The Impact of Lawsuits on Patient Outcomes in Whiplash Syndrome
In our litigious society, it is very common that if a person develops neck pain due to a whiplash injury in a personal injury accident, there will be a lawsuit. Logically, we understand that the greater the pain and impairment, the larger the legal settlement might be. Patients may exaggerate or fabricate their symptoms in a small percentage of cases. The question remains as to whether the potential for financial settlement from a legal action can unconsciously prolong or worsen the injured party’s pain. This is referred to as “secondary gain,” and it is unconscious, not fraudulent.
Scientific studies have shown that personal injury litigation does not adversely affect patient outcomes. In 1983, Drs. Norris and Watt reviewed 61 patients who were treated for whiplash injuries, 41 of whom had personal injury lawsuits. They found that the patients had no change in their symptoms after their claims were settled. A follow-up study of the same patients ten years later revealed that years after the litigation had been settled, only 12% had completely recovered, and 48% had pain that interfered with their normal daily activities.
In 1993, Drs. Partner and Raymakers performed a study in which they re-evaluated patients they had seen previously for legal opinions, not for treatment, 8 years after the initial consultation. They concluded that the lawsuits had not influenced the speed or degree of recovery.
Yet another group of researchers analyzed a group of patients who were referred for treatment by their attorneys because they were not getting better. The patients were treated with strengthening exercises, body mechanics training, medications, spinal injections, and occasionally psychotherapy. No patient needed surgery. Most of the patients did well, significantly improving pain and function. Although most patients still had mild pain at the end of treatment, it was not enough to interfere with their daily lives. These very favorable results occurred, although none of the lawsuits had been settled.
If you have been in an accident and have pain, even if it is minor, consult with a doctor who has experience treating accident injuries. Our professional staff has over 20 years of experience managing Personal Injury cases in Miami-Dade County.
Author: Dr. Gary Robertson is a 1989 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic. He has over 20 years of experience treating patients with accident injuries and has post-graduate training in Whiplash and Spinal Trauma, Spinal Biomechanics, and Spinal Rehabilitation. Dr Robertson serves as the President of the Dade County Chiropractic Society.