Personal injury Library

Can a Trucking Company Defend Itself by Claiming a Victim Was Sick or Elderly?

How trucking companies use a victim's age or health conditions to devalue their claim

One defense strategy we've seen trucking companies use in wrongful death cases is arguing that, because the victim of a crash was old or sickly, their death is less significant and therefore should be considered less valuable to those left behind. As we will discuss in more detail, this odious tactic is one of the many strategies by which they try to either lessen the financial compensation they have to pay out, or prevent victims from getting anything at all.

Questions Answered in This Article:

  • How does this defense work?
  • Why does a victim's age or pre-existing health conditions matter in a truck accident case?
  • How is this defense defeated?

How does this defense work?

One argument we often see advanced by trucking company defense attorneys in injury cases is that the injuries allegedly caused by the crash actually arose partially or entirely from a previously-existing condition, such as chronic illness or old age.

A particularly common example of this is the trucking company and/or insurance provider stating that, because a plaintiff was afflicted with multiple sclerosis, the normal logic of proving damages should not apply. Rather, they will argue that the claimant ought to be viewed as either less able to benefit from, and therefore less deserving of, the same damages that would have been awarded to an otherwise healthy person injured in the same manner.

Why Trucking Companies Resort to Arguments from Pre-existing Illness

We've also seen attorneys for trucking companies and their insurers argue that the survivors in a wrongful death claim should be awarded less compensation, because their late relative was already near the end of his or her life. Usually this will entail disputing the number you offered. For example, if your initial damages request in an 18-wheeler accident totaled $1,500,000, they might try to bring you all the way down to $500,000 if your lost relative was a senior citizen, suffered from a pre-existing condition, or was terminally ill. From the insurance company's perspective, every dollar saved on your case is a victory in and of itself, so they will try to play hardball at every turn.

A case we recently litigated illustrates this principle well. The family of a retired army colonel called us to represent their case. The man had been a pillar of his community, ran a school for troubled boys, was an elder in the church, etc. He was an all-round good guy. He also happened to be in his late 60s and had diabetes. Even so, he was in good health, and had his condition under control.

In his case, an 18-wheeler blew through a stop sign right in front of him, the man's vehicle went under the truck and he was killed. The trucking company argued that since the man was older and had diabetes, this really wasn't that big of a deal because he already had "one foot in the grave."

As you can see, this is a nasty tactic. Hearing this sort of argument about someone close to you who's just died suddenly and tragically is likely to make you angry and disgusted and the other side's attorneys are counting on just that. The hope of the trucking company's defense team is that you'll want the whole unsavory business over and done with, which ultimately works to their advantage, since it makes you more likely to agree to whatever paltry settlement they offer.

Our Approach to The Illness or Old Age Defenses

Defenses like this are easily countered, because, in addition to being morally reprehensible, they are often flat-out wrong. We point out that there's no truth in what the trucking company is saying. We have the victim's doctors come and attest to the health factors relevant to the client's fitness prior to the accident. The civil courts and their representatives recognize that human life is precious regardless of how long it lasts. So we redirect the focus back to where it should be, on the facts of what happened and the harms done to our clients, putting them in the best possible position to recover compensation comparable to their losses.

Grossman Law Offices Can Help You Defeat This Strategy

Grossman Law Offices can defeat this defense. We've seen it used several times in our 25 years of experience litigating truck accident personal injury and wrongful death claims, and are prepared to keep the focus where it should be during your case. If you've been injured in a crash involving a semi-truck, please call us at our toll-free number (855) 326-0000 for a free consultation.

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