Predicting Future Care Needs: A horrible defense tactic


SpinalCordInjury_Page_5_03.jpgWhen we are putting a legal case together for someone with SCI, we have to predict future care needs.  Medical expenses, transportation, household and caregiver expenses can be in the millions of dollars. Unfortunately, there is a direct correlation between financial status and mortality for those with SCI. People with SCI would have a relatively normal life expectancy but for associated secondary complications, including:

  • Autonomic dysreflexia
  • Bladder management
  • Bowel management
  • Skin management
  • Urinary tract infections
  • DVT
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression

Just one of these complications would be bad enough. But depending on the severity of injury, SCI patients may have multiple if not most of these issues. Here is where the money factor comes in. 

According to the 2008 US Census, a shocking 69% of those with SCI had an annual household income of less than $20,000. Social Security Disability and Medicare provide a dismal level of care. Caregivers are not optimal. Living conditions rarely provide other than minimal disability accessibility. Medical needs are not fully met. As a result, the mortality of those with SCI is compromised not by the SCI itself, but by secondary conditions often made worse by lack of funds.


The number one strategy of defendants in civil  cases, is to argue that a plaintiff will have a decreased life expectancy and does not need the full amount of money needed. They believe a jury will reduce the amount of a verdict if they argue that the person they injured won’t live a full life.

You would think this is a double edged sword. The defendant would not want to admit their actions are ending someone’s life prematurely. But many juries are more comfortable dealing with hard numbers.  They find it easier to add up medical bills and multiply them by a shortened life expectancy. They have a harder time putting a money value on the loss of years from a person’s life.

This defense tactic is based on this horrible concept: it can be cheaper for a defendant to kill someone (early) than to maim them for the rest of their life.

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About Karen
Karen Koehler, partner at the nationally recognized law firm of SKW, blogs about all things related to spinal cord injuries...More
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Can I see a falling tear.
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