by Lesli Hill
Chronic pain is a condition that permeates all areas of an individual’s life. The intense physical experience of pain also impacts the individual’s emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Chronic pain disrupts family dynamics and can result in a downward spiral of toxic, negative experiences.
This unique experience is complicated by the fact that most people cannot communicate their pain in a way that optimizes their medical care. “It hurts here” is not a pain description that allows a provider to make an informed treatment recommendation. Also, physicians are not well-trained in caring for people with chronic pain. Many still look at pain from an organic or Cartesian model, meaning that if there is pain, there must be an organic cause that can be treated by medication or surgery. Current scientific research suggests that this is not the case, but instead that pain intensity is not dependent on an injury. In other words, the experience of pain can be far different across individuals.
For people who live with pain who are also engaged in medical or product liability litigation, these negative reactions can be amplified by the necessary focus on living the injury, leading to the development of a victim mentality, causing further problems for case documentation.
This can be a difficult environment for the attorney-plaintiff relationship. More than likely, you have seen patient forums where a considerable amount of anger is hurled at the plaintiff’s own attorney. I call these forums angry women sites, because it seems that many who travel there are women. I was momentarily sucked in that world as I watched my life unravel due to a routine surgery that created catastrophic complications.
Pain dysregulates emotional reactions. Pain creates a vulnerability that most people are not comfortable with. Many people with pain feel that everything is out of control. Plaintiffs complain that their attorney does not include them. Attorneys complain that the plaintiff is angry and hard to deal with. One of the most important things you can give your client is a feeling of being in control of aspects of the litigation.
In the medical conversations around pain, it is well documented in scientific research that people in pain want to be heard by those who care for them and that patients who feel that their physician has listened and compassionately responded to their pain experience have an enhanced relationship with that physician.
There is equal evidence that a transparent attorney/client relationship results in a client who is less angry, exhibits better self-regulation, who can constructively contribute to his or her case. The Pain Plaintiff program will enhance your relationship with your client by giving the client the knowledge that they, and the case, needs to have a case that ends with optimal outcomes.
The Pain Plaintiff education program gives you the opportunity to communicate to your client that you have listened to their story of pain. It also gives you the unique ability to hand the client a job to do. That job is to learn about pain and how it impacts their well-being in a way that allows you to establish client credibility and helps to manage their expectations about litigation.
There is consensus among personal injury, personal liability, and social security disability attorneys that plaintiffs whose claim includes chronic pain are difficult to work with. While there may be numerous reasons for this conclusion, yet, until Pain University, there have been no solutions offered to help attorneys manage the emotionally charged pain plaintiff in a way that strengthens the attorney-client relationship and that gives the plaintiff tools for communicating their pain. The Pain Plaintiff course offers the pain plaintiff a plan for learning more about their pain from a biopsychosocial perspective, one that teaches them about reasonable communication expectations throughout the litigation process. This program also offers you, the litigator, the ability to give the client a job to do that will give them a sense of positively contributing to their litigation.