Chronic pain syndrome is a long term pain disorder that can occur after a car accident or a personal injury. The difficulty with diagnosing chronic pain is that often tests, such as MRIs or CT scans, do not reveal a cause for the pain. However, if chronic pain disability can be proven to be the result of a car accident or personal injury caused by someone else’s negligence, injured victims may have a legal right to compensation.
WHAT IS CHRONIC PAIN?
Chronic pain generally refers pain that persists past normal healing time, lasting for more than three to six months. This condition affects an estimated 20% of the population worldwide.
Acute pain is a symptom of an underlying health condition (i.e. injury to a muscle or ligament) and its duration is relatively short. Chronic pain is different from acute pain in two ways. It lasts longer than six months and it is pain that occurs in addition to the pain of the original health condition. This type of pain is such that it becomes independent of the underlying injury or illness where the pain originated. It is not simply a long-lasting version of acute pain. Chronic pain is a type of pain that involves the whole nervous system of the body. Thus, attempts to cure the original injury or illness using surgery, injections or narcotics often fail as they do not address the cause of the chronic pain.
Individuals suffering from chronic pain can have physical effects, such as tense muscles, limited mobility, lack of energy, and appetite changes. They may also suffer from emotional effects, such as depression, anger, anxiety, and fear of re-injury.
ACCUSATIONS OF MALINGERING OR EXAGGERATION BY THE ACCIDENT VICTIM
When it comes to pursuing a personal injury claim, those suffering from chronic pain syndrome may face an uphill battle as victims suffering from this type of condition may be accused of faking or exaggerating. As diagnostic tests are limited in confirming these conditions, insurance doctors may deny the legitimacy of the injury as they are unable to identify it on “objective testing”. Insurance companies may use this evidence to avoid paying out benefits and damages.
Those suffering from chronic pain syndrome often face attacks on their credibility and sincerity, making a legal battle more stressful and lengthy.
The Honourable Justice Gonthier, writing on behalf of the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of Martin v. Worker’s Compensation Board of Nova Scotia, wrote:
…there is no doubt that chronic pain patients are suffering and in distress, and that the disability they experience is real. While there is at this time no clear explanation for chronic pain, recent work on the nervous system suggests that it may result from pathological changes in the nervous mechanisms that result in pain continuing and non-painful stimuli being perceived as painful. These changes, it is believed, may be precipitated by peripheral events, such as an accident, but may persist well beyond the normal recovery time for the precipitating event. Despite this reality, since chronic pain sufferers are impaired by a condition that cannot be supported by objective findings, they have been subjected to persistent suspicions of malingering on the part of employers, compensation officials and even physicians.
CHRONIC PAIN AND DEPRESSION
Accident victims that are suffering from chronic pain are three times more likely to suffer from depression than the general population. These individuals often experience a vicious cycle as the pain causes depression, and depression can also cause pain. This type of cycle can become completely unbearable.
Symptoms of chronic pain and depression may impact the accident victim’s ability to be involved in relationships, maintain employment, or participate in activities previously enjoyed. Furthermore, the mental suffering and financial hardship may result in deeper depression, stress and anxiety.
Those suffering from chronic pain and depression may experience the following symptoms:
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, desperation or irritability;
- Lethargy or feelings of being unmotivated;
- Sleeping too much or too little;
- The inability to focus;
- Reduced mental capacity and memory loss;
- Loss of interest in things, activities or people you previously cared about; and/or
- Thoughts of death and suicide.
The legal team at Cuming & Gillespie LLP Lawyers recommend that those that are suffering depression as a result of chronic pain injuries take the following steps:
- In cases of contemplation of death or suicide, it is essential to reach out to a suicide prevention service such as the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642 or in an emergency situation call 911 for immediate help;
- Talk to someone, either a friend or family member, but it is important to seek out a healthcare professional as soon as possible to deal with the depressive symptoms you are experiencing;
- Build a support network with friends and family members and ask for their help;
- Avoid triggers that bring upon depressive episodes; and
- Exercise to reduce stress and release endorphins and use stress reduction techniques such as yoga, massage, long baths or activities that can improve your mood.
If you or a loved one have suffered chronic pain as a result of someone else’s negligence, the experienced personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP can help evaluate your specific case to determine whether you have a valid claim. It is important that you call us promptly so we can help you understand your rights and the potential to recover compensation for your injuries. Contact our office online or at 403-571-0555 for a free consultation. We look forward to helping you obtain the compensation that you deserve.