Causes of cartilage injuries
Cartilage is a flexible, shock-absorbing tissue found throughout the body. It distributes weight evenly across the bones and protects the joints from wear and tear.
In the knee, the primary areas of cartilage tissue are known as menisci. The knee also contains secondary areas of cartilage known as articular cartilages - these protect the ends of the bones at the knee joint. Both of these areas of cartilage may become damaged causing significant discomfort for the injured person.
Torn cartilage is often the result of sudden physical trauma, such as a sports injury. Or it can be the result of gradual damage over time (osteoarthritis). In some cases, torn cartilage injuries are sustained in accidents caused by third party negligence. Anyone affected in such circumstances may be eligible to make a compensation claim, even where the injury is relatively minor.
What is a torn cartilage injury?
The meniscus comprises two bands of cartilage on the inside and outside of the knee. It absorbs shock, ensures that weight is distributed evenly over the knee joint and generally allows the knee to function.
Certain types of physical trauma can cause damage to these cartilages. The classic injury is a footballer who rotates his knee in order to tackle whilst the foot is still on the ground. Other accidents include:
- Road traffic accidents that deliver a large impact to the knee.
- Accidents at work such as heavy loading or machine failure.
- Sports and recreational activities, typically football, rugby, tennis and skiing.
Older people are at special risk of cartilage tears since the meniscus weakens with age. More than four out of ten people aged 65 or older have experienced some sort of damage to the knee cartilage, according to the NHS. Treatment depends on how much of the cartilage is torn and the exact site of the damage.
While most cartilage tears heal on their own, larger tears, or a rupture in the middle of the meniscus, may not heal fully without surgery. This is mainly because the centre of the meniscus has no direct blood supply. In the long term, people who have had meniscus surgery are at a greater risk of developing arthritis in later years.
Can you make a compensation claim for torn cartilage?
A knee injury compensation claim is likely to succeed, if the injury was result of another party's negligence and that party owed you a duty of care.
One example would be a torn cartilage injury sustained in a car crash where the other driver was at fault. Since drivers owe a duty of care to all other road users, it would usually be possible to make a personal injury claim.
A further example would be a torn cartilage injury caused by a fall in the workplace. All employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace, including the removal of trip hazards, under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and other legislation. Employers therefore owe a duty of care to their employees.
To make a successful claim, it must be proven that the Defendant was responsible for your injuries. Depending on the type of accident, evidence could include a combination of:
- Medical reports, scans and X rays
- Witness statements
- Work accident log books
- CCTV footage.
Is it worth making a claim?
Even though the recovery period for torn cartilage injuries is usually short, it is important that you speak to a solicitor about your options. A delay may make it more difficult to gather medical evidence, and could impact your recovery. At the outset of a claim, an independent medical expert will carry out an exam and may recommend physio.
As well as securing compensation for the immediate pain and suffering, a claim will ensure that you are able to meet any financial losses as a result of your injury such as time off work and medical expenses (such as the cost of necessary physiotherapy).
An expert can also assess the long-term impact of your injuries and the likelihood that you will suffer future complications.
Severe damage to the meniscus can cause long-term degenerative changes to the knee, including arthritis. The average compensation for this type of claim is significantly higher than for torn cartilage injuries that make a full recovery, but this compensation may not be paid in full if your injuries worsen due to your own actions, such as delaying treatment or physio.