The purpose of this article is to explain and provide examples of what is considered a serious injury, as opposed to discussing if you have grounds to make a claim for compensation i.e. for a workplace injury / workers' compensation, a motor vehicle accident or public liability claim. (Please use the links to these articles or contact us on 1300 720 544 for a free consultation in relation identifying if you can make a claim for compensation in relation to your injury).
What is an injury?
In the context of a personal injury claim, a person is considered to have a sustained an injury if the injury was caused by another party's action or inaction which, in effect, caused:
- an aggravation of a former injury; and / or
- a disease e.g. asbestos disease; and / or
- a medical condition e.g. lower back strain.
What is considered a serious injury?
What is determined to be a serious injury by the Courts in Queensland needs consideration of a number of factors including:
- Schedule 4 of the Civil Liability Regulation 2014 (Qld) which outlines:
- Various types of injuries. For example:
- Injury Number 5: Extreme brain injury,
- Injury number 6: Serious brain injury ; and
- Comments that must be used when determining the appropriate Injury Number and the Individual Scale Value.
- Various types of injuries. For example:
- The findings of an independent medico-legal practitioner as outlined in their medical report (which is addressed to the Court);
- Whether the medico-legal practitioner has determined in their medical report that the injured person has sustained a whole person impairment and what the percentage is;
- Case law; and
- Other evidence (such as a physiotherapist's notes/ records).
The Court may choose to take into account other factors that will help determine how serious an injury is. For example, how old the injured person is, the impact of any pre-existing conditions on the injured person's reported symptoms, what difficulties will emerge for the injured person as a result of the injury etc.
Examples of Serious Injury Claims
Serious Back Injury
A serious injury to either the thoracic or lumbar spine i.e. the back, is characterised as causing the injured person is permanent impairment.
The injury may also involve bilateral or multilevel damage to the nerve root or seriously reduce the range of motion in a particular segment of the back.
Examples of a serious back injury include:
- A MRI scan reveals a fracture to the spine which causes a 25% compression of one or more thoracic or lumbar vertebral body.
- Although the injured person had surgery on their back, the pain, and / or other symptoms persist.
- The injured party has undergone surgery involving a fusion of the vertebral bodies that failed leaving both significant residual nerve root damage and ongoing pain, affecting one side of the body. The injured person has been assessed by a neurosurgeon or orthopaedic surgeon as having, as a result of the injury, a whole person impairment of 24%.
Serious Spinal Injury
Sometimes there is a distinction to be made between injuries to the spine that relate predominately to the physical structure of the back / spine i.e. the vertebra and a serious spinal injury caused by nerve damage sustained to the spinal cord or disease.
Examples of serious injury to the spinal cord include:
- Quadriplegia (partial or total paralysis of all limbs):
- Paraplegia (paralysis of the legs and lower body);
- Hemiplegia (paralysis of one side of the body) or severe paralysis of more than one limb; and
- Monoplegia (paralysis of a single limb).
Serious Head/Facial Injury
A serious injury relating to the head is characterised by serious traumatic injury to the face requiring reconstructive surgery that is not substantial.
Examples of serious facial injuries include:
- A MRI scan reveals a serious or multiple fractures of the nasal complex requiring more than one surgery and causing either:
- oPermanent damage to the airway; or
- oPermanent damage to nerves or tear ducts; or
- oFacial deformity (as opposed to facial scarring).
- A multiple jaw fracture that will require treatment over a long period of time and, despite the reconstructive surgery, the injury person will feel permanent pain or restriction in eating or face a risk of arthritis in joints etc.
- Total paralysis of the facial muscle on one side of the injured person's face.
- Significant disfigurement (as opposed to scarring) of the face requiring reconstructive surgery.
Serious Brain Injury
A serious injury relating to the brain (as opposed to a mental or psychiatric injury) can be characterised as causing the injured person to become seriously disabled.
Examples of serious brain damage include:
- Limb paralysis;
- The injured party is dependent upon others to make their meals, perform shopping tasks etc.
- Intellectual impairment;
- Slurred speech;
- Sense of hearing has become impaired.
- Significant changes to personality.
- As a result of the accident, the injured party now has epileptic fits.
- The injured party is now dependent upon others to perform particular tasks such as remembering to wash the laundry, remembering what steps to take in order to make an online payment, forgetting people's names etc.
Serious Neck Injury / Cervical Spine
A serious injury relating to the neck i.e. cervical spine (other than quadriplegia, paraplegia, hemiplegia or severe paralysis of more than 1 limb) can be characterised by causing both extreme limitations of the injury person's movements and serious interference with their ability to function daily activities such as showering unassisted.
Example 1: The injured person sustained fractures to their spine which resulted in more than half of the cervical vertebral body being compressed.
The injured person was assessed by an independent medico-legal Orthopaedic Surgeon and the Orthopaedic Surgeon may ascribe a whole person impairment of 32%.
Example 2: An independent medico-legal neurosurgeon assessed the injured person as having sustained nerve root damage after undergoing an unsuccessful operation to the spine. (The failed surgery involving the fusion of vertebral bodies, leaving signs of significant residual nerve root damage and ongoing pain, affecting at least one side of the body.)
The injured person was assessed by an independent medico-legal Neurosurgeon and the surgeon may ascribe a whole person impairment of 29%.
Serious Burn Injury
A burn injury is assessed based on the area of the injured person's body that was burnt. If the burn injury affects the ability of the person to use that particular part of their body, usually the injury will be assessed at a higher level.
In addition to this, the Court will take into account the impact of the scarring on the injured person i.e. is the injured person young or is the damage very disfiguring and the likelihood that the scarring can be remedied to a certain extent.
Examples of serious burn injury include:
- Serious facial scarring causing, for example, serious facial disfigurement;
- The scarring is less able to be remedied by, for example, skin grafting;
- The loss of the entire nose, eyelids or ears;
- The injury renders a particular part of the body to be dysfunctional i.e. the injured person is made blind;
- Serious damage to the injured person's airways or lining of the lungs.
If you have any further questions, please contact East Coast Injury Lawyers now on 1300 720 544 to organise a free, initial consultation with one of our Accredited Personal Injury Law Specialists. In this initial, free consultation, we will provide you with advice in relation to timelines, the likelihood of the success of your claim, the best course of action and approximate costs.