When an older person suffers an injury accident, their legal case may differ in key ways. Injuries tend be more severe, and recovery more complicated. Compensation will not look the same as it would for a younger person. Insurance companies may take a harder line on damages.
Seniors who have been injured by negligence of need savvy legal advocacy to protect their rights and secure appropriate compensation.
Seniors are prone to worse injuries and complications
Past the age of 50, a car crash or slip-and-fall accident carries greater risk. For example, a geriatric patient is five times more likely to die from a trauma than a younger patient who sustains a similar injury. One in five elderly patients who suffer a hip fracture die within a year.
Seniors are more susceptible to fractures because of lower bone density and less protective muscle mass. They are specifically susceptible to rib fractures and detached ribs from a fall or car crash, which in turn puts them at greater risk of pneumonia. Bedsores are also a concern for elderly patients who are confined to bed.
Even without complications, when you are older, recovery simply takes longer and healing may be less complete.
Personal injury damages are different for older victims
- Lost wages are a big component of most personal injury claims. If you are past your working years, or working only part-time, this aspect of compensation will be much lower.
- On the other hand, your medical damages may be substantially higher. You are entitled to compensation for all medical bills and future care arising from the accident, including medical equipment (wheelchair, walker), medications, surgery, physical therapy, medical travel.
- Seniors often need home care or nursing home care while recuperating, and may require ramps, railings and other home alterations.
- Insurance companies sometimes downplay pain and suffering for elderly victims. The unspoken rationale is that quality of life was not that great before the accident or that they have few years left to live. This is wrong and insulting. Everyone is entitled to compensation for the physical and emotional toll, and any lasting disability from the accident.
What about pre-existing conditions?
People in their retirement years are naturally more likely to have some disability, medical condition or prior injury before the accident. This does not matter. If the accident made a pre-existing condition worse, the plaintiff is entitled to compensation, even if aggravation of that existing ailment is the only harm suffered.
Insurance companies may use different tactics
Insurance adjusters commonly contact injury victims after an accident. They may use scare tactics with an elderly person, such as threatening to withdraw an offer of compensation unless they sign immediately. They may try to trick the person into giving a recorded statement that undercuts their personal injury claim.
Most personal injury attorneys provide a free consultation. They also work on contingency, meaning they do not get paid unless they recover compensation for their client. Once you hire an attorney, the insurance adjusters cannot harass you. You can refer them to your lawyer.
Don't give a statement to the adjuster, and definitely don't sign anything! Talk to a personal injury lawyer and ask about other cases when they represented elderly clients.