A Guide to Knee Injuries in Car Accidents – Torn Meniscus

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Key Points:

  • Common kinds of knee damage include a torn meniscus and tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or the medial collateral ligament (MCL), which are flexible rubber-band-like structures that hold the knee bones in place.
  • Insurance companies and adjusters might try to blame your injuries on your lifestyle, age or past experiences to try and mitigate your claims against them. However, pre-existing conditions cannot be used as a way to escape liability.
  • Ways to prove an injury was caused or made worse as a direct result of a car accident include past medical records; medical records following the crash; and testimony from friends, family, co-workers and doctors who can attest for your condition before versus after the accident.

Questions Answered:

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Your body is an amazing creation. If you think about how well it functions every day – how the joints and spine function, how your internal organs do their jobs without your supervision – it is truly a wonder.

When we don’t abuse it, the body generally goes about its business and doesn’t cause us much concern. In our personal injury practice, though, we often see the other side of that coin.

When the body is tossed around and shoved in many directions all at once as often happens in a car wreck, your body can be badly damaged. All too often, we see broken bodies in the aftermath of auto accidents. It’s our job to try to help our clients get the help they need to fix what’s been injured.

One very common knee injury is the torn meniscus. This can result of the victim’s knee or knees hitting the dashboard, or when the victim’s upper body is pushed in one direction while the lower body and legs are pushed in another. In our practice, we often see serious knee injuries like these that make everyday life very difficult.

Your knees are more than just the places where two big bones come together and bend on command. The knee joint is actually the largest joint in your body. When a knee is injured, the victim can experience pain whether there is weight being put on the knee or not. When one tries to actually use the knee, they can experience the sensation that the knee is not stable and will give way if it is used.

Common kinds of knee damage include a torn meniscus, tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or the medial collateral ligament (MCL) which are flexible rubber-band-like structures that hold the knee bones in place. Any of these injuries to the knee, alone or in concert can seriously impair the victim’s mobility.

In today’s article we will discuss a common knee injury – the torn meniscus. We’ll discuss how such an injury can happen in an accident and what treatment is often necessary to heal it. We’ll show you some of the things it takes to prove a torn meniscus is the result of a car accident, and then we’ll prepare you for some of the tricks an insurance adjustor will use to try to keep you from getting the settlement or compensation you need. We’ll show you how settlement amounts are established and, finally, we’ll help you understand what it takes to help you ultimately solve the problem of a knee injury when it is caused by somebody else’s negligence.

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Jessie is a 42-year-old husband and father of three. He is the manager of a sporting goods store. Jessie played football in high school and hoped to go on to college by way of a football scholarship. Instead, he joined the Marine Corp and did two tours in the Middle East.

Jessie is on the way to work one early morning. While he is waiting for a red light at a busy intersection, his vehicle is rear-ended by an SUV, knocking his car half-way through the intersection where he is hit again by an oncoming pickup truck and sent spinning to the other side of the intersection.

Fortunately, Jessie’s airbags all deployed and kept him relatively safe from injury. Unfortunately, he is instantly aware of a sickening pain in his right knee. When he saw in his rear-view mirror that the SUV was not slowing down, he braced his left foot on the brake pedal. The force of the first impact compelled his body forward, pushing the weight of his body against the cartilage of the knee, hyperextending the leg and forcing the bones out of alignment.

The knee bones are cushioned on each side by “C” shaped cartilage discs that serve to help distribute weight evenly between the bones. These discs, called meniscus – menisci being the plural – can be injured when legs are pushed outside the normal range of motion. These injuries often happen in sports accidents and car crashes like Jessie’s.

At the hospital, Jessie’s MRI shows that one of the menisci of his right leg is actually broken away and dislodged from the bone. This injury must be surgically repaired. The surgery can be done through less invasive, arthroscopic surgery.

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Jessie is sent home the day following his surgery wearing a brace to stabilize the knee. He is temporarily on crutches but, with physical therapy should recover in time. He will be off work for four to six weeks at minimum.

Proclaiming that, “The store won’t run itself,” Jessie is back at his office in 21 days. He has obtained conditional permission from his doctor to go to work. Since the accident, he has been constantly on the phone handling work-related problems. He insists that he can just as easily sit in his desk chair at the store as he can his recliner at home and be under less stress.

Jessie is visited by an insurance adjustor on his first day back at work. The adjustor wants Jessie to settle his claim as soon as possible in order to clear the matter up. He suggests that any number of Jessie’s life experiences might have injured his knee previously. Also, he notes that because Jessie is not a “spring chicken,” a torn meniscus injuries can be made worse through simple wear and tear.

Jessie thanks the man and sends him quickly away. Then he calls a personal injury lawyer.
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How to Prove that Jessie’s Torn Meniscus was the Result of this Car Wreck

Because of Jessie’s very active history, he faces problems in proving that this injury was the result of this particular car accident. The insurance adjustor has already tipped his hand. The fact that Jessie played football as a younger man, that he endured the rigors of boot camp and active duty in the field, the insurance company will try to prove that Jessie’s injury was a pre-existing one.

Additionally, they will attempt to minimize the injury because Jessie went back to work so quickly after the accident.

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Jessie’s legal team will have to collect Jessie’s lifetime medical history reports. These will prove that he did not suffer any knee injury during his football career. His knees were in excellent shape when he entered the service and remained that way through his 8 years abroad. The records will demonstrate that on the morning of the accident when Jessie left the house for work, his knees were sound.

Still, there may need to be expert testimony in order to determine whether or not Jessie’s age and the wear and tear of his life might be responsible for a gradual erosion of his meniscus. The insurance company may try to produce a (paid) expert opinion to argue in favor of their assertion that the knee injury was due to the wear and tear of Jessie’s life, instead of the car accident.

Fortunately for Jessie, the law in Georgia says that when an injury happens the negligent party cannot “hide” behind pre-existing injuries or even wear and tear – if those conditions even exist — as a way to escape liability. Georgia law says that Jessie’s condition in the moment before the accident is irrelevant – what matters is his status the moment after the harm is done. Still, this law may not keep them from trying to blame the injury on Jessie’s lifestyle. They will do whatever they can to make Jessie’s settlement as small as possible.

To fight these tactics, Jessie’s family, friends, co-workers and neighbors may be interviewed so that they might testify that they have not seen Jessie limp or otherwise favor his knee – and that his knee appeared to be in good shape before the accident. His family physician may be called to testify that in his annual checkups, Jessie had not complained of any knee pain. They will also talk about how Jessie functioned following the accident – he couldn’t mow his own lawn anymore, for example, or wash his own car the way he used to each week.

Co-workers will testify that in the months following the accident Jessie wasn’t able to work on his feet or walk as much as he did before the accident. As time progressed, he did improve, but he was obviously not as agile or mobile as he was before.
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How much will Jessie’s settlement be?

When all the medical records, medical bills, and other pertinent information are gathered, the adjuster and lawyers for the two sides will begin to discuss settlement.
They will research claims for torn menisci that are similar to Jessie’s. They will begin with those settlement amounts then add or subtract for the degree of injury, the victim’s type of work and how much the injury has compromised his ability to do his job.

They will add up all the medical bills. They will also as consider the possibility that more therapy or other surgeries could become necessary.

All of Jessie’s lost work time will be assigned a value and his degree of disability will also be assessed. In Georgia, this is often done by the treating physician assigning a permanent partial disability rating, known as a PPD. If, for instance, they determine that Jessie is 6 percent disabled, an amount of compensation for that permanent disability will be weighed and added to the settlement amount.

In most cases, the lawyers for both sides will eventually agree upon a satisfactory settlement amount. If the insurance company will not agree to a reasonable settlement, the lawyers for the plaintiff-victim may opt to file suit and seek a jury trial.
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Why is a personal injury lawyer best for this claim?

When you’re bargaining over things that will impact the rest of your life, it’s best to have a specialist on your side.

In Jessie’s case, this accident caused his life to be complicated, difficult, and painful for at least 12-months, and possibly permanently. He will always hesitate before he does anything that might aggravate his condition or injure his knee again – he won’t be going on a ski vacation anytime soon.

In order to present the best case and to fight the sometimes outlandish ideas the insurance adjustors and lawyers for the defense will claim, Jessie hired a specialist. A personal injury lawyer is one who doesn’t spend his/her time working with anything other than personal injuries. This legal team concentrates every day on how to win appropriate compensation for their clients – they work to stay ahead of the curve balls the other side throws. That work and dedication pays off for the people they represent.

At The Millar Law Firm, we are totally dedicated to the rights of our clients. We don’t just expect that they will be compensated for their losses. We make justice happen for the men, women and families who place their trust in us. We’re very good at it and our winning record proves it.
Call us today for your free case evaluation.
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Article Summary

Knee injuries, like a torn meniscus or damaged anterior cruciate ligaments, can be difficult to prove in court if the victim led an active lifestyle before an accident. Insurance company adjustors may try to claim that high school football or a military service career were the result of these kinds of injuries and that they were present before the accident.

It can be necessary to provide the insurance company with extensive medical records and expert testimony from physicians that the injuries were, indeed, a result of the accident in order to be compensated. If there was a previous injury, proving that the accident has made the condition worse will involve detailed documentation regarding the changes.

Having a lawyer who has experience with these challenging factors can make proving your case easier and more effective.

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