I have a Google news alert for “fibromyalgia or chronic disease or chronic pain” (and some other search terms related to this blog’s purpose), and that’s the only way I would have ever found the following snippet from a site called No Claim Discount. This seems to be a news site in the UK for the insurance industry.
Joanne Kirk of Preston, is suffering from, what has been deemed as, a landmark judgement against her for insurance fraud. Initially attempting to claim £800,000 in compensation after a rear-end shunt in 2001 the claim was finally settled for £25,000. Of course, such a case will involve a level of investigation and it seems Ms Kirk had no inkling that insurance fraud investigators might be filming her driving, walking and carrying shopping despite her claiming she had developed fibromyalgia, a condition which causes chronic pain in muscles and ligaments. She originally stated she required crutches or a wheelchair to get around and could only walk a few steps without the assistance of another person.
Unlike most insurance fraud convictions which see defendants given no more than a slap on the wrists, Joanne Kirk was fined £2,500 and ordered to play the insurance company’s legal costs. The tables were certainly turned as her legal protection insurance was revoked leaving her with the cost of the entire bill – somewhere in the region of £125,000.
- We don’t know the full story from this blurb, much less have any of the details from the trial itself;
- We don’t have Joanne’s side of the story; and
- This piece, if not the site as a whole, is obviously biased in favor of the insurance industry (it’s titled in an entertainingly sexist way “Women, Their Handbags, and Faking It For Money”)
… we just don’t get enough information from this piece to draw any kind of conclusions. But I can tell you my first reaction upon reading that Joanne was filmed walking and shopping after claiming fibro: So what?
Is this just a case of not understanding fibromyalgia? That’s certainly a possibility. In my own experience, I frequently have days that are much better than others, in which tasks like shopping and going to the park with my child are an absolute breeze. I also have days in which I can’t get out of bed, and days that fall anywhere in the middle.
Of course, the piece also states that Joanne had told someone involved in the case that she could only get around with the aid of crutches or a wheelchair. Still, I have to wonder if what she actually said was something more along the lines of “when I have a flareup, I need crutches or a wheelchair.”
The truth is that we don’t know — we just don’t have enough information here. The only conclusion I can draw is that whoever wrote this article is a bit sexist, or at least felt comfortable pretending to be for the sake of being entertaining, and that s/he has a lot of disdain for Joanne, if not fibromites as a whole.
I’m also concerned that, even assuming Joanna did commit willful fraud here, this story will just give more ammunition to the unbelievers.
At a minimum, it’s a good object lesson in dealing with legal issues concerning your chronic disease:
- Be precise with your language. Don’t make sweeping generalizations. Be exact, and consider thoughtfully how your words might be misconstrued.
- Keep a diary of your symptoms. This is probably the best advice any chronic pain patient can take, no matter what the purpose. It helps in so many ways, and I hope to write about that in much more detail later on. But for legal purposes, a diary or log that’s kept contemporaneously with (at the same time as) your symptoms is invaluable evidence.
- NEVER EXAGGERATE. No matter what. Just don’t do it.