Working After A Car Crash Injury. Will It Hurt?
"Attorney Barry Regar, will going back to work too soon after my auto accident hurt my case?" I can't tell you how many times over the years that I have been handling personal injury cases that my clients have asked me that exact question. My usual answer is that if the doctor releases the patient to work and the patient feels able to work then returning to work has a neutral affect on the lawsuit. I also advise my clients that if the client legitimately feels physically unable to work because of increased pain with working then the client should not return to work and should seek another medical opinion about working.
Income loss is one of the elements of damage that a person injured by the negligence of another can recover as part of the injury claim or lawsuit. However the income loss claim must have some medical basis for the inability to work after an accident. Some accident victims unfortunately believe that just being in a fender bender will allow them to stop working for a period of time and be paid for the income loss by the insurance company. That mindset is not based on the realities of personal injury litigation. At Barry Regar APLC we seek to have our clients work restrictions documented by solid medical opinion when available. I have always encouraged my clients to return to work when recommended by their doctors and to continue to work unless pain or other symptoms become too overwhelming. At that point the client should return to the doctor for additional evaluation and testing to rule out a more serious injury than first diagnosed by the treating doctor.
I have actually observed many of my clients feeling better after returning to work. I have suspected the reasons for this phenomenon; but have now just read an article in the June issue of Current Biology that documents the benefits of working with pain. A new German study has proven that work distraction can reduce pain and that it is not purely psychological. They found that distraction causes a physiological group of events that operate on the brain and the spinal cord.
The researchers used special MRIs to view the spinal cords of twenty men as they were caused to have heat applied to their arms producing pain. During this heat application the men were asked to complete either a difficult or an easy memory task. The test subjects who were given the hard memory assignment perceived less pain than when they performed the less difficult memory task. Also the MRIs picked up less activity in the spinal cord with the hard mental task compared to the easier test. The researchers concluded that fewer pain signals were being relayed to the brain during the harder memory test.
The authors of the study opined that distraction could be releasing natural opioids which are known to play a vital role in pain relief. When the participants were given a drug that blocks the effects of opioids and were asked to repeat the testing they found that the distraction was notably less effective at reducing the pain which supports the opinion that distraction operates as a pain reducer in part through opioids.
Earlier studies have demonstrated that distraction is very effective in reducing our perception of pain. Some of the studies revealed that distraction interferes with pain perception when other experiments indicated that one's pain increases when it becomes the focus of our attention.
When my car crash clients who have chronic pain that has been resistant to conservative treatment or even surgery enter a pain management program in the Coachella Valley that utilizes guided imagery, cognitive therapy, or Yoga, they sometimes find relief from their chronic pain cycle.