Anyone who suffers a serious injury in a Virginia car crash knows to expect a lengthy recovery period. Head wounds, bone fractures, skin lacerations, and soft tissue injuries all take time to mend. An unexpected chronic pain condition can occur after the bruises fade and the broken bones heal, however. In some cases, long-term problems such as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) plague a victim long after the actual crash is in the rearview mirror.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Causes and Symptoms

CRPS is most frequently a direct result of some kind of severe physical trauma. Symptoms often begin after an amputation, bone fracture, or impact resulting in a serious limb sprain during a vehicle wreck. Virginians in head-on collisions, multiple vehicle crashes, and high-speed highway wrecks with cargo trucks are all at risk of developing chronic pain conditions.

While CRPS is seen in car crash survivors who suffered serious nerve damage, it can also take place when no nerve damage of any kind is detected, which makes diagnosis Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Diagnosis | Virginia Car Accident Lawyermore difficult. That latter type of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome can also be harder to prove to a jury in a court or when negotiating with an insurance adjuster.

That’s one important reason why you need to see a doctor and establish a paper trail on your injury as soon as possible after the accident. It may take multiple trips to the doctor, or even visits to multiple doctors before a patient is properly diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and can begin trying effective treatments.

Because it doesn’t have one single identifier like many other conditions, CRPS is diagnosed when a doctor examines your injury and medical history to rule out other possible causes like arthritis, gout, or nerve damage from diabetes. Car accident survivors diagnosed with the syndrome typically deal with symptoms such as:

  • Bone deterioration
  • Chronic, long-term pain in the affected area
  • Joint soreness and stiffness near the injured location on the body
  • Muscle spasms and twitches, or inability to control muscle movements in that area
  • Reduced mobility
  • Skin sensitivity (often to an extreme degree)
  • Sudden changes to color or texture of skin, nails, and hair
  • Swelling in affected joints
  • Temperature sensitivity and excessive sweating

Recovery and Treatment for CRPS After a Car Crash

The type of chronic pain that CRPS patients experience is frequently characterized as a burning, tingling, or throbbing that can be worse than the initial impact itself. In severe cases, even a light touch from something as soft as skin contact or a blanket can cause extreme pain in the injured area.

That level of pain may interfere with everything from sleep to maintaining steady employment. Aside from dealing with chronic pain, simply achieving a diagnosis is often intensely frustrating for CRPS patients as other possible causes are crossed off the list. Dealing with mental and emotional issues such as depression and anxiety can become just as important as managing the physical pain. An overall treatment plan for car crash victims dealing with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome may involve:

  • Pain relief medication like opioids
  • Nerve blocking or anesthetic medication to prevent pain at the source
  • Steroids to reduce inflammation
  • Surgeries to potentially resolve certain pain and mobility issues
  • Ongoing physical therapy to improve mobility and learn coping techniques for dealing with pain.
  • Counseling for dealing with both the physical and emotional effects over the long term.

All of the treatment options are likely to become extremely expensive as the months or potentially years drag on. Even if the at-fault driver has insurance that covers your medical costs, your actual bills are likely to exceed the policy’s cap. That’s why after seeing a doctor, the most important call you can make is to an attorney with an extensive knowledge of this kind of personal injury case.

Insurance adjusters and the negligent driver will likely argue that your pain was caused by something else not directly related to the accident to avoid their monetary responsibility. That’s a particular concern in cases where you don’t have a scan that can easily show specific nerve damage leading to your chronic pain. An attorney can help you overcome those sorts of obstacles that interfere with recouping the full and fair amount you are owed by the negligent driver who caused the accident. 

A car accident lawyer can thoroughly investigate the accident, argue your case in court, and ensure any potential compensation factors in the full extent of your past and future costs, like:

  • Lost income during the recovery period, whether you are an hourly employee, salaried worker, or self-employed.
  • Future lost earning potential if CRPS or some other injury from the car crash prevents you from returning to the same position or forces you to leave the workforce.
  • Medical expenses covering your initial hospitalization after the crash, other doctor’s visits afterward, and any medications or treatments you will need in the future.
  • Non-economic damages that don’t have a direct price tag like a week’s lost wages or the bill from an ER stay, but still negatively impact your life after the crash, such as physical pain or emotional suffering.
  • Out-of-pocket costs while seeking treatment for complex regional pain syndrome.

There is one important catch to keep in mind here, however. Symptoms of CRPS typically appear well after the accident takes place, but there is a statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident in Virginia. Your financial recovery hinges on contacting an attorney with extensive experience in invisible injuries like CRPS as soon as possible.


Kevin W. Mottley
Connect with me
Richmond, VA trial lawyer dedicated to handling brain injuries, car accidents and other serious injury claims