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Slip at work leads to chronic pain for Fibromyalgia victim
A woman who apparently sustained only ‘superficial’ injuries when she slipped on stairs whilst at work has been awarded more than £100,000 in damages, after going on to develop the chronic pain disorder Fibromyalgia.
Mark Page, a specialist in workplace accident cases, said that his client had suffered grazing to her knee and bruising of the hip and shoulder after slipping on a spilled drink whilst climbing a concrete staircase. “She also jarred her neck and back, but after receiving treatment from her GP expected the aches and pains to quickly subside.”
But several days after the fall, the woman’s pain began to worsen instead of improving. The claimant, who was fit and previously enjoyed sports such as badminton and Tae/Bo, went to see her doctor and was diagnosed with a soft tissue injury to her neck and shoulders.
“My client was then off work for several months with constant pain throughout her body,” said Mark, an Associate with Fentons Solicitors LLP. “She was no longer able to get a good night’s sleep and often had no sleep at all, and she became easily fatigued and very tearful.”
Despite this, she returned to work, only to find that at the end of the day her knees and both ankles would be constantly swollen after work, and both the pain she was feeling and her low mood were getting continually worse.
“At this stage my client was diagnosed with depression, and her health continued to decline,” said Mark. “She was in constant pain, hardly sleeping and was again absent from work. Her employer took the step of referring her to an Occupational Health doctor, and my client was devastated when they made the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia - and that this may have been ‘triggered’ following her fall.”
Mark said by this time, his client was receiving medication for pain, swollen joints, sleeping tablets and anti-depressants.
“This has obviously been a shock for my client,” said Mark. “A simple slip and superficial injuries have developed into this chronic condition. She continues to suffer with depression, which has impacted greatly on her home and working life. She is now tearful, anxious and withdrawn and the Fibromyalgia leaves her in constant pain,” he said. “Symptoms range from stabbing pains and pins and needles to shaking, fatigue and far too little sleep.
“My client has been unable to work full-time since her fall, and due to the amount of sick leave she had to take in the aftermath of her accident and diagnosis, ultimately she was living on just statutory sick pay.
“She used to be an active, social and optimistic person, but now she needs help to get dressed, help with cleaning her home and cooking meals. She is unable to bend due to the pain in her hips and back and she struggles to even do her own laundry.”
Mark said that this case was unusual because there was not a great deal in the way of legal precedent in cases of Fibromyalgia. “We relied heavily on expert medical evidence to prove both the extent of the chronic pain my client was suffering, and its link to the original accident,” he said. “We also demonstrated how the condition prevented her from fully functioning in terms of completing her daily tasks and from being able to work as she had previously.”
“Fibromyalgia is complex because it is not always immediately apparent, and in many cases can take weeks if not months to develop following an injury. Quite often doctors can miss it, or perhaps diagnose it as a soft tissue injury following an accident.”
Mark said this was of particular relevance now as proposed reforms would see the way personal injury claims are conducted - including employers’ and occupiers’ liability cases - brought in line with the current system for low-value road traffic collision injury claims. This system uses an online ‘portal’, and could see many cases similar to this one being settled prematurely and at far less than their true value.
“You only get one chance to settle a claim, and you can’t go back for more if your condition worsens after you’ve settled,” he said. “In order for Fibromyalgia to be detected, a practitioner should be reviewing medical records in detail, line by line, to pick up so-called red flags that would point to the likely diagnosis. That is something that is clearly at risk of being missed completely in a compensation system geared up to dispense fast and cheap justice.”
After the defendant’s insurer admitted liability for her injuries, Mark negotiated an out of court settlement on behalf of his client in the sum of £112,000.
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