Nov 08, 2021

Back and neck injuries are among the most common injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents and chronic pain is an oft debilitating symptom which frequently results from this type of injury.   For some accident victims, their back pain will resolve within a few days or several weeks on its own or with appropriate exercises; but for others, back pain can persist for many years or throughout their entire lives.

Back pain is often characterized by shooting pain or muscle aches; it may also involve radiating pain down the legs; and often, the pain will often worsen with movement, such as standing up, lifting, bending or walking.  According to the Mayo Clinic, the following back pain symptoms are a warning signal that you should seek medical care from your doctor.

  • Persistent pain beyond several weeks
  • Severe pain that doesn’t diminish despite resting the affected area
  • Pain that radiates down one or both legs, particularly below your knees
  • The pain results in weakness, tingling or numbness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • You begin to suffer bladder or bowel problems
  • You have a fever, not explained by another illness

The CDC reports that lower back pain is a leading cause of disability worldwide. Chronic back pain is generally defined as pain that persists for at least 3 months. Many persons who suffer from chronic back pain report that their pain substantially interferes with their ability to do their job, perform necessary chores, and function in many of the activities they previously enjoyed. 

St. Marthe v. O’Connor (2019) is a civil (personal injury) claim involving a 33-year-old man who sustained a back injury when he was struck by a car while cycling to work.  As a result of the accident, the young man suffered a soft-tissue back injury that continued to cause him pain for years after the accident.  The pain interfered with many daily activities as well as his ability to continue working in construction, a job he very much enjoyed.

The pain was largely felt in the right side of the accident victim’s back and prevented him from standing or sitting for extended periods, and significantly interfered with his ability to sleep.  The pain also prevented him from performing work duties and recreational activities without feeling pain and discomfort. Mr. Marthe received good reviews from his employers, who valued his strong work ethic and efforts, but ultimately, his back pain prevented him from performing manual labour, even in a limited capacity.

Mr. St. Marthe was examined by several physicians and attended a chronic pain clinic in the years after the accident.  An anaesthesiologist specializing in chronic pain treatment performed injections in the patient’s midback and concluded that he suffers from “very typical spinal myofascial pain on the right-hand side”.  Mr. St. Marthe’s doctors, including a prominent orthopedic surgeon, believed that his condition is permanent; he will likely feel pain everyday (particularly as he always enjoyed being active); and his pain will continue to be exacerbated by physical activity.  Accordingly, Mr. St. Marthe was advised to seek re-training in some form of sedentary work. 

The judge in this case concluded that the accident victim has suffered a permanent and serious impairment of an important physical function, largely because his injury prevents him from working as a construction labourer.  Accordingly, Mr. St. Marthe meets the eligibility requirements for an award of general damages for pain and suffering.  The judge awarded him $70,000 in general damages (minus the statutory deductible) as well as damages for past and future loss of income, and future housekeeping and home maintenance expenses.

There is no question that chronic pain can be debilitating and life-changing.  In addition to limiting mobility and causing significant discomfort, chronic back pain can cause depression and can greatly diminish one’s joy in life because many back pain sufferers anticipate a future where they’re never entirely devoid of pain. 

Chronic pain is also an invisible disability, which can make it easy for some people, including poorly-trained doctors and insurance company representatives, to dismiss the symptoms and suspect the sufferer might be faking or exaggerating their disability.   This is the challenge for persons struggling with chronic pain, who sometimes find that the severity of their chronic pain symptoms is not recognized or believed.  As a result, it can be more difficult to get the financial compensation or disability benefits they are owed for their injury and diminished quality of life.

If you are suffering from a back injury or chronic pain, talk to a knowledgeable Kitchener-Waterloo and area back injury lawyer at Dietrich Law.  We have helped many clients who were the victims of a debilitating car accident or fall, and will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.


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