Many people who suffer harm in car accidents not only sustain new injuries but also aggravate pre-existing medical conditions. A car accident cannot directly cause degenerative disc disease, but it can easily exacerbate the symptoms of this condition. Degenerative disc disease is the result of natural aging, so while a plaintiff cannot sue for the appearance of this condition, he or she may still be able to secure compensation for aggravated symptoms. Read on to learn more or speak with a qualified car accident lawyer in Meridian, Idaho or Layton, Utah.
Can Car Accidents Worsen Degenerative Disc Disease?
Several forces can act violently on the body in a very short time during a car accident. An impact to the rear of the vehicle can send the victim lurching forward only to snap sharply backward from the tightening of the seatbelt. Impacts from various angles can cause the spine to jerk violently, damaging spinal discs or pulling them out of proper position and alignment.
When a person suffering from degenerative disc disease experiences these forces, the results can be devastating and extremely painful. During disc degeneration, the soft cartilage pads between the bones of the spinal column degrade and warp out of position. Damaged spinal discs can cause extreme pain, and herniation from a car accident can make this even worse.
How Can I Prove Damages in an Accident?
A plaintiff who already suffered from degenerative disc disease can still recover compensation for the additional pain experienced from exacerbated symptoms. The key will be proving the link between the accident and the increased pain. Many car accident claims require testimony from expert witnesses, and this is likely the case with a degenerative disc case. A medical expert can explain to the court how the accident worsened your symptoms of degenerative disc disease. This will likely involve a review of spinal x-rays and medical records before and after the accident to clearly show the accident’s negative effects.
It’s important for plaintiffs to remember they can only claim compensation for damages directly resulting from a defendant’s negligence. The plaintiff in a degenerative disc disease case will not be able to sue for the past costs of treating the condition but will be able to claim compensation for additional medical expenses and pain and suffering resulting from the car accident. For example, a plaintiff who already attended physical therapy once a week for degenerative disc disease must now attend two or three times per week after a car accident. The plaintiff could sue for the ongoing treatments, but not for the cost of treatments from before the accident.
Exacerbating degenerative disc disease may also impact a victim’s ability to work. A plaintiff who struggled with back pain before a car accident will likely experience more significant pain following the accident. If this impedes the victim’s ability to work, then he or she can claim compensation for lost future earning capacity. An expert witness with a background in economics or finance would be able to explain the extent of the plaintiff’s future losses in court.
How Can I Calculate Pain and Suffering?
Expert witnesses also help plaintiffs recover compensation for non-economic damages like physical pain, emotional distress, and psychological trauma following accidents. Different courts use different systems for calculating pain and suffering damages. For single injuries, such as broken bones, a jury may simply multiply the plaintiff’s claimed medical expenses by a number from two to five and award the result as pain and suffering damages. For an injury resulting in long-term damage, the court may instead use a per diem system: The jury decides an amount to award the plaintiff for each day he or she spends in recovery.
In a case involving a car accident and a plaintiff with degenerative disc disease, the jury will need to have a firm understanding of the plaintiff’s medical needs before and after the incident. This allows jurors to determine the significance of the defendant’s actions and decide a reasonable amount of compensation for the plaintiff. If you suffered from degenerative disc disease prior to a car accident, your Layton personal injury lawyer can help you gather evidence that proves the extent of the accident’s effects on your condition.