Most people I know would agree that we’re just eating too much high calorie, high sugar, high fat food and it’s affecting almost everything in our lives: diabetes is up, life expectancy in the United States appears to be declining, and airlines are expected to charge more for obese passengers (right now they are just skirting around the sensitive issue by charging more for baggage). And it’s affecting personal injury settlements.
What? Being overweight can affect a personal injury settlement? Sadly, it can. Adjusters at insurance companies are keen to pounce on anything in a claim that they perceive to be a weakness: gaps in treatment, low impact collisions, and obesity. Apparently, the obese are more prone to injury. The problem with this kind of attack, at least in Washington, is that the law has long recognized that damages can be awarded whether you are a plaintiff with an "eggshell skull" plantiff or Vitali Klitschko. In other words, a defendant doesn’t get a free tort because they injured someone who was fragile, frail, or injures easier than expected.
So what are adjusters doing? They are counting on weight bias. Even though 68% of American adults are overweight, a profound weight bias exists among potential jurors. Not so sure? Take the test at Harvard’s Project Implicit to see if you have a subconscious weight bias.
And if you are going to file a claim, you may want to think about losing a few pounds… or hiring a good attorney.