The largest settlements and suits involving vehicle accidents come from incidents involving catastrophic injuries. If you suffered injuries in an accident, the question of whether they're catastrophic or not in the legal sense will affect the outcome of your case. A car wreck lawyer will want you to understand why that is and how it will likely influence your decisions during the claims process or while suing.
Why the Law Makes a Distinction
U.S. law distinguishes between catastrophic and non-catastrophic injuries. A major intent of this approach is to keep insurance costs down. The system doesn't want someone claiming millions of dollars for a broken forearm, for example.
At the same time, the law recognizes that some cases involve life-altering injuries, which the legal system calls catastrophic. To avoid leaving folks who have major injuries with massive medical bills, little compensation, and lifetime economic problems, the system makes the distinction.
What Makes an Injury Catastrophic?
For legal purposes, an injury is catastrophic if it leaves the victim with long-term or lifelong issues. A permanent spinal injury, for example, would be catastrophic. Similarly, a facial disfigurement would be.
Where there can be disagreement is over harder-to-diagnose problems. A victim might claim they have nerve damage in their hand. The determination of a catastrophic injury may hinge on the extent of the damage, whether it will heal, and if the problem is in the person's dominant hand or not.
Removing Claims Caps
Auto insurance companies keep costs down by inserting caps for non-catastrophic injury claims in their policies. When you buy car insurance, you agree to these caps within the limits of your state's laws. However, the law also includes rules prohibiting caps on catastrophic injury claims in car accident cases.
Critically, a claimant will need to provide proof to the insurance company that the injuries in the case are catastrophic. Typically, a car wreck lawyer will send reports describing the accident, any medical issues, and studies of similar injuries from other cases. Also, they may include data regarding settlements from similar cases with similar injuries to justify why they're asking for a specific amount of compensation for their client.
Will You Have to Sue?
There are three possible scenarios where you might have to sue the insurance company. First, you will have to sue if you want compensation if the insurer rejects the claim outright. Second, you may need to sue if the insurer offers a low amount because they believe the injuries are not catastrophic in the legal sense. Finally, you might need to sue if the insurer decides the injuries are catastrophic but not worth as much as your claim says.
Contact a car wreck lawyer for more information.