An injury is considered catastrophic if it has a serious and long-lasting impact on a person’s life and it meets the criteria specified in the Workers Compensation Guidelines. A catastrophic injury can be a severe physical impairment resulting in loss of mobility or sensory function, or a cognitive impairment that causes severe mental health problems. Such injuries are often the outcome of car accidents, medical malpractice, slip and falls, and workplace accidents. Examples could include acquired brain injuries, spinal damage, traumatic amputations, burns, and loss of sight or hearing.
Compensation for Catastrophic Injuries
Due to the nature of catastrophic injuries, they almost always impact on the injured person’s ability to earn a living and may mean that they can no longer engage with the workforce. Someone who experiences catastrophic injury is also likely to require long-term medical care and they may need adjustments to their home or vehicle. This is obviously going to have a significant financial impact on the injured person.
Seeking Compensation When Not At Fault?
If someone incurs a catastrophic injury as the result of someone else’s negligence, the injured person can seek compensation from the negligent person’s insurance company. For instance, if the catastrophic injury is the result of medical negligence, then the malpractice insurer of the medical practitioner will be liable to pay compensation to the injured person. Similarly, if the injury is sustained in a shopping centre, then the public liability insurer for the owner of the centre will be liable to pay. The amount of the compensation will depend on many factors, including the amount of current and future lost earnings, any current and future medical costs and their pain and suffering.
What If You Were At Fault?
It is tragic when someone incurs a catastrophic injury, regardless of who is responsible for the accident. But if you were at fault, there is no option to claim against someone else’s insurance. In that case, the at fault person may be able to claim against their own insurance (such as Total Permanent Disability in their superannuation). If this option is not available, they may be able to apply to the government for help. In most states there are government schemes which exist to support people who suffer catastrophic injuries. For instance, the Life Time Care and Support Scheme (LTCS) provides treatment and care benefits to people who sustain catastrophic injuries in motor vehicle accidents in NSW. To qualify for the Scheme, the Authority must be satisfied that there is a catastrophic injury involving spinal cord or brain injury, multiple amputations, severe burns or blindness.
In every case, you need to be very careful that you do not sign away your rights to compensation under one scheme and accept a lesser amount. Be aware that only you and your solicitor will focus on ensuring that you receive appropriate compensation.