Dispute Resolution as a Creator of Needless Disability
Robert Aurbach President, Uncommon Approach, Inc., Albuquerque, New Mexico, Director of Stakeholder Collaboration, Deakin University Industry Engagement Centre for Personal Injury, Melbourne, Australia

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When injured persons feel pain and a physician tells them that they have a permanent condition, the feeling of pain can become associated over time with the diagnosis, the emotional response to the diagnosis, and factors associated with the diagnosis (including helplessness, fear, anger and overwhelming stress). Even the language associated with the process can be misleading: To some, the phrase “maximum medical improvement” may have the ominous ring of a life sentence with a judgment that they have reached the highest potential for recovery, even if this is not the case. The US legal system often contributes to needless disabling, to the extent that the author coins the term “attorneyogenic disability.” Delaying dispute resolution following disputes in the case causes harm by creating a period when injured workers may obsess about their condition, the people who have wronged them, and the unfairness of the system in failing to compensate them. As delays stretch on, the individual's perception of physical symptoms may become habitual in a complex association of thoughts, feelings, and emotions that affect the worker's neural network. Finally, the legal system stops when the claim is resolved, and the patient's advocate has no systemic motivation to assist after the claim is completed. Planning for functional adaptation and treatment after the dispute resolution often is lacking, especially after the individual has been exposed both to catastrophic thinking in the courtroom and multiple medical evaluations and treatment protocols.

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