Are Soft-Tissue Injuries Considered Catastrophic?

Categories: Personal Injury Law


If you have been involved in a traumatic accident, there is a good chance that you have suffered one or more “soft tissue” injuries. If this is the case, there is also a good chance that you are wondering whether your injuries are severe enough to justify a claim for financial compensation.

While some soft tissue injuries are certainly minor, others can have long-term – and potentially life-long consequences. These long-term and permanent injuries, which can be classified as “catastrophic,” will often entitle accident victims to significant financial awards.

Understanding Soft Tissue Injuries

In anatomical terms, “soft tissue” refers to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the human body. There are 650 muscles in the human body (although some specialists break these down further into 850 separate muscles), and each of these muscles is attached to one or more bones by fibrous tissues known as tendons. Ligaments are another kind of fibrous tissue that connect bones to one another and to pieces of cartilage; and together with muscles and tendons they give our bodies shape, help our bodies move, and keep our bodies together during impacts and collisions.

However, in the event of a severe impact or collision, muscles, ligaments, and tendons can be damaged. This involves stretching the soft tissue to the point that it needs to heal, and in severe cases, until it tears. This results in injuries known as:

  • Sprains – A sprain is a stretch or minor tear in a ligament.
  • Strains – A strain is a stretch or minor tear in a muscle or tendon.
  • Tears – A tear is a muscle, ligament, or tendon injury that involves a partial or complete rupture of the soft tissue.

Soft tissue injuries can be graded on a scale from Grade I through Grade III, with Grade III being the most severe:

  • Grade I – A sprain, strain, or very minor tear that results in little to no joint instability. Grade I soft tissue injuries will typically heal on their own within a couple of weeks.
  • Grade II – A partial tear that results in some joint instability. Many Grade II injuries can heal on their own with appropriate rest, although some may require surgery.
  • Grade III – A complete tear that will require surgery in order to fully heal. A Grade III soft tissue injury will often feel like a bone fracture due to the significant pain and the inability to make use of the affected joint or limb.

Understanding Catastrophic Injuries

So, when can a soft-tissue injury be considered “catastrophic”? As we have previously discussed, a catastrophic injury is any type of traumatic injury that has the potential for long-term or permanent effects. Typically, a Grade I soft tissue injury would not fall into this category. However, more-serious Grade II and Grade III soft tissue injuries can potentially have long-term effects; and as a result, many of these injuries can be considered catastrophic. The potential long-term and permanent effects of Grade II and Grade III soft tissue injuries include:

  • Chronic numbness
  • Chronic pain
  • Limited mobility
  • Limited muscle strength
  • Loss of function

Since catastrophic soft tissue injuries require medical intervention, if you believe that you may have suffered a Grade II or Grade III tear, it is important that you see a doctor as soon as possible. Prompt treatment may help reduce the long-term effects of your injury (though this is not always the case). Signs that you may have suffered a catastrophic soft tissue injury include:

  • You are unable to put any weight on the affected limb or move the affected joint.
  • You are experiencing numbness or a “pins and needles” sensation at the of the injury.
  • You are experiencing severe pain around a major bone or joint structure.
  • The shape of the part of the body where you were injured appears to be deformed.
  • You heard a “pop” or “crack” sound at the time of the accident.

Car Accident Claims Involving Soft Tissue Injuries: What is a “Serious Injury”?

In Florida, in order to pursue a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company after a car accident, you must be able to show that you have suffered a “serious injury.” Otherwise, your case will involve a claim against your own “no-fault” insurance policy. Under ‘s no-fault insurance law, a serious injury is one that:

  • is permanent,
  • results in significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, or
  • results in significant and permanent loss of bodily function.

As you can see, the definition of a “serious” injury under ‘s no-fault insurance law and the commonly-accepted definition of a “catastrophic” injury are very similar. As a result, in many cases, car accident victims who have suffered catastrophic soft tissue injuries will be able to pursue claims for full compensation against the at-fault driver’s insurer.

Recovering Compensation for Soft Tissue Damage in Other Types of Personal Injury Claims

Florida’s no-fault insurance law only applies to cases involving motor vehicle collisions. In all other cases involving accidents that result in soft tissue injuries, proof that you have suffered a “serious injury” is not a legal prerequisite for pursuing a claim. Other types of accidents that will frequently support personal injury claims for soft tissue injuries include:

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  • Bicycle accidents
  • Boating accidents
  • Dog attacks
  • Slips and falls

As a practical matter, if you have only suffered a minor injury that will heal on its own and that does not require you to miss work (a decision that should be made by your doctor), you may not have a viable claim for compensation. On the other hand, if you have suffered soft tissue injuries in addition to other serious injuries, you can certainly include the costs of your soft tissue injuries in your claim for compensation. Deciding whether to pursue a claim for a soft tissue injury is not a decision that should be made lightly. For more information, I encourage you to call me personally for a free consultation.

Schedule a Free Consultation at Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers in Jupiter,

Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers is a personal injury law firm that represents clients in Jupiter and throughout Palm Beach County. To find out how our legal team can help you Demand More® for your soft tissue injury, call me, Brian D. Guralnick, at 561-202-6673 today.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. If you need advice on specific legal issues, please consult with a licensed personal injury attorney.

Brian D. Guralnick

About the Author: Brian D. Guralnick

Brian D. Guralnick has been successfully representing injured accident victims in Florida since 1993. He has been voted “Best of the Best” personal injury lawyer by the Palm Beach Post for multiple years. If you have been injured in any type of accident, please call Brian and his team 24/7 at 561-202-6673.