What are the 3 types of catastrophic injury?

The term “catastrophic injury” describes an injury so severe it causes permanent, life-changing harm, preventing the injured person from ever returning to work.

In general, catastrophic injuries fall under three types: severe physical trauma; spinal cord injuries (SCIs), and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Below, we discuss common injuries included in each category, as well as avenues for compensation through a catastrophic injury claim.

If you suffered a catastrophic injury due to someone else’s recklessness, you may be entitled to significant compensation that can help pay your medical bills, lost income, and more for the rest of your life.

Keep reading to learn the three main types of catastrophic injuries. If you were seriously injured, call our Chicago catastrophic injury lawyers at (800) 985-1819 today.

types of catastrophic injury

1. Severe physical trauma


When severe enough, burns can cause loss of mobility or disfigurement. There are several main types of burns, including:

  • Thermal burns: Most common – occurs as a result of coming in contact with hot surfaces or items
  • Chemical burns: Occurs from coming in contact with harsh chemicals that burn the skin
  • Radiation burns: Sunburn is the mildest form of radiation burn, but prolonged exposure to intense UV light can cause severe, even life-threatening radiation burns.


Certain incidents – especially those that occur in work environments with heavy machinery – can cause amputation of a limb or digit. Amputation introduces a host of complications, including infection, phantom limb syndrome, and more. These injuries are considered catastrophic because they affect basic everyday functioning.

Damage to orthopedic function or tissue

Finally, injuries that cause damage to your orthopedic functioning (bones and joints) or tissue can also cause you to be permanently disabled and could qualify as catastrophic injuries. Compression fractures, which occur when vertebrae in the spine break or collapse, fall under this category.

2. Spinal cord injuries

Injuries to the spinal cord or the surrounding tissue can cause permanent mobility issues and even partial or full paralysis. This is because of the role nerves – one of the major components of the nervous system, along with the brain and spinal cord – play in communication between the brain and the rest of the body.

When an injury occurs at the cervical (neck) level of the spinal cord, paralysis may occur in the whole body. If damage occurs at the lumbar (lower back) level, paralysis of the legs, hips, and reproductive organs may occur.

Spinal cord injuries are often considered to be catastrophic injuries because they can permanently affect your ability to move and do basic tasks.

3. Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)

Traumatic brain injuries are more than a concussion. In severe cases, they may result in personality changes, memory loss, prolonged unconsciousness, coma, or even death.

These are often the most costly and serious type of catastrophic injury, and until scientists discover more about the brain and its functions, treatment remains somewhat limited.

TBIs can permanently alter or inhibit your ability to think, form new memories, walk, or speak, which can make it very difficult to obtain or maintain employment.

Why do the different types of catastrophic injuries matter?

A catastrophic injury will result in more costly expenses than a minor or temporary injury. That’s because catastrophic injuries are more serious and long-lasting, often requiring months or even years of treatment. If you have a catastrophic injury, you will likely incur very high medical bills for doctors’ visits, hospital stays, medications, treatments, medical devices, and more.

You may need care for the rest of your life, which can make the cost of expenses of your injury astronomical. The intensive level of care needed for catastrophic injuries can be financially crushing. When you are focusing on taking care of your health and adjusting to the “new normal” of life after a catastrophic injury, you shouldn’t have to bear the extra burden of wondering how you will pay for the expenses.

The Chicago catastrophic injury attorneys at Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates can help you fight and win your case. The more serious your injury, the greater the potential for compensation. Our attorneys have fought for injured Illinois residents since 1924 and have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients.

Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates wants you to have access to the best care possible. Call (800) 985-1819 today to schedule your free initial consultation with one of our attorneys.