Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic condition that usually affects a patient's arm or leg but can in rare instances impact other body parts. Complex regional pain syndrome involves post-traumatic autonomic disturbances that continue even though the inciting injury appears to have healed.
The cause of complex regional pain syndrome is unknown and has few objective findings. As a result, insurance company defense lawyers in car accident cases often have questioned whether there is a physical basis for complex regional pain syndrome or whether the condition is psychosomatic.
Why? The development of CRPS often does not correlate with the magnitude of the injury. The sympathetic nervous system seems to assume an abnormal function after an injury. Insurance companies see the world very simplistically: if the injury itself is not extremely serious, none of the consequences can be serious. Juries can take a more open minded view but you need a good expert at trial to explain the science of CRPS.
The good news is that there are growing medical studies that support complex regional pain syndrome as a real, physical condition. Pain management experts, sometimes experts selected by accident lawyers but, even more typically, the pain management doctors that treat the patient who was injured in the accident, are now seemingly very well versed in the science and studies that support the phenomenon of complex regional pain syndrome. More pain management doctors are espousing the theory that there is great therapeutic benefit from early and aggressive treatment of complex regional pain syndrome.Types of CRPS
CRPS has two forms:
- CRPS 1 occurs most often in the arms or legs after a minor injury, often from a motor vehicle accident. In these cases, doctors often cannot identify immediately a nerve injury. Certainly, this is the more difficult battle in a personal injury cases for the reasons discussed above
- CRPS 2 (or Causalgia) is caused by an injury to the nerve.
This is a non-representative sampling of jury verdicts and settlements around the country in claims where patient suffered from CRPS.
- 2021, California: $1,253,000 Verdict. A woman walked through an office building's second-floor exterior deck. The surface underneath her collapsed. The woman’s left leg broke through the surface. As a result, she fell. The woman’s leg protruded down the deck’s surface. She suffered L4-5 protrusions with radiculopathy, complex regional pain syndrome, tailbone pain, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, migraines, and ankle, knee, hip, and left shoulder injuries. The woman alleged negligence against the premises’ owners. She claimed they failed to maintain safe premises and repair the hazard. The jury awarded $1,253,000.
- 2021, Colorado: $8,400,000 Verdict. An electrician worked at a construction site. He came into contact with an electric box. The man experienced electric shock for 45 seconds. He developed complex regional pain syndrome in his leg and both arms. The man alleged negligence against the subcontractor. He claimed it failed to properly install the electric box, properly turn it off, maintain safe premises. The jury awarded $8,400,000.
- 2021, Colorado: $1,681,675 Verdict. A woman was rear-ended. She suffered complex regional pain syndrome to her lower left leg, lumbosacral radiculopathy with leg tingling and numbness, spondylosis, incontinence, trochanteric pain syndrome, and sacroiliac joint dysfunction. The woman underwent multiple surgeries. She alleged negligence against the at-fault driver. The woman claimed he failed to control his vehicle, timely brake, and maintain an appropriate distance between vehicles. A jury awarded $1,681,675.
- 2021, Minnesota: $8,000,000 Verdict. A 35-year-old railroad conductor attempted to remove a defective flashing rear-end device. He suffered left hand and wrist smash injuries with nerve damage. The man underwent a wrist decompression. He developed complex regional pain syndrome. The man could no longer work as a railroad conductor. He alleged negligence against his employer. The man claimed it failed to maintain safe working conditions and properly inspect and repair the equipment. A jury awarded $8,000,000.
- 2021, Pennsylvania: $15,556,000 Verdict. A 28-year-old traction power maintain was crushed by a three-ton copper trolley reel. The man suffered blunt abdominal trauma, small bowel tears, mesenteric tears, a brachial plexus injury, and an ascending colon. He underwent anastomosis and a small bowel resection. The man developed complex regional pain syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome, cervical radiculopathy, post-traumatic stress disorder, and chronic migraines. He alleged negligence against his employer. The man claimed it failed to maintain a safe worksite, inspect and repair its equipment, and monitor the worksite. A jury awarded $15,556,000.
- 2021, Massachusetts: $100,000 Verdict. A 56-year-old man walked along an airport terminal’s crosswalk. He was struck by a tow truck. The man suffered a left meniscus tear, Morton’s neuroma, left knee and hip osteoarthritis, and complex regional pain syndrome to his lower left leg. He alleged negligence against the tow truck driver. The man claimed he failed to maintain an appropriate lookout. A jury awarded $100,000.
Yes. CRPS is caused by physical trauma or injury which results in malfunctioning or abnormality of the peripheral and central nervous systems. Back and neck trauma in auto accidents are one of the most common causes of CRPS.
The average settlement value of CRPS in a personal injury lawsuit is around $10,000 to $30,000, depending on what type of related injuries are involved. CRPS is rarely a stand alone injury in a lawsuit, but rather an aggravating factor related to some underlying injury.
The primary factors which will drive the potential settlement value of CRPS in a personal injury lawsuit are the severity of the CRPS symptoms, the nature and severity of the plaintiff’s other underlying injuries, and the plaintiff’s credibility. Cases of CRPS with more severe symptoms will obviously have a higher value, but this depends largely on whether the plaintiff is credible because CRPS symptoms can be subjective. Also, the value of CRPS is going to be lower if the plaintiff does not have any other significant physical injuries.
It can sometimes be difficult to definitively prove CRPS in a lawsuit. There is not conclusive diagnostic test for CRPS. Instead the condition must be diagnosed based on symptoms in combination with interpretations of MRIs and other imaging.
The most critical symptom in CRPS is an intense and burning feeling that is out of proportion to the injury suffered. It usually begins at the point of injury but spreads to the entire limb, and will even go to the arm or leg on the opposite side of the body. This sensation with CRPS will get worse over time. Other symptoms include:
- pathological changes in bone and skin
- excessive sweating
- extreme sensitivity to touch
- agitation and/or irritability
If you have complex regional pain syndrome, call one of our lawyers at 800-553-8082. We handle accident lawsuits throughout the United States. You can also click here for a free no obligation consultation.