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Head or neck trauma
- Loss of limbs/amputation
- Spinal cord injuries; partial or full paralysis
- Multiple bone fractures
- Major burn injuries
- Serious organ damage
Catastrophic injuries have serious, lasting consequences for the victim. We have represented clients who have suffered many types of catastrophic injuries, and we are committed to recovering the maximum compensation on their behalf.
Traumatic Brain Injury Case Focus:
Doe v. County of Los Angeles (2019)
On October 15, 2015, John Doe and his friend were enjoying a walk down Santa Monica Boulevard when they heard sirens approaching from behind. A patrol vehicle had clipped another car in a failed passing attempt, careening out of control and smashing into the two men. They were rushed to hospital.
John was rushed to a nearby emergency medical center. The extent of his injuries were alarming. He suffered severe head trauma, including multiple subarachnoid hemorrhages, in addition to broken limbs and broken leg.
Through our signature use of multimedia exposition, we were able to demonstrate the facts of this case at an unparalleled level of detail and nuance. We showed the defense that we were ready to win.
We reached a settlement of $42.2 million: the highest settlement in history for a single plaintiff against Los Angeles County. This figure is almost double that which was estimated as the out of pocket loss by a forensic economist, based on estimate loss of earnings and cost of medical treatment.
The Law Regarding Catastrophic Injuries
In this section:
- Determining Liability in a Catastrophic Injury Case
- Time Limit for Filing a Catastrophic Injury Claim
- Investigation and Evidence in Catastrophic Injury Cases
For any catastrophic injury, you have the right to seek compensation to be “made whole” for your permanent loss. Because there is no standard definition for a catastrophic injury, it is critical to have the best possible legal representation.
We need to determine the cause of the injury and whether there was a degree of negligence involved. The next step would then be to determine who is responsible, whether it is one person, multiple parties, a company, or a government agency.
In some cases, there may be multiple individuals or entities who all played a role in causing the crash. This can add further legal complexity, requiring navigation through multiple claims. We have access to extensive resources, including specialists and experts, who can assist.
Determining Liability in a Catastrophic Injury Case
One of the most difficult questions to answer in a catastrophic injury case is “who is at fault?” When liability extends beyond a single person, it can become a complex web to unravel, often involving parties who have the ability to fight the case from every angle and for many years. For example, if you were involved in a truck accident, the potential responsible parties could be:
- The truck driver, if for example he or she was drowsy or distracted;
- The trucking company, if for example it forced the driver to work past the legal limit or failed to inspect the truck for safety;
- The truck manufacturer, if there were defects that led to the crash;
- The carrier and/or shipper, if it by way of example improperly packed the cargo;
- The government agency responsible for the roadway where the crash occurred, if for example the dangerous design or lack of maintenance created an environment where a crash was likely to occur;
Catastrophic injuries can be extremely costly to those who cause them, and parties who bear liability will often fight tooth and nail to prove that they are not responsible. Especially when going up against larger entities, the battle to determine who is at fault can be very costly. Without experienced legal counsel on your side, your ability to successfully pursue a claim may be very difficult, even if the other side is clearly at fault.
Determining liability can also be time-consuming, and there is a specific timeframe in which a lawsuit must be filed in order for a court to hear the case. The sooner you contact us, the more time we have to ensure that your case is filed before the deadline.
Time Limit for Filing a Catastrophic Injury Claim
In some cases, catastrophic injuries are not immediately apparent. The statute of limitations in most personal injury claims in California is two years. If the claim is against a governmental entity, the time limit is even shorter. That means the clock is ticking to file a lawsuit, and if you miss that window, the case could be dismissed, even if thereto have a righteous case.
Investigation and Evidence in Catastrophic Injury Cases
The process of recovering financial compensation for a catastrophic injury can take a significant amount of time and resources. More often than not, the victim is still recovering and unable to take the steps necessary to preserve the evidence. That is where we can help.
We can work with you and your family to collect and maintain all of the available information, including hospital records, correspondence, insurance paperwork, witness statements, photographs, dashcam footage, police reports.
We have the resources to martial the necessary evidence, including performing real-world assessments such as drop tests to demonstrate substandard vehicle design, real world track tests to demonstrate faulty handling or acceleration, or electronic data retrieval to reveal vehicle defects.
Our firm has extensive experience in personal injury law and has proven success in recovering, among others, record amounts for lost wages and earning potential, loss of quality of life, pain and suffering, and medical bills.
Compensation for Catastrophic Injuries
In this section:
- What Are Compensatory and Punitive Damages?
- How Much Compensation Can You Get in California?
- What Are the Sources of Compensation for Catastrophic Injuries?
- How Long Does It Take To Receive Compensation for a Catastrophic Injury?
In California, you may be to entitled to both compensatory and punitive damages.
What Are Compensatory and Punitive Damages?
Compensatory damages can be economic or non-economic. Things with a specific cost, such as medical bills, vehicle damage, and lost wages, are economic damages. Pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment and/or relationships are examples of non-economic damages.
As for punitive (or exemplary) damages, the basis for compensation is determined by the extent of the defendant’s malice, fraud, and oppression.
How Much Compensation Can You Get in California?
There is no damage cap or maximum compensation that can be provided for most catastrophic injuries in California. Everything from accommodations, implications, treatment, support, pain and suffering, and lost earnings (actual and potential) vary greatly depending on the type of injury sustained and the circumstances of the individual(s) who sustained them. Each loss must be considered on a case-by-case basis.
What Are the Sources of Compensation for Catastrophic Injuries?
There are several sources of compensation that catastrophic injury victims may be eligible to receive, such as:
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a state-administered monthly stipend;
- Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), a federally-administered monthly payment;
- Workers’ compensation, a state-run, privately insured program that provides weekly income and medical benefits;
- Disability insurance, which pays a portion of your salary if you are unable to work;
- Personal injury compensation, paid by the party at fault for the crash.
How Long Does It Take To Receive Compensation for a Catastrophic Injury?
It can take many years to determine and recover the amount of financial compensation to which an injured person is entitled. For example, it took four years to resolve the Doe v. County of Los Angeles case, in which we obtained a $42.2 million settlement—the largest settlement of its time for a single plaintiff against the County of Los Angeles. This figure is nearly double the out-of-pocket loss estimated by a forensic economist, based on estimated lost earnings and medical expenses.
Some of our other major catastrophic injury victories include:
- Ekbatani v. State of California — $35,000,000 recovered for a motorcyclist who lost his leg
- Saakyan v. Modern Auto — $26,900,000 recovered for a young man who was paralyzed after a rollover crash
- McCardle v. Greyhound — $15,967,000 recovered for a chiropractor who was involved in a bus accident
- Gozukara v. Ford Motor Company — $14,900,000 recovered for a young mother paralyzed in a rollover collision
- Palmer v. Schindler Elevator — $7,400,000 recovered for a paralegal who suffered injuries after the elevator failed
- Munoz v. A&B Harvesting — $3,000,000 recovered for a trucker crushed by crates
- Moscardi v. The Gas Company — $2,7000,000 recovered for a motorcyclist involved in a highway crash
- Lewis v. Ukran — $2,650,000 recovered for a stuntman involved in a motorcycle crash
- Montano v. Techtrans — $2,000,000 recovered for an amputee injured on a bus
Compensation amounts vary depending on numerous factors, including the specific ways in which the injury has affected you, and the treatment and rehabilitation required for meaningful recovery.
Spine Injury/Paralysis Case Focus:
Pannu v. Land Rover (2011)
On December 14th, 2003, Sukhsagar Pannu was travelling in his Land Rover Discovery, when another vehicle sideswiped him. The collision caused Mr. Pannu to lose control of the vehicle, which subsequently rolled over multiple times before coming to rest upside down. Sukhsagar suffered catastrophic injuries to his spinal cord, rendering him paralyzed and radically altering his life and livelihood forever.
After a drawn out process that took over two years, the appellate decision was finally made in favor of Mr Pannu.
The court ruled that substantial evidence not only supported the claims of Land Rover’s liability with regard to the Discovery’s defects, but also that they had indeed failed to warn the public of such defects when they reasonably could have done.
We recovered $25 million for Mr. Pannu on the grounds that the rollover propensity and defectiveness of the Discovery’s roof was responsible for Sukhsagar’s injuries.
Treatment and Rehabilitation for Catastrophic Injuries
A catastrophic injury, by definition, can irrevocably alter your life. You will almost certainly be required to develop a new “normal” for how to live your life, and while some recovery is possible, it can often require long-term and complicated treatment and rehabilitation.
Different injuries entail different treatment options. Here are some that may be considered to assist with your recovery:
- Medication — Almost every treatment plan will involve some level of medication. Long-term medications can carry the risk of addiction and high costs.
- Surgery — Almost all surgeries involve some level of risk, and sometimes complications arise that introduce new complications and costs.
- Physical Therapy — In the journey to getting “back to normal,” most treatment plans include some level of physical therapy. The goal is to retrain or strengthen the areas affected by the injury.
- Occupational Therapy — Similar to physical therapy, occupational therapy focuses more on the daily physical tasks that need to be relearned or learned differently (due to an amputation or nerve damage, for example).
- Psychological Counseling — The emotional health of a catastrophic injury victim is often overlooked and can be the most debilitating result of the collision. Being forced to adapt to a new way of life can be difficult to accept and counseling can be helpful in learning how to manage those emotions in a healthy way.
Rehabilitation for people who have suffered a catastrophic injury ranges from several years to a lifetime. Some injuries that impact you physically require structural accommodations, such as home aids (ramps, lifts, shower grab bars, etc.). Others require mobility aids such as wheelchairs, scooters, and vehicle modifications.
For injuries that affect cognitive functions, such as speech, memory, concentration, and problem solving, the long-term approach is very different. Personal digital assistants, or smartphones, have been shown to be useful tools. Similarly, diaries and other external memory and reminder aids are often used to mediate the symptoms of traumatic brain injury, in addition to other brain exercises and therapy.
We work to ensure that your compensation covers not only your immediate medical treatment, but also the lifelong support that catastrophic injuries so often require.
Amputation Injury Case Focus:
Ekbatani v. State of California (2017)
Amir Ekbatani was travelling north on PCH when the taxi driver made the left turn onto Diamond St. in front of him. This particular intersection was notoriously dangerous, and by the time the taxi driver noticed Amir, it was already too late.
The front left bumper of the oncoming vehicle caught Amir’s leg, throwing him from his motorcycle. He suffered severe trauma that almost proved fatal.
Amir went through a total of 14 surgeries between 2012 and 2016. These included procedures to save his left femur, to formalise and revise the amputation below his left knee, bone grafts, osteotomies, and surgical excisions to correct for skin eruptions around the back of his knee.
The impact on Amir’s life was considerable. Here are just some of the things he faced following his accident:
- Severe pain following surgeries in his left hip and amputated area;
- Phantom limb pain, accompanied by nightmares that his foot is on fire;
- Major personality changes (depression, hopelessness, panic attacks);
- Grief over loss of limb and fear of further amputation;
- Major identity changes (no longer an elite athlete, no longer able to compete as before);
- Significant disruption of former routines and reliance on others for assistance with daily activities.
After a trial that lasted 6 weeks, a jury made the decision to award a figure of $35 million in damages for Amir: a figure over 3 times the amount of $9,778,471 calculated for his net lost earning capacity plus future life care plan expenses.
The Long-Term Impact of Catastrophic Injuries
In this section:
What makes an injury catastrophic is its life-changing nature. Losing a physical part of your body, losing a mental function, or experiencing severe trauma takes away a part of you that is difficult, if not impossible, to regain. What is often overlooked is the precipitating effect of the events that surrounded the injury. The moments just before or after a crash can cause nightmares, feelings of guilt or despair, and anger.
Some potential consequences of catastrophic injuries include:
- Severe loss of mobility;
- Total loss of function, such as the ability to walk or talk;
- Loss of independence;
- Mental health conditions (PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc.);
- Permanent disfigurement;
- Severe, ongoing pain.
Each of these consequences can place a significant financial burden on victims and their families. When your source of income is impacted (lost wages) and your expenses skyrocket (medical bills, therapy, etc.), the burden can quickly become unbearable. That is where we come in.
The Long-Term Impact for Family and Friends
Catastrophic injuries affect more than just the victim. The long-term specialized care required for the injury takes a toll on the emotional and mental health of the entire support system, including family and friends. It is important to recognize that they are part of the recovery process and should be considered for some of the same counseling and therapy prescriptions as the injured person.
In 2003, Sukhsagar Pannu was a successful and hardworking businessman providing for his wife and three children. He was traveling in his Land Rover Discovery when another vehicle sideswiped him. The collision caused Sukh to lose control of the vehicle, which then rolled over several times and landed on its roof, which crushed inwards. He suffered catastrophic injuries to his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed. Not only was his life radically changed, but his injuries directly impacted the family he supported and their livelihood. Sukh went from being the supporter of his family to the one his family had to support. No amount of compensation will change that.
For some people, their lives will never be the same. We strive to hold those responsible accountable for the catastrophic and tragic experiences our clients have suffered and continue to suffer. We are passionate about the people we represent and that means seeking justice for those who have been traumatized by the lack of care of others.
Support for Catastrophic Injury Victims
In this section:
There are injuries that cannot be fully repaired through treatment and rehabilitation. Catastrophic injuries often require a comprehensive approach that includes treatment (medical care), rehabilitation (therapy), and long-term support. Such long-term support may take the form of emotional care, community support, and physical accommodations.
Environmental Accessibility Adaptations
After initial treatment and recovery from a catastrophic injury, there are often physical adjustments that must be made. Modifying the home to make it accessible, clearing frequent pathways of obstacles, creating closer and more accessible parking spaces, and even creating a quiet place to be alone can be critical. These home modifications are known as environmental accessibility adaptations, or EAAs.
Occupational therapists are often called upon to help people understand the extent to which their injury will affect their lives, and to show them how to make the right EAAs to adapt to their new life. They can help create a plan for which physical accommodations should be considered and assist with training to adapt to those accommodations.
Below are some examples of modifications that may be needed.
Modifications to Accommodate Spinal and Back Injuries
While spinal cord injuries and back injuries are two very different things, the impact and resulting EAAs can be similar. For instance, although you can have a herniated disc (also known as a slipped or ruptured disc) without severing your spinal cord, such injuries can still render you as immobile as if you were paralyzed. Both injuries can result in varying degrees of loss of movement and sensation, as well as difficulty walking.
Accommodating these types of injuries is almost always an extremely expensive proposition and can include:
- Beds and mattresses designed to reduce and relieve pressure and prevent bedsores;
- Mobility devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, canes, and scooters;
- Adaptive equipment to assist with eating, cooking, dressing, and grooming;
- Home modifications such as room and floor plan modifications, stair lifts, ramps, widened doorways for wheelchair access and ceiling hoists.
Modifications to Accommodate Amputation Injuries
Losing a limb is literally losing a piece of yourself, and there are almost certainly (quite expensive) home modifications that must be made to accommodate such a loss. There are also other considerations, such as hiring help with household chores, adding more space to create clear paths of travel, and completely reorganizing household items for easier access. The most commonly adapted rooms are:
- Kitchens — lower cabinets, pull-out shelves;
- Bedrooms — aids for getting in and out of bed, dressing, and grooming;
- Bathrooms — shower chairs, grab bars in showers and near toilets, lowered sinks;
- Entrance and common areas — ramps, grab bars, doors removed/widened to allow wheelchair access.
Modifications to Accommodate Loss of Senses
Adapting a home for a person with sensory loss, such as loss of taste, smell, hearing, or vision, involves primarily practical physical modifications to increase safety, independence, and comfort.
- Loss of smell and taste — For people with impaired smell and taste, ensuring safety is a critical concern. Frequent modifications include installing smoke and gas detectors with clear visual alarms, simplifying kitchen layouts, and using clear labeling systems to help identify foods and reduce reliance on smell and taste.
- Loss of hearing — Adapting a home for people with hearing impairment often involves visual solutions, like installing flashing light alert systems for doorbells, communication systems, and alarms. Soundproofing certain areas can also be necessary, particularly for those using hearing aids.
- Loss of vision — For those left with visual impairments, the goal is increasing the overall safety and navigability of the home. This includes installing high-contrast and tactile markings on critical appliances and controls, adequate lighting, handrails, and grab bars.
Technology can also provide additional assistance, such as advanced appliances with automatic shut-off and food spoilage sensors for people with loss of smell and taste, speech-to-text devices for those with hearing loss, or voice-activated devices for the visually impaired.
We understand the tremendous suffering that can follow a life-changing injury. We also understand the extreme financial hardship that can arise from providing the support that a catastrophic injury requires. Most of the items listed above would be prohibitively expensive for the average household. We work to handle every aspect of your claim, from start to finish, specifically so you can focus on getting the support you need instead of worrying about how you’re going to pay for it. We factor the cost of this long-term support into the compensation calculation.
The Role of Community and Social Support Networks
Accepting a new way of life can be difficult. You will have some low periods as you begin to adjust to the limitations caused by your injury. Do not suffer alone; reach out to those who care about you. Find new hobbies and things that fit into your rehab routine. Studies have shown that social support is associated with lower pain intensity and better physical recovery. Social support has also been shown to offer a protective buffer against psychological conditions such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Find a support group that can empathize with your journey and provide tools to cope with the trauma.
There are local support groups that specialize in each type of catastrophic injury. For spinal cord injuries, for example, you can find a group here. Many trauma hospitals also have support groups for their patients. The journey to accepting life with a catastrophic injury is one that should not be taken alone.
Contact a Catastrophic Injury Lawyer Today
With more than 40 years of combined experience and with hundreds of millions of dollars collected in catastrophic injury cases, our attorneys are focused on recovering the maximum compensation on your behalf, whether through settlement or trial. Led by our award-winning attorneys, Garo Mardirossian and Armen Akaragian, we are prepared to provide you with the aggressive representation and personalized legal guidance you need.
Talk to one of our Los Angeles catastrophic injury lawyers about your case or contact our firm to schedule a free consultation.
Admitted to practice in 2006, Armen has arbitrated, tried, and settled several cases which have resulted in multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements.
Sources cited in this article:
- What Is A Catastrophic Injury? – Forbes
- CHAPTER 3. The Time of Commencing Actions Other Than for the Recovery of Real Property [335 – 349.4] – California Legislative Information
- What To Do After a California Catastrophic Injury – Enjuris
- Employment Benefits for the Traumatic Brain-Injured – FindLaw
- What Are Catastrophic Injuries And How Are They Treated – Hospital and Healthcare Management
- Personal digital assistants as cognitive aids for individuals with severe traumatic brain injury: a community-based trial – NCBI
- How to manage memory problems after brain injury – Headway.org
- Caltrans ordered to pay ex-UCLA football player $35M in crash lawsuit – Eyewitness News
- Environmental Accessibility Adaptations (Home Modifications) – L.A. Care Healthplan
- Beds for Spinal Cord Injuries – Craig Hospital
- Spinal Cord Injury: Adapting Your Home – Health Fairview
- Home Modifications – Living to the Max: Occupational Therapy
- Common Home Modifications and Adaptations for Recent Amputees – Primecare Orthotics & Prosthetics
- Recovery from musculoskeletal injury: the role of social support following a transport accident – PubMed
- The Role of Social Support in Coping with Psychological Trauma: An Integrated Biopsychosocial Model for Posttraumatic Stress Recovery – NCBI
- California Resources for Accident Victims & Families – Enjuris
- Support Groups California – SpinalCord.com
- Support Groups – Cedars-Sinai