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Differences Between an Injury and a Trauma

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Ambulance representing trauma injury

Understanding the nuances between injuries and traumas is important from a legal perspective, as it plays such an important role in determining the settlement amount in personal injury cases. Below we have documented some of the key characteristics of an injury, and how a traumatic injury differs to other categories of injury. We have concluded with some guidance on bringing injury claims for both traumatic and less severe events.

What is the definition of an injury?

In a medical context, an injury refers to harm or damage that happens to the body. This damage can result from various causes, such as physical accidents, burns, falls, or collisions. Injuries usually affect the structure of the body and can either be external (for example, a cut or a bruise) or internal (for example, organ damage or internal bleeding).

Injuries may be categorised as either acute or chronic. Acute injuries occur suddenly, such as a sprained ankle from a misstep. On the other hand, chronic injuries result from repeated overuse of muscle groups or joints, often becoming apparent only after a prolonged period.

What is the definition of a trauma?

Trauma is a term with a broader scope than injury. It refers to a serious injury or shock to the body, often involving a threat to life or long-term health implications for the injured party. Trauma can result from severe incidents such as car accidents, violent attacks, or major falls, causing conditions like traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and multiple fractures.

Psychological trauma, on the other hand, refers to emotional or psychological injury resulting from extremely stressful or life-threatening situations. Such situations can lead to mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe anxiety, and depression.

How do injuries and traumas differ from a legal perspective?

From a legal standpoint, the distinction between injuries and traumas is often associated with the severity and long-term implications of the harm done.

In personal injury law, an injury claim arises when a person suffers harm due to someone else’s negligence or intentional conduct. This includes physical injuries, such as broken bones or concussions, as well as mental or emotional injuries such as the stress or anxiety caused by an incident.

Trauma, due to its severity and long-term implications, often leads to larger settlements or judgments in personal injury cases. This is because trauma may often involve significant medical expenses, long-term care costs, loss of earnings, and a substantial amount of pain and suffering.

Moreover, if the trauma results in permanent disability or disfigurement, these factors will also be considered in the legal claim.

Are there any differences in bringing a traumatic injury claim over a less serious one?

In Ireland, most personal injury cases are assessed by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. Regardless of the severity of the injury, it is almost always necessary to complete an application form via them.

However, before doing this, you will need to:

  • Seek Medical Treatment – The first step after an injury, regardless of its severity, is to seek immediate treatment. Any delay to this could look suspicious, particularly if you are claiming a serious injury, so be sure to get yourself checked out as soon as possible. Not only is this vital for your health, but medical records also provide critical evidence of the injury and the resulting damages.
  • Document the Incident – Detail the incident leading to your injury. This could include photographs of the accident scene, witness testimonies, and any relevant documentation (like, for example, police reports). These will play a vital role in your case and your settlement award.
  • Consult a Personal Injury Solicitor – A solicitor can help you understand your rights, the potential value of your claim, and guide you through the process. They can help you negotiate with insurance companies or even represent you in court if necessary. The personal injury team at McCarthy + Co would be glad to assist you if you are already at the stage of wanting to appoint legal representation.

Once you have gathered all the necessary records relating to your injury, you will then be able to start the process of filing your claim with PIAB. It’s particularly wise in cases of serious and traumatic injury to ensure that a solicitor is involved in your application process, as they will be able to ensure that your evidence is strong enough to meet the criteria for a higher award payout.

Furthermore, once your claim is filed, your solicitor can take the lead in negotiating a settlement amount with the insurance company or the party at fault. Throughout this negotiation, your solicitor will be able to state the case in terms of the severity of your injuries and the impact on your quality of life, helping you to achieve the best possible outcome.

Speak to a solicitor about your injury

Both injury and trauma refer to harm inflicted on the body, however, from a legal and medical perspective they have distinct definitions. In the legal realm, the severity and long-term implications of traumas often result in higher settlements or judgments in personal injury cases. If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence or intentional conduct, it’s important to seek legal advice as soon as possible (obviously ensuring you seek medical treatment as the top priority). If you’ve recently sustained an injury and you’d like some advice from a solicitor about it, please contact our team today for more information.


John McCarthy

John McCarthy is a seasoned solicitor with almost 20 years of experience, specialises in personal injury and medical negligence claims, focusing particularly on high-value compensation cases. His extensive litigation experience spans Circuit Court, High Court and Supreme Court levels. John's practice involves a diverse range of cases, from personal injury and wrongful death to property damage, defective products, professional negligence and judicial reviews.


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