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What Makes a Personal Injury ‘Catastrophic’ Under the Laws of Ohio?

Post By Corey Heit

Section 2315.18 of the Ohio Revised Code (O.R.C.) defines a catastrophic injury as one that inflicts

  • A permanent and substantial physical deformity,
  • The loss of a limb or the loss of use of a limb,
  • The loss of an internal organ or eye, and/or
  • A permanent injury that permanently prevents the injured person from being able to independently care for themselves and perform life-sustaining activities without assistance.

Here, “life-sustaining activities” covers a broad range of actions such as holding a full-time job, managing one’s own finances, or living by themselves in a house or apartment. An inability to perform life-sustaining activities could result from a traumatic brain injury, but it could also result from a combination of physical injuries that do not inflict an intellectual disability.

Although the state statute does not explicitly use the term “catastrophic,” drawing a clear legal distinction between the listed injuries and other types of injuries a person might suffer in an accident matters greatly.

What It Means for Ohio Law to Categorize Some Injuries as Catastrophic

O.R.C. 2315.18 is one of the Ohio state laws that gives victims of accidents caused by the negligence or recklessness of others the right to seek compensatory damages by filing insurance claims or personal injury lawsuits. Compensatory damages cover past and expected medical bills, replace lost wages and future earning, and compensate for physical pain and emotional suffering.

Bills and wages are classified as economic losses for the accident victim. Pain and suffering are classified as noneconomic losses.

The law sets a cap on damage awards for pain and suffering, and that cap applies to most personal injury cases. However, O.R.C. 2315.18 also states, “There shall not be any limitation on the amount of compensatory damages that represents damages for noneconomic loss … for injury or loss to person or property if the noneconomic losses” result from a catastrophic injury.

This does not mean that an accident victim can name a random high number as their just recovery for a catastrophic injury. It also does not mean that an Ohio personal injury attorney will be able to guarantee a large award. Each case proceeds on its own facts, and the outcome depends on too many factors to know what will happen as negotiation with an insurance company or a court case progresses.

What the waiving of the noneconomic damages cap for catastrophic injuries does mean is that a person who must deal with a permanent disability or the loss of a body part can attempt to hold the responsible party fully accountable. Succeeding in doing that requires presenting convincing evidence of all of the following:

  • The person or company named as the defendant caused the accident,
  • The accident directly caused the catastrophic injury, and
  • The injury is of the type that is considered catastrophic under the provisions of O.R.C. 2315.18.

Partnering with an experienced personal injury attorney could make presenting proof of those things easier. Based in Westerville, Ohio, Corey Heit of Heit Law advises and represents accident victims in Columbus and across Franklin County. You can schedule a free consultation by calling Corey at (614) 898-5300 or by connecting with him online.

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