A catastrophic injury can be devastating and life-altering for a victim and their family. It can cause a permanent disability, prevent a person from ever working again, or can even lead to death. The long-term costs of these injuries can leave a family in dire financial hardship. There are legal options for a victim and their family after a catastrophic injury happens. The South Jersey catastrophic injury lawyers at DiTomaso Law have experience in these matters and will work tirelessly to ensure that the victim receives the compensation that they are owed.
What is a Catastrophic Injury?
A catastrophic injury is an injury that results in permanent damage or a disability. It can be caused by numerous instances, including truck accidents, car accidents, and workplace accidents. Common examples of catastrophic injuries include:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Severe spine injuries
- Brain and head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Severe burn injuries
- Disfigurement and significant scarring injuries
- Internal injuries
Another example of a catastrophic injury is one that has a severe impact on the victim’s life, such as a permanent disability. It could prevent the victim from holding down a job or could require months or years of intensive medical treatment.
What are My Legal Options if I Have a Catastrophic Injury?
A victim who has a catastrophic injury has the legal option to seek restitution from the party that is responsible for the circumstances that led to the accident. If the injury occurred during an automobile accident, the victim could go after the driver who caused the accident. The victim or their family will need an experienced lawyer who has worked with catastrophic injuries and knows how to build a proper case.
What Losses can I Recoup for My Injury?
After a victim suffers a catastrophic injury, such as a TBI, they must undergo medical treatment or even physical therapy. Medical care costs money and could put the victim and their family in a difficult financial situation. Filing a claim against the liable party can help recoup some or all financial losses. Among the losses a victim can reclaim include:
Medical Expenses: All injuries, regardless of their severity, will require a victim to visit a doctor for a diagnosis. The more severe the accident, the more doctor visits and required medical care. With a catastrophic injury, the victim could be looking at long-term care as well.
Lost Wages: While a victim is recovering from their injuries, they might not be able to return to work right away, which means they will not be drawing a paycheck. In addition, depending on the severity of the injury, the victim may be unable to return to work full-time or be able to perform the same functions as before. In these instances, a victim can recover the money they would have otherwise earned.
Pain and Suffering: In New Jersey, victims of catastrophic injuries can seek damages for pain and suffering. This is a more flexible number and could vary, depending on the severity of the injury.
Can I Seek Punitive Damages for a Catastrophic Injury?
Punitive damages can be complicated when it comes to how they are treated in New Jersey. Punitive damages are only awarded if the liable party acted in a way that was exceedingly negligent. Some of the situations that warrant punitive damages include:
- Instances where the party demonstrated malice
- Willful misconduct
- Specific intent to harm an individual
- The person responsible for the accident was under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Some of these instances occur when certain acts take place, like an assault or kidnapping. Regardless, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove the actions of the defendant warrant punitive damages. Ultimately, it will be up to a jury to decide if it needs to charge punitive damages to a defendant. Some of the factors that will lead to that decision include:
- How likely it was that the actions of the defendant were going to lead to serious harm to the plaintiff.
- Whether the defendant was aware that their actions would result in serious harm or whether the defendant had a reckless disregard for their actions.
- The duration of the activity.
- If the defendant took action to deliberately conceal their actions.
- An analysis of the action that the defendant took immediately after learning that their actions would cause harm.
- The ability of the defendant to pay any type of punitive damages.
In New Jersey, the standard for awarding punitive damages is high. The most a jury can provide is either $350,000 or five times the amount it rewarded in compensatory damages, whichever is greater.
What is the Statute of Limitations to File a Claim?
In both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, a victim generally has two years from the date of the incident that caused the catastrophic injury to file a lawsuit. The clock can also start on the date that the person should reasonably have known that an incident caused their injury.
If the victim is a minor, the two-year limit does not begin until they turn 18 years old, meaning that they have until they turn 20 years old to file a claim. In the unfortunate instance of a death, the victim’s family has two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
What Damages are Available to Family Members?
The family of the victim might be able to file a claim against the liable party if their loved one is suffering from a catastrophic injury. This is called a per quod claim, and it can be filed on behalf of the spouse, child, or another dependent of the injured party. This claim covers the loss of financial support or services that the injured person provided. For instance, if the person injured was the primary breadwinner, the spouse could sue for loss of income. In order to determine what damages are available, it is advisable to seek the help of a catastrophic injury lawyer.
South Jersey Catastrophic Injury Lawyers at DiTomaso Law Help Victims Obtain Compensation
If you or a loved one is suffering from a catastrophic injury, speak to a South Jersey catastrophic injury lawyer at DiTomaso Law right away. We will review your case and fight to obtain the compensation you deserve. Call us at 856-414-0010 or complete our online form for a free consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey, including Mt. Holly, Camden County, and Vineland.