When the source of pain or discomfort in one’s body is easy to diagnose and verify, the matter can often be resolved quickly and neatly: the individual, a car-crash victim with a broken arm and a concussion, can get compensated for pain and suffering, loss of income, visits to a rehabilitation specialist, pain medication and help with work around the house. But when the pain experienced by that car-crash victim can’t be confirmed by an MRI, CT scan or X-ray, they risk being re-victimized – this time by the insurance company.
Chronic pain, a serious, lingering sensation, commonly becomes a legal matter when it can’t be seen objectively – the sufferer experiences subjective pain for at least a few months after a traumatic event like a car accident (sometimes the disorder can arise without any discernible reason). While medical experts have the tools to diagnose cancer-induced pain or rheumatoid arthritis, for example, other disorders like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome rely heavily on patient complaints and symptoms.
Because the potential for misdiagnosis or error exists in the second case, insurance companies are sceptical of accident victims, often accusing them of fabricating or exaggerating their chronic pain symptoms. But experienced legal experts understand the very real and life-altering problems associated with chronic pain disorders like fibromyalgia.
Pain and discomfort can make ordinary tasks unbearable, leaving the person out of work altogether or forcing them to train for a different, less desirable position. Determining when pain becomes too much for a certain job, how to deal with long-term disability payments or which jobs a person can do, has always involved complex legal and medical examinations.
New ways of looking at and diagnosing fibromyalgia may help present its effects more clearly and reduce the chances for misdiagnosis. One proposed change includes moving from the traditional tender points test (established in 1990) to a wider ranging test that takes into account symptom severity and symptoms beyond pain like chronic fatigue, dizziness, depression and trouble sleeping and thinking clearly.
To make a compelling claim that accurately depicts physical and psychological pain, chronic pain sufferers need an experienced legal team that also understands the ever-changing medical landscape.