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What are the hallmarks of a catastrophic injury?

On Behalf of | Oct 3, 2022 | Personal injury

When you sustain injuries in a car crash or other accident, you likely consider the whole experience catastrophic. Unfortunately, however, for purposes of the damages you can collect through settlement or winning a personal injury lawsuit, insurance companies consider only some injuries as truly catastrophic.

One of the most important things to remember is that, as The Lawyer Monthly points out, “catastrophic injury” is not a medical term, but rather a legal term that personal injury attorneys and the insurance companies that represent defendants use to describe the most serious kinds of injuries.


To qualify as catastrophic, your injury must alter your life, both now and in the future. Examples include the following:

  • A spinal cord injury that leaves you partially or totally paralyzed and in need of a wheelchair
  • A traumatic brain injury that leaves you permanently disabled
  • A crush injury that requires amputation of one of your limbs and therefore that you wear a prosthesis
  • An eye injury that leaves you partially or totally blind
  • An ear injury that leaves you partially or totally deaf
  • A burn injury that leaves substantial disfiguring scars


When you file a lawsuit against the person or entity whose negligence or wrongdoing caused the accident in which you sustained a catastrophic injury, the economic damages you ask for include not only your current medical expenses and loss of income, but also the expenses and income loss you can reasonably expect to encounter in the future.

You also will ask for noneconomic damages, such as your current and future physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering.