Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users. They do not have any protective clothing or the protective shield of being in a vehicle. Therefore, when hit by a vehicle, the injuries are more likely life-threatening. Sustaining these catastrophic injuries can mean a significant stay in the hospital, high medical costs, lost wages as you recover, and in other cases, loss of cognitive function. Foos Gavin Law Firm works with pedestrians who suffered catastrophic injuries in Sacramento to fight for fair compensation for their injuries. Get in touch with us to review your case.

Types of Catastrophic Injuries in Pedestrian Accidents

A catastrophic injury prevents a person from engaging in any gainful work. These injuries impact the victim internally and externally, resulting in lifelong changes, most of which require long-term medical care.

Pedestrian accidents are prone to causing catastrophic injuries. The impact of vehicles on the unprotected human body can cause extensive internal and external injuries. These injuries are often life-threatening, require extensive recovery and rehabilitation, and cause the loss of physical or cognitive body functions.

Catastrophic injuries can often start as less severe versions and develop into more serious injuries and vice versa. For example, a person with a concussion can suddenly develop additional complications that send them into a coma and cause additional brain damage.

The common types of catastrophic injuries in pedestrian accidents are:

Brain Injuries

Brain injuries range from mild concussions to traumatic brain injuries. A catastrophic brain injury can cause all loss of cognitive function above the brainstem. Catastrophic brain injuries manifest the following symptoms:

  • Loss of consciousness which lasts minutes to hours.
  • A worsening or persistent headache.
  • Convulsions.
  • Vomiting and nausea.
  • Pupil dilation.
  • Clear fluid from the nose and ears.
  • Inability to wake up.
  • Weakness in the extremities.
  • Extreme confusion.
  • Coma.
  • Unusual behavior, including aggression.
  • Slurred sleep.

Catastrophic brain injuries can result in significant changes in the injured person. These changes can last a long time or for the rest of the person's life. Some of these changes include:

  • Slipping into a coma.
  • Vegetative state.
  • Minimal consciousness.
  • Brain death - an irreversible condition where the brain and the brainstem do not have any measurable activity. When the person is in this state, they require life support to continue living.

Catastrophic brain injuries can also cause physical complications which may last a significant time. These include:

  • Seizures (post-traumatic epilepsy).
  • Damage to blood vessels.
  • Chronic headaches.
  • Vertigo.

Other long-term effects of catastrophic brain injuries include:

  • Cognitive problems such as memory loss, impaired judgment, lowered attention span, and trouble learning new things.
  • Executive functioning problems such as problem-solving, decision-making, planning, and organization.
  • Difficulties understanding speech, writing, or following conversations.
  • Behavioral changes such as outbursts, lack of awareness, and engaging in risky behavior.
  • Sensory issues such as ringing in the ears, balance problems, double vision, and loss of hand-eye coordination.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Catastrophic spinal cord injuries occur when the spinal cord and its nervous system are damaged during a pedestrian accident. Since the spinal cord is responsible for mobility and allowing communication from the brain to the rest of the body, injuries here can result in the loss of multiple body functions.

The most common consequence of spinal cord injuries is loss of motor function, organ function, and in severe cases, death.

During a pedestrian accident, the spine could bend, twist, or be severed fully. These injuries may affect different levels of the spine, resulting in various symptoms. The four levels of spinal injuries are:

  • Cervical.
  • Thoracic.
  • Lumbar.
  • Sacral.

Cervical spinal injuries affect the top portion of the spine from the head to the neck, above the shoulders. Cervical spinal injuries are the most severe due to their proximity to the brain. These injuries often result in tetraplegia and quadriplegia, meaning a limited or total loss of feeling and movement below the shoulders and neck.

The symptoms of cervical spinal injuries include:

  • Difficulty speaking.
  • Paralysis in the body below the neck.
  • Inability to breathe independently.
  • Partial movement of limbs.
  • Little to no bladder and bowel control.

Thoracic spinal injuries occur on the thoracic spine, in the upper and middle of the back. The severity and symptoms of the injury depend on the affected vertebrae. Some of the symptoms of thoracic spinal injury include:

  • Weakness or loss of sensation in the legs.
  • Loss of sensation in the genital and rectal regions.
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control.
  • Low back pain.

Thoracic spinal injuries result in paraplegia, meaning you can use your hands but not your legs.

Lumbar spinal injuries affect the five vertebrae of the lower section of the spine. These injuries can result in loss of function in the legs and hips and bladder and bowel function. These injuries are rarely life-threatening, but they can take significant time and resources to recover from. Most people also need special assistance to perform certain functions.

Sacral spinal injuries are rare. However, when they occur, they can result in problems controlling the bladder, bowel, and sexual function. The symptoms of sacral spinal injuries include:

  • Loss of bladder and bowel control.
  • Leg pain radiating down the back of the legs.
  • Sensory problems in the buttock and groin area.
  • Lower back pain.

Severe Burns

Fires are rare in car accidents but can occur, resulting in injuries to the victims, including pedestrians. In some cases, pedestrians may sustain injuries when caught in an accident with a vehicle transporting hazardous materials capable of burning human flesh.

Second, third, and fourth-degree burns are the most severe, as they burn deep into the layers of the skin.

Second-degree burns burn the outer and second layers. They may require skin grafting and take up to several weeks to fully recover.

Third-degree burns destroy the innermost layers of the skin, causing damage to nerve tissues as well. These burns often require extensive skin grafting and additional surgery for recovery. You could be in the hospital for several months and require therapy after treatment for third-degree burns.

Fourth-degree burns extend beyond the nerve tissue and can destroy muscles and bones. They are often fatal without immediate treatment. The patient also undergoes extensive treatment and rehabilitation. These injuries may require subsequent corrective plastic surgery due to the resulting scarring.


Pedestrian accidents can result in amputations in several ways:

  • A vehicle hits the pedestrian, wavering their limb.
  • The vehicle runs over the pedestrian's limbs, crushing it beyond repair.
  • The pedestrian develops an infection necessitating an amputation.

Amputations are painful when they occur. They also require you to spend significant time recovering from the injuries.

Multiple Bone Fractures

Multiple bone fractures are common in severe accidents. They occur because pedestrians have a low level of protection against the impact of a vehicle or motorcycle when it crashes into them.

Different types of fractures exist depending on the location of the break, its cause, and the break pattern. Based on break patterns, there are several types of fractures, including:

  • Oblique fractures

These fractures occur when your bone breaks at an angle. The symptoms of oblique fractures include severe pain, difficulty moving the affected limb, bone protruding through the skin, swelling, and bruising.

  • Transverse fractures

Transverse fractures occur when the bone breaks in across its width. These fractures are common in the body's long bones during an accident, but can also affect any other bone. The symptoms of a transverse fracture include pain, tenderness, swelling, difficulty moving the affected limb, and an unusual deformity you don't normally have.

  • Greenstick fractures

Greenstick fractures occur when a break in the bone doesn't go all the way through. They are common in young children whose bones are soft and less brittle. When they occur, greenstick fractures cause symptoms like pain, tenderness, swelling, and deformity of the affected limb.

  • Segmental fractures

Segmental fractures occur when a bone breaks into two different parts. These injuries are commo n in the long bones of the hands and legs. These fractures often require surgical repair and significant recovery time. Segmental fractures cause intense pain, an inability to move the affected part, swelling, bruising, and bones or bone fragments poking through the skin.

  • Spiral fractures

Spiral fractures occur when a bone breaks with a twisting motion, resulting in a corkscrew-like fracture line. These injuries occur when the bone breaks with a twisting motion.

You can also identify a fracture based on the affected bone. In car accidents, pedestrians are likely to suffer fractures in different areas. Fractures based on the affected bone include:

  • Rib fractures.
  • Facial fractures.
  • Shoulder fractures.
  • Wrist fractures.
  • Upper arm fractures.
  • Shoulder fractures.
  • Pelvic fractures.
  • Acetabular fractures.
  • Hip fractures.

What Happens After a Catastrophic Injury?

Catastrophic injuries are life-changing. They cause intense physical pain and changes. They also increase the time you spend in the hospital recovering from an injury. Some of the consequences of catastrophic injuries include:

Missed Work

Catastrophic injuries mean at least a few weeks in the hospital. When this happens, you'll be unable to work to the extent you worked before the pedestrian accident. You also miss a significant portion of your income by missing work due to the injuries.

Mental or Physical Disability

Catastrophic injuries such as traumatic brain injuries can result in mild to severe mental disability, depending on the severity of the injury. The disability can be temporary or permanent.

Injuries such as burns, amputations, and spinal injuries can cause physical disability. These disabilities can leave you incapable of doing the tasks you could previously do. For most people, the disability is a significant adjustment for them, which can create further mental health issues.

Physical Pain

One of the common symptoms of catastrophic injuries is pain. The pain can last through the duration of the treatment and recovery. But for some people, the physical pain becomes a new part of the reality they must live with.

For example, if your limbs are amputated, you may experience pain at the point of amputation. People who suffer spinal injuries may develop chronic back pain.

Medical Bills and Long Hospital Stays

Catastrophic injuries require a significant stay in the hospital. In most cases, pedestrian accident victims who suffer catastrophic injuries spend at least a few months recovering. They may also need further rehabilitation to help them re-learn the skills they may have lost during their hospital stay.


Injuries such as broken bones and severe burns can result in deformities. For example, if you had significant facial fractures, your face may never appear the same again, even with corrective plastic surgery.

Recovery After Catastrophic Injury

A pedestrian injury that leads to catastrophic injuries changes your entire life instantly. The recovery period is long, slow, agonizing, and costly for most catastrophic injuries. Depending on the severity of the injury, it may mean having to re-learn basic skills including speaking, eating, and handling other necessary activities of daily living.

It could also mean spending the rest of your life on medication or dealing with a disability from the injury. For some people, recovery looks like several months in rehabilitation as they learn to use new mobility devices or learn to walk again.

During the initial recovery period, you may undergo many surgical treatments to facilitate your recovery. For example, if you suffered traumatic brain injuries, you may undergo several brain surgeries to correct the injuries, relieve pressure on your brain and facilitate better healing of your brain.

In addition to surgery, you may need additional therapies such as assisted breathing, intensive care, and wound care to help you get better.

Determining the Value of Damages in Catastrophic Injury Cases

Catastrophic injuries cause significant damage to those who sustain them. They cause long-term changes. Due to their severity and impact on their victims, catastrophic injuries have significant compensation. And, since you'll be requiring a significant amount from the at-fault party, insurance companies often rush to pay out and end the case as soon as possible.

Before calculating the value of your claim, the court considers whether you were at fault for the accident. Since California is a pure comparative negligence state, the courts must establish what percentage of fault each party contributed to the accident.

Motorists have to be careful while driving to protect other road users. They have the following duty towards pedestrians in California:

  • Giving pedestrians the right of way if they are crossing a roadway at a designated crosswalk.
  • Reducing the speed of their vehicle when approaching a pedestrian who is crossing the road at a marked crosswalk.

Pedestrians also have to act responsibly while using the road. For example, they should use the crosswalk, obey traffic signals and avoid risky behaviors such as distracted walking.

In some cases, the court has found pedestrians and motorists at fault for the accident. When this happens, the court determines the percentage fault of each party, then divides the settlement by that amount. Therefore, if the driver was responsible for 90% of the accident, they must pay you 90% of the total damages.

Calculating the financial value of damages when a pedestrian suffers catastrophic injuries also varies. In California, you can recover damages such as:

  • Medical bills (past, present, and future) related to the accident.
  • Lost wages.
  • Lost earning potential.
  • Pain and suffering.

When calculating the value of your damages, you'll add up the financial expenses you've incurred due to the injury. This includes all the medical bills, rehabilitation costs, costs for purchasing medical devices, medication costs, and lost wages.

These calculations should be easy to complete if you have kept thorough records of your medical bills and pre-accident income. For future expenses, you may need to contact different experts to anticipate your long-term medical care needs and the costs of these needs in the future in relation to your life expectancy.

The severity and long-term implications of catastrophic injuries complicate calculations of the financial costs needed to cover your injuries. Therefore, it's in your best interests to work with an attorney who has experience handling cases of victims of catastrophic injuries.

Pain and suffering damages are always calculated last. In California, the multiplier method is often used to determine the value of pain and suffering and other non-economic damages. Since catastrophic injuries are severe, courts often use a multiplier of 4 or 5.

What to Do When You Suffer a Catastrophic Injury

The steps you take after a catastrophic injury depend on how severely you are injured. If you are still conscious after the accident, call 911 or have someone call them on your behalf. Try not to move as much as possible, as it could worsen your injuries.

In most cases, victims of catastrophic injuries are taken to hospitals unconscious or in so much shock. If your loved one is in this position, you should take the necessary steps to protect them should they seek compensation for their injuries.

You can do this by documenting their progress throughout their hospital stay, including the medical bills, the recovery time, the medications they need, any complications they develop, and other relevant information.

Gathering evidence is key in personal injury cases, especially in catastrophic injuries. It's hard for people to visualize a person's appearance before or immediately after an injury, especially if they've made a significant recovery.

During recovery, do not rush to engage with the insurance company to seek a settlement. Most catastrophic injuries require several months to a year before the injuries reach a point where no further recovery can be expected.

And while we understand you do not want the stress of haggling with the insurance company during your or your loved one's recovery, it's best to avoid any settlement.

Better yet, contact a personal injury attorney who can deal directly with the insurance company without stressing you out.

Why You Need a Catastrophic Injury Attorney

Catastrophic injuries come with permanent changes. They affect your ability to work, interact with family members, use certain body parts or organs or compromise your cognitive abilities. Working with an attorney when you've suffered a catastrophic injury helps in several ways:

  • The attorney can clarify important legal procedures you need to be aware of. The law is complicated enough, and navigating it when trying to recover can make it even harder. An attorney simplifies this information for you as they are already familiar with the field.
  • An attorney will work on your case while you recover from your injuries. Building a case after a catastrophic injury is demanding. And when you are injured, you do not have the physical resources or energy to focus on developing a solid case. Working with an attorney allows you to focus on your recovery while your attorney sorts out legal matters relating to your case.
  • A personal injury attorney will guide you when calculating the compensation for your injuries. Most people who suffer injuries only want to recoup the financial burden of the injury. When working with an attorney, they will help you calculate a fair amount of compensation that you're legally entitled to.
  • Hiring an attorney means you have an advocate who will assess settlement offers and guide you on whether they are fair and the pros and cons of accepting or rejecting an offer. A common mistake underrepresented claimants make is settling when the other party offers what looks like decent compensation. This is not a problem when you suffer a minor injury. However, accepting some offers would be selling yourself short when dealing with severe injuries such as traumatic brain injuries. An attorney will guide you on fair compensation and even help you fight it out in court.
  • Working with an attorney gives you more time to focus on your recovery. Catastrophic injuries are draining. When seeking compensation for injuries, you must adhere to legal guidelines like the statute of limitations, collect evidence, and file the necessary paperwork. These activities are stressful and could impact your recovery negatively. Hiring an attorney allows you to focus on your recovery as they work on legal matters.

Find a Pedestrian Accident Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

Catastrophic injuries after a pedestrian accident have long-lasting consequences that can affect your ability to work, move, or be independent again. Most people who suffer catastrophic injuries must live with the pain and consequences for years and sometimes, for the rest of their lives. These injuries also mean significant changes in their daily routines and those around them. Fortunately, if you or a loved one suffered a catastrophic injury in a pedestrian accident in Sacramento, you can work with Foos Gavin Law Firm for help recovering damages the at-fault motorist owes. Contact our team for a free consultation at 916-779-3500.