Cervical Spondylosis is a potentially debilitating condition that the majority of us can expect to develop at some point in our lives.
The NHS’s online Health Encyclopaedia describes Cervical Spondylosis as “a condition that causes neck pain and stiffness. It tends to occur in the second half of life and is usually a natural consequence of aging, although it is possible for it to develop at a young age.
About half the population develop Cervical Spondylosis by the age of 50, with this figure rising to 70% by the age of 60.”
Cervical Spondylosis can produce a whole host of symptoms, including neck pain and stiffness, a loss of movement in the neck, a loss of balance, disturbed sleep, headaches and a host of other neurological symptoms.
Many people are unaware that they suffer from Cervical Spondylosis. This is not surprising as, particularly in the early stages, it may produce few, if any, symptoms. However, it is accepted that a physical trauma can trigger the onset of symptoms from the underlying condition. In other words, a person who had no obvious symptoms before an accident, may start to notice symptoms shortly after the accident. This is commonly found in road traffic accidents where people have been subjected to an acceleration/deceleration injury to the neck, commonly known as “whiplash”. The condition is usually diagnosed by a combination of both physical examination and medical imaging (x-ray, scan).
Understandably, if Cervical Spondylosis is diagnosed, the most common question that a client will ask their solicitor is “how can I have had this before the accident – I didn’t have any symptoms?” This is a perfectly good question, but not always an easy one for a Solictor to answer! In simple terms, the accident cannot have caused the condition, but it may have caused the condition to become symptomatic earlier than it otherwise would have done. Alternatively, a person who was symptomatic before the accident may well find that the symptoms have become considerably worse following the accident.
If a person had few, if any, symptoms of the condition before the accident, the medical expert must then address the question – in the absence of the accident, when would this person have developed symptoms?
This is important because the law only requires the responsible party to compensate you for the injuries and other losses that they have caused to you. Accordingly, if the medical expert suggests that the condition would have become symptomatic within five years, even in the absence of the accident, then the claimant would usually only expect to receive compensation based upon a five year injury, despite the fact that the symptoms will continue beyond that time.
Unfortunately, putting a figure on the period of acceleration can be somewhat of a lottery. A claimant examined by three different medical experts may receive three different opinions on the period of acceleration.
It is therefore important that a medical expert is chosen with care. The solicitor should both discuss the symptoms with their client and consider the pre-accident medical records. If it seems to the solicitor that there is a reasonable possibility of a diagnosis of Cervical Spondylosis, then a report should be obtained from a consultant orthopaedic surgeon.
Further, if Cervical Spondylosis is diagnosed, the solicitor should be ready to challenge the medical expert on the period of acceleration if it does not seem to fit with the client’s circumstances. For example, if the client is relatively young and was very fit and active prior to the accident, an opinion that, in the absence of the accident, they would have developed symptoms within 2 or 3 years, may seem a little ungenerous!
The solicitor may either prepare written questions to the medical expert or arrange to speak to the medical expert in conference. The medical expert should (in the nicest possible way!) be asked to justify their opinion by reference to the medical records and imaging, as well as published medical research.
If you have developed symptoms of Cervical Spondylosis following an accident, or you already suffered from the condition but your symptoms have become worse following an accident, please feel free to call BLB partner, Richard Lowes to discuss your options. He can be reached on 01225 462871. The discussion will be confidential and you are under no obligation to instruct us.