Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

General Spine News

Law Change in Canada Promotes Ability, Not Disability

Traffic accidents cause low back pain for many people. Recovery time may be linked to insurance benefits for pain and suffering. In other words, it may take longer to heal when there's a chance of getting some money from the insurance company. This kind of system may delay recovery from back pain.

On January 1, 1995, Canada changed from tort law (compensation linked to pain and suffering) to a no-fault form of insurance. Under the new no-fault law, payments for pain and suffering were stopped. Having a lawyer on the case is limited.

Researchers measured the effect this change had on the time it takes to close a claim after traffic collisions. They also looked at how long it takes patients to recover under both tort and no-fault laws.

The results of this study show that the total number of claims went down under no-fault insurance. This was true even with more accidents and more miles traveled. Fewer people went to the hospital after an accident under no-fault insurance. Under the old tort law system, more people reported intense pain and pain over a large part of the body than did no-fault accident victims. Recovery time was also longer when accidents were covered under tort law.

Under both systems, the final result was based on a mix of factors. These factors included pain, legal issues, and the patient's social background. Recovery time tended to be longer when the patient was female, had a large area of pain, or had numbness in the arms or legs. Patient depression and hiring a lawyer were two other factors that predicted a longer time to close the claim.

Closing a claim after motor vehicle accidents appears to be faster under no-fault insurance. The authors of this study think that giving payment for pain and suffering also lengthens recovery time.


J. David Cassidy, DC, PhD, et al. Low Back Pain after Traffic Collisions: A Population-Based Cohort Study. In Spine. May 15, 2003. Vol. 28. No. 10. Pp. 1002-1009.

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