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Knee Dislocations and Settlement Value (2019 Update)

Knee dislocations are relatively rare in automobile accidents.  But we have seen several of them recently, so I’m writing today about these injuries and to give you some idea of the potential settlement value of these claims.  If you are trying to find the general settlement value of knee injury cases, we provide statistics and verdicts for you elsewhere.

Knee Dislocations in Car Accidents

knee-200x300Knee dislocations are technically a dislocation of the patella. Our lawyers have seen a lot of these cases.  Our knees are in a grove at the end of our thigh bones.  This allows the kneecap to slide back and forth.  When our clients have a knee dislocation, what we see is the kneecap is completely out of the knee’s grove.  You can see it off to the side of the bone. If it is just partially out and perched on the edge, that is a subluxation or partially dislocated knee.

These dislocations occur from athletics,  high energy impacts, such as a car crash, or low impact falls. If you are extremely overweight,  let me be honest.  You are far more susceptible to patellar dislocation.

A dislocated knee is non-functional, often painful, and induces large abnormal strains on the collateral ligaments.   Because of the potential for neurovascular damage associated with the injury, knee dislocations are considered one of the most serious knee injuries.

In many personal injury claims, the insurance company in an accident case will allege that the knee injury is a preexisting injury.  But you do not see this often with knee dislocations.  If you have a knee dislocation in a crash, there is usually little dispute about it.  You will see a dislocated knee from the very beginning.   The knee does not look good.  Fluid will swell the knee.  It will be angulated or crooked.  The patient will be in extreme pain.

A knee dislocation occurs when the bones inside the knee become displaced. The bones of the knee are surrounded by four ligaments which help them stay in place. When these ligaments tear, it can cause the tibia, fibula, femur, or patella to move abnormally.

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Example Settlement and Verdicts

I do not have an average settlement value of a knee dislocation case. Sample verdicts and settlements cannot tell you the value of your case because there are too many variables of varying significance that cannot be accounted for, particularly in a short case summary.  But they are still instructive and help victims better understand the possible range of settlement value in their case.

One thing to keep in mind is that if there is a knee dislocation there often many other injuries that can confuse the value of the knee injury.  I’m omitting a $37 million verdict in California in 2017, for example, because the knee dislocation was just one of the victim’s injuries.

  • 2020, Alabama, $275,000: A man was jogging around 8:30 PM. He wore no reflective gear or lighting. A spider fell on his head, and he stopped jogging to get it off his head. Shortly after, an approaching vehicle struck him. He was brought to the hospital, where staff treated his severely dislocated knee. The man underwent multiple surgeries to repair his damaged ligaments. His orthopedist testified that he would need a knee replacement. He settled with the driver’s insurer, Alfa, for $175,000. The man then sued his UIM carrier, State Farm. The jury returned a $250,000 verdict, in which the final judgment amounted to $75,000 based on the Alfa set-off.
  • 2019, Florida, $12,037,000: The 29-year-old pedestrian was struck by a car. The impact threw him 40 feet up in the air. He landed on a grassy area near the sidewalk. The man suffered a left knee dislocation, left knee ligament tears, a right humerus fracture, and a concussion. Doctors eventually amputated his right arm. He sued the driver for negligence. The jury awarded the man $12,037,000.
  • 2019, Florida, $60,000:  A young boy is injured sliding down an inflatable slide at an elementary school.  His leg is caught between two components of the slide.  He suffers a knee dislocation and, not insignificantly, a femur fracture.  The plaintiff alleged that the party equipment rental company (Merry Minstrel) was responsible.  Merry Minstrel paid $50,000 of the settlement.  The school board chipped in $10,000. Ultimately, what you do not know when evaluating an out-of-court settlement like this is how strong was the rental company’s defense to the negligence case.  If this had been a car accident where there was no dispute as to who was responsible, I would expect a much larger settlement. 
  • 2018, California, $90,147: A man on a motorcycle broadsided.  He dislocates his knee with tearing of his medial meniscus and his anterior cruciate ligament.  Surprisingly, the jury only awards $90,147.
  • 2017, Florida, $90,000: This is the rare case where the employee sues the employer for negligence. Why isn’t there a workers’ comp claim?  The employer does not have comp insurance.  The plaintiff works at a daycare center in Miami.   The daycare installs a water slide.
    She files a lawsuit and contends that the slide was negligently installed, causing her to dislocate her right knee.  The injury required surgical repair. The jury finds the defendant daycare center 23% negligent and the plaintiff 77% comparatively negligent. The plaintiff is awarded $90,000 overall damages before the 23% reduction was applied.
  • 2017, Ohio, $70,000: A 49-year-old motorcyclist suffers a right knee dislocation.  I do not have more facts than this.  It is certainly a low figure for a knee dislocation case.
  • 2014, Maryland, $150,000:  A woman is hit and forced into a telephone pole in Prince George’s County.  She suffers disc herniations and knee dislocations in both knees.   The verdict is only $150,000.

I think the value settlement value of knee dislocation cases is probably higher than the average of these five cases.  I know our experience with these cases involved much better results.  Again, I jumped over a lot of cases where the value seemed driven by so many other factors as to make the dislocated knee piece impossible to pull out. It is hard to single out the knee injury because it is rare for a car or truck accident victim to suffer a knee dislocation without other serious injuries.

Popliteal Artery Malpractice Lawsuits

Knee dislocation frequently causes injury to the popliteal artery.  One-quarter to one-half of all popliteal artery injuries are caused by traumatic injuries like car accidents.

The popliteal artery is the main artery located behind the knee.  This artery supplies virtually all the blood to the leg below the knee. It is a direct continuation of one of the two major arteries of the thigh which is the superficial femoral artery.

Popliteal artery injuries can be a big deal if they are not promptly diagnosed and treated.  More popliteal artery injuries result in an amputation than any other arterial injury. Damage to adjacent tissues commonly accompanies vascular injuries, especially with blunt trauma. The severity of a popliteal artery injury is directly correlated to the presence and amount of ischemia or decreased blood supply.

The key is good treatment.  It is well recognized that knee dislocations present an increased risk of injury to the popliteal artery. Failing to recognize and treat a popliteal artery (or call in a vascular surgeon to see the patient) can cause lifelong injuries.  The biggest risk is amputation.  What happens all too often, usually in the emergency room is that delayed treatment causes distal vessel wall thrombosis and muscle necrosis.  This lack of blood cuts of the oxygen supply in that part of the knee.

If you have an accident or malpractice case, call me.  You can get me at 800-553-8082.  You can also get a free online consultation.

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