Fort Lauderdale Catastrophic Injury Lawyer

June 15, 2020 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman

If you or a loved one suffered catastrophic injuries in Fort Lauderdale due to the actions (or inactions) of another party, we can help.

Catastrophic injuries are defined as injuries that immediately affect the injured person negatively and for the long term, such as injuries that prevent the sufferer from earning a livelihood. Catastrophic injuries are sudden and alter an injured person's life.

The Fort Lauderdale catastrophic injury lawyers at the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA have decades of success fighting for their catastrophic injured clients to receive justice. Our initial consultation is always free.

Recently, as an example, we won a $1,580,000 settlement on behalf of a woman who sustained a serious back and neck injuries in a car accident. The injuries rendered her unable to continue her previous occupation as a respiratory therapist. When the insurance company offered only $62,000 before her lawsuit, we worked with a life-care planner to show that her estimated future medical costs and the loss of income totaled much more than that amount. The settlement reflects our commitment to all our clients.

Contact our Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys'  at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH), or using our online contact page.

What Are Catastrophic Injuries?

Because the term catastrophic refers to the effect on the injured person, no one type of injury is catastrophic. It depends on the nature and extent of the injury rather than the type. A complete spinal cord injury (SCI), for example, can cause permanent loss of motor function and feeling, which is catastrophic. The injured person will not walk again, and will likely require around-the-clock care. Approximately 50 percent of SCIs are complete, but it is also possible to receive a severe SCI that may resolve in time.

Similarly, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause catastrophic injury, such as motor impairment.

The following events can result in catastrophic injuries.

  • Head and traumatic brain injuries
  • Neck injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Amputation of limbs
  • Severe burns
  • Electrocution
  • Internal organ injuries
  • Birth injuries

What Causes Catastrophic Injuries?

Many different events can cause catastrophic injuries. Two of the most common are truck accidents and motorcycle accidents. Truck accidents, particularly semi-trucks and tractor-trailers, are highly injurious to affected people because trucks are so much larger than most other vehicles on the road.

Motorcyclists, on the other hand, are catastrophically injured because of the relative smallness of their vehicles compared to other vehicles. Motorcyclists are also comparatively undefended, because they are not surrounded by tons of metal and cushions, as other vehicle drivers are. Motorcyclists also risk being thrown from their vehicles in case of an accident.

Causes of catastrophic injuries range very widely, however. Vehicle accidents of all types can result in catastrophic injuries. Sports injuries can cause catastrophic injuries. Difficult or complicated births can cause catastrophic injuries. Falling from a height or being struck by objects falling from a height can result in catastrophic injuries. Acts of violence, such as gunshot wounds, may also cause catastrophic injuries.

In short, any event that prevents someone's long-term ability to work or perform the activities of daily living is affected has caused a catastrophic injury.

Who's Liable for a Catastrophic Injury?

A determination of fault in catastrophic injuries hinges on the concepts of duty of care and negligence. People and organizations owe a duty of care to the public, depending on the relationship to the public. The duty of care of all vehicle drivers, for example, is to drive safely and prudently and to follow all traffic regulations and laws. If drivers do not exercise this duty of care and cause an accident as a result, and the accident results in catastrophic injuries, then the drivers are arguably negligent. If found negligent, they are liable, or financially responsible for the injuries.

Similarly, doctors have a duty of care to do no harm in medicine. Harming a patient during care due to improper action (or inaction) is a breach of that duty of care, and can make a physician negligent, and thus financially liable. Coaches of sports teams and the venues in which sports are practiced and played have a duty of care to make sure that both practice and play are performed safely and done in safe conditions.

What Damages Will I Receive for a Catastrophic Injury?

In general, people injured in Fort Lauderdale by a negligent party may seek damages in the following categories:

Economic Damages

  • Medical bills incurred - Doctor's visits, emergency care, ambulance services, surgery, hospitalization, prescription medication, physical therapy, home health aides, medical equipment, and retrofitting a home to accommodate a disability are all compensable.
  • Future medical bills expected - If you are expected to need medical treatment in the future, all the items above are compensable, as well.
  • Wages lost from work - If the accident or treatment caused you to lose time from work, the monetary amount you lose is compensable.
  • Wages lost from work expected in the future - If you are expected to lose time from work in the future, the expected monetary amount is compensable.
  • Loss of earning capacity - If a catastrophic injury renders you unable to work at all in the future, or able to work only in a different capacity, compensation can include your expected future earnings from your previous job.

Noneconomic Damages

In addition, Florida allows injured parties to seek noneconomic damages from an injury claim. These include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional suffering
  • Disfigurement and permanent scarring
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium (this is sought on behalf of the decedent's spouse, for loss of the prior level of companionship, care, love, affection, or sex life.)

In addition, courts sometimes levy punitive damages against the at-fault party. Punitive damages, as the name suggests, are designed to punish wrong-doers who have exhibited a pattern of willful disregard of their duty of care.

How Much Will a Catastrophically Injured Person Receive in Damages?

Victims of catastrophic injuries often receive high damage awards. Why? First, because catastrophic injuries are severe, medical bills are often quite high. Catastrophically-injured people may need life-long care, either in a nursing home or at home, for the rest of their lives. They may require multiple surgeries and hospitalizations. Their homes may need special medical equipment, such as medical bills and assistive devices. They may need to construct new areas in the home for the injured person to stay or receive care, or to retrofit existing areas.

Second, catastrophic injuries by their nature render victims unable to work or diminish their capacity to work for long periods of time, and perhaps for the duration of their life. Compensation for wages lost from work and loss of earning capacity can thus result in high figures as well.

Similarly, catastrophic injuries cause much greater noneconomic costs, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and so on. An individual who breaks an arm, for instance, will undoubtedly experience pain and suffering. The effects of a broken arm are quite short term, comparatively. Most broken arms heal, and any effects resolve. In a catastrophic injury, a short-term resolution doesn't happen by definition.

How are actual figures arrived at? For economic compensation, it's partly a numerical tabulation. Your current (already incurred) medical costs are added up. If future medical costs are expected, expert testimony is sought. Experts advise both on recommended courses of treatment and the expected cost of those courses of treatment.

For wages lost from work, the amount of time lost is multiplied by your current wages. For future wages lost from work expected, the forecast amount of time is also multiplied by current wages. If victims cannot work again, or to work at their former employment, expert testimony is also solicited to obtain an estimate of their expected lifetime earnings.

Noneconomic damages are more difficult to calculate and frequently require a careful analysis from an experienced Fort Lauderdale catastrophic injury lawyer.

How Do I Recover Compensation?

If you or a loved one receive a catastrophic injury in Fort Lauderdale, there are two avenues for pursuing compensation. The first is to file a claim with the at-fault party's insurance company. Injured people should know, however, that insurance companies are in business to make a profit, not necessarily to compensate people fairly, even for the most catastrophic of injuries.

Insurance companies employ multiple methods of trying to minimize or even deny claims. They may try to compensate victims quickly with an amount far less than their injuries are worth, for example—a strategy known as lowballing.

Insurance companies may also try to claim that you bore whole or partial responsibility for the event that caused your injury. Another strategy is to claim that your injuries are not as serious in degree as you claim, or that they could receive different (less expensive) treatment.

Insurance companies can also try to say that your injuries stem from another cause. Someone whose head was injured in a truck accident, for example, may hear that their injuries were pre-existing. This happens especially if you had a previous injury in that area. Expert testimony is often needed to prove that a specific event did cause your injuries.

It's prudent to consult a lawyer to negotiate for you in insurance claims, for several reasons. First, lawyers know the strategies that insurance companies use. Lawyers are prepared for these arguments and can successfully counter them.

Second, in some cases, multiple insurance companies and even multiple lines may be involved. This is especially true in large commercial truck accidents, where multiple parties may bear responsibility, and each may contract with a different insurance carrier. It can also occur, however, in sports injuries, where a school, a team, and a venue may all bear partial responsibility. Cases with multiple insurance companies and lines are complicated and difficult for an individual to negotiate successfully.

You can also seek compensation via a personal injury lawsuit in court. Judges and juries may feel more sympathy than insurance claim adjusters, and thus feel more inclined to return a high damage award. A personal injury lawsuit can also leverage your insurance claim, making the insurance company more inclined to offer a just settlement.

How Do I Prove Who Was at Fault?

Evidence is necessary to prove fault. If you are in a vehicle accident, call 911 and get a copy of the police report. If you are able, talk to eyewitnesses. Take multiple pictures of the scene, if possible. (If emergency medical technicians take you to the emergency room, get a copy of the police report as soon as possible. See if surveillance cameras of the scene are available.)

In other types of accidents, talk to eyewitnesses if available and take pictures. Keep all records of your medical diagnoses, treatment, and physician's recommendations. These are valuable evidence, as well.

How Much Will My Case Cost?

The initial consultation to discuss the circumstances of your case, your injuries, and your options is always free. In addition, our attorneys work on a contingency basis. Our fees are taken from a successful settlement. If you do not receive a settlement, you pay nothing.

Fort Lauderdale Catastrophic Injury Frequently Asked Questions FAQs

If you're in Fort Lauderdale and have questions about catastrophic injuries, we've compiled this list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) and answers.

What makes an injury catastrophic?

The term catastrophic doesn't refer to a specific type of injury, but rather to the effect on a victim's life. Catastrophic injuries render victims unable to earn a livelihood or do some of the activities of daily living, in the long term or permanently.

Catastrophic injuries often result from accidents that aren't foreseen and happen quickly. A car accident that causes debilitating neck injuries. A motorcycle accident that throws the motorcyclist 100 feet, slamming him into a guard rail. A dive into a lake, where the diver strikes a rock. A football scrimmage that results in a severe concussion. A falling hammer that strikes a pedestrian below. A forceps-assisted delivery that harms the baby's brain. All of these are examples of events that can result in catastrophic injuries.

What should I do if I have suffered a catastrophic injury?

Consult Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA if you or a loved one has suffered a catastrophic injury in Fort Lauderdale. We will talk to you and provide a free consultation to discuss your case, the circumstances of the accident, and your injuries. Attorneys generally only take cases that they consider winnable. Your attorney should candidly discuss with you whether you have a good case.

Attorneys help catastrophic injury victims and their families in several ways. First, attorneys can help determine the best course of action given an individual's specific circumstances. They can negotiate with insurance companies, for example. Insurance companies may try to use strategies to deny, delay, or minimize your claim. Attorneys are savvy to the ways of insurance companies and can counter these strategies.

Second, if there is no insurance company or if the insurance settlement is far from fair, attorneys can help you bring a personal injury suit in civil court. Courts, unlike insurance companies, don't approach cases to maximize insurance company profits. You may, therefore, have a better chance of receiving a just settlement.

Third, your attorney can advise you about damage compensation that's available to you. If a catastrophic injury means you can't work going forward, for example, you may seek damages for loss of earnings capacity. This compensates you for the estimated earnings you would have earned throughout your life.

Fourth, an attorney can help you compile evidence about what happened to cause your catastrophic injury and who or what was at fault. Attorneys work with investigators, forensic analysts, and medical experts and can request surveillance camera footage and police reports to determine the causes of accidents.

Fifth, an attorney can mount a forceful argument that you are entitled to maximize compensation. Insurance companies often try to lowball settlements (settle for less than the claim is worth), to maximize their own profits. Victims and their families, understandably, may not have the experience or information to fully know what a fair and just settlement for their injuries should look like. Lawyers can arrive at just compensation by talking to medical experts, life-care experts, workplace compensation experts, and other professionals who can adequately assess the effect of such an injury on a person's life.

Who's liable for my Fort Lauderdale catastrophic injury?

To receive compensation for a catastrophic injury, another party must bear responsibility for the actions that led to the injury, and the injuries must stem directly from that cause (and not some other source).

A driver who rear-ends your vehicle, for example, arguably bears responsibility for the back injuries you sustained in the resulting accident. An inadequately supervised public swimming pool's owners arguably bear responsibility for the near-drowning of an infant, and the resulting catastrophic brain damage caused by the child's lack of oxygen while submerged.

These are two examples of negligence, which is a key concept in establishing responsibility. People in certain positions owe a duty of care to the public, depending upon their position and the relationship to the public. All drivers, by holding a driver's license, owe a duty of care to drive safely and obey traffic laws. If they do not, they have breached their duty of care and are arguably negligent. Public swimming pool owners owe a duty of care to adequately supervise their pools and ensure that conditions are safe. Personnel must be properly trained and certified. They must be on duty at the appropriate times. If all or part of this hasn't occurred, the duty of care is breached, and the pool owners are arguably negligent.

Negligent parties bear financial responsibility for damage and injuries caused as a result of their negligence, known as liability.

What damage compensation can the catastrophically injured receive?

Catastrophically injured people and their families are eligible to seek compensation for these injuries. Florida law provides for two categories of compensation—economic and noneconomic.

Economic damages include:

  • Medical costs - For emergency care, ambulance services, doctor's visits, urgent care clinics, hospitalization, surgery, prescription medication, physical therapy, home health aides, nursing home care, medical equipment, and retrofitting a home to accommodate a disability. Both already incurred costs and expected future costs are compensable.
  • Wages lost from work - If the event that caused the injury or its treatment caused the victim to miss work, the wages lost are compensable. This category, too, can encompass both already lost work and losses expected in the future.
  • Loss of earning capacity - If a victim cannot work at former employment at all, or has to take a lower position, he or she can receive compensation for estimated lifetime earnings in the previous job.

Injured parties can also sue for noneconomic damages, including:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Disfigurement and permanent scarring

Family members may also seek, in some cases, damages for:

  • Loss of consortium, which is the loss of the previous level of love, care, companionship, affection, or sex that a victim (or spouse of a victim) enjoyed before the accident.

In addition, if a court deems that negligent parties showed a pattern of egregious conduct or harmful actions, punitive damages are sometimes given. Punitive damages are designed to punish willful disregard of a standard of care.

How much will I receive in a claim?

The worth of an individual catastrophic injury claim depends on the nature and extent of the injuries, the impact on the victim's livelihood, and the extent of pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.

As a result, there is no one-size-fits-all claim award in catastrophic injuries. Each claim needs to be approached individually, by computing costs already incurred, estimating costs likely in the future, and assigning the amount of pain and suffering and other non-economic categories.

For medical costs already incurred, the costs are simply added up. For medical costs expected in the future, expert testimony is accessed regarding recommended courses of treatment and the likely cost of such treatment.

For wages lost from work, the amount of time lost is multiplied by the victim's wages. For wages lost estimated in the future, expert testimony is solicited. For lifetime earnings compensation, expert testimony from income and benefit experts, the person's employer, actuaries, and other professionals may be used.

You cannot simply add noneconomic damages together, due to their subjective nature. Catastrophic injuries, however, may result in greater noneconomic recoveries because their pain and suffering, both physical and mental, is high. In addition, those long-term injuries may never resolve.

What are the most common sources of catastrophic injuries?

The top five sources of catastrophic injuries are:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Fires and explosions

How do I prove liability?

Proving fault requires evidence. Given the wide range of accidents and other events that can cause catastrophic injuries, the nature of the evidence varies. In general, though, evidence of who or what caused the accident and evidence of the nature and extent of injuries are the two categories injured people should seek.

After a catastrophic injury, you may have difficulty participating in the mechanics of your case. Don't worry about that—work on your medical recovery and let your Fort Lauderdale catastrophic injury lawyer prove liability.

If you are in a vehicle accident, either as a driver, passenger, or pedestrian, have your lawyers get a copy of the police report. Call 911 after the accident. (A 911 call will summon emergency medical personnel, who will examine you and take you to the emergency room, if necessary. You can obtain a copy of the police report later.)

The police will survey the scene and make note of the conditions, what occurred, how (according to what they observe), and when. If one driver appears to be under the influence of alcohol or other substances, he or she will note it (and take other appropriate action). The report stemming from these observations is one of the first, and most important, pieces of evidence.

If you slip and fall in a commercial establishment, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Some hotels and casinos keep doctors on the premises to see to injured patrons. It's better to go to your own physician, as doctors employed by establishments may protect their employers' interests and seek to minimize your injuries or report the accident in a different way than what occurred.

When you can, have someone take pictures of the accident scene and your injuries or allow your Fort Lauderdale catastrophic injury lawyer to do so for you.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is a victim of medical malpractice, document what occurred. Take pictures of your injuries or conditions. Keep a written record of when you saw the healthcare professional, for what, and your symptoms afterward.

If you were in a fire or explosion, you may receive emergency transportation to a hospital. Get a record of what happened from news reports and other sources. Take pictures of your injuries, take pictures of the scene, and document in writing what happened. If there are eyewitnesses, get their contact information.

For all injuries, see a doctor as soon as you can. A doctor will examine you thoroughly and make recommendations for treatment. If you need to see a specialist, go as promptly as possible. Follow all recommendations. (If you do not, insurance companies can attempt to claim you were not as seriously injured as you claim.)

Keep a record of all your visits, the diagnoses, and the recommended treatment(s). Your medical record also constitutes evidence. If you have further questions, contact our experienced catastrophic injury lawyers in Fort Lauderdale.

Call Our Experienced Fort Lauderdale Catastrophic Injury Lawyers Today

With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH), or you can write to us using our online contact page. We have successfully fought for the rights of catastrophically injured people and their families throughout the Fort Lauderdale area, and we want to see if we can help you, too. Contact us today to discuss your case.

Fort Lauderdale Office
150 E Davie Blvd Suite 201-2
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
Phone: (754) 208-1130

What Our Clients Have to Say:

“This firm is amazing! Very professional, they helped me with my case until the end. They were available and very flexible. Dolman Law Group would answer all my calls/emails and wouldn't hesitate on explaining all of my concerns. They represented me on my case, in which it turned out to have a successful result. Super recommend them!”

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June 2018
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Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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