Fibromyalgia (FM) sufferers experience often debilitating pain and fatigue. The pain is widespread, often throughout a person’s body, but is sometimes worse in certain areas. Although usually continuous, the level of pain can be variable; anything from a relatively mild ache to a stabbing pain or a sensation of burning.
A characteristic of the condition is the presence of tender points, which elicit pain when pressure is applied.
There is no generally accepted objective test for Fibromyalgia, but doctors usually make a diagnosis based upon criteria established by the American College of Rheumatology; widespread pain lasting more than 3 months and other physical symptoms including (but certainly not limited to) fatigue, waking feeling unrefreshed, cognitive and vision problem, nausea and even difficulty urinating.
In making the diagnosis, doctors will consider the number of areas of the body in which the patient reports experiencing pain in the past week.
When Fibromyalgia develops following an accident, the lack of objective signs makes it a litigation minefield. Fibromyalgia claims are often large and always complex.
Representing clients suffering Fibromyalgia, as with other chronic pain conditions, calls for a forensic approach from start to finish. A client’s entire history; medical, employment, benefits – even sometimes education, must be examined, compared and contrasted in huge detail. Potential issues in that history must be identified and dealt with before the Defendant identifies the same issue and attempts to introduce their own ‘spin’ in an attempt to undermine the claimant’s case.
Instructing the right medical experts is also crucial to success. It is frankly staggering just how often solicitors instruct wholly inappropriate medical experts, possibly because they simply don’t understand Fibromyalgia or because they simply (and lazily) delegate the process of obtaining medical evidence to a medical agency.
When choosing their own medical experts, don’t be surprised to find a Defendant deliberately nominating people who don’t even recognise Fibromyalgia as a distinct medical condition.
Expect allegations of malingering and even fraud. With the lack of objective signs, a claimant’s credibility is absolutely essential and a Defendant will stop at nothing in their attempt to undermine that credibility. Every single claimant suffering Fibromyalgia will be the subject of covert video surveillance. Their social media will scrutinised, as will that of their family and friends. Neighbours and work colleagues will be approached informally for information, usually under some pretext. The solicitor must be aware of this from the start and be prepared to deal with it as soon as it materialises.
Make no mistake, this is battleground litigation. With this in mind, solicitors must keep the number of clients that each of them represents very low. Claims are necessarily time consuming and highly tactical and it is essential that a solicitor has the quality time necessary to dedicate to each and every claim.
Solicitors must properly understand Fibromyalgia and how it can affect every aspect of a person’s life; work, home and leisure. It is also essential that a solicitor has time to meet and properly get to know each client and their family. Only by understanding both the condition and a client’s particular circumstances, can the solicitor do their best by their client in terms of ensuring their future financial security.
Should you have any questions arising out of this article, you are welcome to contact us on 01225 462871 for an informal and confidential discussion with one of our team of specialist solicitors. Alternatively, please contact us using the contact form and we will be happy to call you.