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What Exactly is a Catastrophic Injury?


Any time you sustain an injury, it can feel like the world is coming down around you. But some injuries are so severe, so life-altering, that they can only be described as “catastrophic.” A catastrophic injury is one that is so severe, it often leaves the victim permanently disabled and in need of constant medical care. In many cases the injury might be linked to the death of the victim.

Some examples of these types of injuries may include:

  • Partial or full paralyses (paraplegia or quadriplegia)
  • Permanent brain damage, often resulting from a traumatic brain injury or an undiagnosed infection
  • Loss of limb, either as a result of the event or because of necessary amputation
  • Permanent loss of vision or hearing
  • Disfigurement, such as burn or laceration scars, or the loss of a body part
  • Permanent organ damage, caused by prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals, a penetrating injury, or other such incident, which can cause a victim to need a transplant
  • Birth injuries caused by medical negligence

People who sustain these types of injuries will need a lifetime of care and attention. Paralysis and loss of limb necessitate the need for wheelchairs, which means wheelchair ramps, and assistive technologies. Burn victims many not be able to regulate their body temperature (depending on the severity of the burns and the amount of scarring), which means climate control and top-of-the-line air filters become a must. A child born with a birth injury may need medical care for his or her entire life.

Aside from the medical bills, many people with truly catastrophic injuries will be left unable to work. There is also the possibility that a member of the victim’s family will be responsible for full-time caregiving, making it nearly impossible to pay the day to day bills, let alone manage a household, child care and any accruing treatments that become available in the future. It may also leave caretakers ineligible for certain kinds of government assistance to help them along the way.

Wrongful death is the most catastrophic injury of all

We have looked at catastrophic injuries in terms of survival, but sometimes the injuries are so severe they lead to the death of the victim. A person might pass away within days or even hours of sustaining the injury, but often times people succumb to their injuries more slowly. A person who is exposed to toxic chemicals from 30 years in the oil fields may need a lung transplant, but it is unlikely (based on his or her age) to be high on the list. Quadriplegia leads to a series of complications, including blood clots or autonomic dysreflexia, that may not manifest right away.

If a victim dies as a result of his or her injuries, however, the immediate family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Like personal injury lawsuits, wrongful death cases in Oklahoma also seek compensation for medical bills and lost wages, as well as pain and suffering, but they include the expenses associated with funeral costs, and some may seek additional compensation to ensure the financial security of the victim’s children.

Catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases are among the most heartbreaking cases we see. After 60 years practicing law in Southeast Oklahoma, we have come to know many, many families, and the clients who come to us for help are often ones whose loved ones referred them. That makes these types of cases deeply personal to us, and it is one of the driving forces behind why we fight so aggressively on behalf of our clients.

If your loved one sustained a catastrophic injury and you simply don’t know what to do, call the Stipe Law Firm. You can rely on us to give you the same honest, practical advice we always have, and to help you get what you need to protect your family. Please call (918) 505-7741 or fill out our contact form to learn more about our services. If you are unable to travel to our McAlester office, arrangements can be made to send one of the Oklahoma catastrophic injury attorneys from our firm to see you.