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Catastrophic Injuries

A catastrophic injury can be defined in many ways. According to one definition, a catastrophic injury involves a severe spinal, spinal cord, or cerebral injury with one of three possible outcomes: fatal, nonfatal with a permanent disability, or serious injury with no permanent disability. Another definition of catastrophic injury is one that permanently prevents an individual from performing any gainful work. When considering a catastrophic injury from a personal injury legal perspective, we take into account the severity and permanency of the injury in terms of cost and impact on a person’s life now and for their lifetime.

The more severe or permanent an injury, the more time and effort an attorney should put into building a case that proves the need for significant compensation. That’s why at Machtinger Law we keep our caseload small and concentrate on catastrophic injury matters. In this way, we develop the expertise needed to succeed in these cases and have the time to focus our attention on making sure our clients get what they need.

Below is some general information about some of the most severe catastrophic injuries that accident victims are forced to endure. If you or a family member suffered any of these or any other catastrophic injury in a motor vehicle accident or otherwise due to the negligence of another in Southern California, contact Machtinger Law for help.

Brain Damage

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can occur when the victim’s head is struck by an object or strikes a hard surface. This can happen in a car or truck accident when the victim’s head strikes the interior of the vehicle, or in a car, motorcycle, pedestrian or bicycle accident when the victim’s head strikes the road surface. Similarly, a TBI can occur in a slip and fall or trip and fall accident when the victim hits their head on the ground or on the way down. Additionally, car accident victims can suffer brain damage from a whiplash injury that causes the brain to impact the inside of the skull or tear vital blood vessels and connective tissue.

Brain damage is not always immediately apparent after the accident which causes the injury. However, a prompt, accurate diagnosis is essential to getting the proper care and preventing a treatable brain injury from becoming permanent or fatal. Accident victims and family members should look for any changes in vision, speech, hearing, balance, memory, headache or nausea, all of which can be signs of a brain injury. Also, if any loss of consciousness, however brief, follows an accident, the victim should promptly seek evaluation for a head injury.

Treatment for brain injury can include surgery as well as several different forms of therapy, including physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and psychological counseling.


Amputation (loss of limb) is a catastrophic injury that can tragically come about following a motor vehicle accident, including car, truck and motorcycle accidents, as well as bicycle and pedestrian accidents. Dog bites and animal attacks have been known to cause amputation injuries as well. The loss of a limb might happen in the accident itself, or surgical removal of the limb might be required as a lifesaving medical procedure. Apart from being torn from the body during impact, limbs that are crushed or severely burned might require amputation.

Whether the limb can be saved, reattached, or is lost, amputation injuries are medical emergencies requiring life-saving surgery and an extended hospital stay. A long period of therapy and rehabilitation is generally required as well, and the victim might also face the need for future surgeries down the road. A modern prosthetic device can be a godsend to an amputation victim, but these advanced devices can cost many thousands of dollars and must be periodically replaced throughout the victim’s lifetime. There is no doubt that amputation injuries are very expensive in terms of the immediate and long-term medical costs and the impact of the injury on the victim’s quality of life and life expectancy.


An injury to the brain or spinal cord can cause a paralyzing injury that is temporary, permanent, partial, or complete. Paralysis might affect the extremities (peripheral nerve injury), the lower half of the body (paraplegia), or all four limbs (quadriplegia/tetraplegia). Spinal cord injuries can also paralyze autonomic vital functions such as eating, swallowing, and breathing, requiring mechanical assistance to keep the injury victim alive. Advances in surgical procedures and non-surgical treatments offer hope for some paralysis victims, but these catastrophic injuries are among the costliest and most time-intensive to treat. In addition to the extensive medical expenses, persons living with paralyzing injuries might also require costly services such as residence in a nursing facility or in-home care, along with modifications to one’s home, vehicles, and personal equipment to enable the individual to function and interact with the world to the greatest extent possible. Motor vehicle accidents and falls are leading causes of spinal cord injuries and paralysis, which afflict nearly 300,000 individuals in the U.S. with over 17,000 new cases reported every year.

Burn Injuries

Burn injuries can be extremely painful and traumatic, and result in permanent disability, functional limitations, scarring, or disfigurement, as well as psychological damage. Over a million people in the U.S. seek medical treatment for a burn every year, with around 45,000 burn injury victims requiring hospitalization. Of that number, about ten percent are not likely to survive their wounds. In a motor vehicle accident, burn injuries can come from direct contact with hot pieces of metal, superheated liquids, or steam, as well as from fuel-fed vehicle fires and explosions. Defective products can also cause thermal, chemical, and electrical burns. As noted, burn injuries can be painful, traumatic, or fatal, and they can also result in other catastrophic injuries such as paralysis or amputation. Burn injuries often touch on every aspect of the victim’s life, impacting their ability to work, socialize, and function independently. The medical costs alone can range into hundreds of thousands of dollars, without even considering the significant “non-economic” damages a burn injury inflicts.

Get the Help You Need After a Catastrophic Injury in Southern California

If you or a loved one has suffered a catastrophic injury in a Los Angeles, Orange County, or Southern California motor vehicle accident, slip and fall, defective product injury, or other incidence of negligence, call Machtinger Law at 310-943-9300 to speak with a caring and compassionate injury lawyer dedicated to getting you the care and compensation you need and deserve.

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