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Understanding Catastrophic Injuries in Motor Vehicle Accidents

Automobile accidents in Texas send victims to hospitals with serious injuries almost daily. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 4,498 people lost their lives in fatal traffic accidents in 2021.

Those who survive motor vehicle collisions often suffer severe injuries. Their lives may never be the same. If you sustain a catastrophic injury in a vehicle collision, learn your legal rights with help from an experienced Austin car accident attorney from FVF Law.

What Is a Catastrophic Injury?

Motor vehicle accidents have the potential to cause injuries that come with long-term consequences, including permanent disfigurement and disability. These are known as “catastrophic injuries.” In car accident law, catastrophic injuries are those that inflict a severe level of harm on a victim. They go far beyond simple bumps and bruises; they cause extensive damage to a victim’s body that can affect physical health as well as emotional well-being.

Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, can be caused by an impact in a car crash that affects the brain. If the head or skull strikes an object in a motor vehicle accident (such as the dashboard or windshield), the force of the impact can rattle the brain around inside the skull. This can lead to bruising, bleeding, swelling and other types of brain injuries.

TBIs can cause long-term brain damage that may or may not be treatable. A brain injury can result in physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral changes in a victim. Examples include mood swings, headaches, dizziness, nausea, sensory changes, trouble balancing, difficulty communicating, and seizures or epilepsy.

Spinal Cord Injury

The spinal cord is a critical body part; it carries messages from the brain to the body using a complex network of nerves. If any part of the spine suffers an injury in an automobile accident, the victim can suffer permanent harm, including irreversible paralysis. Spine injuries can significantly impact a victim’s independence and enjoyment of life.

Paralysis, or the loss of feeling and function below the point of injury, is the most severe potential effect of a nonfatal spine injury. There are approximately 18,000 new cases of spinal cord injuries each year in the U.S. Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of spine injuries (37.6 percent).

Loss of Limb

Loss of limb or an amputation can occur in a motor vehicle accident when a victim’s legs, arms, feet, hands or digits are severed at the scene of the crash or have to be medically amputated from complications that arise afterward. These injuries are permanently disabling and can impact a victim’s physical abilities, appearance, self-image and mental health for years to come.

Severe Burns

If an automobile accident results in a car fire, one or more victims could suffer severe third-degree burns. These are burn injuries that extend deeper than the first one or two layers of skin – they damage the deeper tissues, such as ligaments, tendons, muscles and bone.

Severe burns can cause many health complications, including shock, significant scarring and disfigurement, infections, amputations, and trouble regulating body temperature. Breathing in smoke from a car fire could also cause serious respiratory problems.

Bone Fractures

If a car accident exerts too much pressure against a bone, the bone can crack or snap. Broken bones are painful injuries that can take many weeks or months to heal. In severe cases, victims can suffer permanent nerve damage, loss of mobility and other irreversible complications from a broken bone. Bone fractures can be classified as catastrophic injuries if a victim suffers more than one at a time, requires surgery or experiences long-term effects.

Internal Injuries

If the internal organs collide with one another or the frame of the body from the forces of a car accident, the victim can suffer significant harm. Examples include a punctured lung, liver damage, kidney damage, cardiovascular injuries and injuries to arteries. Many internal injuries go unnoticed initially – especially if adrenaline from the car crash is masking pain. If left untreated, internal injuries can cause fatal organ failure or internal bleeding.

What to Do After Suffering a Catastrophic Injury in an Auto Accident in Texas

Catastrophic injury insurance claims often need to be handled differently than mild to moderate injuries. Injuries that will most likely affect the victim for the foreseeable future or life are more expensive in terms of required medical treatments and lost wages. Therefore, the victim needs to be more careful during insurance settlement negotiations to avoid accepting less than he or she deserves.

If you suffer a catastrophic injury in a Texas automobile accident, take the following steps to protect yourself:

  1. Call the police. You should always report a car accident that results in injuries or deaths. If there appear to be serious injuries, request an ambulance.
  2. Get immediate medical care. Don’t delay going to a hospital after the crash. Obey your doctor’s medical treatment recommendations.
  3. Don’t admit fault. While you’re still at the scene of the crash, don’t apologize to the other driver or admit that you caused or contributed to the automobile accident.
  4. Document your injuries. Keep copies of your medical records and bills. Take photos of your injuries as they heal. Keep an injury journal where you record how you’re feeling each day.
  5. File a claim – but don’t settle right away. After you submit an insurance claim, do not accept a settlement until speaking to a lawyer about the potential value of your catastrophic injury case.
  6. Contact an attorney. Seek support from an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer in Texas during the challenging financial recovery process.

A car accident lawyer can represent you during insurance claim negotiations to fight for fair compensation for your catastrophic injury. You and your family may deserve more than what an insurer initially offers. A lawyer can negotiate with an insurance claims adjuster on your behalf until a fair settlement is reached or take your case to trial, if necessary.

Contact an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer in Austin

If you or someone you love suffers a catastrophic injury in a motor vehicle accident in Austin, Texas, the lawyers at FVF Law Firm can help you understand your legal rights and options. We have over 100 years of combined legal experience. Our car accident lawyers understand how catastrophic injury cases work and how to advocate on each client’s behalf. Call (512) 640-2146 or contact us online today to schedule a free, no-obligation case consultation.


Fogelman & Von Flatern is a personal injury law firm that believes it matters why we practice law: to make sure good people in unfair circumstances who want reasonable options are taken seriously, especially by their attorney. We value transparency, compassion, and justice, and we strive to embody that in our practice. At FVF, you can trust that you've got the best people on your case, for the right reasons.

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