Catastrophic injuries are injuries that change your life forever. They’re so serious that you may never fully recover. They include injuries to the spine, trauma to the brain and other serious wounds.

If you’re in a crash and suffer catastrophic injuries, it’s likely that you’ll know right away. The stories of people who couldn’t see, couldn’t feel their legs or who were left without hearing all come to mind as injuries that are devastating and instant in crashes.

What can you do to reduce the severity of a catastrophic injury?

Sometimes, there’s not much you can do, but the most important thing you can do for yourself is to call 911 and get to a hospital. Even if you think you’re fine, you need to go to the hospital for a medical exam. That exam is the basis for everything that is to come, including suggestions for treatment, the potential for life-saving or life-changing drugs to be administered during a short window for success and as documentation that you can submit when you make a claim against the driver who struck you.

People who suffer from catastrophic injuries often end up needing a lifetime of medical care, exams and other treatments. Some need multiple surgeries in hopes of reducing pain or increasing mobility. No matter what happened to you, it’s important that you have the chance to be compensated. You can file a claim shortly after the crash, but make sure you wait to settle or go to trial until you know how serious your injuries are and how they’ll affect you in the future.