No two motor vehicle accidents, or victims, are alike. Each accident presents unique challenges for those involved. Some victims will suffer more than others or take longer to recover from their injuries. This is especially so in the cases of victims who suffer from chronic pain following an accident.  

Nearly 8 million Canadians suffer from chronic pain, and it commonly arises following motor vehicle accidents. But as we have previously noted, “invisible conditions”, including chronic pain, are often misunderstood and victims are treated unfairly when attempting to obtain compensation for their injuries. 

This post will discuss how chronic pain is defined in the context of motor vehicle accident injuries, how the Canadian courts have treated these injuries, challenges that chronic conditions pose for victims claiming damages or disability coverage, and tips for victims. If you have been injured and are suffering from chronic pain symptoms, speak with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers today for more information on your rights and entitlement to compensation or long-term disability benefits. 

What is Chronic Pain? 

Chronic pain is typically defined as pain that continues for longer than three months; often, chronic pain has no obvious cause and continues long after an injury has healed or a condition has been treated. 

Symptoms of chronic pain include – unsurprisingly – pain, discomfort, soreness, and tightness. Victims of chronic pain often experience fatigue, sleeplessness, disability, depression, and anxiety alongside their chronic pain symptoms. 

How Have Canadian Courts Treated Chronic Pain Cases? 

Canadian courts have long grappled with how to handle cases involving a claim for chronic pain and, in 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada had this to say in Nova Scotia (Workers’ Compensation Board) v. Martin at para. 1: 

…There is no authoritative definition of chronic pain.  It is, however, generally considered to be pain that persists beyond the normal healing time for the underlying injury or is disproportionate to such injury, and whose existence is not supported by objective findings at the site of the injury under current medical techniques. Despite this lack of objective findings, there is no doubt that chronic pain patients are suffering and in distress, and that the disability they experience is real.  While there is at this time no clear explanation for chronic pain, recent work on the nervous system suggests that it may result from pathological changes in the nervous mechanisms that result in pain continuing and non-painful stimuli being perceived as painful. These changes, it is believed, may be precipitated by peripheral events, such as an accident, but may persist well beyond the normal recovery time for the precipitating event. Despite this reality, since chronic pain sufferers are impaired by a condition that cannot be supported by objective findings, they have been subjected to persistent suspicions of malingering on the part of employers, compensation officials and even physicians. 

While Canadian courts cannot diagnose a person with chronic pain, claimants may find comfort in knowing that our courts recognize its existence and are willing to compensate victims appropriately.   

Why These Claims Can be Difficult to Advance 

If Canada’s highest court has acknowledged the existence of chronic pain, then why do so many claimants face difficulty obtaining long-term disability benefits or advancing their claims? We have previously identified several factors that work against claimants with invisible injuries, such as an increase in claims including chronic pain, difficulty in providing “evidence” of these injuries, and stigmas surrounding invisible conditions, such as mental health conditions and chronic pain. 

What Should Injured Parties Do Following a Motor Vehicle Accident? 

Claimants suffering from chronic pain should prioritize their well-being, above all else. Seek treatment for your injuries and follow your healthcare provider’s treatment recommendations. This step will not only aid in your recovery but will also provide evidence of your condition if you bring a claim or seek disability benefits. You should also track your symptoms, feelings, and recovery using a “pain diary”. Take detailed notes regarding how you are feeling, the severity of your pain, and its impact on your day-to-day activities. 

When you are ready, speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer for guidance on proving the existence of your chronic pain. For more guidance on what to do in the immediate aftermath of a motor vehicle accident, see our tips here.

Contact Experienced Long-Term Disability & Personal Injury Firm Tierney Stauffer LLP Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay 

While our society (including the Canadian court system) has come a long way in understanding and accepting chronic pain, frequent denial of long-term disability benefits or compensation for these conditions shows that we haven’t come far enough in understanding people who suffer from invisible illnesses and giving them the support they need to get better. Fighting an invisible battle is difficult and being denied long-term disability benefits when you are struggling can leave claimants feeling completely lost. 

At Tierney Stauffer LLP, we have been representing clients to reinstate or have their long-term disability claims approved for over thirty years. Our personal injury lawyers understand the hardships you may be facing if your insurer denies your claim and our disability team will take swift and effective action to see that your benefits are approved as soon as possible. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a consultation with a member of our team. 


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