There are unique challenges when representing elderly clients in personal injury cases. Sometimes the injuries suffered in the subject event are discounted by doctors, insurance adjusters and opposing counsel. Let’s look at the issue of scarring…is if fair that a scar on the body or face of an older individual may be deemed as “worth less” than scarring to a younger person? The older person may have just as much pride in his or her appearance, and therefore scarring should not be discounted as a damage claim solely due to the age of the claimant.
One area where damages may be legitimately reduced is loss of earning capacity. The average life expectancy of a plaintiff is used to calculate future wage loss, and obviously an senior citizen is going to have fewer years remaining to earn money than a younger person. Often an older plaintiff is already retired, significantly reducing this area of economic damage. However, a skilled plaintiff attorney may be able to spin the retirement angle into a compelling argument about how greatly the plaintiff’s “golden years” have been affected by the pain, suffering, anxiety and inconvenience that he or she is dealing with as a result of accident-related injuries. The plaintiff has worked hard his or her whole life with the expectation of enjoying their post-work life, and any disruption of that enjoyment could be construed as being especially valuable.
Elderly people may experience more serious injuries than younger people due to degenerative conditions, arthritis or osteoporosis. Additionally, healing time may be longer and treatment may be prolonged. All of these scenarios could be argued persuasively to increase the “pain and suffering” damages involved with the elderly person’s claim.