Catastrophic Injury vs. Personal Injury: What’s the Difference?


Medical science has advanced extensively in recent decades. Some injuries that would have been debilitating 50 years ago can now be treated relatively easily. However, there are still some catastrophic injuries that can result in lifelong consequences, despite how far medicine has come.

If you are considering legal action after getting hurt, here is what you need to know about the difference between a personal injury and a catastrophic injury under Ohio law.

What Makes an Injury Catastrophic?

Ohio law recognizes that some injuries are more significant than others. This difference isn’t based on the type of injury, but rather on the consequences of suffering the injury. For example, a broken arm that heals in a few months would not be considered catastrophic, while one that never fully heals may fall into the catastrophic category.

Examples of Personal Injuries

Common personal injuries that you might be able to get compensation for include:

  • A broken limb or torn muscles
  • Mild scarring that is easily concealed by clothing
  • An eye injury resulting in temporary blindness
  • A mild concussion

While some of these injuries require significant medical treatment and may take months or years to recover from, they don’t incur permanent loss.

Examples of Catastrophic Injuries

Comparatively, these similar injuries could be considered catastrophic:

  • A shattered leg that can’t be repaired
  • Extensive scarring, especially on the face
  • An eye injury resulting in permanent blindness
  • Significant brain damage

These are just some examples of catastrophic injuries.

Ohio law defines “catastrophic” as injuries that result in:

  • Substantial physical deformity
  • The loss of use of a limb
  • The loss of an internal organ
  • Permanent inability to care for oneself

Technically, the code never uses the term “catastrophic,” but it delineates a greater severity of injury that follows different legal rules.

Does Ohio Law Treat Personal Injuries Differently Than Catastrophic Injuries?

When someone injures you — either due to intentional action or negligence — the law is fairly straightforward in that you are entitled to compensation equal to the economic loss you suffered. However, how much compensation you are entitled to seek can be more complicated to determine.

The standard for determining whether you can receive non-economic compensation does not change based on the type of injury you suffered. But the amount of money you can potentially receive does.

When you suffer a personal injury, you are limited to $500,000 per defendant and at most, $1 million from all defendants. If your injury is catastrophic, though, those limits disappear. Assuming your lawyer can prove you deserve significant compensation, you could potentially be awarded millions in non-economic damages.

Why It’s Important to Choose a Lawyer With the Right Kind of Experience for Your Injury Case

Cases that involve catastrophic injuries are often much more complex than personal injury cases. A lawyer with the right type of experience can help you in several ways:

Medical Familiarity

Catastrophic injuries require a lifetime worth of medical treatment and support. But how much does that cost? An insurance company will likely try to convince you that the value of that care is quite inexpensive.

A lawyer who is familiar with these types of cases can quickly determine the true value of your claim. This gives them an edge in settlement negotiations.

Less Need to Do Research

Another advantage of working with a lawyer who has previously handled these types of cases is that they will need to do less research. Research takes time, and every day your lawyer spends researching your case is one more day you have to wait for compensation.

When time is of the essence, you want a lawyer who can work as efficiently as possible.

The Right Contacts in the Medical Field

If your case goes to trial, your lawyer will typically call on a medical specialist as a witness for your case. Lawyers who regularly handle catastrophic injury cases have contacts in the medical field that they have worked with before.

This means your lawyer will know someone who has experience providing testimony and can provide valuable insight into your case.


How Will My Lawyer Determine How Much Compensation I Deserve When Most of My Losses Will Happen in the Future?

An experienced lawyer has handled enough catastrophic injury cases to compare your case to similar ones and estimate how much medical treatment you will need. To determine how much you deserve for lost wages, your attorney will consider your current job and how long you could reasonably have been expected to work in that field.

Will My Case Go to Trial?

Probably, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will end with a jury verdict. Generally, your lawyer files a lawsuit, and preliminary motions go before a judge. A jury may even be empaneled, and testimony may be presented. However, most cases end with a settlement before the jury makes a decision.

Can I Get Compensation if I Am Partially Responsible for My Injury?

Yes. However, if you are partially responsible for your injury, the amount of money you receive will be reduced by a percentage equal to your responsibility. While this rule only applies to court verdicts, insurance companies take this rule into account when negotiating settlements.

Consult With a Seasoned Ohio Catastrophic Injury Attorney

Catastrophic injuries are frequently life-changing. In many cases, you will no longer be able to work or care for yourself after a catastrophic injury. As a result, you will need significant compensation to comfortably live the rest of your life.

The experienced legal team at The Moore Law Firm has a proven track record of successfully helping catastrophic injury victims in Ohio secure the compensation they deserve. Contact us to speak to a Cincinnati catastrophic injury lawyer and learn about your options today.

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If you have been injured or have lost a loved one as a result of another person's negligence, you deserve to be fully compensated for your losses. The simple fact is that you should not be forced to pay the price for another person's careless or reckless actions.