Chronic Pain Conditions

You were injured in an auto accident. The pain never resolved completely. In fact, a lot of time has passed, and the pain is worse.

Traumatic injuries like auto accidents can cause chronic pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome (also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome). These conditions are nebulous, hard to diagnose. There is no simple test to confirm whether you have a chronic pain condition.

Insurance companies know this. They often resist such claims aggressively. They may deny the claim, or offer only a small nuisance value amount that would not even cover medical expenses, forcing you to consider litigation. In litigation, the insurance company will retain medical and other experts to imply, and all but say, that it is all in your head, or worse, that you are a malingerer.

But there is hope. What you can do?

First and foremost, keep trying to get better. Do not give up. Go to medical specialists. Keep going and follow their advice and regimen.

Next, contact a personal injury attorney. The insurance industry will fight you. Don’t fight them alone. Your job is to get better. The attorney fights for you.

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Pocket Brief

Because they are difficult to medically diagnose, chronic pain syndromes present challenges in proving damages and causation. A few cases help illustrate this.

The plaintiff alleging chronic pain syndrome must present experts testifying under oath at trial (not merely producing medical records) that to a reasonable degree of medical certainty the injury '"probably"' or '"more likely than not'" caused the chronic pain syndrome (as opposed to the accident or injury "possibly" caused it).[1]

A doctor’s testimony that it was “possible that her fibromyalgia may have been worsened by the car accident, or even potentially brought on” by the car accident does not meet the evidentiary standard.[2]

In Grant v. Boccia, the plaintiff was injured in a car accident. The case went to trial where the injured plaintiff intended to produce an expert to testify that the car accident caused fibromyalgia. The trial court did not allow the expert witness to testify, ruling that the testimony did not meet legal standards for scientific evidence. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial judge’s ruling.[3]

The holding in Grant was later overturned by a later state Supreme Court case.[4] Nevertheless, the line of cases illustrate that causation in chronic pain cases can be challenging.

[1] Fabrique v. Choice Hotels Int'l, Inc., 144 Wn.App. 675, 685, 687-88, 183 P.3d 1118(2008)(quoting Ugolini v. States Marine Lines, 71 Wn.2d 404, 407, 429 P.2d 213 (1967)).

[2] Yeager v. O’Keefe, No. 48189-8-II (Wash. Ct. App. Div. 2, March 7, 2017) (Treating doctor’s testimony that the car accident may have triggered or worsened plaintiff’s fibromyalgia does not meet the standard of proof.).

[3] Grant v. Boccia, 133 Wn.App. 176, 137 P.3d 20, (Wash.App. Div. 3 2006).

[4] Anderson v. Akzo Nobel Coating, 172 Wn.2d 593, 612, 260 P.3d 857, 861(2011).