There are injuries which change a person’s life in an instant, perhaps permanently. They can no longer do the things they once did. Their entire life prior to the injury may be gone, to be replaced by a new one. This leads to enormous expenses for recovering and starting over, and can involve considerable mental and emotional sufferings. If the injury happened because someone else—either a person or an institution—was at fault—then the insurance company for that person or institution should foot the bill involved with the injured party starting over. Our Petersburg catastrophic injury lawyer has the experience necessary to secure a settlement that is fair and just.
Cuthbert Law Offices has been fighting for injured plaintiffs across Virginia since 1977. Call the office today at (804) 485-2555 or reach out online today.
8 Issues to Consider in a Catastrophic Injury Settlement
The financial settlement packages in catastrophic injury cases are necessarily complex and far-reaching, and the specifics will depend on the unique circumstances of the injured plaintiff. Generally speaking, though, the following 8 factors are what must be negotiated:
Immediate Medical Care
The most basic expense the injured plaintiff has suffered is the costs of their immediate medical treatment. Catastrophic injuries involve hospitalization, usually for extended periods of time. They may have required multiple surgeries. For circumstances involving burn injuries, there may have been extensive—and expensive—skin grafts that were needed. All of this needs to be paid for and the settlement is the vehicle for securing that payment.
In a catastrophic injury case, recovery is often just beginning when the patient is released from the hospital. Physical therapy will be necessary. How long will that therapy take? An experienced Petersburg catastrophic injury attorney will consult with expert witnesses who can give insight.
A person injured in a car accident might have several broken bones and need to go through extensive rehab sessions to regain their strength. In a case involving a brain injury, the injured plaintiff may have lost the ability to perform basic functions that can include even speech. Now, the rehabilitation process is going to be even mor extensive. Each case will be different, with its own unique dynamic.
Recovery is more than physical, and that can be especially true in catastrophic injury cases. An injury that was this severe is likely to live a patient with considerable post-traumatic stress disorder. Something as basic as a good night’s sleep may now be impossible. The possibility of severe depression is very real. The injured plaintiff, facing a long future of rehab, not being able to do what they once did, and perhaps not earn a living, can go through real mental struggles. They need professional help. An appropriate settlement package will include a plan, and the financing, for ongoing psychotherapy.
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There are a lot of issues that have to be examined when it comes to the question of lost wages, but the most basic one is this—how much time at work was missed due to time in the hospital and rehab, and how much income was lost because of it. This is a basic part of any personal injury settlement, whether the injured party is gone for a week or a year. Dollar amounts can be verified with W-2s, 1099 forms, tax returns, and other official documents.
Projected Lost Wages
For catastrophic injuries, the real impact of lost wages comes from looking out into the future. It’s quite possible that the injured plaintiff may no longer even be able to work again. Now, the settlement has to include all the earnings that they stood to gain had the injury not happened.
This can start with basic projection—what was their current salary, multiplied out by the number of years that were left until retirement. Cost-of-living increases, based on projected inflation can also be a part of that. But there is much more.
What if the person still had a long career ahead of them, with realistic prospects of advancement? What kind of salary might they have earned through promotions? Or, perhaps there were plans in place to further their education, making their skills more marketable. If the injured plaintiff owns their own business, what sort of growth opportunities were missed out on?
These are questions not easily answered. An experienced Petersburg catastrophic injury lawyer can work towards answers by reaching out to people in their chosen profession or to co-workers. While the question of how much money was lost can’t be answered definitively, there can be reasonable projections made. And reasonable projections, made by reliable people from the relevant field, can absolutely be included in a settlement package.
Pain & Suffering
Most of what we have considered to this point is tangible. That is, they are costs that are either directly calculable or reasonably projected. It’s possible to attach a hard number to the particular hardship. Pain and suffering is different—it’s intangible. It represents the legal system’s efforts to compensate someone for what is truly immeasurable.
What is the value of not being able to sleep at night because of recurring nightmares? What’s the value of no longer being able to enjoy the company of family and friends due to ongoing depression. How much is the ability to do treasured hobbies truly worth? In one sense, the question is unanswerable. But the legal sense, a settlement negotiation is obligated to at least attempt to put a dollar figure on all of someone’s pain and suffering.
Punitive damages aren’t always a part of a personal injury settlement. They apply when the negligence of the defendant is so egregious that the legal system, on behalf of society, believes it must send some sort of message about the unacceptability of certain actions. A corporation that willfully fails to implement worker safety protocols might be an example. The injured plaintiff is the financial beneficiary of punitive damages, but the message is for society as a whole. In Virginia, punitive damages as high as $350,000 can be tacked on to a settlement.
Leadership, Wisdom & Reliability
The person who has suffered a catastrophic injury, along with their loved ones have been through, and are coping with a lot. The last thing they need is to wonder whether their lawyer has the experience necessary to negotiate a comprehensive financial settlement that will address every issue that should be dealt with. When clients come to Cuthbert Law Offices, they’re getting the wisdom of over 45 years of experience. They’re getting leadership on difficult legal and financial questions. And they’re getting a reliable attorney they can count on.
People consider a lot of different factors when they buy a house or rent a new place. We think it’s safe to say that whether or not the home would still be suitable in the event of a catastrophic injury was not among those factors. Consequently, the home may no longer be livable. A prime example is a person who is paralyzed from the waist down, no longer able to function with staircases.
This means the home has to be renovated. Rampways need to go where staircases once where, along with any other changes that are deemed appropriate for a person in recovery. The cost of that renovation must be included in the settlement.
What happens if there is no possible way to renovate the house and make it suitable? Now, the injured plaintiff and their family need to relocate. This means the settlement will have to include the funding necessary to purchase a new home, which in turn involves a good analysis of what they can sell the current house for. Furthermore, one of the intangible costs of relocation is a considerable amount of inconvenience for the people who are moving. It’s fair and right that compensation for that inconvenient be paid for by the defendant’s insurance company.
Cuthbert Law Offices has over 45 years of experience. You can put all of it on your side by calling (804) 485-2555 or by filling out our online contact form today.
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