What Accidents Are Considered Catastrophic?

firefighters open a damaged car after the road traffic accident

If you’ve read the news or legal blogs, you’ve likely come across the phrase “catastrophic accident” or “catastrophic injury.” Although evocative of something big and terrible, the term “catastrophic” might not actually be very clear on its own. When we say that there was a catastrophic accident, what do we mean? Read on to learn about catastrophic accidents in New York, and call a dedicated Bronx car accident attorney at the Kohn Law Firm if you’ve been seriously hurt in a New York traffic crash.

Defining Catastrophic Injury

There is no technical, legal definition of “catastrophic.” It’s a term of art used to refer to especially serious accidents and injuries. In practice, catastrophic accidents typically refer to accidents that cause catastrophic injury. Catastrophic injury, in turn, generally refers to injuries that have long-term, life-altering consequences. Catastrophic injuries may be life-threatening, they could lead to extensive or permanent loss of a bodily function, and they might result in permanent disability. Catastrophic accidents are those that cause serious physical harm, as well as those that are disabling or disfiguring.

Examples of catastrophic injuries include:

  • Spinal cord injury
  • Loss of a limb
  • Coma
  • Scarring burns
  • Skull fractures
  • Loss of sight or hearing
  • Paralysis
  • Internal organ damage
  • Severe traumatic brain injury

Typically, catastrophic injuries require extensive, expensive medical care for any hope of recovery. Catastrophic injuries tend to be long-lasting and often will never fully heal. These types of injuries often also entail emotional and psychological damage as the victim processes the changes to their life caused by the injury.

The Serious Injury Threshold in New York

A catastrophic injury is not the same thing as a “serious injury” under New York injury law. Serious injury is a defined, legal concept. New York is a no-fault car insurance state, meaning that after a standard car crash, each participant files a claim with their own insurance company rather than filing against the at-fault driver. If a victim suffers a “serious injury,” however, they can file a claim against the at-fault driver and the driver’s insurance provider, seeking significantly more damages than they would have been able to claim under their no-fault policy.

New York law explicitly defines “serious injury” as an injury that causes one of the following: death; dismemberment; significant disfigurement; a fracture; loss of a fetus; permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system; permanent consequential limitation of a body organ or member; significant limitation of the use of a body function or system; or a debilitating short-term injury that limits the victim’s ability to perform normal daily activity for at least a few months in the six months following the accident.

If you suffered a broken bone, loss of a limb, significant impairment to a body part or bodily function, or other serious harm in a New York car crash, you can bring a claim directly against the driver responsible for the accident.

Call a Seasoned Bronx Car Crash Injury Attorney Today

If you or someone you care about has been hurt in a New York traffic accident, find out if you’re entitled to monetary damages for your injuries by contacting the diligent, comprehensive New York car accident lawyers at the Bronx offices of the Kohn Law Firm for a free consultation at 718-409-1200.

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