Where two or more bones come together in the human body you have what is called a joint. Examples of joints include elbows, hips, knees and ankles.
We all know how wonderfully well joints work when we are uninjured. The reason joints work so well is that where two or more bones come together to form a joint, the end of each bone forming the joint is covered with a substance called articular cartilage. Articular cartilage forms a very smooth surface at the end of each bone so that when they rub together they do so in such a way that there is no pain and the joint works perfectly. However, when an accident victim sustains a fracture that involves the articular cartilage of a particular bone, there is a risk that the person will develop osteoarthritis.
Unless the damage to the cartilage is severe, osteoarthritis typically develops years after the trauma.
However, when it does develop it is a disabling condition that progressively worsens over the passage of time.
Osteoarthritis is caused by the articular cartilage wearing away thus exposing the joint to additional wear and tear by the bony surface at the end of the bone. As bone rubs against bone it causes inflammation and pain.
The pain caused by osteoarthritis is quite disabling for many people, especially if the osteoarthritis develops in a weight bearing joint such as the hip, knee or ankle.
As osteoarthritis progresses, pain increases and so does the disabling effect of the condition.
Joint replacement surgery has been developed to treat severe osteoarthritis. It is not uncommon for transport accident victims to develop this condition after major bony trauma to the joints. Sometimes, this condition develops many years after the transport accident. On other occasions, the development of osteoarthritis, particularly post-traumatic osteoarthritis is quite rapid.
Hence, those accident victims who were injured as the result of the fault of another person and who sustained damage to weight bearing joints should seek legal advice about their entitlement to recover common law damages based on what the future holds even if at present the symptoms are not disabling.