Car accidents can exacerbate chronic pain symptoms. How do you handle this with your insurance? What do you say? How much information should you give them? I actually don’t have answers to those questions. But this is a post to share about how I recently handled this situation.
I have been in a lot of car accidents. A lot. Some of them were minor fender benders, and some of them were actual totals with multiple car crashes. I have gotten to the point where I almost do not want to drive anywhere. I take back roads during rush hour. I am hypervigilant when I am a passenger. I am easily startled when there are loud noises (another car backfires, a rock hits the windshield, a large truck downshifts next to me) which can cause a flashback. I avoid driving in the specific spots that I’ve been in car accident before (if it’s possible). Yes, I have PTSD.
Car accidents are a challenging experience for anyone to go through. Especially those of us who have chronic pain. When we are in motor vehicle collisions, this can exacerbate any pain symptoms that we are already trying to manage. For me, it usually throws me into a flare up and I have to get back to the basics. Sometimes it could be a week long, sometimes a month long.
I’ve had two accidents in the past 6 months. Both of the times I was rear ended. People just are not paying attention when they’re driving.
The one that happened 6 months ago threw me into a 3 week flare up and exacerbation of symptoms that were really hard to get under control. We were rear ended in our older car that already has some other scratches and dents and there wasn’t much damage to the car. I’m pretty sure the guy who rear ended us was high given his combative nature, so we just let it go.
And to be completely honest, I didn’t want to deal with the issue of insurance, and having to get a prescription from the doctor for more massage, chiro, etc. Traditional massage doesn’t work for my body and neither does chiropractic manipulation. I know all of my friends with chronic pain understand where I am coming from when I say “I know what works for my body, and what doesn’t.” Plus, I was already in another round of physical therapy, and the therapist was able to give me some good reminders about using ice, staying in my regular exercise routine, etc. I eventually returned to my “baseline” pain levels and managed pretty well.
This most recent fender bender has thrown me into another flare up. This time it has affected my thinking and concentration levels too. I’ve had to miss work because of it. The pain levels are higher than a normal flare. This one happened while I was driving my “new to me” used car and my beautiful car now has damage on the rear bumper from being rear ended. I waited a couple of days (avoidance), but I eventually decided to file a claim.
We live in a no-fault state. So that means that all personal injury claims go under my own auto insurance. After explaining my situation to my agent, I decided to go into the doctor to get a “prescription” for some craniosacral, myofascial release, and physical therapy.
First I had the anxiety of them (the doctor) assuming that I was drug seeking because of my pain related diagnoses on the chart. Then I had some anxiety related to the thought of “what will they put in my chart that the insurance company can see?”. I was concerned that my auto insurance would deny any claims because of my pre-existing pain conditions.
I couldn’t get into my regular clinic so I had to go to the urgent care. The nurse was concerned due to my symptoms so he made me put a neck collar on and put me in queue for the emergency department. This was actually quite funny to me because I have gotten to the point where I realized I cope with my pain so well on a regular basis, that I may not notice when it is actually something to be taking seriously. I still thought it was overkill though, as this just felt like a major flare up of several of my pain related diagnoses (myofascial pain syndrome, fibro, thoracic outlet syndrome, migraine, tension headache, etc).
Luckily, I choose to treat my chronic pain without medications. I treat with my lifestyle choices and complementary and alternative medicine. Things like diet, exercise, supplements, acupuncture, restorative yoga, aromatherapy, herbs, etc. So, I knew that the ER doctor wouldn’t second guess me on my visit, as I wasn’t looking for any type of pain medication or muscle relaxants.
I told him that I was going to be honest. I basically gave him a quick 3-5 minute run down of my pain related diagnoses, how I’ve been managing them (quite effectively), and how I was only there because I couldn’t get in to see my primary, and that I was filing an insurance claim. I needed to have a written recommendation for physical therapy and “massage” to get the flare up under control from being rear ended again.
The doctor was more than happy to do that for me and wrote what I needed on my discharge summary and then I was on my way. Finally. A doctor that took me seriously when advocating for myself. That felt good.
Now, I have no idea if the auto insurance is going to pay my claims for this. I am frustrated that I have to be concerned about them not paying for anything due to my “pre-existing” conditions. I’ve been denied ongoing treatment in the past because of this, but I am going to try again and hope that they cover what they should due to the fact that my symptoms are clearly exacerbated due to the accident. I understand. My symptoms flare up sometimes for no good reason, so how can they sort out this flare up being different because it is related to being rear ended? Sometimes the paperwork and phone calls related to insurance creates more stress which can increase the physical symptoms too!
So, I’m just going to be honest and give them the information that they ask, not elaborate in additional detail, but not lie, and then hope for the best.
How have you dealt with car accidents exacerbating your pain conditions?