A catastrophic injury is one that results in a severe disability or significant disfigurement that is either very long term or permanent. Examples of these injuries include paralysis, loss of a limb, mental impairment and major burns. Such cases also oftentimes require multiple surgeries, long-term rehabilitation and lifelong extended care. Liability claims for catastrophic injuries can cost defendants and their insurers millions of dollars in damages and defense costs. Retaining a qualified defense attorney early in the process can make a substantial difference in the outcome to the case.

A defense attorney investigates every possible basis for absolving the insured or limiting liability. Juries tend to be sympathetic to badly injured plaintiffs and might award them hefty sums of money even when legal liability is questionable. That said, juries can and do turn away severely injured claimants when a strong defensive case is thoroughly and clearly presented. Also, many catastrophic injury cases involve decisions on comparative fault. The claimant is oftentimes partially responsible for the injuries and damages and may be assessed accordingly in the overall claim. Defense counsel investigate and document instances of the claimant causing his or her injuries, at least in part.

A defense attorney also meticulously evaluates the monetary damages demanded. Pain and suffering damages are subjective but nevertheless can be tested by expert witnesses. Other types of losses are more objectively quantified. For example, plaintiffs often inflate their claims for lost income. Diligent investigation of the plaintiff’s employment history and outlook often show that their earning potential is much lower than claimed.

During pre-lawsuit negotiations, defense counsel can be effective in lowering the bar for a settlement. Plaintiffs’ attorneys and their clients often have unrealistic expectations about the value of a case, even one with serious injuries. Defense counsel’s job is to show them that liability might be questionable and that their monetary demand could be unsustainable. The goal is to convince the claimant and their counsel that any ultimate jury award may not justify the costs of trial and that a reasonable settlement is the best solution. These efforts to dissuade the claimant from a lengthy court battle can help the insurer minimize its exposure.

Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe, PLLC in Charleston, West Virginia is a highly experienced and respected insurance defense firm serving insurance carriers throughout the region. Early intervention by counsel in catastrophic injury cases is the best possible strategy for defending insurers from excessive awards. If your company now has a CI case, feel free to contact us online or call 304-344-0100 for an initial consultation.