What Is A Catastrophic Injury?

What Is A Catastrophic Injury?

Catastrophic injuries can have a significant impact on a person’s life, well-being, and financial stability. If you or a loved one has suffered a catastrophic injury, it’s imperative to seek legal guidance. An experienced catastrophic injury attorney can help you determine who may be liable and will help you collect financial compensation for the pain, suffering, and financial losses related to your injury. 

If you have questions about your catastrophic injury case, contact the Bachus & Schanker Elite Litigation Group. We have years of experience working with victims of catastrophic injury. We will fight for your rights and hold responsible parties accountable for their negligence.

What is the difference between catastrophic injury and personal injury?

Colorado’s negligence laws allow victims who suffer an injury to hold responsible parties accountable. The most common type of tort claim is a personal injury lawsuit. However, some injuries may rise to the level of a catastrophic injury. 

Personal injuries can be as minor as a cut or bruise or more severe injuries like broken bones and injuries that lead to long-term disabilities. While personal injuries can impact your life, a majority of these injuries will heal over time, allowing a victim to regain most, if not all, of their sense of normalcy. 

Catastrophic injuries, on the other hand, are far more serious. While there is no defined catastrophic injury definition in Colorado, these injuries will often result in permanent disabilities or long-term medical conditions. They can significantly affect a victim’s quality of life and may even require round-the-clock medical care and support. 

In addition to the type of injury sustained, the amount of damages you are allowed to seek can also be drastically different. The severity of a catastrophic injury typically means victims can and do recover significant losses. Additionally, plaintiffs in a catastrophic injury may also be awarded punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages as a way to deter similar acts from happening in the future. While personal injury plaintiffs can seek punitive damages, they are rarely awarded. 

Overall, there are far fewer injuries that rise to the level of catastrophic when compared to personal injury claims. However, catastrophic injuries typically have much more serious life implications. 

Catastrophic injury types

Catastrophic injuries come in various forms, each with its own set of challenges and implications. For example, a spinal cord injury can be classified as a catastrophic injury but the injury itself could be further broken down to an injury affecting a specific section of the spinal column. This is important to note because two people may have the same type of injury but may have different symptoms that impact their overall lives. 

Common types of catastrophic injuries can include the following: 

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Spinal cord injuries (SCIs)
  • Paralysis or loss of motor function
  • Severe burns 
  • Amputations 
  • Nerve damage 
  • Birth injury
  • Loss of hearing or sight
  • Neurological damage
  • Crush injury
  • Multiple bone fractures
  • Organ damage

Accidents that lead to catastrophic injuries

Catastrophic injuries will often result from accidents that involve significant force or trauma. While catastrophic injuries can happen to anyone at any time, the negligence of another entity can increase the chances of a catastrophic injury occurring. 

Causes of a catastrophic injury can include the following:

  • Car and truck accidents: Vehicle accidents involving high speeds and excessive force can have dire consequences. Broken bones, spinal cord injuries, maiming, and traumatic brain injuries are just some of the types of catastrophic injuries a victim may face if they’ve been injured in a car accident.
  • Motorcycle accidents: Despite making up only 3% of all registered vehicles on American roadways, motorcycle accidents account for roughly 14% of all traffic fatalities.  Motorcyclists have fewer protections when an accident occurs, resulting in a higher level of catastrophic injury.
  • Sports accidents: Sports can pose a significant risk of injury. Contact sports — including football, boxing, or wrestling — can result in severe injury to players. Extreme sports like dirt bike racing and base jumping also pose significant risks. While not as common, everyday sports including soccer, baseball, and cheerleading might also cause players to suffer catastrophic injuries.
  • Workplace accidents: While all places of work are required by law under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to follow safe operating procedures, catastrophic injuries could still arise. Industries like construction, electric service, and many others typically pose a higher risk than industries that employ white-collar workers. Common reasons workplace accidents may cause a catastrophic injury include falls, falling objects, electrocution, dismemberment, and other severe injuries.
  • Defective products: Catastrophic injuries can also result from defective products. Products that pose choking hazards or that include toxic chemicals or an inadequate operations manual could all lead to serious injury.

Recoverable damages in a catastrophic injury case

Victims in a Colorado catastrophic injury accident are allowed to seek recovery for their financial losses and pain and suffering. Recoverable damages depend on the circumstances of the accident, whether you can prove injury, what damages were sustained, and who was at fault for the injury. 

Colorado allows the compensation of both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are calculable and result from monetary losses caused by the catastrophic injury: 

  • Current and future medical bills
  • Loss of income or lost wages
  • Property loss
  • Cost of accessibility needs, including home health care, wheelchairs, braces, and other related expenses
  • Other out-of-pocket costs associated with the injury

Non-economic damages are designed to help a victim recover compensation for non-tangible or non-calculable losses following their accident. Examples of non-economic damages can include:

  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Lost enjoyment of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish

Punitive damages in a catastrophic injury

In some catastrophic injury cases, a victim may be awarded punitive damages, which are designed to punish the responsible party for the negligence that led to the accident.

While no amount of recovered damages can replace the losses a victim suffers following a catastrophic injury, an experienced catastrophic injury lawyer can help you and your loved ones forge a strong path forward. Contact the experts at the Bachus & Schanker Elite Litigation Group to learn more.

Speak with a Colorado catastrophic injury attorney

A Colorado catastrophic injury attorney is writing in a book at his desk. Next to him is the scales of justice, paperwork on a clipboard, and a gavel.

Our Elite Litigation Group is made up of highly specialized attorneys who have detailed knowledge of Colorado law and how it applies to catastrophic injury cases. Our team will be with you every step of the way so that you have the legal support you deserve during this critical point of recovery. 

Our team works alongside our specially assembled Victim Advocates team to provide you with a comprehensive support system. Our Victim Advocates team will conduct a thorough investigation of your case to collect the evidence to support your claim. This team will also connect you with critical resources in the community to aid in your mental and physical healing. 

While a catastrophic injury can significantly impact your life, you still have legal rights and options to tap into. Contact Bachus & Schanker today and speak with our dedicated professionals committed to providing you with the representation you deserve. 


Colorado Negligence Laws. (2022). 

Motorcycles. (2021).

Regulations. (2023).

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