What is a Catastrophic Injury?
Catastrophic injuries are particularly challenging as far as Workers’ Compensation is concerned. A catastrophic injury is defined as an injury that permanently prevents a worker from performing any gainful work. This means that such an injury permanently affects the worker’s ability to resume work and thus has a permanent impact on the worker’s earning capacity and their overall quality of life.
Catastrophic injuries are not only painful to deal with at the physical level but are also associated with emotional consequences such as stress on both the worker and their family and having to deal with the possibility that the worker may never be able to go back to work and may have to continue to incur medical expenses for a long period of time.
Catastrophic injuries are different from other injuries. The fact that these injuries disrupt the victim’s central nervous system makes them catastrophic in nature. For example, burn injuries or spinal cord injuries are not injuries that a worker can recover from within a week or a month or even a year. These injuries can leave a person permanently scarred and damaged.
Some common types of catastrophic injuries include accidental amputation, multiple bone fractures, head trauma, eye injury, foot injury, back injury, neck injury, brain injury, shoulder injury, burns, organ damage, neurological disorders and spinal disorders. These injuries can result in paralysis, paraplegia, and quadriplegia.
Dealing with a Catastrophic Injury
If a worker suffers a catastrophic injury that is debilitating in nature and that results in permanent disability for the employee in question, it can be challenging, if not impossible for them to return to work. However, since the worker is a victim, in this case, they do deserve compensation for such injuries.
This is especially important because dealing with catastrophic injuries can result in significant medical costs. Such injuries often require comprehensive medical treatment and sophisticated medical care. Workers may require rehabilitation and physical therapy; they may also require psychological therapy and occupational therapy to deal with the changes in their lives and their body due to the injury; victims may need to learn how to use walkers, wheelchairs, ramps or lifts; they may even require alterations in their home and support and safety measures to ensure they remain safe and mobile, whenever possible. All this requires money, and an average worker does not have the financial capability to manage or bear these expenses. That is where Workers’ Compensation comes in as this insurance can help workers deal with the financial and emotional costs of catastrophic injuries.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits for a Catastrophic Injury
Catastrophic injuries are not only devastating for the worker who suffered the injury, but in most cases, the employee’s family is also a victim of such an accident. That is why as per the Workers’ Compensation Act, any worker in Savannah, Georgia who is the victim of a catastrophic injury is entitled to a lifetime of benefits. These benefits are designed to be sufficient to cover complex and long-term medical treatment and to also compensate the worker for the impact on their earning capacity.
Catastrophic injuries tend to increase the cost of living for workers as they require continuous medical care, assistance, prescription medicines, therapy and psychological support. That is why there is no maximum time frame for these benefits. Workers with catastrophic injuries can be eligible for lifetime benefits.
However, there are often situations when the claim approval process overlooks the extent of non-economic damages that the worker suffers from because of such an injury. Since these damages are difficult to quantify, they can often be difficult to claim. There is no cap or limit that you can place on mental anguish or pain. You can easily determine how much medical bills the worker incurred during treatment, but you can’t account for how much mental anxiety or stress they suffered because of the same injury. These can be complex issues that need to be addressed.
What Counts as a Catastrophic Injury in a Savannah, Georgia, Workers’ Compensation Claim?
To begin with, you need to figure out whether or not your injury can be classified as catastrophic. You may have serious injuries, even disabling injuries that are not necessarily catastrophic by definition. The types of injuries that are frequently designated as catastrophic include the following:
- Paralysis from spinal cord injury.
- Amputation of a limb or extremity.
- Severe traumatic brain injury with neurological dysfunction.
- Burns covering at least 25% of the body (second and third degree).
- Burns covering at least 5% of the face and/or hands (second and third degree).
- Injuries resulting in blindness.
These are not the only catastrophic injuries. Any injury that prevents you from ever being able to return to work could potentially be defined as catastrophic in a Savannah, Georgia, workers’ compensation claim. The catastrophic designation for your injury should come from your physician.
If the injury is not catastrophic, then your physician may release you to return to work with certain medical restrictions. In other cases, they may restrict you to not return to work until you have healed. With catastrophic injuries, it is presumed that you will not be able to heal to a degree where you can return to work.
If your physician does not classify your injury as catastrophic, and if the injury is not among those that are automatically considered to be catastrophic, then you may need to request a hearing. It will be up to you and your attorney to prove that the injury truly is catastrophic. This may involve seeking second opinions from other medical professionals and seeking the testimony of a vocational expert. You should not give up hope because the company approved physician did not classify your catastrophic injury as being catastrophic. It is natural for the workers’ compensation system to attempt to deny that a catastrophic injury should be classified as such because it costs them more money. Many workers are forced to fight the unfair lack of classification in court for this reason.
What Kind of Rehabilitation Benefits Are You Eligible For in a Catastrophic Injury Case?
Many catastrophic injuries require a substantial amount of rehabilitation for the injured worker to reach maximum medical improvement.
Rehabilitation can also make it possible for the injured worker to learn how to adjust to their disabilities and live the best quality of life. For example, if you lost a limb in a work related accident, then you need to learn how to live and function without that limb.
Rehabilitation can never give back the limb, so you can’t expect to ever return to your former condition. Yet, it can help you to learn how to live without it. You may even be able to get employment in another area or industry. Thus, the rehabilitation benefits that you receive from your workers’ compensation claim could include more than regular rehabilitation to recover. It can include all medical treatment, any counseling that you need, and vocational therapy or job planning assistance. It can even cover training for a job position that will accommodate your new restrictions.
You will need to be aware that these rehabilitation benefits are only legally required for injured workers who have a catastrophic injury. That doesn’t mean that non-catastrophic injuries can’t also benefit from rehabilitation benefits, but the employer and workers’ compensation insurance provider do not have to provide them. If you want rehabilitation benefits for a non-catastrophic injury, then you can request these benefits, but you may not get them.
What Do You Do if Your Loved One Was Killed By a Catastrophic Work Injury in Savannah, Georgia?
Some catastrophic work injuries lead to death. When this happens, the dependants of the deceased worker are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Dependents are the only ones who are eligible for such benefits, which include the spouse, the minor children, any dependent parents, and any other legally defined dependent person. The death benefits that you can recover as a dependant of someone who was killed by a catastrophic work injury include medical expense benefits, income benefits, and funeral and burial benefits.
The medical benefits will take care of any expenses associated with the medical treatment that your loved one received, due to the work injury, before they passed away. The income benefits will provide 2/3 of your lost loved one’s former weekly wages. The funeral and burial benefits will provide for the costs of your loved one’s funeral and burial, up to $7,500.
It is important to know that these benefits are not provided forever. Rather, you will stop receiving benefits as a minor dependent when you reach the age of 18 if you are not in school or the age of 22 if you are a full time student. In cases where you are receiving benefits as the surviving spouse, those benefits will stop if you remarry or move in with a new partner. In cases where you are the only dependent receiving benefits, they will stop once they reach $150,000.
Seek Legal Help for Your GA Workers’ Compensation Case
At the Bader Scott Injury Lawyers, we understand the mental torture and anguish that victims of catastrophic injuries face. We also realize that in many such cases, it is the unfairness of the situation that causes the biggest damage to both the victim and their families. Sometimes, no amount of money can compensate for the loss of a limb or the loss of vision or the loss of life for that matter. We understand all these emotional challenges, and we want to help our clients deal with these challenges. Our goal is to help you manage the legal aspects of this injury so that you can focus on healing physically and emotionally.
If you are a victim of a catastrophic injury in Savannah, Georgia, that is work-related, and if you are distressed and dejected because of the lack of support, please know that you can count on the experienced Savannah GA workers’ comp lawyers at Bader Scott Injury Lawyers. Call our legal team today at 678-562-5595. Talk to us and let us understand the challenges you face and how you’ve dealt with the situation so far. The law is there to support you, but sometimes you need legal counsel to guide you in the right direction. We are here to help you and your family. We want to make sure you can continue to have the best medical care and that you do not have to worry about supporting your family when you are already dealing with physical pain. The last thing you need is more stress and anxiety. Let us help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.