Catastrophic Injury Attorney Marietta
The term “catastrophic injury” isn’t susceptible to a precise definition, but most of us recognize the general idea. Getting a superficial cut on your finger is minor. Breaking your arm is serious, but except for a few unusual cases, will not alter the very fabric of your life. A bladder injury that requires surgery and affects your continence into the future is major, but doesn’t alter your basic abilities and most people would not call it catastrophic, at least in terms of your ability to work. A brain injury, which basically wipes out your mental abilities and totally alters your personality, is catastrophic, as is a spinal cord injury that puts you in a wheelchair for life
Why a “Catastrophic” Designation Matters in a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Georgia’s scheme for compensating workers hurt on the job makes a very important distinction between “catastrophic injuries” and all others of lesser severity. Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation law generally caps benefits at a maximum of 400 weeks. That sounds like a lot when you read this as a healthy person; it sounds a lot shorter when you have been injured at work and find yourself truly unable to effectively function even after several years.
If your injury is “catastrophic,” however, all your benefits continue until you actually are able to return to work. It’s a significant difference and the employer and insurer have significant economic motivation to resist having injuries classified as catastrophic.
What Injuries are “Catastrophic”
Georgia law designates five fairly specific types of injuries as catastrophic by definition. Then, because no one is farsighted enough to imagine exactly what injuries may occur in a work setting that will have a catastrophic effect on the victim, the law describes a general, “catch-all” category based on the impact the injury has on employability.
The five specific injuries that are specified to be catastrophic are:
- Injuries to the spinal cord which produce severe paralysis
- Amputation of a type that cause the victim to effectively lose the use of a limb (arm or leg) or an appendage (foot or hand)
- Injuries to the brain severely disturbing sensation, motor skills, communication, consciousness, or cerebral function, causing neurologic disorders that are severe and episodic, and any other condition which is at least as severe as those just listed
- Burns of the 2nd or 3rd degree that cover either 25% or more of the whole body or 5% or more of the hands or face
- Blindness which is either total or “industrial” (neither measure is defined)
In addition to the preceding 5 injuries, Georgia law recognizes as catastrophic any injury which is sufficiently severe to keep the victim from performing (1) the type of work performed before the injury, and (2) any other kind of work which is shown to be “available in substantial numbers” as long as the victim is qualified to perform it.
Where the Legal Disputes Arise
Although the five specified injuries are described fairly specifically, the law necessarily relies on subjective terms to describe the degree of the injury needed to make it catastrophic. The legal and medical disputes center on whether:
- Paralysis from a spine injury is “severe.”
- An amputation caused “effective loss” a limb or appendage’s use.
- A brain or head injury is “severe”, as demonstrated by whether the listed consequences (disturbances of motor, sensation, communication, etc.) are “severe.”
- The area of the body or head and face that suffered third degree burns meets the 25%-5% requirement.
- Blindness meets the “total” or the “industrial” standards.
These terms are all somewhat subjective. Whether the injury is ultimately deemed catastrophic will depend on how good a job your catastrophic injury attorney does in gathering and presenting medical evidence and an array of supporting evidence from the claimant, the claimant’s family, and even the claimant’s friends and neighbors. It really helps to have an injury attorney who has solid, successful experience in proving these cases.
The “Catch-All” Category
The catch-all definition is the source of many disputes simply because it relies on what type and amount of work the claimant remains able to perform. As you can imagine, this often becomes a battle between vocational experts: the expert representing the employer/insurer testifying with great certainty that the claimant remains capable of performing various jobs, maybe even the type of work previously performed, while the expert representing the claimant testifies with equal certainty that the claimant can’t perform any work.
Get the Legal Help You Need | Marietta Catastrophic Injury Lawyer
Whether you have suffered a catastrophic injury on or off the job, you need legal assistance. Insurance companies, be they liability or workers’ compensation carriers, are rarely quick to pay these large claims. In non-work related catastrophic injury claims, the defendant’s insurance company will be likely to fight vigorously on the issue of liability, because such large claims eat into their corporate profits. Liability is usually not an issue in Comp claims, but the insurer and employer will often resist the “catastrophic” designation for the same reason.
In a Workers’ Compensation case involving a catastrophic injury, if the employer and insurer are claiming that your injuries aren’t severe enough to be classified as catastrophic, it’s up to your attorney to marshal both medical and vocational evidence to support your claim. It’s not an easy task, and the employer and insurer will fight it every step. The more experienced your attorney is in high stakes catastrophic injury claims, the more likely it is that and you will be able to get the help you need for as long as you need it. In a non-job-related case, or if you have a third-party claim in addition to your Workers’ Comp case, it is important that your attorney understands the full extent of your non-economic damages as well as your economic ones and pursues a claim for both kinds of damages.
The top-rated law firm of Clay | Starrett Injury Lawyers, LLC has the experience and resources to make sure you receive the compensation to which you are entitled. If you have been involved in a work accident in or around Cobb or Paulding Counties or know someone who has, give us a call today to arrange a free, no-obligation meeting to discuss your case.