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Not All Injuries Are Created Equal

A catastrophic injury is a severe injury to the spine, spinal cord, or brain (including skull or spinal fractures). These types of injuries frequently lead to total or partial permanent disabilities. Treatment of these injuries is usually more intensive, and likely will include extensive and costly diagnostic testing, surgery, and/or long-term rehabilitative care. 

In addition to considerable medical expenses, victims of these types of injuries may also suffer a long-term loss of income or ability to return to work at all. As a result, catastrophic injuries not only impact the life of the injured person but also have a devastating effect on the family who is left to care for the victim and struggle to compensate for the loss of previously relied upon income. 

If you or a loved one have suffered a catastrophic injury, you can expect a permanent change to your way of life. These types of injuries may require that the victim relocate to a long-term care facility, or pay for costly in-home care. Victims may lose the ability to participate in hobbies or other recreational activities as the once did, often causing the victim to become withdrawn and isolated. If unable to financially pay for the care the victim needs, family members will be called upon to change their lifestyle to accommodate the needs of their injured loved one. 

The only thing you can count on after you or a loved one suffers a catastrophic injury is that nothing will ever be the same again. 

A catastrophic injury lawyer with experience managing the coordination of treatment and billing can be invaluable in assisting you and your family navigate your recovery. Further, the right attorney will know how to properly document your injury and expenses so that you receive maximum compensation to cover the costs of your medical treatment, future medical or rehabilitative care, and loss of income.

Traumatic Brain Injury

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), defines a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, as a disruption of normal brain function resulting from a blow, bump or jolt to the head, or a penetrating head injury. TBI is one of the most common causes of disability and death in adults. Based on the most recent data, there were approximately 223,134 TBI-related hospitalizations in 2019 and 64,362 TBI-related deaths in 2020. This represents more than 611 TBI-related hospitalizations and 176 TBI-related deaths per day. According to a 2019 National Spinal Injury Statistical Center, car crashes are the leading cause of TBIs resulting in hospitalization.  

TBIs can happen in two ways: 

  1. Closed Brain Injury. Closed brain injuries happen when there is a non-penetrating injury to the brain with no break in the skull. A closed brain injury is caused by the rapid forward and backward movement and shaking the brain inside the skull that results in bruising and tearing the brain tissue and/or blood vessels. It is important to note that closed brain injuries can occur even when the head does not make contact with another object. The jostling of the brain within the skull is enough to cause an injury. 
  2. Penetrating Brain Injury. Penetrating, or open brain injuries, happen when there is a break in the skull, such as when a bullet pierces the brain. 

Symptoms of a TBI may include: 

  • Cognitive deficits: confusion, memory problems or amnesia, shortened attention span, inability to understand abstract concepts, decreased awareness, or coma. 
  • Motor deficits: paralysis or weakness, spasticity, balance problems, tremors, or poor coordination. 
  • Perceptual or sensory deficits: changes in hearing, vision, taste, smell, or touch. 
  • Communication and language deficits: difficulty speaking and understanding speech, difficulty reading or writing, problems forming sentences, slowed speech or decreased vocabulary. 
  • Functional deficits: impaired ability with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as dressing, bathing, or eating. 
  • Social difficulties: impaired social capacity, or difficulty in interpersonal relationships. 
  • Regulatory disturbances: fatigue, changes in sleep patterns, dizziness, headache, or loss of bowel/bladder control. 
  • Personality or psychiatric changes: apathy, decreased motivation, irritability, anxiety, depression, anger, or aggression. 

Brain injury rehabilitation can be long, and chances of success depend on a variety of factors including the nature and severity of the TBI, the type and degree of resulting impairments, the overall health of the patient, and family support. Most studies suggest that once brain cells are destroyed or damaged, they do not regenerate. However, recovery after brain injury can take place as other areas of the brain may make up for the injury. 

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64,362 TBI Related Deaths in 2020

Additionally, there were 223,135 TBI related hospitalizations in 2019. This represents more than 611 TBI hospitalizations and 176 TBI deaths per day.

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430,000 TBI Caused by Being Struck By or Against An Object

This is the second leading cause of all TBIs annually, and accounts for 1 in 5 TBIs in children aged 15 years or younger. 

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Car Crashes & Traffic Incidents are Leading Cause of TBI Deaths

32% of TBI deaths are caused by car crashes and traffic incidents. Close to 200,000 TBIs a year are the result of a motor vehicle or traffic accidents, including those involving bicycles and trains. 

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Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries are the result of damage caused to the cells and nerves that transmit signals between the brain and the rest of the body. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, there are about 17,730 new spinal cord injuries each year. Car crashes are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries accounting for 39.9% of all injuries, closely followed by falls accounting for 31.8% of injuries. 

Symptoms of spinal cord injuries will depend on the severity of the injury and the location in the spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries can be complete or incomplete. Incomplete spinal cord injuries may result in the loss of strength, sensation, and/or function below the site of the injury. On the other hand, complete spinal cord injury means the cord cannot send signals below the level of the injury and results in paralysis. 

Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment may include physical therapy, chiropractic adjustment, occupational therapy, electrical stimulation, or surgery. People with a spinal cord injury are two to five times more likely to die prematurely than people without a spinal cord injury according to the World Health Organization(WHO). 

Other Spine Injuries

While spinal cord injuries are the most dangerous type of injuries to the spine, injuries can occur to the spine that do not affect the cord, although they are often very painful. Other types of spine injuries can include:

  • Bulging Discs: discs compress because of age or trauma, causing the outer layers of the disc to bulge into the spinal canal, possibly causing nerve compression. 
  • Herniated Discs: when a hole forms in the outer layer of the disc causing some of the inner material to escape into the spinal canal. Herniated discs are more likely to cause nerve compression than bulging discs. 

Symptoms will depend on the severity of the injury to the disc and in addition to pain at the site of the injury may include weakness, numbness, or tingling in the shoulders, arms, buttocks, or legs. You may also experience radiating pain into the extremities.

Bulging or herniated discs often are not diagnosed until the symptoms have persisted for some time. This is because x-rays do not show bulging or herniated discs. A CT scan or MRI will determine if an injury victim has a bulging or herniated disc; however, given the expense of these diagnostic tests, they are not often ordered unless the symptoms do not resolve, or if conservative forms of treatment have not resolved the symptoms. Treatment for bulging/herniated discs may include anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections, physical therapy, or surgery.

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What is The Statute of Limitations?

There is a time limit to bring legal action for personal injury claims in Washington State. In most cases, the personal injury statute of limitations in Washington is three years from the date of the injury. However, the statute of limitations may differ depending on the specific facts and type of the case.

If an injured victim fails to either settle their case or file a lawsuit against the correct defendant before the statute of limitations lapses, they will be barred from receiving compensation for their injuries. This is why it is important to consult with an experienced catastrophic injury lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you do not miss any important deadlines that will affect your case or prevent you from recovering.

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What Damages Are Available?

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Economic Damages

Economic damages compensate the injured victim for actual monetary loss. Examples include:

  • Medical Expenses (including cost of medical treatment and/or equipment)
  • Prescriptions
  • Lost Wages/Lost Opportunity
  • Domestic Service Expenses
  • Funeral & Burial Expenses
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Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are subjective, non-monetary losses. Examples include:

  • Pain & Suffering
  • Inconvenience
  • Emotional Distress
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life
  • Loss of Society & Companionship
  • Loss of Consortium
  • Pre-Death Terror & Fright
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Other Damages

Other types of damages injured victims may be entitled to include:

  • Vehicle Damage Repairs/Total Loss Value
  • Diminished Value
  • Loss of Use of Property
  • Towing
  • Rental Car
  • Other Damaged Property