Injury Claims for Osteoarthritis After a Car Accident

Unfortunately, there is no cure for osteoarthritis, only treatments that can help, but not stop, its progression.

By , Attorney

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.

What is Osteoarthritis?

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.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

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.

Diagnosing Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis can often be diagnosed simply by its symptoms. But doctors often use blood tests, x-rays, and/or MRIs to diagnose osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis Following a Car Accident

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.

Making a Claim for Osteoarthritis After a Car Accident

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 Following a 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.

How to Prove Lost Earnings Damages

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.

How to Prove Pain And Suffering Damages

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.

How to Calculate Pain and Suffering

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:

  • whether the jury likes the plaintiff
  • whether the jury thinks that the plaintiff or the defendant lied about anything -- the jury usually punishes whoever it thinks lied at trial. If the jury thinks that the plaintiff lied, the plaintiff generally loses. If the jury thinks that the defendant lied, the plaintiff often wins big.
  • whether the plaintiff has a criminal record
  • whether the plaintiff's injuries are easy for the jury to understand
  • whether the plaintiff exaggerated his/her injuries.

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.

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