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A serious injury to you or someone you love can be devastating. But even worse than the event itself is neglecting to receive medical care, only to realize later that the injury was even more severe than you thought. Suddenly, you are facing long-term effects from the injury or even permanent disability – your life feels upside down.

So, what is considered a serious personal injury? And what should you do if you have experienced one? 

The importance of medical treatment cannot be overstated if you have been seriously injured. Additionally, having an attorney on your side who focuses on personal injury and disability claims can be pivotal. They will give you the best chance at securing compensation for your injuries as well as advising you concerning Social Security disability benefits to which you may be entitled.

Understanding What’s Considered a Serious Personal Injury

Anytime someone experiences an unforeseen injury, it can have profound consequences. But how is a “serious personal injury” defined, and are there levels of severity? The answer to that is complicated.

As a point of reference, 21 U.S. Code § 802(25) defines a “serious bodily injury” as one that involves:

“(A) a substantial risk of death;
(B) protracted and obvious disfigurement; or
(C) protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty.”

However, it is important to note that this definition is part of the US Code concerning food and drug administration. There is nothing in Illinois personal injury law specifically defining a serious bodily injury in absolute terms. Whether you will win your case and how much compensation you might receive depend on a host of facts — particularly in regard to determining negligence.

In other words, “serious bodily injury” isn’t an actual legal concept in terms of personal injury law. Rather, it is a way of characterizing the severity of an injury to give you a general sense of the medical treatment you might need and whether it is worth your time and effort to pursue a lawsuit.

In general, these injuries: 

  • Can take a long time to heal
  • Could require surgeries or extensive treatment
  • Can cause long-term or temporary disability

In some cases of truly catastrophic personal injury, the patient may never fully recover or be able to work again due to physical and/or mental damages.

Examples of Serious Injuries

Any of these types of severe bodily harm, could be identified as a serious personal injury:

  • Severely broken bones or fractures
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Loss of extremities 
  • Paralysis
  • Spinal and back injuries, especially those that result in paralysis
  • Severe head and neck injuries
  • Serious burns or cuts
  • Serious disfigurement
  • Injuries that result in serious damage to or loss of an organ
  • Blindness or deafness

And remember: different types of injuries require different types of medical treatment. But all serious personal injuries should be seen by an experienced medical professional.

Don’t Hesitate to Seek Medical Treatment

Due to the shock that most people experience after a traumatic accident, it’s common to underestimate the degree of your injuries. Consider a heart attack: many people think they’re fine and ignore the warning signs – when they really require immediate medical care! Your personal injury accident is very similar. You may have even lost consciousness during or after the accident and not realized it. 

It’s always a good idea to allow an ambulance or EMT vehicle to take you to a hospital. Then, you can be seen by medical professionals who are trained to evaluate your injuries, assess the severity of your condition, and provide the needed care to help restore your functioning and/or  save your life.

The Risks of Failing to Seek Medical Care

  • Neglecting to receive treatment can cause more severe complications and health problems down the road.
  • Without medical care, you might not realize how severely you are injured. The adrenaline high after a traumatic event boosts endorphins in the body which mask pain. You might not feel the effects of an accident until days later. 
  • Some soft tissue injuries can take days to present – and by the time you seek medical care, they have worsened. 
  • If you wait to receive medical care until you realize the severity of your injury, some insurance companies might deem it a “gap in treatment” and hold it against you. Additionally, it could potentially weaken a claim for Social Security disability benefits.

Remember, Help Is Available

In addition to seeking medical assistance when you’ve experienced a serious personal injury, you should also consider contacting a personal injury attorney. They can advocate for you when you are at your most vulnerable and help improve your access to care as well as protect your legal rights. 

If that attorney knows about Social Security Disability laws, they also can advise you as to whether your injuries may qualify you to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits with the Social Security Administration.  

Please let us know if we here at Richard I. Feingold & Associates, P.C. can help you in a personal injury claim, a Social Security Disability Insurance claim, and/or Supplemental Security Income disability claim. We can assist you in making a claim and/or appealing a denied claim. Because everyone deserves the best chance at getting not only the medical care they need, but also the legal counseling they deserve. 


Richard I. Feingold
Richard I. Feingold & Associates, P.C.
Personal Injury & Social Security Disability