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What Qualifies as a Catastrophic Injury?

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Personal injury attorneys help clients with getting compensation for all manner of injuries. One of those types of injuries, catastrophic, routinely leads to the most extreme losses and the highest compensation figures. But what exactly is a catastrophic injury?

What is a catastrophic injury?

Humans are injured regularly and often heal relatively quickly with the proper treatment. However, some injuries leave their victims debilitated for long periods or the rest of their lives and are considered catastrophic injuries. 

Generally speaking, a catastrophic injury is an injury that requires much time and treatment to heal (if healing is possible) and significantly alters a person’s life. An injury of this nature can occur in a variety of situations and can eventually lead to death even months or years after the incident. 

Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury occurs when the brain experiences trauma from within or outside of the skull. As you would imagine, the consequences of a TBI can be dire. Although mild TBIs are not catastrophic injuries, severe TBIs are and typically lead to a lifetime of physical and cognitive deficiencies.  

Spinal Cord Injury

Injuries to the spinal cord result in loss of motor functions and sensation and can also cause paralysis. In most cases, they are catastrophic and require intensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. Sadly, some cause permanent neurological deficiencies, paralysis, and loss of control of basic bodily functions. 


Loss of a limb is life-changing and, therefore, catastrophic. The consequences of an amputation are felt in a victim’s work life, home life, and life in the community. Fortunately, medical advances have produced high-functioning prosthetics. However, most victims’ lives are altered forever by an amputation.

Vision or Hearing Loss

Loss of vision or hearing certainly qualifies as a catastrophic injury. These senses are the two primary indicators humans use to get around. The loss of either one invariably alters a person’s life and the lives of their loved ones. 

Medical research promises future, effective treatment. But currently, many victims who lose these senses never fully or partially regain their use. 


Burns are classified by degree, with fourth-degree burns being the most serious. Generally speaking, burns that are serious enough to leave scars are typically considered to be catastrophic. Certainly, third and fourth-degree burns are catastrophic, but some second-degree burns may also be deemed catastrophic. 

But scarring is not necessary for a burn to be considered catastrophic. Permanent debilitation caused by burns makes the burn injury catastrophic by definition.

What are some common causes of catastrophic injuries?

Catastrophic injuries can occur under many different circumstances. With that being said, they typically occur when the risk of suffering an impact or fire is higher than usual. 

Take cars as an example. When traveling in a car, your chances of experiencing a catastrophic injury increase due to the speed at which vehicles move and the presence of gasoline. 

Outside of traffic, other common situations and causes of catastrophic injuries include:

  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Fires and explosions 
  • Dangerous worksites
  • Medical malpractice
  • Violence

Whatever the cause, victims and their families can seek to hold people and entities accountable when they are negligent, reckless, or intend to cause harm. A claim for compensation against the injurer can go a long way in covering the various damages victims suffer, such as lost income, pain and suffering, and mental trauma. 

Attorneys at the Hunt Law Firm have helped thousands of injury victims in northern New Mexico and can potentially help you get justice for your injury. Call today to schedule a free consultation and explore your compensation options.