CRPS – Breaking the Barriers
Any CRPS case normally sees the Claimant who is struggling to deal with this alien condition of often unimaginable pain called a liar by the Defendant. They are often told it is all in their head. They are told they are exaggerating things, or that it is being caused by something totally different. Sometimes they are not assisted in that the medical experts that the Defendants instruct help to accentuate these wrongs and place the burden on the CRPS sufferer who sometimes even begins to doubt themselves. Unfortunately we begin to know what to expect with certain experts.
Often Judges similarly have little understanding of the condition, especially if the Judge is more frequently faced with dealing with Fundamental Dishonesty arguments in lower value cases. What is this condition that the Judge cannot see? If it can’t be seen therefore it can’t be true can it?
I’ve acted for a fair number of CRPS sufferers over the years. Normally I choose not to use the terminology a sufferer of injury as it is quite demeaning, but for all of my CRPS and often other pain clients that is exactly what CRPS is; it is a sufferance that affects every part of their life.
Most of my CRPS clients have had to give up their employment that they were in at the time. They are faced with DWP checks where the ill-informed return to work adviser says they are suited to a role that simply is unmanageable with CRPS. They try to give it a go because if they do not they will lose access to state financial support. It is only recently that hidden illnesses are becoming fully understood, yet CRPS is still somewhat behind.
Not one of my CRPS clients has ever said they are pleased they have the condition. They all hate the condition. They want to get back to work, often they try to their detriment. They are however universal in saying they are frustrated about the lack of knowledge and the lack of funding put into researching this condition.
Perhaps there is some sympathy for the employer as frequently the CRPS suffer who was originally injured at work, sustained a relatively minor injury and the employer while accepting they were at fault probably expected the Claimant back at work within 6 months.
Similarly for the Council where a person slipped or tripped and sustained an injury which would normally be healed in 6 months; or the accidental extravasation injury in a hospital setting.
Normally these are avoidable but long term minimally affective injuries. If however the Claimant is unfortunate enough to develop CRPS, the minor injury will often become a 6 or 7 figure claim and potentially one with provisional damages.
The causation of CRPS is still not well understood. It is believed that it is a neurological injury. It is not a psychiatric injury despite what will be alleged by the Defendants. It frequently presents as a totally disproportionate pain response to a relatively minor originating injury. For a CRPS suffer it is life changing.
My recent cases have involved a laceration through the gastrocnemius muscle, and a simple crush fracture to the hand. In the opinion of both the plastic and orthopaedic surgeons responsible for their primary treatment the recovery was uneventful within 12 months, yet both of these clients developed CRPS. Both experienced indescribable pain. Both had permanent throbbing pain and sensitivity to touch. For one of them a cat brushing the affected limb could almost reduce him to tears. Temperature and vibration intolerance was particularly noted yet the Defendant insisted on asking the client to travel more than 100 miles each time to medical appointments and would object to paying first class travel, not that it reduced vibration, rather it gave a little more space and reduced the number of people who would stare and increase the psychological impact of the condition.
Many CRPS sufferers suffer relationship problems and will often cease sleeping in the same bed as their partner due to the fear of accidentally brushing against them. Interaction with their children is reduced.
Added to this is that when CRPS is diagnosed there is a 5-7% chance of bilateral spread. Just when you think the condition is nasty enough, it rears up in a previously unaffected limb!
Some Claimant’s reach the point that they will consider amputation. I am pleased that none of my clients have reached that point yet, but I am sure it will come. There are surgeons who offer this perhaps a little more readily than they should as neuropathic pain may not cease following amputation.
The myriad of pain, frustration and the ready destruction of a sufferers lifestyle makes me pose the simple question, which perhaps a Defendant needs to reflect on, who on earth would choose a condition like CRPS? Defendants, think about it if the Claimant is the fraud that you believe them to be, there are a lot easier and less restrictive illnesses out there.
CRPS is a heavily restrictive condition. It is real. It is not simply in the head of the Claimant. Every CRPS sufferer I have acted for would if you could reverse time, wish to never have developed the condition.
The Clinical Negligence and Catastrophic Injury Team at Curtis Law is led by Jerard Knott, Senior Associate Solicitor, an APIL Accredited Senior Litigator and Clinical Negligence Specialist. It also includes Lynne Ainsworth, a Law Society Accredited Clinical Negligence Panel Member. We are committed to promoting Patient Safety. The team only acts for Claimants and is dedicated to providing a client care centered high level of service, providing the best possible advice and maximising damages. The department acts on a large number of fatal (including representation at Inquests) and high value cases. The department regularly advises on cases with valuation exceeding £1,000,000. We can be contacted on 01254 297130 or MedNeg@curtislaw.co.uk.
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