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Injury claims a matter of pain

women with back and neck acheIt makes sense to want to get to the bottom of why you are still having pain months or a year or more after a crash.

You are told by your doctor that it is “just” a soft tissue injury; you will recover in short order.

The ICBC adjuster refers to your injury as minor, as not being serious, because it is “just” a soft tissue injury.  If there were a fracture, well, that’s serious.

When the pain doesn’t go away, your doctor refers you for an x-ray.  Maybe something was missed.  Maybe there’s something on an x-ray that would explain why you are still having pain.  Perhaps there’s a compression fracture.

The x-ray shows that you have some wear and tear, known in the medical world as “degeneration”.  It’s something that occurs over time as we age.  Your spine looks no different than if the crash had never occurred.

You are referred for a CT scan or an MRI.  This scan shows that one or two of your disks, those things between the vertebrae in your spine, are bulging.  Some degree of disk bulging is normal, though.  For example, I am blessed with zero spinal symptoms, but if you scanned my spine you might well find some disk bulging.

Perhaps it’s your facet joints, which are the joints between your vertebrae.  Perhaps those joints were damaged in the crash.  It’s not something that shows up on a scan, so you are referred for diagnostic nerve blocks, i.e. injections into the joints.

You are desperate to get to the bottom of why you are still having pain.

One reason for your desperation is validation.  You have been told that if you “just” have a soft tissue injury, you should have healed long ago.  Your friends and family keep asking you what has been diagnosed, as if “soft tissue injury” is not a serious diagnosis.  Your ICBC adjuster is dismissive about your claim because it’s nothing but “soft tissue”.

Another reason for your desperation is the hope, becoming faint as time marches on, that if something specific can be identified as the cause of your pain, maybe something can be done to fix it.

When nothing is found, the blame shifts squarely on you and the natural wear and tear that your spine has undergone over your lifetime to date.  It’s the typical opinion of the kinds of orthopaedic surgeons who ICBC hires on a regular basis to defend injury claims.  You had a soft tissue injury; that injury healed long ago; your ongoing pain is the result of your spinal degeneration.

You accept ICBC’s $6,500.00 offer, being near the top of the scale (so they say) of what they pay as compensation for a soft tissue injury, because you don’t know any better.

The reality is that ICBC’s offer is so low that it hasn’t even made it onto the scale.  There’s no judge in British Columbia who would award so little for an injury resulting in permanent symptoms.

The reality is that getting to the bottom of a precise physiological explanation for ongoing pain is not terribly relevant in a personal injury claim.  If you did not have that pain before a crash, the onset of pain coincidentally started immediately after the crash, and the pain has become permanent, I challenge a medical specialist to credibly say that your pain wasn’t caused by the crash.

That’s all that matters in your legal claim.  And it doesn’t matter if the natural wear and tear of your spine might have played a part in causing your injury to become permanent.  If you wouldn’t have that pain had the crash not occurred; if that spinal degeneration would likely have continued to be asymptomatic (as it has been for me) had the crash not occurred, you are entitled to full compensation for your losses.

Published April 25, 2013 in the Kelowna Capital News

Published April 25, 2013 on Kelowna Capital News Online