Weight gain is a common side effect of injuries and long-term illnesses. Pain and loss of mobility often limit the injured person’s ability to stay active. Some people, especially those who are normally very active, like runners, find that their ordinary diet gives them more calories than they need. And some medications used to treat pain also can also contribute to weight gain. There are strategies that can help mitigate the problem, but in many cases weight gain is outside the individual’s control.
When an injury leads to a civil lawsuit the object of the plaintiff is to recover compensation from the defendant for the consequences of the injury—what in legal terms are called damages. Among the things that a plaintiff must prove to recover for any form of damages are two important requirements: justiciability and causation.
The justiciability (practicality) of weight gain damages
“Justiciability” simply means that the issue in question is of the sort that a court can solve as a legal and practical matter. There are lots of things that a court can’t do. Some of these things come from the legal rules governing the courts, from constitutional principles to specialized rules of procedure. Other things are simply practical limits. A court can’t order a defendant to take the plaintiff’s excessive weight away.
This is why damages for things like pain, suffering, or weight gain need to be reduced to dollar figures. Ordering someone to pay another person money is a straightforward and concrete solution to many problems. But putting a monetary value on a nonmonetary problem (in legal terms, noneconomic damages) is not always easy. A plaintiff who claims noneconomic damages bears the burden of proving that the damages have been calculated fairly and accurately. For weight gain, this calculation might include factors like long-term health consequences, emotional or psychological challenges related to weight, and so on.
Causation and weight gain
To recover any kind of damages the plaintiff also must show that the damages were caused by the defendant’s wrongful action. After all, if the defendant didn’t cause the harm, it would be unjust for the court to include it in the damages award. It is sometimes relatively straightforward to draw the link between damages and the defendant’s behavior. If the defendant ran a red light and smashed into the plaintiff’s car, there’s a clear connection between that event and the plaintiff’s resulting medical bills.
Causation can be a tricky area for weight gain. Unlike a broken arm, weight gain is a slow process that can have a wide range of causes. To avoid liability for the plaintiff’s weight gain the defendant could raise a number of arguments. A common strategy is to find another, intervening cause of the problem. For example, if the plaintiff began to eat a lot of high-calorie food after the accident, despite a doctor’s recommendation to stay on a restricted diet, perhaps the plaintiff was responsible for the gain.
Plaintiffs who want to claim weight gain among their damages must anticipate arguments like these. Each case requires its own set of solutions. Testimony from the plaintiff’s doctors, scientific evidence of how weight gain is a consequence of the injury, and other forms of evidence can be used to show the causal relationship between the defendant’s actions and the weight gain.
GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm
For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury cases. We treat each case with the personalized care it deserves, and help clients recover compensation for the full range of damages for their injuries. Call us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.