Experts believe car accidents can cause fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions, and there is a precedent for crash victims to recover compensation as a result. Fibromyalgia symptoms often begin after significant physical or psychological trauma, such as a collision. Doctors often ask patients if they experienced any recent traumatic events as a part of the diagnostic process.
Physical or emotional stress or post-traumatic stress related to a crash could trigger the onset of fibromyalgia or worsen symptoms for someone who already has the condition. They could recover financial compensation as part of the car accident case. If you have more localized pain, you could have chronic myofascial pain syndrome. You can also recover damages if you link this diagnosis to your crash.
What Is Fibromyalgia, and How Is it Related to Car Accidents?
According to Mayo Clinic, fibromyalgia refers to a disorder that causes widespread, chronic musculoskeletal pain. While the current understanding is not yet fully developed, researchers generally believe the body of those with fibromyalgia processes pain signals differently, amplifying the sensations.
In addition to a dull, widespread, aching pain that lasts for three months or longer, those with fibromyalgia often have related symptoms. These include:
Many people with fibromyalgia experience extreme tenderness in some regions of the body. This symptom is so common that it was initially part of the diagnostic criteria for the disorder. However, this presents diagnostic challenges since each individual feels varying pain levels when a doctor presses a pain point.
Today, doctors ask people who could have fibromyalgia if they have pain in four of five larger body areas.
Those with fibromyalgia report extreme fatigue even with extended sleep. To make matters worse, many people living with fibromyalgia do not sleep well because of unmanaged pain. Others deal with co-occurring sleep disorders, including sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. In addition, some people struggle with daily self-care activities because of their extreme fatigue.
Decreased Cognitive Ability
Aside from their physical pain, one of the most concerning symptoms those with fibromyalgia report is decreased cognitive abilities. They struggle to concentrate, remember, and focus when necessary. Known as “fibro fog,” this makes it difficult to work, manage chores, or run a household.
Women, seniors, people for whom fibromyalgia runs in the family, and those with certain other conditions have an increased risk of fibromyalgia.
These associated conditions include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Interstitial cystitis and other bladder conditions
- Temporomandibular joint issues (TMJ)
- Anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders
- Postural tachycardia syndrome
How Do Car Accidents Cause Fibromyalgia?
While researchers still have no solid conclusions about what triggers fibromyalgia and what causes symptoms, many researchers believe that specific types of nerve stimulation cause a change inside the brain of those at risk for the condition. This change leads to a significant increase in pain signals traveling up the spinal cord to the brain.
Researchers identified four common causes or contributors to the development of fibromyalgia:
#1. Genetic Factors
Fibromyalgia appears to have a genetic component. Those with family members with the disorder are much more likely to develop it themselves. This leads researchers to assume genetic mutations could play a role.
Certain viruses and infections may cause the disorder or aggravate fibromyalgia symptoms. Researchers are unclear on this link, but the infections could include the hepatitis C virus, HIV, and Lyme disease.
#3. Physical Trauma
The physical trauma and injuries associated with a significant accident could trigger fibromyalgia. Here, car accidents could play a role. Researchers believe physical trauma during a crash, assault, or another incident could affect the brain’s neurotransmitters and alter pain signals.
#5. Psychological Trauma
Evidence suggests that prolonged or intense psychological stress could cause fibromyalgia or worsen the condition’s symptoms.
These factors support the theory that car accidents cause fibromyalgia and other related conditions. Several studies, including those published in Traffic Injury Prevention, support these findings. Researchers observe that a car accident can act as a major stressor on the body, disrupting normal nervous system function and sensory processing.
Crashes can also worsen symptoms for those who already have the disorder.
How Can I Prove My Fibromyalgia Occurred Because of My Crash?
Unlike a broken arm or severe laceration, fibromyalgia symptoms do not necessarily develop immediately. Those with fibromyalgia may not recognize symptoms in the first days or even weeks after a crash. Getting a diagnosis presents the first hurdle to proving that your car accident caused your fibromyalgia.
Because the condition is complex and misunderstood, getting a diagnosis requires ruling out several other conditions. This creates another hurdle because you must have a diagnosis to claim the related damages. Additionally, there is a deadline for suing an at-fault driver in a South Carolina crash case.
One good option for proving your car accident caused fibromyalgia and you suffered related losses is to work with a personal injury lawyer familiar with this condition and these cases.
They have access to the resources necessary to prove your case, including:
- Your medical records
- Experts to analyze your records and discuss your condition
- Experts to link fibromyalgia to the trauma you experienced in the crash
- Documentation of your related expenses and losses
An attorney knows how to document your injuries and damages, whether your fibromyalgia occurred due to your crash or you had a pre-existing fibromyalgia diagnosis. They can create a clear link between your crash, diagnosis, symptoms, and how those symptoms affect your everyday life.
Getting a Diagnosis and Beginning Treatment for Fibromyalgia
You need a diagnosis before filing a claim and seeking compensation for your fibromyalgia-related damages. Your diagnosis also allows you to start a treatment regimen as soon as possible. Currently, no cure exists for fibromyalgia, but doctors prescribe medications to manage symptoms and help people live a more normal life.
Getting a diagnosis of fibromyalgia requires meeting the diagnostic guidelines set by the American College of Rheumatology. To meet the criteria, you need to have widespread pain for three months or longer. This pain can occur on both the right and left sides and above and below the waist. While getting a diagnosis seems straightforward, it is not always easy. Many other conditions also cause chronic, widespread pain.
Your doctor will need to rule out:
- Rheumatic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other conditions that cause similar symptoms
- Autoimmune disorders, including multiple sclerosis
- Mental health concerns that can cause dull body aches, including depression
The workup to diagnose fibromyalgia may include a variety of tests, examinations, and bloodwork. Doctors may spread this over several appointments, which could take weeks or months.
You could require:
- A physical exam of your muscles and joints to identify any issues causing pain
- A neurological exam to identify any other causes of your symptoms
- Blood work to rule out other conditions
According to Mayo Clinic, ruling out other conditions could involve additional tests, such as:
- Complete blood count
- Cyclic citrullinated peptide test
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
- Rheumatoid factor
- Thyroid testing
- Anti-nuclear antibody tests
- Celiac serology to rule out celiac disease
- Vitamin D to determine your levels
As you move through this process, discuss your lawsuit timeline with your doctor. They could run several tests simultaneously, and they may push for a diagnosis more quickly if they understand the time constraints in your case.
Holding the At-Fault Driver Legally Responsible for Your Crash Damages
Hiring the right lawyer can prove invaluable to recovering compensation based on your fibromyalgia diagnosis. Your lawyer should listen to your concerns, provide sound advice and guidance, and go to work on your case. In addition, they should work closely with you to identify, document, and seek your related damages, including your future losses related to your diagnosis and symptoms.
Hire a car accident lawyer experienced with these cases. Ideally, seek a lawyer with a strong track record of favorable settlements and verdicts in tough cases. Your lawyer should also have the resources and connections to call in medical experts.
Your attorney should take the following steps to help you hold the at-fault driver legally responsible:
#1. Investigate What Happened
Demonstrating a car accident case almost always requires an investigation, but those involving complex medical diagnoses can prove even more involved. Your attorney must show negligence, fault, and causation like in other collision cases. However, they must also identify and document a link between the crash and your fibromyalgia diagnosis.
#2. Consult With Experts
Proving your case generally requires at least one medical expert. However, your attorney may call in multiple experts. A medical professional can testify about your condition, how it affects your life, what caused it, the treatments you need, and your prognosis. Their testimony can prove crucial if the case goes to trial.
#3. Demand a Fair Payout
Your attorney can approach the at-fault driver’s insurance company with a strong case to support your car accident claim and demand a fair settlement. This generally leads to settlement negotiations in most cases. In addition, many attorneys reach out-of-court settlements for their clients through this process.
#4. File a Lawsuit, If Necessary
Fibromyalgia claims can prove controversial. The insurance company could deny responsibility for your diagnosis even with strong evidence.
If the insurance company refuses to accept your case, your lawyer could take the case to trial. Your attorney should prepare and file your case, then represent you during this process.
Recoverable Damages With a Fibromyalgia Diagnosis
Fibromyalgia does not only affect your body in the days and weeks following a crash like many other injuries would. Instead, you live regularly with the pain, fatigue, brain fog, and other symptoms interfering with your everyday life. Fibromyalgia affects your ability to work, manage physical tasks, and even handle jobs that require memory or cognitive function.
This often leads to depression, frustration, and anxiety. At the same time, many people do not understand the condition or outright deny it exists. This worsens the mental health of many who live with symptoms.
With your attorney, you can consider all these hardships when determining your recoverable damages and the losses. Your recovery could include:
#1. Medical Bills, Current and Future
This includes the cost of diagnosis, treatment, and any psychological care you may need due to your trauma or diagnosis. It also covers future medical care and support for your disorder and other injuries.
#2. Lost Income
If you missed income because of your injuries-salary, hourly pay, commission, tips, or other losses-these losses can constitute part of your damages. If your fibromyalgia makes it difficult or impossible to return to your previous work or work the same hours as before, seek compensation for these losses.
#3. Property Damages
This includes the repair or replacement of your vehicle.
#4. Intangible Damages
They could include physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, scarring and disfigurement, diminished quality of life, and loss of enjoyment of life.
The intangible damages available for fibromyalgia and other life-altering, long-term conditions can prove substantial, even if you did not suffer additional injuries. Therefore, your attorney could seek ample compensation for your disorder’s widespread effects on so many aspects of your life.
Act Quickly to Protect Your Right to Recover Compensation
One of the most difficult parts of recovering compensation for fibromyalgia caused by a car accident is the tight timeline that applies to these cases. While South Carolina provides up to three years to sue an at-fault driver or another liable party under South Carolina law, three years is not very long when you consider the months or years it could take to get an accurate diagnosis.
Contact a South Carolina car accident law firm as early as you can following your crash. They may go to work gathering evidence in your case immediately. First, however, you should discuss your symptoms with your lawyer. They can wait until you reach maximum medical improvement, have a good idea of your prognosis, and fully understand your condition before demanding a payout or suing.
Bert Louthian has been practicing law in Columbia with his father, Herb, since 1985. After receiving his Juris Doctorate from the University of South Carolina, Bert launched his legal career in his father’s firm. With 80 years of legal experience between them, Louthian Law, P.A. remains Family-Owned and Family-Focused.
Bert understands that when life goes wrong – when you or someone you love gets hurt or suffers a loss, it can feel like nothing will ever be right or fair again. He gets up and goes to work every day to prove that feeling wrong – and does everything in his power to make things right again.