What Makes an Injury Catastrophic?


When someone has been injured in an accident, the severity of their injury matters. In some cases, the injuries will even be described as “catastrophic.”

What is a catastrophic injury? In some medical contexts, a catastrophic injury is an injury that causes a life-threatening or permanent medical condition for the victim. In legal contexts, though, catastrophic injuries are often described as any injury that can prevent the victim from holding gainful employment.

Does “Catastrophic” Matter?

If your injury has been labeled as catastrophic, does that matter? How does that affect your personal injury claim?

Technically, you can file a claim for damages against a defendant who caused you any sort of injury. Even minor injuries can sometimes be answered by a claim or lawsuit, so what makes it so important that your injury is considered catastrophic? The truth is that a catastrophic injury looks more intimidating to the defendant or liable party. When an insurance company sees that the claimant has been catastrophically injured, it knows that it could have a real legal battle on its hands because the plaintiff’s legal representation won’t back down with so much on the line.

Also, a catastrophic injury justifies a higher amount of compensation to pursue. Someone who sprained an ankle in a slip and fall accident will need less medical attention and miss fewer days of work than someone who broke a leg in a car accident, for example. Therefore, the more seriously – or catastrophically – injured victim will probably be owed far more compensation. If you don’t have a medical record or doctor’s testimony saying that your injury was catastrophic, then it can get much more difficult to pursue a settlement or award in large digits.

How to Prove Your Injury is Catastrophic

You will need to prove that your injury is catastrophic because the opposition will try to argue it isn’t. The best way to prove it is if your medical provider has diagnosed it as such. You will likely be instructed to complete an independent medical examination (IME) from a doctor contracted by the insurance company to get a second opinion about the severity of your injury and the permanence of your disability. To prepare for your IME, it is recommended that you first work with a personal injury attorney who can tell you what to expect. Taking this extra step can help ensure that you don’t say the wrong thing to the doctor and inadvertently downplay your injuries.

The Law Offices of Wax & Wax can help you if you’ve been catastrophically injured in an accident that was not your fault. We assist and represent clients in and around Los Angeles and Glendale Counties. Contact our firm today if you need our help.