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What is a Catastrophic Injury?

By Traci Behringer
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A catastrophic injury is a type of injury that has severe and devastating effects on a person and his or her loved ones. This kind of injury can cause a victim to suffer from a permanent disability, physical or otherwise, for the remainder of his or her life. The types of injuries that are catastrophic can include brain injuries, neck injuries, back injuries, paralysis, organ damage and severe burns. A catastrophic injury can last for a few weeks, for a few years or even for the remainder of the victim's life.

In many cases, a catastrophic injury is one that causes the victim to lose certain physical or mental abilities. This might include the ability to walk, to move one or more body parts or to see. A catastrophic injury that involves brain damage can severely reduce the victim's ability to communicate or to perform basic tasks, and it can affect his or her mental capacity and personality.

The victim of a catastrophic injury might no longer be able to work and gain a substantial income. He or she also might no longer be able to enjoy life or doing certain things, and his or her loved ones might experience a certain amount of stress or financial strain. Catastrophic brain injuries can make it difficult for a victim to remember his most loved ones, which places additional emotional burdens on the family members.

A catastrophic injury is often not the victim's fault. It sometimes can result from unsafe work conditions, medical malpractice or another person's actions, whether they were intentional or caused the injury through negligence. For example, a man who works in construction might fall from an unstable ladder and break his neck. Another person might be in the hospital for minor back surgery, but the surgeon could accidentally make the wrong incision and sever the spinal cord. In these cases, the victim and possibly his or her family members are often entitled to financial compensation that will cover all medical costs and will provide compensation for the pain, suffering and loss of quality of life that are caused by the injury.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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