Life Expectancy

Medico-legal guidance for solicitors

Life expectancy is defined as an estimate of the number of years an individual is expected to survive, based on the individual’s age and other factors like gender and birth year.

NRC Medical Experts are experienced in considering the many variables when coming to a life expectancy estimate, particularly in someone with a severe disability. Life expectancy can be unreliable and difficult science and often, bound to be wrong. This is why it may be considered an art, instead. However, it is still essential in medico-legal cases, especially in scenarios of cerebral palsy and traumatic neurological injuries.

The life expectancy of an individual increases as they move beyond childhood, which has a higher mortality rate. Females tend to have a higher life expectancy than males. There is also variation in lifespan between different countries, for instance, Japan and Switzerland have been reported to have the highest life expectancy while the lowest is recorded in African countries. These are mainly attributed to the difference in the countries access to health care, job opportunities and diet.

While a great many factors contribute to a reduction in life expectancy and increased mortality, a longer life does not necessarily mean a healthier life. The leading cause of death and disability in the world today are neurological disorders. Ironically, one of the main reasons for the increase in neurological disorders is longer life expectancy. When people live longer, they are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases.

Five causes of neurological impairment that significantly impact life expectancy, of special interest to our experts at NRC Medical Experts, are mobility, swallowing, epilepsy, continence and cognitive function. According to multiple studies, the best predictor of reduced life span is decreased mobility. This is mostly due to the increased risk of developing pressure sores in immobile patients. Decreased feeding, tube feeding, and incontinence are other contributing factors for higher mortality.

In the English and Welsh, and increasingly Scottish, legal systems now rely on Periodical Payment Orders (PPOs) which to large extent have done away with the need for a life expectancy estimate as the agreed sums will be paid for life no matter how short or long that life may be. However, an estimate of life expectancy continues to be essential in many medico-legal cases. This need arises when the calculation of compensation is required in medicolegal cases – whether to claim compensation, fund neurorehabilitation or fund lifetime care.

NRC Medical Experts are experienced in producing court reports and medico-legal witness testimony in legal issues concerning estimations of life-expectancy.

Meet our experts specialising in life-expectancy and contact us to arrange a complimentary pre-instruction conversation today.

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