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Serious Impairment of Body Function? Soft Tissue Injury Stops Superstar from Working

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NHL superstar Sydney Crosby is one of the best hockey players in the world. He has won the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP, hoisted the Stanley Cup, won Olympic gold, and been selected an All Star four times. And his career is just getting started.

Unfortunately, as Crosby is set to enter the prime of his playing years, injuries threaten to cut his story short. After a well-publicized concussion suffered in the 2011 Winter Classic, followed by another vicious hit a few days later, Crosby missed 10 months of hockey. He returned in November, only to experience recurring symptoms after only 8 games. According to a statement by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Crosby’s doctors now believe the phenom has suffered a “soft tissue injury.” As part of his treatment, Crosby has received injections to help reduce the swelling in his cervical spine. There is no timetable set for Crosby’s return to the ice.

The plight of the Penguins’ hero illustrates just how severe soft tissue injuries can be. Cervical spine swelling, even in the absence of a fracture, is enough to keep one of the greatest hockey players from doing his job. Under Michigan law, however, some insurance companies would argue that Crosby hasn’t suffered a “serious impairment of body function.”

In order to recover non-economic damages suffered as a result of an auto accident in Michigan, an injured person must show an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function that has had an effect on his or her general ability to lead his or her normal, pre-accident life. Had Crosby suffered the exact same injuries in a car crash, you can bet that some unscrupulous insurance adjusters would argue that his injuries aren’t “objectively manifested,” or, even if they are objectively manifested, aren’t “serious” because there is no fracture. The same adjusters might only grudgingly admit that missing a year of work is “an effect on his general ability to lead his normal, pre-accident life.”

Soft tissue injuries can be just as serious as fractures, and in some cases even worse than fractures. If we were to ask Sydney Crosby and his doctors if they felt he suffered a “serious impairment of body function” due to his soft tissue injury, how do you think they would respond?