San Luis Obispo Catastrophic Injury Attorney

Have you been injured so badly that you cannot work or care for yourself? Are you permanently or temporarily disabled because of someone else’s negligence?

Catastrophic injuries affect victims for the rest of their lives and can impact the entire family, thrusting a loved one into the role of caregiver for the injured person. Many people with catastrophic injuries require intensive medical care or may need to live in a skilled nursing facility or memory care home.

The party that caused your catastrophic injury should be held accountable. An experienced San Luis Obispo catastrophic injury attorney with Ernst Law Group can pursue a settlement to cover your current medical care and any future needs related to your catastrophic injury. Contact our personal injury lawyers in San Luis Obispo today at (805) 541-0300 to schedule a free consultation.

san luis obispo catastrophic injury attorney

Common causes of catastrophic injury

Catastrophic injuries are life-changing, serious injuries that often leave the victim permanently disabled. Although a life-changing injury could happen in any unlucky circumstance, you’re more likely to suffer a catastrophic injury in these situations:

  • Medical mistakes or malpractice
  • Sports or boating injuries
  • In a car wreck, especially at high speeds
  • In a collision with a semi-truck
  • Falling from a high place
  • Toxic exposure to a contaminated consumer product
  • A serious workplace accident, like OSHA’s “Fatal Four.”

What are the common types of catastrophic injuries?

Catastrophic injuries are among the most heartbreaking and severe of all categories of injuries. A catastrophic injury may result in permanent disability and the need for continuing medical care and day-to-day living assistance. When an individual experiences a catastrophic injury, it affects not only the victim but the victim’s family as well – often for the rest of their lives. Catastrophic injuries include the following.

Brain or head injury

Brain injuries can lead to early-onset dementia or leave the victim with lasting personality changes. A blow to the head causes the brain to collide with the inside of the skull. The swelling and bleeding damage the tissue, which could impact your ability to communicate, think, or even move.

Spinal cord injury

The sudden force of a fall or car crash can break the vertebrae or compress the spine. The pressure on the spine often causes partial or total paralysis. Herniated discs and damage to the cushioning discs in between the vertebrae put pressure on the spine, which affects your ability to move or walk.

Severe burns

Severe burn injuries are among the longest-lasting and most painful injuries someone can endure, and they carry a high risk of secondary health complications and infection risk. Permanent disfigurement, like amputation or scarring, is also likely with burn injuries. If the burn reaches the muscle, your ability to move may also be compromised.


Some accidents cause crushing injuries that require surgical amputation of the limb. Other times, the amputation happens on the scene involuntarily. Losing a hand, foot, or limb due to another’s negligence may mean you cannot work again or that you must relearn how to complete activities of daily living. Even with a prosthesis, recovering your abilities after an amputation is a lengthy, complicated process.

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Vision, hearing, speech loss, or serious impairment

Head trauma or brain injuries can lead to either temporary or permanent vision or hearing loss. Brain injury victims often have problems with speech, depending on which part of the brain is injured. Flying debris and glass from a car wreck, chemical burns at work, or injuries from a fall can also affect your ability to see, hear, or speak.

Multiple fractures

Many accidents lead to multiple broken bones, which means you may not be able to move on your own. Physical therapy is usually required, and the affected limbs may be atrophied after the cast comes off. Recovery can take months, and you may be unable to work until the fractures heal.

Central nervous system injuries

The neck and spine are vulnerable to central nervous system injuries, and unlike other types of cells, those in the central nervous system do not regenerate. Surgical treatment may not heal the primary injury but can help avoid secondary trauma or complications. Some patients heal on their own, with one part of the brain taking over for the damaged part. Other times, your abilities are permanently impaired.

Neurological disorders

Exposure to toxic substances is one of the most common causes of neurological disorders. Many catastrophic injury victims also develop post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or phobias after the accident. Depression is also common, especially for people who are permanently disfigured or disabled.

Birth injuries

Birth injuries result from a specific type of medical malpractice in which either the mother, baby, or both are injured during birth. This may include delayed c-sections or problems during labor and delivery.

What are the steps to take after being severely injured?

The seconds after a serious injury are painful and chaotic. Your safety matters first; prompt medical attention can make a significant difference in your recovery outcome.

1. Seek immediate medical attention

Call 911 right away. EMS first responders are trained to treat catastrophic injuries, and the help you get on the way to the hospital can make a difference in the outcome of your recovery.

2. Document and gather evidence of the incident

Take photos or a video of your injuries and the scene of the accident. Jot down notes about the events leading up to the accident. Save copies of your medical records, police report, or incident report from your workplace or the premises where you were injured.

3. Consult an experienced attorney

A skilled San Luis Obispo personal injury lawyer prepares your case, properly valuing your claim so your settlement is enough to cover long-term medical care, modifications to your home to accommodate a new disability, and providing for your family if you cannot work.

4. Follow up with your doctor

Your medical records link your injuries to the accident, which helps prove negligence on the part of the defendant, so make sure to follow up with your doctor during recovery. Your doctor’s estimation of your Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) is critical evidence in your case. If you are permanently disabled or disfigured, then your claim will be higher than if you are able to recover fully.

Don’t miss the deadline to file your claim.

The statute of limitations to file a personal injury claim in California is generally two years from the date of the incident. Be sure to file before then, or your case will be dismissed.

What are the possible damages you can claim?

California law permits personal injury victims to collect three types of damages in personal injury claims.

Economic damages

Economic damages are the actual losses from your accident, like medical bills, lost wages from time missed at work, and property damage, like a totaled car, cracked phone, or broken safety gear. It also includes the cost of home or vehicle modifications.

Non-economic damages

Although you can’t put a price tag on the emotional trauma from the accident or the pain and suffering your injuries cause you, you’re still entitled to compensation for these. Non-economic damages are calculated based on your economic damages, so it’s critical to give your lawyer receipts from all accident-related expenses.

Punitive damages

Punitive damages are financial punishment for parties who acted with reckless disregard for the safety of other people. These damages may not be assessed in every case.

Seeking maximum compensation for your serious injury

Catastrophic injury settlements can reach into the millions of dollars; trust our legal team to seek maximum compensation on your behalf. You may need ongoing medical care for months or even years; your settlement should be enough to cover any complications that arise.

How to find the right lawyer for your needs

Catastrophic injuries are more complex than other types of personal injury claims and may involve multiple defendants. Find an attorney with experience litigating these cases to ensure each step of your case is handled properly.

We’ll fight the insurance company to get you the maximum compensation

Insurance companies are notorious for underpaying claims; you need a tough negotiator to ensure you’re fairly compensated.

Who may be liable for your injury?


Some workplaces are inherently dangerous, even with safety protocols and protective gear. If your employer permitted unsafe working conditions to persist or failed to provide the right protective equipment, it could be liable for your accident.

catastrophic injury attorney

Vehicle owners

If you’re in a car wreck, the at-fault driver is liable for your injuries, whether it’s a private passenger car, a semi-truck, or a city bus.

Product designers/manufacturers

A flaw in the design can render a consumer product dangerous to users, meaning the product designer is liable for harm it causes users. Or, if there is a problem or contamination in manufacturing, then the manufacturer is responsible for any harm caused to consumers.

How can our San Luis Obispo catastrophic injury attorney prove liability?

Proving liability means establishing the four parts of legal negligence:

  • Duty of care of one party towards another
  • Failure to act with due care
  • The irresponsible actions caused you injury
  • You suffered financial losses because of the harm done to you

Each of these points must be shown to prove the defendant was negligent and, therefore, liable for your injuries.

What is the catastrophic injury lawsuit process?

The details of each catastrophic injury case may vary, but you can expect your claim to progress like this:

1. Initial consultation

Ernst Law Group offers a complimentary initial consultation for prospective clients. Bring all evidence and documents with you. We review the strength of your claim and advise you if you have grounds to file a lawsuit.

2. File court documents

Our legal team drafts the lawsuit and all related court documents on your behalf, ensuring each complies with California legal requirements.

3. Discovery

Discovery is the formal investigative process, which includes interviewing witnesses under oath and requesting specific documents to build our case. For example, we may ask for an employer’s safety records or the personnel records of the semi-truck driver who hit us.

4. Pretrial motions and hearings

Nothing in a personal injury case happens without a motion before the court; these matters are how your attorney asks the court to consider certain requests in your case.

5. Settlement negotiations

Many catastrophic injury cases are settled out of court; if the evidence we uncover during discovery indicates the defendant’s clear liability, they may not want to risk a trial. We negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf; this can happen at any point before the trial starts.

6. Trial

We always prepare for a trial, even if we think the defendant will settle. This includes preparing you to testify about the accident, events leading up to it, and how your injury impacted your life.

7. Collect judgment or settlement

After we win your case, we distribute your award or the settlement offered by the defendant.

8. Post-trial motions and appeals

There may be a few “housekeeping” motions to close your case, which we file and argue legally. If the judge finds in favor of the defendant, then we may file an appeal.

Why it’s important to visit the doctor

Good medical care after a catastrophic injury can mean the difference between a full recovery or being permanently disabled. In addition to preserving your health, the medical records from each doctor’s visit provide clear evidence of the seriousness of your injury and how much it costs to rehabilitate it.

What is the cost of hiring a San Luis Obispo catastrophic injury attorney?

The catastrophic injury lawyers at Ernst Law Group work on a contingency basis, meaning that we collect legal fees only if we win your case as a percentage of the final award. We review the legal fees and the cost of litigating your case in your initial consultation.

Plaintiffs working with a skilled San Luis Obispo catastrophic injury attorney have a much higher chance of winning their claim and receiving a large settlement than those without.

Why hire Ernst Law Group

Ernst Law Group has a proven track record of helping catastrophic injury clients obtain abundant compensation settlements and awards that actually pay for the projected lifetime expenses; they do not just settle for the low insurance company amounts that are first offered to close the case.

Our law firm prepares each case for trial. If the insurance company and other responsible third parties do not offer an amount that adequately compensates the client, your personal injury attorney will take the case to court.

We have the resources – financial and otherwise – to pursue our client’s catastrophic injury claim successfully. We consult with the most highly respected medical specialists in order to obtain an accurate picture of the future medical needs of the client. These medical and other needs are carefully examined and converted into dollar amounts. We aggressively seek compensation from any responsible parties in an attempt to obtain the compensation that you deserve.

Ernst Law Group is a highly respected firm; insurance companies know that we do not back down. If a satisfactory settlement offer is not received, your lawyer will take your case to trial before a judge and jury. We have recovered millions and millions of dollars for our clients. We are taken seriously because we fight for you. We are committed to our clients.

Our San Luis Obispo catastrophic injury lawyers are here to help.

An Ernst Law Group San Luis Obispo catastrophic injury attorney offers a complimentary case evaluation where you can discuss your case and ask the questions that are on your mind. We do not charge up-front fees for catastrophic personal injury claims. We will invest the money that is necessary to pursue your case. If we do not win your case, you do not pay anything.

We take catastrophic and other personal injury cases on a contingency basis, which means that our earnings come from an agreed-upon percentage of insurance settlements or court awards.

To schedule your free consultation, contact us online or call (805) 541-0300. We are a compassionate, concerned plaintiff’s rights law firm. We genuinely care about protecting the rights of injured parties and we are personally committed to serving you – especially now when you truly need help.


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