What Is an Incapacitating Injury?

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Every year in Texas, hundreds of thousands of people are injured in accidents that weren’t their fault. Looking at road accidents alone, a reportable crash happens every one minute and seven seconds.

Often, such accidents cause minor injuries or damage — you might have a bruise or sprained ankle after a fall or walk away from a car accident a little shaken up and a not-so-pleasant repair bill.

But sometimes, accidents cause life-changing injuries, also known as incapacitating injuries.

But what is an incapacitating injury, and what type of compensation can you get if you sustain one in an accident caused by someone else’s negligent or reckless behavior?

The KABCO Injury Scale

Created by the Federal Highway Administration (FWHA), part of the US Department of Transportation (DOT), the KABCO scale measures the severity of an auto crash — such as a car, motorcycle, or truck accident. It splits injuries into five categories for each letter that makes up the KABCO scale.

These categories vary slightly by state, with some states having additional criteria. For example, in West Virginia, limping is classed as a non-incapacitating injury, but in other states, like Washington and Texas, it is excluded and classed as a possible injury.

Some states also use different injury codes or classify injuries by number, but these each correspond — or convert to — the standard KABCO categories.

In Texas, the categories — or injury codes — are as follows:

Killed (K): When an injury victim dies from injuries sustained from a crash within 30 days of the accident.

Incapacitating Injury (A): An incapacitating injury is a severe injury that prevents an accident victim from continuing normal activities. Examples include broken or distorted limbs, internal injuries, and a crushed chest.

Non-Incapacitating Injury (B): A non-incapacitating injury is an evident injury — such as a bruise, abrasion, or minor cut or laceration — that does not incapacitate (prevent a person from engaging in normal activities).

Possible Injury (C): A possible injury is any injury claimed or reported by an accident victim or indicated by behavior but not a visible wound. These include limping and complaining of pain.

Not Injured (N, converted to O): The “N” injury code applies when a person involved in a crash does not sustain an A, B, or C injury. In other states, this is referred to as “O,” which corresponds with the final letter in the KABCO injury severity scale.

There is an additional code — code 99, or Unknown. This applies when the FWHA is unable to determine whether injuries exist. Injuries might be unknown if the accident was a hit-and-run or if potentially injured parties fled the scene.

Why Is the KABCO Scale Important for Personal Injury Claims?

At first glance, the KABCO scale may seem like just that — a scale for evaluating an injury, but it can play a vital role if you intend to claim compensation for an auto accident that isn’t your fault.

The reason?

When you’re in a car accident, the first thing you should do — if it’s safe and you’re able to — is to call the police. Once the police arrive, an officer will speak to you about the accident, and your injuries, which will go into a document called a crash report.

The Texas crash report can be a crucial piece of evidence for your claim, as it documents the factors that contributed to the accident — such as road rage, intoxication, and distracted driving — along with the parties involved, witnesses to the crash, and the severity of your injuries.

When the law enforcement officer documents the severity of injuries anyone involved in the accident has sustained, they will use a specific code — or letter.

As you can likely guess, these are the same codes denoted by the KABCO injury classification scale.

The severity of your injuries directly influences how much compensation you might be entitled to in a claim.

For example, let’s say you are in a car accident and you break your leg. Because your broken leg prevents you from doing everyday activities like walking and driving — at least until it’s healed — the police officer will note an “A” (incapacitating injury) in the severity column.

If you pursue a personal injury claim, you’ll be entitled to compensation for your medical bills and lost wages and for the pain and suffering you’ve experienced during your recovery.

Compare this to hurting your wrist in a car accident. You tell the attending officer that your wrist is painful, and you may indicate your injury by holding your wrist up and supporting it with your other hand, but there’s no visible wound. The police officer notes your injury and assigns it a severity of “C” (possible injury).

Because your hurt wrist is indicated as only a possible injury in the crash report, the insurance company of the person or party responsible for causing the accident may state your injury isn’t as severe as you claim. This can impact how much compensation you receive.

This is why it’s vital to seek medical attention after your accident. A doctor may conclude otherwise even if you’re not severely injured. In some cases, your injury may worsen over time, entitling you to even more compensation if you can prove it initially happened during the accident.

You should also retrieve a copy of the crash report filed by the police. Our car accident lawyers in McAllen and  San Antonio and  can do this for you and contact the police about correcting the crash report if the information listed is inaccurate.

What Are Some Examples of an Incapacitating Injury?

So now we know the definition of an incapacitating injury; what are some examples?

Some of the most common incapacitating injuries sustained in auto accidents include:

  • Severe lacerations
  • Broken bones
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Other damage to the skull
  • Internal bleeding
  • Burns
  • Injuries to the chest or abdomen
  • Back and neck injuries, such as whiplash
  • Spinal cord injuries that cause temporary or permanent paralysis
  • Periods of unconsciousness.

You might notice that not all of these injuries are permanent or even long-term. As long as an injury in some way, for any period, prevents a person from performing or engaging in activities they were previously capable of before the injury occurred, it meets the legal standard.

What Is a Non-Capacitating Injury?

So if an incapacitating injury prevents an injured individual from walking, driving, or performing any activity they could do before sustaining the injury, an incapacitating injury is any other type of injury that is physically evident.

These can include:

  • Bruising and abrasions
  • Minor cuts
  • A bloody nose
  • Lumps on the head
  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Broken bones
  • Dislocation.

Depending on where the injury occurs on the body, there can be an overlap between an incapacitating and a non-incapacitating injury. For example, a broken leg would be considered an incapacitating injury, while a broken finger or toe is likely to fall into the non-incapacitating category.

Why You Need to Hire a Lawyer for an Incapacitating Injury

If you’re injured in a motor vehicle accident — whatever its severity — you should contact a personal injury lawyer after seeking medical attention. But this is even more vital if you suffer an incapacitating injury. These injuries impact your daily life and can make it difficult — if not impossible — to enjoy even the simple things, such as walking around your garden or holding your children or grandchildren, not to mention preventing you from working and earning a living.

Sometimes, these injuries cause long-lasting or permanent damage, but even if an injury incapacitates you only for a few months or a year, that’s time you will never get back, and you deserve to be compensated for it.

If you have a non-incapacitating or incapacitating injury and want to see how much you could recover in a personal injury claim, contact our personal injury lawyers in McAllen and San Antonio. We provide a free consultation with zero obligation, and if you have a claim and decide to move forward, you won’t pay any fees until we win your case.

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