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Shapiro & Appleton

Proving Pain Always a Challenge for Plaintiffs and Attorneys in Personal Injury Cases

The Wall Street Journal asked on July 5, 2011, "Doctors' Challenge: How Real Is That Pain?" The question is equally valid for my Virginia Beach, VA-based personal injury law firm colleagues and I. Like physicians, nurse practitioners, psychologists and pharmacists who deal with patients everyday and try to help them improve their health and lives, my fellow plaintiffs' attorneys and I work everyday to assist people injured in accidents or on the job due to someone else's or a company's negligence with receiving fair compensation for the pain they often still suffer.

To a man and woman, the doctors interviewed for the WSJ article said that determining how much pain a patient felt often proved difficult. Response to pain signals varies from person to person, and psychological factors such as stress or depression can increase a patient's discomfort. Compounding that complication, physical pain can also cause mantal anguish, creating a seemingly inescapable spiral of pain and suffering.

Even when it should be obvious that a person's report of severe acute or disabling chronic pain is legitimate, concerns about abuse of narcotic painkillers and the stigma attached to limiting physical or social activities because of pain can get in the way of providing or seeking adequate pain treatment.

Because reports of short-term pain and long-lasting pain, as well the amount of pain a person feels, are always to some extent subjective, insurance companies and defendants in personal injury lawsuits almost always try to convince juries, judges and parties in settlement negotiations that a plaintiff is exaggerating his or her pain claims. Overcoming challenges to evidence for an injured person's pain is one of the most important jobs for my fellow layers and me. We do as much as we can to collect every piece of objective evidence we can to support our client.

X-rays that show broken bones, MRIs indicating pinched nerves and herniated spinal discs, and notes made by treating physicians in a patient's medical record all constitute strong evidence that our client was or remains in pain. Expert testimony collected in depositions or solicited from a witness at trial also helps us prove pain claims.

Medical evidence matters in almost every personal injury lawsuit, whether the plaintiff has suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident, developed cancer due to daily exposure to diesel fumes while working for a railroad or been electrocuted by faulty wiring in a hotel room. Ensuring that such evidence is as objective as possible is essential.

EJL
Richard N. Shapiro
Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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