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Catastrophic Injury Lawyer in Ontario

Any injury, especially that caused by another person, is harmful to the victim and has the potential to disrupt their life temporarily or permanently. Catastrophic injuries have the potential to change your life permanently. Catastrophic physical injuries are serious and can lead to severe emotional distress or mental illness, like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If an injury is catastrophic and if a person suffers such an injury due to the fault of another person or entity in Ontario, maximum compensation should be the goal of any personal injury claim and lawsuit.

At Odette Rwigamba Lawyers PC, our catastrophic injury lawyer in Ottawa, aim to obtain maximum compensation for our clients, and we have a track record of doing so. We do not settle unless our clients receive the total allowed by law. There are many factors that go into determining a just and fair amount of compensation, and through our analysis and committed representation, we will identify what that is and pursue it. Contact us at (613) 232-7900 to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you and your loved ones.

Understanding Catastrophic Injuries in Ontario

In Ontario and most other provinces in Canada, catastrophic injuries are defined as severe injuries that have a life-changing impact on the person who experiences them. These are injuries that typically never fully heal or can never be fully repaired. They are also injuries that require significant, short-term medical treatment and consistent, long-term rehabilitative care.

People suffering from catastrophic injuries may not be able to return to gainful employment for an extended period, if ever. Victims of catastrophic injuries may never lead the life they enjoyed prior to the injury, and that is why these injuries deserve special consideration. 

The most common types of catastrophic injuries involve the spinal cord, brain injuries, burns, or loss of limbs.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries can result in changes to a person's strength and sensations. Not all spinal cord injuries are catastrophic, but those that cause paralysis, specifically paraplegia or quadriplegia, are considered catastrophic. In the worst case scenario, spinal cord injuries are fatal.  

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

Brain injuries can result from sudden impact like an object striking the head or an object penetrating the skull and entering the brain. Brain injuries cause a range of symptoms, including changes to emotion, language, and cognitive abilities.

Like spinal cord injuries, not all brain injuries are catastrophic. TBIs can range from mild to moderate to severe. Treatment for moderate or severe TBI varies from medications to brain surgery or skull fracture repairs. In more severe TBI cases, life expectancy can be shortened dramatically.

Traumatic brain injuries are one of the leading causes of death and disability in Canada, with over 100,000 reported cases each year. 

Burn Injuries

Third-degree burns cause damage to body tissue and muscles. Scarring is significant, and skin grafting is often required. Pain from third-degree burns is extensive, as is any subsequent disfigurement.  

Limb Loss

The loss of a limb is devastating and irreparably alters that person's quality of life. A severely injured limb must often be amputated to prevent serious and potentially fatal infections. Amputations, however, have their own complications, like “phantom limb” pain or an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), heart attack, and other infections. Additional surgery or treatment may be required to minimize pain or repair issues that develop post-amputation.

Other Potentially Catastrophic Injuries

Other potentially catastrophic injuries include:

  • Loss of sight
  • Loss of hearing
  • Facial deformities
  • Nerve damage
  • Neurological damage
  • Severe organ damage
  • Mesothelioma or other occupational illness

Though not exhaustive, this list provides an idea of what other injuries may be catastrophic and, thus, require special attention with respect to available remedies. 

Three Common Characteristics of Catastrophic Injuries

In personal injury cases, there are differences between catastrophic and other types of injuries. Three common characteristics exist in catastrophic injuries that do not exist in non-catastrophic injuries are:

1. Severity of Damage

Catastrophic injuries cause damage much more severe than a regular injury. Victims' lives are significantly and often permanently altered for the worse. Once fully independent, many victims may require assistance with daily living activities. It is not unusual for people with catastrophic injuries to live in a medical treatment facility or have a full-time medical caregiver following the injury.

2. Recovery Time

Recovery time for typical, regular injuries is much less than the time needed to recover from catastrophic injuries. While it varies with catastrophic injuries, recovery time can range between months to years. In many cases, full recovery is not possible. The severity of the injury is life-altering. The recovery time is potentially life-long. The trauma is sustained and enduring.

3. Sustained Trauma

Catastrophic injuries cause significant trauma to victims. Severe trauma takes considerable time for recovery. Recovery generally includes medication, therapy, counseling, and constant medical supervision.  

Catastrophic v. Non-Catastrophic Injuries: An Example

Take a severe TBI versus a mild TBI as an example. A severe TBI can require weeks or months in the hospital, including surgeries. In addition, the victim may have to continue with a treatment plan for years to come without fully recovering or suffering from disabilities as a result of the brain injury.

Compare severe TBI to a mild case where the victim is left unconscious for less than 30 minutes and may only need a thorough check from a doctor before going home. With plenty of rest, a full recovery may occur within a week or two. Here, the severity is not life-altering. The impact of the injury is short-lived, and the individual is able to make a full recovery and return to normal life activities. 

In this example, it is clear why classifying an injury as catastrophic is important because it can make a real difference when determining just and fair compensation.

Impact of Catastrophic Injuries in Ontario on Compensation

When a person is injured by another person or entity, the idea behind a settlement or lawsuit is to make the injured person whole again after considering their losses. In catastrophic injury cases, being “made whole” – physically, mentally, or emotionally – will likely not be possible. As such, your losses are more substantial and enduring. The person may suffer more physical pain and emotional distress, have higher medical bills, lose out on earning wages, be denied the ability to engage in activities they once loved, and more.

What's more, Catastrophic injuries do not impact the individual alone but also their loved ones. 

Compensation must reflect all these things, and that is why it matters if an injury is categorized as catastrophic. 

In Ontario law, individuals who were catastrophically injured, according to the legal definition, are entitled to more substantial accident benefits and damages, than someone who experiences minor injuries in an accident. A catastrophic injury is generally defined as severe injury to the brain, spine, or spinal cord and may also involve fractures of the skull or spinal column. Catastrophic injuries can result directly from violent trauma in an accident or indirectly from complications associated with the original injury.

Individuals who sustain a catastrophic injury in a motorcycle accident, car accident, fall or another severe incident typically experience a considerable decline in their ability to function in daily activities and many other capacities. In addition to the lasting effects on the injured person, the lives of family members are significantly impacted as they witness the pain and struggles of their loved ones and, in many cases, take on additional responsibilities such as long-term caregiving. Victims of catastrophic injury require considerable compensation for the substantial expenses and loss arising from their injury, which often includes income replacement, medical and rehabilitative care, and assistive devices for mobility and in the home.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are the most accessible type of damages to calculate for most personal injury claims. By the time a settlement occurs or trial commences, the injured party has received complete or near complete medical treatment. The economic damages are calculated by adding up the medical expenses by using receipts, invoices, and statements.

Catastrophic injury cases, however, are different. There may be extensive future economic damages to consider. Calculating the value of these damages usually requires expert analysis and testimony. This testimony can attest to the value of the loss of future earned income as well as to the importance, extent, and duration of medical care necessary for the injured party.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic injuries are intangible and, thus, harder than economic injuries to quantify. They cover compensation for pain and suffering, loss of companionship, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium. In catastrophic injury cases, non-economic damages can be considerable due to the impact the injuries have on the victim's quality of life.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are designed to (1) punish the wrongdoer who caused the accident and (2) serve as a deterrent to keep others from engaging in the same behavior. While not typically awarded in personal injury cases, they may be warranted in cases that result in catastrophic injuries, but this is rarely done but could happen depending on the facts of your case.  

At Odette Rwigamba Lawyers PC, our catastrophic injury lawyer will advise you on the extent of compensation you can anticipate and whether you should seek punitive damages.

Common Accidents in Ontario That Cause Catastrophic Injuries

Any type of accident can cause catastrophic injuries. In terms of personal injury lawsuits in Ontario, the common types of accidents most likely to cause a catastrophic injury are described below.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Accidents involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other types of motor vehicles (e.g., boats) are a leading cause of catastrophic injuries. When these accidents also involve pedestrians or bicyclists, the chances of a person involved in the accident receiving a catastrophic injury greatly increase. 

Workplace Accidents

Workplace accidents, especially those that occur in construction areas and warehouses, typically cause catastrophic injuries. Examples of workplace accidents leading to catastrophic injuries include but are not limited to:

  • Heavy objects falling and striking worker
  • Worker's body getting pinched or crushed in equipment
  • Fires, explosions, or chemical spills
  • Falls from equipment or platforms
  • Exposure to toxic fumes or chemicals

Workplace accidents are unique in that compensation might have to go through workers' compensation, but not always. It is always best to speak to our catastrophic injury attorney to understand when workers' comp applies and how to best proceed to obtain fair and just compensation.

Premises Liability Accidents

Property owners are under an obligation to certain visitors to keep their property free of unsafe conditions. Hazardous conditions that can lead to a catastrophic injury include but are not limited to:

  • Defective stairways, elevators, or escalators
  • Inadequate lighting or security
  • Violations of fire safety and building codes
  • Unsafe environmental conditions (e.g., sinkhole)
  • Poor construction, faulty design, inadequate maintenance of buildings or structures
  • Wet floors or loose carpets 

Premise liability cases can be complex, and liability depends on many factors, including whether the injured party is categorized as a licensee, visitor, or trespasser.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when medical professionals (like doctors and surgeons) and medical facilities (like hospitals) cause an injury to a patient through a negligent act or omission. Sometimes, these injuries heal quickly, while other times, the injury may never heal and negatively alter the patient's life.

Malpractice (like surgical errors, medication errors, and misdiagnosis) can lead to life-threatening, catastrophic conditions. Malpractice committed during a birth, referred to as birth injuries, can lead to the development of health conditions like cerebral palsy and brachial plexus and the risk of developing spinal deformities as the child ages.

Dog Bites 

Dog bites or dog attacks can be severe, resulting in catastrophic injuries or even death. A dog's teeth can tear through skin and muscle to penetrate the chest wall, which can cause serious injury to internal organs like the intestines or lungs. Dogs may also attack a person's head – children are particularly vulnerable to this type of attack due to their height.

Dogs attack hundreds of people a year, and though few die, many suffer permanent scarring and disfigurement. Though rare, if the dog is rabid, the bite can be fatal unless proper medical attention is promptly given. 

Defective Products

Products may be designed, maintained, or even manufactured defectively. When this happens, unsuspecting consumers often suffer catastrophic injuries. Examples of products that have been deemed defective and have caused catastrophic injury or death include:

  • Automobiles and auto parts (e.g., tires)
  • Asbestos
  • Elevators and escalators 
  • Firearms
  • Food and agricultural products
  • Machinery and equipment
  • Medical products or devices
  • Pharmaceutical products
  • Tobacco and other narcotic products

Many of these products have caused severe and life-altering injuries, as well as death. Unlike other personal injury claims, these claims are often based on strict liability – meaning you do not have to prove negligence. In some cases, however, negligence might be required depending on how your case proceeds depends on the facts and the circumstances of your personal injury case. 

Contact a Catastrophic Injury Lawyer in Ottawa Today

Doctors often recommend extended medical care and physical therapy to victims of catastrophic injuries because the resulting conditions may continue indefinitely. Our Ontario accident lawyer will guide you through your treatment process and keep accurate records of your progress. Our legal team will represent you and your family in seeking injury compensation from those at fault. This monetary recovery will help cover your medical bills and compensate you, in part, for your pain and suffering.

Contact Odette Rwigamba Lawyers PC, today by filling out the online form or calling us at (613) 232-7900. We will schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and a plan to move forward toward your recovery.

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