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Stress Of Filing Injury Claims Linked To Poorer Health Later

Publication Date: 
February 12, 2014
Source: 
Reuters - Health eLine
Author: 
Kathryn Doyle

Reuters quotes Professor David Studdert on the longterm effects of filing claims for personal injury. 

Have you been injured in an accident? The stress from contacting that injury lawyer could be tied to a worse recovery, a new study suggests.

People injured in an accident or at work sometimes file for monetary compensation, and according to some studies those who file tend to have worse long-term health than those who do not.

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Study author David M. Studdert of Stanford University in California said past studies have compared people who filed for compensation to people who did not, but those groups might have different types of injuries to begin with.

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"The novelty of this study was to look within a group of claimants to test whether those who reported experiencing the most stress also had the slowest recoveries," Studdert said. "They did."

He and his colleagues polled a random selection of more than 1,000 patients hospitalized in Australia for injuries between 2004 and 2006. Six years later, 332 of the patients who had filed for workers' compensation or another accident claim told the researchers how stressful the process had been. Claims can take four to five years to conclude, Studdert noted.

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"While it's intuitive that the compensation process is going to be stressful for some claimants, what is less clear is whether that stress has a substantial impact on recovery many years after the injury," Studdert said. "We were surprised by the size of the compensation effects on outcomes like level of disability and quality of life - they were fairly strong," he told Reuters Health.

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It is still worthwhile for patients who have sustained a serious injury to file a claim, Studdert said.

"Compensation serves an important function, especially for people who must drop out of the workforce for a period of time," he said. "The financial support can be critical."

"Our study joins many others that show the rate of mental health problems among people who are injured is astonishingly high," he said, adding that medical systems are excellent at treating physical injuries but not as good at treating mental conditions.

"I think the point that needs to be made is that those managing these systems, insurers or workers' compensation boards, or no fault automobile compensation schemes, should realize that they are undermining their own mission of getting workers back on their feet if the process is unnecessarily stressful," said Katherine Lippel, who studies occupational health and safety law at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada and was not involved in the study.