What Qualifies as a "Severe" Injury?

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Marc Lenahan with Lenahan Law Firm.

What Qualifies as a "Severe" Injury?
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“Severe injury” is a common phrase tossed around in personal injury law, but it can be difficult to know what this phrase refers to. There is no single defining factor of a severe injury, but one can generally be identified by looking for certain factors, including the recovery time, the extent of damages, and long-term effect the injury is likely to have on a person’s life. Determining whether or not an injury is severe can clarify the options for recovery available to an injury victim, as well as the pros and cons of each option. 

That said, it is not uncommon for an injury to appear minor at first only to worsen with time, so it’s important to consult with a medical professional as well as a personal injury attorney before deciding for yourself whether or not your injury is “severe enough” to warrant legal action.

Severe injuries typically involve severe damages.

While any injury may result in a few medical bills and a few days to a week off work, this may or may not constitute a severe injury claim. Medical bills and lost wages are referred to as economic damages and are some of the most common damages sought compensation for in a personal injury claim. When the medical bills are extremely high or expected to be ongoing, and/or the injured person’s income is expected to be significantly affected both in the short or long term, these could constitute significant damages. Additionally, when an injury is severe or catastrophic, it may require intensive medical care to heal as well as a good deal of time spent away from work during recovery. 

Additionally, if the injured person is not able to engage with daily life the way they did prior to the injury, this could constitute a myriad of non-economic damages that are indicative of a severe or even catastrophic injury. Damages that may apply in severe injury cases include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and impairment of earning capacity if the injured party is unable to return to work in the same capacity as they did prior to the injury even after reaching maximum recovery. These and other non-economic damages are just as important to consider in a severe injury case.

Severe injuries typically have a lasting impact.

Another effective way to identify a severe injury is to imagine all of the ways an injured person’s life will be changed or otherwise altered far into the future as a result of the injury. The impact of a severe injury could be long-term or even permanent, and it often takes the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to sit down, assess, and get the full scope of. For example, if someone suffered a blow to the head which later began to present with symptoms of brain injury (i.e. memory problems, changes in personality, difficulty communicating, etc.), these changes could last for that person’s entire lifetime and should be compensated accordingly as a severe injury. 

For another example, if someone suffered an injury to the hip or leg in a car accident and the doctor predicts the injury is likely to cause additional problems sometime in the future, this could constitute a severe injury because it is likely to affect person’s mobility, enjoyment of life, and need for additional aid far into the future. The ripple effect of a severe injury may not be immediately apparent, which is one of the most important reasons for contacting an experienced injury attorney who can acquaint you and your family with all of the possibilities you might need to prepare yourself for in the future.

To learn more about severe injuries or to discuss your own potential injury case, reach out to an experienced personal injury lawyer in your area.

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