Broken or fractured bones are common injuries arising out of accidents, and their existence and severity are hard to refute. In general, if somebody suffers a broken or fractured bone, the radiologist will take an x-ray image that provides information that is unlikely to be misread or misinterpreted. The value of a claim involving broken bones can vary based on the particular circumstances of the case, but in general, if broken bones are the only injury, the extent of the damages that a jury in a given jurisdiction is likely to award is easier to predict than the award when soft tissue injuries are involved.
Often, their impact on an accident victim’s life is more clear-cut than the effects of brain injuries or spinal cord injuries would be. Assuming liability is clear, a case involving broken bones can be more easily settled than some cases involving other more complicated injuries. Both the plaintiff’s attorney and the insurance defense attorney are more likely to arrive at estimates that are closer together and more reflective of what a jury is likely to award.
Negotiating a Broken or Fractured Bone Case
The parties in a broken bones case likely will agree on economic damages, such as the actual medical bills, lost wages, and out-of-pocket costs. However, they may differ as to how much the jury will award in noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life or activities, and loss of consortium. Both the plaintiff’s attorney and the defense attorney will evaluate the case in part by assessing the credibility and demeanor of the plaintiff.
The plaintiff’s personal traits, livelihood, and hobbies will affect the noneconomic damages that a jury might award. For example, a plaintiff who plays sports in his spare time and performs a physically rigorous job like coal mining or farming could have his entire life turned upside down by a disabling fracture or multiple broken bones. The jury may evaluate the broken bone damages in this plaintiff’s life very differently than they would see a case involving a plaintiff who mostly watches television in her spare time and writes for a living.
Sometimes, a pre-existing injury can complicate an otherwise straightforward broken bones case. For example, if a plaintiff who suffered sports injuries, including broken bones, during high school suffers multiple broken bones during a serious car accident, the defendant may argue that the prior injuries made the victim’s injuries worse.
The defense may argue that a plaintiff’s injuries are not the fault of the defendant’s actions but a pre-existing condition, such as previously injured bones or reduced bone density in someone with osteoporosis. In most jurisdictions, however, the defendant takes the plaintiff as he or she finds him under the “eggshell plaintiff rule.” This rule requires a tortfeasor to deal with the plaintiff as he or she is, even if the plaintiff is particularly susceptible to certain injuries. A plaintiff can argue that the defendant permanently aggravated a pre-existing injury.
However, in some cases, a pre-existing condition can also mean that the damages or compensation is less that it would be for an original injury. In workers’ compensation cases in most states, the insurer is entitled to present pre-existing injuries as a type of defense that reduces the compensation that may be available to the claimant.