Injuries from vehicle accidents, bicycle and pedestrian accidents, slip and falls, premises liability accidents, and negligent security can be catastrophic. Many of these types of accidents can cause brain injuries. Even a minor concussion might be catastrophic if it leads to other health problems, sometimes years later. Because of the cost of treating a catastrophic injury and the risk that the injury will affect you for the long term or even permanently, you should always contact a catastrophic injury lawyer such as those at The Law Office of Jerry Jenkins, P.A., to negotiate with insurance companies or take your case to court.
Working With Insurance Companies
When you are injured, you might be tempted to work directly with the insurance company. However, you should keep several factors in mind. Insurance companies are in business to make a profit. This means that they are going to pay the least amount possible to get you to settle. Higher payouts mean a lower profit margin for insurance companies. Do not be fooled into thinking that if you are in an accident that is not your fault that your insurance company will look out for your best interests.
Since Florida is a no-fault state, if you are in an auto accident, your own insurance company pays for your expenses and losses up to your policy limit. But the insurance company will not make sure you have enough to pay for expenses or compensate you for less tangential losses, including the death of a loved one.
Notifying Your Insurance Company
When you are in an accident, you must notify your own homeowner’s or auto insurance company of the accident, and file a claim. When you contact the insurance company, only give the insurance representative your name, contact information, location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact information. If the insurance company asks for other information about the accident, let the representative know that your attorney will be contacting them.
Federal law defines a catastrophic injury is an injury where the consequences permanently prevent the injured person from doing any type of gainful work. These type of injuries may include:
- Brain injuries;
- Spinal cord injuries;
- Neck injuries; and
- Other permanent injuries.
Other injuries may qualify as catastrophic, even if at first they may not seem to be. A broken ankle that requires pins and never heals properly could keep someone from going back to doing the type of work they typically performed before the accident. Nerves damaged in an accident may never heal, and the injured person can end up with limited use of an arm or leg for the rest of their life.
If you are injured in an accident, never take it for granted that you will heal completely. Keep a diary of your recovery and make sure you keep records of all doctors’ appointments so that you can track your progress or lack of progress toward recovery.
In many cases, doctors can determine whether an injury will be permanent. However, in some cases, injuries that should heal simply never do. In working out a settlement, these scenarios must be taken into consideration to ensure that you receive enough compensation for future medical expenses and future lost wages.
Florida’s Definition of Catastrophic Injuries
Florida Statute 766.118 has a more succinct definition of catastrophic injuries. While it does agree with the federal statute that a catastrophic injury is a permanent injury, it further defines catastrophic injuries as including:
- Spinal cord injuries with paralysis;
- Amputation of a limb;
- Closed-head or brain injuries that cause severe motor or sensory disturbances, episodic neurological disorders, communication disturbances and complex integrated disturbances of cerebral function.
- Second- and third-degree burns that cover at least 25 percent of the body;
- Third-degree burns that cover at least 5 percent of your hands and face;
- Complete blindness; and
- Loss of reproductive organs.
When working with healthcare providers caring for your injuries, be sure you ask questions regarding the permanency of your injuries. If your healthcare provider believes your injuries are permanent, make sure they document their findings.
If you have an underlying condition that may delay or even prevent healing, make sure your medical providers and your attorney know about the condition. This type of condition might include:
- Radiation treatments; and
- Prescription medications that lower your white blood cell count.
How You Might Suffer a Catastrophic Injury
You could suffer a catastrophic injury in any type of accident, depending on the circumstances of the accident. Some injuries may not present as catastrophic immediately. For example, you may seem to recover from a concussion, but you could be suffering minor inconveniences such as fatigue beyond anything you experienced before and more frequent headaches. If necessary, we will hire expert witnesses to testify on your behalf and show that you may suffer from concussion symptoms for the rest of your life. Concussions can also lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy later in life. However, once you accept a settlement or receive an award at trial, you can’t go back for additional compensation.
If we take on your case, we must evaluate your injuries, usually with the help of medical professionals who testify as expert witnesses, to show that these minor symptoms are the result of the injuries—in this case, a concussion—that you suffered in an accident. Other common types of injuries could lead to permanent damage, such as minor loss of feeling even after you seem to recover from a spinal cord injury.
Passenger Vehicle Accidents
Even with all of the safety systems in newer vehicles, drivers and their passengers can still suffer catastrophic injuries in a car accident. Airbags attempt to prevent vehicle occupants from going through the windshield or from hitting their heads on the side windows or steering wheel. They do not stop the other vehicle from pushing vehicle occupants into the opposite side of the car and causing extensive damage to their nerves, bones, muscles or even eyesight.
There is an even higher risk of catastrophic injuries if a passenger vehicle is hit by a large truck, or if one of the parties to the accident is a pedestrian or bicyclist, or riding a motorcycle. Big trucks are heavy and have a lot more forward momentum, so when a big rig hits another vehicle, even a large pickup truck, the smaller vehicle suffers much more damage than when two vehicles of similar size collide. Pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists have very little to no protection from collisions, so even being hit by a small vehicle can cause them catastrophic injuries.
Slip and Fall Accidents
Hopefully, if you slip and fall, your injuries are minor enough that you heal quickly. However, some slip and fall accidents can result in long-term or even permanent injuries. If you fall in such a manner that you hurt your back you could suffer partial or total paralysis, or you could hurt your back in such a way that you suffer pain for the rest of your life. You could suffer even more severe injuries if you twist while you are falling, for example, if you are trying to keep your balance after tripping over something.
Premises liability covers any type of building or property. It could be undeveloped land owned by yourself or another person, a home, a government building, or a business. If you are hurt on someone’s property, you may file a claim against the owner’s insurance company. However, if you are injured while committing a crime, you may not collect on a claim. For example, if you are trespassing and get hurt on someone else’s property, you are almost never eligible for damages from the property owner’s insurance company to compensate you for your injuries.
If you do have permission to be on the property and you are hurt, you may file a premises liability action against the property owner’s insurance. Slip and fall accidents and accidents or injuries related to negligent security are sometimes brought as premises liability claims.
Negligent security can lead to serious and even catastrophic injuries. This type of premises liability case is about holding the property owner responsible for injuries and/or damages a visitor suffers while on their property if they do not have reasonable security. This can apply to both residential and commercial properties.
You could bring a negligent security claim if the lack of security, like insufficient lighting, causes your injuries, whether you trip, slip, fall, are accosted, or suffer any other number of injuries because lighting or other security measures were not in place or were inadequate.
In most cases, the injured person brings their negligent security claim against a public venue or property like a parking lot, sports stadium, mall, airport, apartment complex, or amusement park. Reasonable security should include:
- Plenty of lighting;
- Enough security guards to keep all areas regularly patrolled or watched through CCTV;
- Working security systems;
- Working locks and other security devices; and
- Good surveillance.
The property owner has a legal responsibility to keep visitors safe. Thus, for example, a mall owner must provide security and lighting in the mall and parking lot, and a homeowner should have adequate lighting for guests visiting after dark.
Damages Available for Catastrophic Injuries
Catastrophic injuries do not just cost you at the time of the accident—they cost you for the rest of your life. Damages you may receive because of catastrophic injuries do not take away the pain or bring a loved one back, but they do make the financial burden of being injured or of losing a loved one easier.
Personal injury awards are divided into three types of damages: Special, general and punitive damages. Special damages are often referred to as economic damages because they have a price attached to them. General damages are often referred to as non-economic damages because they do not have a set price. Punitive damages are only awarded in certain circumstances.
Economic damages include:
- Medical expenses for injuries related to the accident;
- Lost wages for the time you could not work because of injuries related to the accident;
- Future medical expenses for catastrophic injuries and long-term injuries;
- Future lost wages for catastrophic injuries and long-term injuries; and
- The repair or replacement of personal property damaged in the incident.
In some cases, future medical expenses and future lost wages may be listed as non-economic damages. While these types of damages do have a dollar amount attached to them, the amount can only be estimated at the time of settlement or trial.
Insurance companies estimate how much compensation you might need for a specific length of time. That length of time is estimated based on the average time it takes any person to recover from the same injury. For example, insurance companies figure it takes six to eight weeks on average to recover from a broken leg, so you are probably not going to get future medical expenses and/or future lost wages for a broken leg.
However, if your leg is not only broken, but the bone is crushed, you may have problems with walking or pain for the rest of your life. You definitely want an attorney to fight for more compensation than you would receive if you had suffered a clean break. If you have a bad burn, insurance companies might agree to pay you for six months to a year if you need surgeries and a long healing period. However, if you have an underlying condition such as diabetes, the burn may never heal properly. You could be entitled to compensation for the rest of your life.
Punitive damages are awarded by a court to punish the responsible party for grossly negligent or intentional behavior, like driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Contact The Law Office of Jerry Jenkins, P.A., if You Suffered a Catastrophic Injury in Orlando
If you suffered catastrophic injuries or believe that your injuries may be permanent, contact The Law Office of Jerry Jenkins, P.A., at (407) 287-6757 for a free consultation. We will evaluate and investigate your case, and make sure your rights are not violated.