What Does a CRPS Diagnosis Mean For Patients Long Term?
A CRPS diagnosis can be a relief to many people. How? The answer is simple. Knowing that the pain is real, valid, and lending a name to the pain is a relief. Despite the relief a CRPS diagnosis may bring to a patient’s mental state temporarily, the toll chronic pain takes on the psyche of a patient is immeasurable. Living with CRPS, a disease dubbed “the suicide disease” due to its lack of proven symptom relief, is an endless nightmare of doctors and treatments that lead down the same road. That road is endless pain and suffering both physically and mentally for which there may never be a standard cure.
Why does CRPS cause mental anguish?
For patients, it’s often the emotional and mental anguish due to the intractable pain that they cannot deal with. This is leading to high rates of suicide in the United States and Canada. The knowledge that a patient is going to be in pain–possibly forever–is as debilitating as the physical pain itself. Whether a CRPS diagnosis is due to medical malpractice or an accident (these are causalgia), retaining legal counsel to obtain compensation can ease the financial burden those afflicted with “the suicide disease” face; sometimes for the rest of their lives when left nearly bed bound and unable to support their family the way they once were.
This Shaked Law Resource writeup is a guide to help patients suffering a CRPS diagnosis. We cover everything those suffering CRPS and their families need to know when it comes to the legal side of CRPS. Read on, where we explore the following topics:
- When do CRPS patients need a lawyer?
- What is “step therapy” and does it work for CRPS?
- How the insurance companies are holding pain patients back
- What are the legal options for someone with a potential CRPS case?
When do CRPS patients need a lawyer?
First, a lawyer with years of CRPS experience has the client’s best interest at heart. The answer to whether a person needs a lawyer after CRPS diagnosis lies in whether the diagnosis is due to surgical error, Medical Malpractice, or an accident.
CRPS II, or “causalgia” has a definitive cause for the pain. Although regardless of Type, there is very little in the way of full pain relief for victims. This is why maximum compensation is necessary. Care for a CRPS diagnosis is lifelong. All a patient can do is manage the pain with consistent, expensive treatment.
Rushing clients out the door with a minimal amount of compensation just to say the case was won is not a lawyer with moral standing. A lawyer with Board Certification will never treat their clients as a number. Furthermore, Board Certified lawyers are never “paper pushers” or “claims adjusters”. The latter are those who win thousands of cases simply because they recover some meager amount of compensation. Even if it wasn’t the highest amount for the client!
A lawyer with Board Certification understands the situation their client is in. Thus, they will have compassion for the circumstances. The best Personal Injury lawyers maintain a level head navigating the most difficult cases. Whether the case goes to trial or a settlement is sufficient, a lawyer with experience takes pride in preparation.
Board Certification means a lawyer uphold a high standard of ethics, morals, and professionalism. Board Certification doesn’t come standard with the law degree.
What is “step therapy” and does it work for a CRPS diagnosis?
We published our first CRPS series of articles in 2018. In them, we explored the standard forms of medication doctors prescribe to CRPS patients as initial methods of pain control. Doctors refer to these drugs as “step therapy”. Usually, doctors must prescribe them before experimental treatments or treatments with a high risk of side effects. Insurance companies dictate this, despite alternative reasoning. While these first line pain control methods do sometimes work, not every patient will have success with the first treatment.
In certain cases, insurance companies may require “step therapy” regardless of a drug’s success rate. A “one size fits all” method of treatment is unfair to CRPS patients, specifically. These patients may have a better outcome with pain control techniques tailored to their severe chronic pain, even if it costs the insurance company more money.
The following treatments are first line treatment options for patients suffering from chronic pain:
- NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs treat moderate amounts of pain. Most NSAIDs (without codeine) are available over the counter and are taken according to the instructions on the bottle. Some name brand NSAIDs are Excedrin, Motrin, and Advil. Prescription only NSAIDs include Celebrex, Voltaren-XR, and Ketorolac. Prescription NSAIDs are much stronger and require close monitoring by a physician.
- Anti-seizure medications: While these drugs were once strictly for the treatment of epilepsy, research is now showing doctors that they can effectively provide some relief-of-pain for those with a CRPS diagnosis. Lyrica, Elavil, Pamelor, and Cymbalta are in the group of the anti-seizure medications neurologists prescribe in cases of CRPS. Each case varies and not every case may see relief with anti-seizure medications.
- Opioids: Morphine, Hydrocodone, and Fentanyl are common prescription opioids for severe pain. These are drugs that are highly addictive. A patient and their physician enter into a “Pain Contract” where the patient agrees to abide by their state laws for opioid use. Most states now require “Pain Contracts” or the patient cannot receive the medication.
How are insurance companies harming patients with a CRPS diagnosis?
Even when following an insurance company’s request for step therapy compliance, treatments for CRPS rarely receive full coverage due to the chronic nature of the disease, CRPS requires lifelong treatment. If the insurance company does cover it, there are only certain treatments they will pay for (even after complying with step therapy).
Experimental treatments and newer therapies are usually out of pocket (the patient pays). The medical bills patients sustain by paying out of pocket can be astronomical. The same goes for Pain Management or “PM”. “PM” is a newer form of medicine that has risen to prominence for chronic pain patients over the last couple of decades. These therapies and treatments are financially devastating for patients already out of work due to CRPS pain. Because of this, they continue to suffer for years without the correct medication and therapies that could afford them a better quality of life.
A CRPS diagnosis after Medical Malpractice
Unfortunately, there are victims who suffer the chronic pain of CRPS for the rest of their lives. In these cases, the victim places their trust in medical professionals’ duty of care. The patient may have feelings of loss or isolation after receiving a CRPS diagnosis. Upon learning they could very well be in pain for the rest of their lives, they experience feelings of depression. In Medical Malpractice cases it’s important for the victim to have a Board Certified lawyer on their side.
There is a link between CRPS and Medical Malpractice. In these cases, a surgical error is the reason for the patient’s pain and suffering. If a doctor isn’t upholding a duty of care, this is negligence. Injuring the patient during surgery, leaving a surgical tool inside the patient, or operating on the wrong limb all cause permanent harm. Even something as simple as a routine blood draw has links to CRPS.
What are legal options for someone with a potential CRPS case?
When a lawyer agrees to take a client’s CRPS case, it’s usually because the diagnosis is due to Medical Malpractice. Therefore, the surgeon and the hospital are able to have litigation brought against them for their negligence. What happens next? When a patient afflicted by CRPS has secured a lawyer with experience in bringing successful CRPS lawsuits to verdict, the next step that follows the mountain of medical documentation and “Discovery”, there may be a Letter of Protection.
Board Certified Personal Injury lawyers are in the trenches. They know that behind the most complex cases are the victims who need justice the most.
Each case is different. So, as always, we encourage our readers to sit down for a consultation with a Board Certified lawyer regarding case specifics.