In 2013, a Pennsylvania driver was stopped on a road when a box truck rear-ended her car. In the days and weeks after the collision, the driver complained of neck and back pain—otherwise known as “whiplash.” The pain got progressively worse, until two years later, when she was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain syndrome. A jury recently found that the negligent driver was liable for the woman’s onset of fibromyalgia and awarded her damages.
In the previous post, we looked how an accident can compound a victim’s pre-existing condition, and why a negligent driver can still be liable for this pain. But, as we explained, pre-existing conditions can cut both ways, because insurance companies often use them against a claimant.
Fibromyalgia presents another complicated issue on top of this discussion of pre-existing conditions. Fibromyalgia can be a debilitating, painful disease, but it remains a mysterious one. Sometimes, it sets in for no apparent reason, but some studies have linked the onset (or worsening) of fibromyalgia to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and collisions. And it may be years after an event, before symptoms manifest. Further, there is no cure, so a person with fibromyalgia may have resulting outrageous medical expenses to try to alleviate the pain.
With the murkiness of the condition, an insurance company may counter a plaintiff’s claim of fibromyalgia by finding an expert who denies the existence of a link between the disease and trauma. Some experts will even deny the existence of the disease altogether.
In the case referenced above, the jury concluded, based off the testimony of an expert rheumatologist, that the collision caused the plaintiff’s fibromyalgia, despite the fact the fibromyalgia didn’t set in until long after the accident occurred.
This case shows that, despite the need for more research, it is possible to prove that a car crash, or other traumatic episode, caused or worsened a victim’s fibromyalgia. Which is important, as its sufferers know that the physical, mental and financial pain are very real.
If you’ve been in a car accident or collision of some kind and are experiencing mysterious pain, contact our offices for a consultation.