Chronic Pain Following a Car Accident is Not a Minor Injury

This is the second post in a short series on injuries that are not minor, but also not catastrophic. Last time, we talked about concussions; today we’re talking about chronic pain.

What happens when you have technically recovered from your car accident injuries, but you’re still experiencing significant pain–even though there shouldn’t be any? This is a situation that many car accident victims find themselves in. It may be chronic pain.

What is Chronic Pain?

The human body is incredibly complex, and there is so much about pain that we don’t fully understand. But we do know that chronic pain can be life-altering and that it is widespread. The Canadian Pain Task Force issued a report in October 2020 that found “An estimated 7.63 million, or one in four Canadians aged 15 or older, live with chronic pain, a condition now understood as a disease in its own right. … Chronic pain has significant impacts on physical and mental health, family and community life, society and the economy. The total direct and indirect cost of chronic pain totaled $38.3 to $40.4 billion in 2019.”

While there is no one universal definition, chronic pain is generally understood to be pain that lasts longer than expected and that persists even after an injury has healed. Chronic pain can arise from illnesses that cause pain, but frequently the cause is an injury.

Often, people who have chronic pain are dealing with months or even years after their car accident.  It’s anything but minor.

Chronic Pain and the MIG

Chronic pain is not one of the injuries specifically listed in the MIG. That said, a diagnosis of chronic pain alone may not be enough to warrant moving you out of the MIG.

As a claimant, you’ll need to show compelling evidence of how much the chronic pain affects you, either by preventing you from working or from carrying out a normal life. In other words, you’ll need to prove that chronic pain causes you functional limitation. You’ll need to show that you have sought regular medical care for your pain and that you have the support of your doctor.

As we’ve discussed before, if the insurance company decides that your injuries fall into the Minor Injury Guideline (MIG), the benefits you receive will be significantly less than what you may in fact need to recover fully. Medical and rehabilitation benefits under the MIG top out at $3,500, while the next level of benefits are capped at $65,000.

The MIG exists to help claimants quickly access treatments for minor injuries without ongoing need for insurer approval, with the goal of a full and quick recovery, usually within 12 weeks or so. But remember: the MIG also exists to provide certainty around cost and payment to insurers. It’s in their best interest for as many injuries to be categorized as MIG claims as possible.

The Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT)–the decision-making body that hears auto insurance appeals–has ruled that chronic pain is not a minor injury, but you may still face pushback from the insurer. We encourage you to talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer, who can help you secure the benefits you need to cope with your chronic pain.