The Impact that Catastrophic Injuries Have on Family Members

Catastrophic injuries generally have a life-long impact on the person that sustains them. These impacts can range from mobility issues to the inability to communicate or perform self-care. Struggles with mental health issues are common, as the person struggles to come to terms with the changes in their life.

Catastrophic injuries include severe burns, limited mobility that may never be recovered, traumatic brain injuries, or injuries with a lengthy recovery period. The person may never fully recover to their pre-injury state. From the fear of the unknown in the immediate aftermath of the injury to the long road to recovery, the toll on the injured person and their family can be immense.

Unfortunately, the pain and struggle of catastrophic injuries are not limited to only the injured individual. Those closest to the impacted individual suffer in ways that few can understand. One moment their life is on a steady trajectory, and the next, that trajectory has been forever altered by the catastrophic injuries of a loved one.

Legal Remedies for Catastrophic Injuries

If you are injured by the actions, or inaction, of another person in Georgia, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your injuries. Whether you or your loved one suffered a catastrophic injury in a car accident, workplace accident, or because of premises liability, our trusted Atlanta personal injury lawyer and team can help you recover the financial losses you have incurred.

In Georgia, there are three types of damages to which you may be entitled. You can win economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish the negligent party for outrageous or egregious misconduct and discourage other parties from engaging in such conduct.

Modified Comparative Fault

When you attempt to recover damages from another party, the other party will likely attempt to prove that the injured party caused all or part of the accident party. Under Georgia’s Modified Comparative Negligence Rule, § 51-12-33, a plaintiff is only eligible for compensation if they are 49% or less responsible for the claimed damages.

If the jury finds that the plaintiff is at least 50% responsible for the damages, no compensation will be awarded. The first job of a personal injury attorney will be to carefully review every part of the accident to ensure that they can prove the plaintiff was less than 50% responsible.

Economic Damages

Economic damages, sometimes called special damages, are quantifiable and can be calculated by tracking losses, including:

  • Medical bills
  • Property damages
  • Lost income
  • Out of pocket expenses related to the injury

Pain and Suffering

Georgia law OCGA 9-10-184 states that “in the trial of a civil action for personal injuries, counsel shall be allowed to argue the worth or monetary value of pain and suffering to the jury; provided, however, that such an argument shall conform to the evidence or reasonable deductions from the evidence in the case.”

In layman’s terms, that means that pain and suffering can include arguments to the jury, supported by evidence, for monetary compensation based on:

  1. The severity and prognosis of the initial injury
  2. The degree of pain reasonably associated with the injury
  3. Potential maximum recovery and the expectation of permanent or long-term limitations
  4. The effect the injury will have on the person’s ability to work and take care of their day to day responsibilities
  5. The effect the injury has had and will continue to have, on family members

The impact of catastrophic injuries is impossible to quantify, as they create a ripple effect that can impact the injured person and cause pain and hardship for the family. Below, we will discuss the potential impacts of a catastrophic injury on both the injured party and their family.

Mental Health

Some family members can find themselves in the role of caretaker, and for most, it is a role they do lovingly and willingly. However, being a caretaker to someone after a catastrophic injury can take a significant toll on the mental, physical, and financial health of a family.

Stress combined with emotional exhaustion and fatigue can leave the primary caretaker feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or even battling a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from the strain of being a caretaker.

There is a grieving process that family members undergo as they learn of the full extent of their loved one’s injuries. It is grief for the pain and struggles their loved one will experience, but they are also grieving the inevitable changes in their own life. Those feelings of grief are often mixed with guilt because they are not the ones suffering, or because they should be grateful that their loved one is alive.

Family members need the time and space to come to terms with their grief over the loss and changes in their lives. When there isn’t a time or a safe space to express their grief, it can lead to a decline in mental health. It is okay to feel grief for the forced changes in your life and gratitude that your loved one survived.

Physical Health

In the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic injury, family members utterly ignore their own physical health as everything is focused on the injured person. Meals become sporadic affairs, often consisting of whatever they can grab on their way to and from the hospital. Taking the time to exercise, or even keep up with daily medication regimes fall by the wayside.

Loved ones often tell themselves that “when things get back to normal,” they will begin to practice self-care again. However, normal may never happen, or it can be a long road to get there. Meanwhile, family members continue to ignore their own needs as they focus on the injured person’s needs.

Once the injured person is home, it may become even more challenging to find time to prepare and eat healthy meals, exercise, or find the time and energy for even minimal self-care. Doctors’ visits become hard to manage, as it often means making alternate care arrangements for the injured family member. Over time, the neglect of one’s well-being can have a serious impact on family members’ overall physical health.

The risk to physical health increases if the family member will become the primary caretaker of the injured person. Members of the family can find themselves in a difficult situation where they have to physically assist their loved ones, whether it is rolling over in bed, toileting, or helping them move from one place to another. Day after day, this type of physical stress on the body takes a toll.

Financial Impact

The financial impact of a catastrophic injury can be crushing. The accident that resulted in the injury may have been a car accident, leaving the family without a vehicle to get to work or school, or without a dependable means to transport the injured family member to and from the various doctor and therapy appointments.

Medical bills continue to climb, especially when the need for rehabilitation is ongoing. The expenses never seem to end, especially for the injured party who needs specialized care, mobility aids, physical therapy, and other necessary items to reach their maximum recovery.

Someone who suffered a catastrophic injury may never be able to return to work in the same capacity that they held before the accident. The injured party may not have provided the family’s primary income, but the loss of their contribution is still acutely felt.  Caring for the home, providing care to children, providing transportation for children to school, and various activities now fall on the shoulders of family members.

Family members acutely feel the financial stressors after a catastrophic injury. The worry about finances, missed time from work, and arranging for care for the injured party when the other family members must return to work or school can be extreme. Families can quickly exhaust all savings trying to keep their family afloat as they struggle to find their footing after an accident.

Finding a Way Forward

A lawsuit is the last thing family members want to think about in the chaotic and emotional aftermath of a catastrophic injury. However, a lawsuit may be the only solution for your injured loved one to get the compensation they need to ensure that they can continue to access the best possible care.

Contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident. Knowing what to do after an accident results in a catastrophic injury is critical to the outcome of your case. At Tobin Injury Law, we understand that your primary focus is on helping your loved one recover from their injury while also managing the needs of your family. We will take the time to carefully review your case, answer any questions you might have, and provide you counsel about any legal remedies you may have.

We suggest that you contact an Atlanta personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident, and certainly before you accept any settlement offer from an insurance company. Insurance companies want to settle catastrophic injury cases quickly, often before the injured party and their family has a chance to come to terms with the often life-long challenges the injuries will cause.

A quick settlement can seem like your only choice when bills are piling up, and you need financial relief quickly. However, with decades of experience in helping families facing the aftermath of catastrophes, we caution you to wait until you have met with experienced legal counsel before making decisions that limit the financial recovery to which your loved one might be entitled.