personal injury claimsCatastrophic injuries are a special type of personal injury claims that are characterized by the level of devastation those injuries cause.  These injuries are often so severe that they require a significant amount of medical treatment. Often, this includes long-term hospitalization, ongoing rehabilitation, and multiple surgeries, among other things. Catastrophic injuries frequently result in a significant financial consequences, as well. Brain injuries are common examples of personal injury claims that are catastrophic.

Steel Rod Falls on Costco Customer

A 62-year-old Costco customer was struck in the head by a steel rod while reaching for a package of paper towels at a Brookfield Costco in Connecticut. The victim suffered brain damage that was later determined to be irreversible. According to the complaint filed, the man was reaching for towels that had been stacked more than 7 feet high when a 40 inch long piece of steel pipe, three inches in diameter, struck him above his left eye. He alleges that he suffered a concussion, nerve and muscle damage to his face and loss of neurological dexterity in his left hand. He now suffers from migraines, sensitivities to noise and light, changes in his mood and behavior, as well as short-term memory lapses.

Legal Issues in the Costco Case

This lawsuit against Costco will require the victim to prove Costco failed to meet its duty of care to him as an invited customer shopping in a self-service environment. In order to defend itself, Costco must prove that it exercised reasonable care in keeping its customer areas free of dangerous or defective conditions. One of the factual issues will undoubtedly be whether stacking paper towels over seven feet high for customers is reasonably safe. More importantly, why was a steel rod stacked on top of the paper towel display.
Costco was sued in another premises liability case in 2017, when a customer in Nevada fractured their ankle in a slip-and-fall case and was awarded more than $400,000. In a 2014, a jury in New York awarded a plaintiff nearly $10 million after being struck by a shopping cart improperly placed on an escalator by an employee.

Not All Traumatic Brain Injuries Leave an Open Wound

One thing many people don’t realize is that there may not be an open wound in every traumatic brain injury.  In car accidents, the sheer force of the collision can cause the brain to collide with the internal hard bone of the skull. This happens when a moving head comes to a quick stop, but the brain continues in its movement, striking the interior of the skull. The result is often a contusion (bruising of the brain) and hemorrhage (bleeding of the brain), neither of which may be visible at the time of injury.

Is There a Legal Definition of a “Catastrophic” Injury?

No, there is no specific legal definition for the term “catastrophic” as it relates to personal injuries. However, in legal terms, it is basically understood as a serious injury that results in long-term, maybe even permanent, disability or disfigurement. A catastrophic injury usually leads to a difficult recovery, multiple surgeries, and long-term medical treatment. It is not uncommon for victims suffering catastrophic injuries to be incapable of returning to work for an extended period of time. A catastrophic injury commonly makes some of the most basic daily tasks too difficult to deal with alone.

Potential Compensation for Catastrophic Injuries

The first step in receiving the compensation for your catastrophic injury is being able to prove the nature and extent of that injury. Not only is this the first step, but it can often be a challenging one. There are so many types of damages that may need to be proven. Your damages could include both present and future medical expenses, the cost of rehabilitation services, lost wages (both past and present), and compensation for disability, pain, suffering and mental anguish.
If you are the victim of a catastrophic injury, the first step you should take is to obtain the highest level of physical recovery that you can.  If full recovery is not possible in your situation, as is often the case with catastrophic injuries, then you should use rehabilitation services and vocational programs in order to obtain the best quality of life possible.
If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 616-6356.

Author Photo

Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.

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