Obesity can hurt personal injury claims.
Just when the USA faces growing realization that other prejudices are still around, growing voices indicate that obesity can hurt personal injury claims by overweight people who through no fault of their own are injured in accidents.
More than one-third of all American adults and 17% of young people are obese according to a February, 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The Association found no significant changes in obesity prevalence in youth or adults in the last ten years. Obesity is defined as a condition characterized by the excessive accumulation and storage of fat in the body, which has been linked to numerous health risks including heart disease.
Are Obese People Less Likely to Succeed in Injury Cases?
Obesity can influence the settlement value of personal injury cases. That conclusion was announced by the venerable Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly a weekly journal published for members of the bar in the Bay State.
Notably, one insurance company attorney claimed that it’s difficult for obese people to convince a jury that their activities of daily living were impacted by an accident when their lives were already largely sedentary. Even attorneys who for the most part represent injured people acknowledged the inevitability that the weight factor tarnishes the attractiveness of the injured person as witness.
“Both plaintiffs’ attorneys and defense counsel agree that jury deliberations can be influenced by individual biases against those with severe weight problems, no matter how unfair that may be.”
Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, December 15, 2014.
Factors Faced by Obese Individuals in Personal Injury Cases?
One study concludes that stigma and discrimination toward obese persons are pervasive and pose numerous consequences for their psychological and physical health. The 2010 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information warned that despite decades of science documenting weight stigma, its public health implications are widely ignored.
The NCBI study warns that weight stigma “is not a beneficial public health tool.” Instead, stigmatization of those who are overweight actually threatens their health, interferes with efforts to intervene, and rises to the level of a social justice issue.
Blaming the Obese Accident Victim: Common but Unfair
Many factors play into the full fair evaluation of personal injury claims. Like it or not, obesity can unfairly taint the evaluation. Insurance industry insiders will tell you themselves that the process is anything but intuitive. See: Delay, Deny, Defend and Insurance Claim Secrets Revealed.
It’s hard to imagine any more compelling reason to retain an experienced personal injury attorney to optimize your claim in view of all of the personal circumstances of your case, especially if weight is likely to be unfairly and deviously used against you.