If you have sustained an injury in an accident, it’s important to understand the different ways that your injuries might be defined by law. In some cases, the type of injury will determine the amount of damages that you may be entitled to. 

There are three basic types of injuries recognized for personal injury purposes. These include minor injuries, serious injuries, and catastrophic injuries.

Understanding the Difference Between Serious and Catastrophic Injuries

A serious injury can occur in a variety of ways. It may happen as a result of a car accident, medical malpractice, slip and fall, or a truck accident, for example. 

These types of injuries may lead to significant medical bills and time off work. However, full recovery is usually possible. 

In contrast, a catastrophic injury is more severe, life-altering, and life-threatening. There is no precise definition of a catastrophic injury. However, catastrophic injuries often lead to disability, impairment, or disfigurement. A disability may occur when you are unable to work due to a change in cognitive or physical abilities. You may require frequent medical assistance and monitoring after a catastrophic injury. 

Disfigurement occurs when there is a significant alteration to your appearance. This can include visible scarring or loss of a limb. 

Injuries of a catastrophic nature will significantly affect your quality of life. You may be unable to work, participate in hobbies, have intimate relationships, or participate in normal family functions after a catastrophic injury.

What Are the Common Types of Catastrophic Injuries?

Catastrophic injuries can take many forms. Here are some of the most common:

Spinal Cord Injuries

A spinal cord injury causes permanent changes in strength, sensation, and other body functions below the site of the injury. 

The severity of a spinal cord injury can vary. “Complete” spinal cord injuries involve full loss of function below the injured area. Incomplete injuries result in some loss of function, but you may retain some ability to move. 

Individuals who have sustained a spinal cord injury may need to use a wheelchair. They may lose the ability to control their bowels or experience a complete loss of function below the site of the injury.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries often occur as a result of a violent blow to the head. Something that pierces the skull and enters the brain tissue (such as a bullet) can also cause a traumatic brain injury

Individuals who sustain these types of injuries may lose their cognitive abilities. They may be unable to speak or think rationally. They may have mood or concentration problems. 

Severe traumatic brain injuries can even result in coma or other disorders.


It is not uncommon for individuals who are involved in car crashes or other accidents to require amputation of a limb. Amputation will result in the full removal of a limb, such as a finger, toe, leg, or arm.

Individuals who require amputation after an accident may experience phantom pain or be unable to take care of themselves as they once did. Sometimes, a prosthetic limb may be used to assist victims who have suffered an amputation.

Severe Burn Injuries

Severe burns are usually classified as third-degree burns. They will typically destroy the outside layer of skin and may reach into the subcutaneous layer. 

Fourth-degree burns may reach the bones, muscles, and nerve endings. These types of burns are extremely painful and typically require long-term medical care. 

Internal Organ Damage

Serious accidents can damage one or more internal organs, such as the lungs or heart. Surgery may be required to assist in the healing and repair of the organ.

Depending on the injury, full recovery may be impossible. In such cases, the individual may have to live without an organ or receive a transplant to survive.

What to Do After a Catastrophic Injury

Catastrophic injuries can be devastating to an individual, their family members, and their friends. Catastrophic injury claims are among the highest value cases in personal injury law. After a catastrophic injury, you will likely have significant past and future medical bills. You will undoubtedly have lost wages and maybe even reduced earning capacity. And you will also have significant pain and suffering damages

Therefore, it may be helpful to reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can evaluate your case, help you negotiate with insurance providers, and file a lawsuit to recover your damages. They can help you get the money you need to move forward after an injury.

Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in New York City

If you’ve been injured in an accident in Manhattan, NY, and need legal help, contact our New York City personal injury lawyers at Rosenbaum Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation.

Rosenbaum Personal Injury Lawyers
100 Wall St 15th Floor
New York, NY 10005
(212) 514-5007