The effect of litigation status on adjustment to whiplash injury
The effect of litigation status on adjustment to whiplash injury.
Swartzman LC; Teasell RW; Shapiro AP; McDermid AJ
Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, Canada.
Spine 1996 Jan 1;21(1):53-8
PMID: 9122763 UI: 97063162
STUDY DESIGN: This retrospective study examined the effect of civil litigation
on reports of pain and disability in chronic pain patients who sustained
whiplash injuries after a motor vehicle accident. OBJECTIVES: To examine
the effect of litigation on adjustment to chronic pain. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND
DATA: A common methodologic weakness with many studies in this area is the
composition of the nonlitigant group, which often includes individuals who
have completed litigation as well as those who opted not to litigate. This
introduces a confound in that litigant and nonlitigant groups differ not
only with respect to litigation status but with respect to any factors that
predispose one to litigate. METHODS: Questionnaire data were obtained from
41 patients (current litigants) in the process of litigation and 21 patients
(postlitigants) who had completed litigation. Subjects completed self-report
measures assessing demographic characteristics, psychological distress,
sleep disturbance, employment status, and various pain indices. RESULTS:
There were no significant group differences in demographic characteristics,
employment status, or psychological distress. Litigants, however, reported
more pain than did postlitigants. Group differences in pain reports remained
statistically significant even after controlling for length of time since
accident and initial severity of the injuries. CONCLUSIONS: That litigation
status did not predict employment status suggests that secondary gain does
not figure prominently in influencing the functionality of these patients.
The rather robust effect of litigation status on pain reports is discussed
with respect to the potential mediational role of the stress of litigation.
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