Osteoarthritis is what people are usually referring to when they say "arthritis" -- the inflammation of a joint -- since it is the most common form. Post-traumatic osteoarthritis is pretty common car accident injury, and that's what we'll be discussing in this article.
It is technically the wearing down or eroding of the cartilage on the ends of bones. Since the purpose of cartilage is to prevent bones from rubbing against each other at the joints, you can see how worn down cartilage will cause pain in the joints from bones rubbing together. Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, but most commonly occurs in the hands, knees, hips, and spine. Unfortunately, there is no cure for osteoarthritis, only treatments that can help, but not stop, its progression.
The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis are pain, tenderness, and inflammation in the joints, stiffness, loss of flexibility, and a grinding or grating feeling in the joint.
Osteoarthritis can often be diagnosed simply by its symptoms. But doctors often use blood tests, x-rays, and/or MRIs to diagnose osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis after a car accident (i.e., post-traumatic osteoarthritis) is not uncommon. For example, about 12% of all cases of osteoarthritis of the hip, knee, and ankle are caused by some type of trauma or accident. This translates into about 5.6 million Americans with posttraumatic osteoarthritis in those three joints alone.
In any type of personal injury case, your damages claims must be based on the medical treatment you received in connection with the accident. That means, in order to make a claim for post-traumatic osteoarthritis, your doctor must have specifically diagnosed you with osteoarthritis and also specifically written that it came from your car accident.
Just because you didn't have osteoarthritis before your car accident doesn't mean that it was caused by the car accident. If your doctor doesn't say that your osteoarthritis was caused by your car accident, then you can't make a claim for it unless you find another doctor who will say that it was related to your car accident.
Damages for osteoarthritis are no different from damages for any other type of injury or condition. You are entitled to recover for all of the negative effects caused by your osteoarthritis, not just your medical bills.
Osteoarthritis certainly causes pain and suffering and may also limit your ability to work, depending on the severity of your condition and the type of work that you perform. You are entitled to recover any and all damages that are caused by your car accident. It doesn't matter whether your damages were directly caused by your injury (i.e., a broken leg or herniated disc) or by post-traumatic osteoarthritis. As long as your damages are causally related to your car accident, you are entitled to recover for them. Learn more about what a car accident claim is worth.
If you suffered lost earnings or lost earning capacity due to a car accident, you prove those damages with evidence of your pre-accident earning capacity. As a general rule, the best way to prove pre-accident earning capacity is with a copy of your paystub or tax return.
Generally, you will prove your pain and suffering through your own testimony and through the testimony of your health care providers. In proving your pain and suffering, you always want to remember that your testimony must be consistent with that of your health care providers. If you testify that you have pain when doing various kind of activities, but your doctor testifies that he/she doesn't understand why you have pain when performing these activities, that is not going to help your case.
Car accident victims who testify at trial never want to testify that their symptoms and complaints are worse than what their doctors think. Jurors will generally accept what a doctor has to say. If the plaintiff's testimony diverges too much from the doctor's testimony, the jury will often think that the plaintiff is exaggerating his/her complaints or malingering.
There are no guidelines for determining the value of pain and suffering. A jury cannot look at a chart to figure out how much to award. In most states, judges simply instruct juries in car accident cases to use their good sense, background, and experience in determining what would be a fair and reasonable figure to compensate for the plaintiff's pain and suffering.
You may have read about a "multiplier" in personal injury cases. The "multiplier" is calculating pain and suffering as being worth some multiple of your lost earnings and medical bills. The "multiplier" concept is at best a very rough estimate of damages because there are so many other factors that affect the valuation of damages in a car accident case. Some of the more important factors are:
If you get into a car accident, you should contact a qualified car accident lawyer as soon as possible so that you can learn your legal rights.