Injury Risks Facing South Carolina Seniors
South Carolina is a great place to retire. The weather is temperate, the crime rates are low, and the scenery is beautiful. It is not surprising that close to 2 million people over 50 live in South Carolina. Seniors make up more than 25 percent of the total population, putting the state near the top of the list with the most seniors.
Unfortunately, with age comes a greater risk of injury and the inability to recover as quickly or completely as younger people with the same injury. Even a minor accident can have a severe impact on those over 50 years of age. Often, a minor injury turns into a major surgical event or involves multiple interventions.
Sadly, many of these injuries and accidents are preventable. According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, men and women over the age of 85 are at the greatest risk of suffering a preventable injury. Below are a few of the most common causes of elderly injuries in South Carolina.
Slip, Trip, and Fall
Falls are the leading cause of serious injury and death among South Carolina seniors. Seniors are more likely to fall if they encounter a flooring defect or other hazard while outside their homes. Additionally, because bones become more brittle with age, the chance of breaking one or more bones or suffering other serious injuries is very high.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
South Carolina has over 2,000 long-term care facilities caring for more than 43,000 residents. Most of these facilities retain compassionate caretakers who care deeply about the residents under their care. However, the reality of the nursing home industry is that many facilities are understaffed. This places extreme pressure on caretakers, who may end up taking out their frustrations on residents or providing inadequate care to their patients. Each year, the South Carolina Long Term Care Ombudsman Program investigates more than 8,000 complaints filed by or on behalf of long-term care residents. These complaints range from neglect to financial abuse to physical and sexual abuse.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Seniors are no more likely to get into a South Carolina car accident than other drivers by virtue of their age. However, the consequences of an accident are often much more serious or fatal when a victim is elderly. Motor vehicle accidents are the second leading cause of death for South Carolinians aged 55 to 65+. In many of these accidents, the injured senior is a passenger in another’s vehicle.
Complications With Personal Injury Cases Involving Senior Accident Victims
Seniors injured in any car wreck are legally entitled to bring a personal injury claim against the at-fault party. These cases are often filed against the at-fault party’s insurance company, whether it be an auto insurance policy, homeowner’s policy, or a business’s insurance policy.
Through a personal injury claim, an injury victim can obtain much-needed compensation to offset the significant medical expenses they incurred as a result of the accident. Additionally, seniors who successfully bring a claim can also recover for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering and decreased quality of life.
However, several challenges often come up in these cases. For example, insurance companies will often claim that an injured senior shared responsibility for the accident. This most frequently comes up in slip and fall cases. Under South Carolina law, the fact that a senior was partially at fault will not prevent them from bringing a claim against another negligent party, but an injured senior’s damages award may be reduced by the percentage of fault they contributed to the accident. This is called “comparative negligence.”
Another issue that comes up in cases involving elderly injuries is pre-existing conditions and the ability to obtain fair compensation from an insurance company. Insurance companies look for ways to deny claims or minimize awards. One of the ways they do this is by asserting an injured elder already had health conditions prior to the accident; therefore, siphoning out the damage caused by the accident is difficult. For example, if an elder injures their back in a car accident, and they have a history of back pain before the accident, an insurance company will try to escape responsibility by saying the injured person already had back problems. While it may be true that a pre-existing condition can make it more difficult to recover for injuries attributable to an accident, this is not a bar to recovery. Instead, an injured senior is permitted to recover for an aggravation to a pre-existing condition.
A skilled South Carolina personal injury attorney can assist injured seniors and their families by preparing a case, negotiating with the insurance company, and taking the case to court if negotiations fail.
Contact the Steinberg Law Firm to Schedule a Free Consultation
If you or a loved one recently suffered a serious injury due to the negligence of another party, contact the Steinberg Law Firm for immediate assistance. The dedicated lawyers at our firm represent injury victims of all ages, including in slip, trip, and fall cases, motor vehicle accidents, and nursing home abuse and neglect claims. We understand the frustrations you and your family are facing and will do everything we can to make the recovery process as easy as possible. To learn more and to schedule a free consultation, call us at 843-720-2800. You can also reach us through our online form. We represent clients in Charleston, Goose Creek, Summerville, and the surrounding areas.