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What’s Considered a Permanent Disability?


A single accident can change your life forever. Many people who are seriously hurt after an accident can eventually recover and move on, but not all. Some people face the worst-case scenario of permanent disabilities that will affect them for the rest of their lives. 

If you’ve been hurt in a car crash or other accident and are pursuing compensation, your injuries’ severity matters. There’s a significant difference between temporary and permanent disabilities when it comes to your medical needs and quality of life. It’s only just that insurance and civil claims take that into account. Below, we’ve broken down what counts as a permanent disability with examples and how you can pursue fair compensation for your injuries. 

What Is a Permanent Disability?

The specific definition of a permanent disability varies. The strictest definition is used by the Social Security Administration, which defines permanent disability as one that affects a person’s ability to perform “substantial gainful activity,” prevents them from returning to work, and will last for more than a year or lead to the person’s death. This definition is used when a disabled person applies for government support. Many people assume someone who does not meet its requirements is not actually disabled.

In personal injury law, however, the definition is a little different. Your injury doesn’t need to prevent you from working entirely to be considered disabling. Instead, it must affect you for the rest of your life. A permanent disability may:

  • Reduce your ability to work the same hours or job as you did before your injury
  • Prevent you from performing the activities and hobbies you performed before you were hurt
  • Generate ongoing medical expenses and care
  • Create long-lasting pain and suffering
  • Cause scarring and disfigurement
  • Lead to a total or partial loss of use of part of your body

In short, as long as your injury is a lifelong condition, you may have a permanent disability. 

Examples of Permanent Disabilities

There are many ways accidents can be permanently disabling. Some of the most common examples of a permanent disability caused by accidents include:


Spinal cord injuries often lead to paralysis. The spinal cord contains the delicate nerves that control your muscles, so any damage to your spine could cause significant lifelong problems.

These injuries are classified as complete and incomplete. Complete spinal cord injuries are most likely to be permanent and lead to total loss of movement and sensation below the point of the injury. Incomplete spinal cord injuries vary in permanency and severity, but they all retain some amount of muscle control and feeling below the injured point.

Paralysis can occur after many accidents, including:

If you become permanently paralyzed, you lose the use of that part of your body forever. You may need to use a wheelchair to move. You could suffer from problems in the organs beneath the point where your spinal cord was damaged. You may even lose the ability to be self-sufficient. 

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)

Brain injuries can affect every part of your life. Depending on the part of your brain that’s damaged, a TBI could cause the following:

  • Paralysis
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Seizures
  • Debilitating headaches and pain
  • Loss of memories
  • Change in personality
  • Loss of language skills
  • Loss of emotional control

TBIs are typically caused by impacts to the head during falls, car crashes, and sports accidents. Depending on the symptoms of your TBI, it could permanently affect your ability to return to work or remain self-sufficient. 

Blindness or Deafness

It’s possible to lose sight and hearing in two ways. A TBI can damage the part of your brain that processes sensory input, preventing you from making sense of anything you see or hear. Meanwhile, direct physical damage can damage your eyes or ears, preventing them from sending information to your brain. Direct damage can be caused by

  • Fire
  • Explosions
  • Impacts to your eyes or ears
  • Exposure to dangerous substances

Any kind of sensory damage can be devastating. If you permanently lose the full use of an eye or ear, you may need to change jobs or be unable to work entirely. 

Pursue Compensation for Permanent Disabilities

All permanent disabilities force you to change your life. In many cases, they will permanently affect your quality of life, reduce your potential earnings, and generate significant medical bills now and in the future. If your disability occurred because of an accident, you have every right to pursue compensation from the party at fault. Here’s how:

  • Contact a qualified personal injury attorney. If you’re newly disabled, the last thing you need to worry about is handling a lawsuit alone. Working with a trustworthy permanent disability lawyer allows you to focus on adjusting to your new life instead of trying to navigate the legal system by yourself.
  • Collect evidence of the losses you’ve suffered. Your lawyer will help you gather documentation about the accident, your injuries, and their impact on your life. 
  • Take legal action. With your evidence in hand, your lawyer will help you determine the best way to pursue compensation for your disability, whether that’s mediation, negotiation, or a personal injury lawsuit.

Get Help With Your Personal Injury Claim

A disability can be devastating, but don’t delay. Time is of the essence if you’ve suffered a permanent injury in an accident. Consult with the experienced personal injury lawyers at the Ellis Firm, APLC, today to discuss your case.

At the Ellis Firm, APLC, we are dedicated to helping accident victims in Temeculah pursue just compensation for their injuries. We will stand up to negligent businesses and insurance companies on your behalf. Reach out to learn more about how we can help you with your permanent injury claim and take the first step toward moving past your accident.