There are over a quarter of a million car wrecks in North Carolina each year. While these accidents cost drivers a great deal of money in the form of vehicle repairs and medical bills, most victims recover and life returns to normal. But in a percentage of these crashes, the victims suffer catastrophic injuries that change their lives forever.
What Is a Catastrophic Injury?
A catastrophic injury is a severe injury to the spine or brain, and may also include skull or spinal fractures. This has been derived from the definition used by the American Medical Association. Victims of a catastrophic injury are likely to be disabled, unable to work and support themselves or their families and face a lifetime of medical bills and extreme pain.
Common Catastrophic Injuries and Their Impact
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the most common major injury sustained by a car wreck victim. There are many different types and severities of injury to the brain. The mildest brain injury is a concussion, which is caused by an impact to the head and can result in headaches, trouble concentrating, memory loss, blurred vision, mood changes, and nausea. The symptoms may appear immediately after the car crash, but sometimes it can be days after the crash before the injury appears. Severe blows to the head during a crash can cause the brain to accelerate and slam into the skull, damaging brain tissue, causing a brain bleed or other complications that can lead to immediate loss of life. The long-term effects of a TBI can be the loss of cognitive function, emotional disturbances, sleep issues, loss of hearing or sight, severe headaches, and motor issues. These debilitating injuries rob the victim of his ability to care for himself. The car wreck victim may never regain the ability to lead an independent life and require a caregiver for the rest of his life.
Spinal injuries are also common in serious car crashes. Damage to the spinal cord or the vertebrae usually results in the victim suffering partial or complete paralysis. The location of the trauma determines the level of the paralysis; a victim with neck trauma is likely to be paralyzed from the neck down while a victim with back trauma is likely to be paralyzed from the waist down. The severity of the injury will dictate the level of impairment as well as the possibility of recovery. In serious cases, the victim requires round-the-clock care and medical attention for the rest of his or her life.
Loss of a limb is another danger in a car wreck. In cases of accidental amputation during the impact, the victim has the added risk of blood loss causing shock or brain damage, which can be life-threatening. A victim of amputation faces a long period of painful recovery, as well as occupational therapy to relearn tasks for daily living. A prosthetic limb is possible in some cases, but these medical devices are expensive and complete healing must be attained first.
The Cost of Emotional Trauma
Sadly, a victim who suffers catastrophic injuries is likely to suffer emotional trauma as well. Following a car crash, it is not unusual for victims to experience emotional swings, which can include anger, guilt, shame, sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, fear, and confusion. It may take years of therapy and treatment for the victim to overcome these huge emotional barriers.
In addition, post-traumatic stress disorder can occur. The victim may experience flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, emotional numbing, severe depression, irritability, headaches, irregular heartbeat, and uncontrolled anger.
Often times, the main focus of a personal injury lawsuit is the physical injuries sustained in the car wreck, but there is also a cost to the emotional trauma. If you or a loved one has suffered catastrophic injuries as the result of a car wreck in Wilmington, you could be owed compensation for medical bills, rehabilitation costs, loss of income, home modifications required due to the injuries, and pain and suffering. Call Rhine Law Firm, P.C., at (910) 501-2474 to speak to a car accident lawyer and schedule your free consultation.