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The Legal System and Post-Traumatic Movement Disorders

A number of studies have indicated a link between a centralized source of trauma during injury and the subsequent onset of movement disorders. Movement disorders, in general, involve neurologic symptoms affecting movement—ranging from extreme slowness to abnormal excessiveness. Symptoms of the condition include tremors, dystonia, or muscles producing abnormal posture or twisting movements.

This study evaluated 40 post-traumatic movement disorder patients and the legal system's effect on the outcome of their conditions. Of the 40 patients assessed, 19 had legal representation. The researchers compared the 21 without legal representation to the 19 who had legal aide. All 19 testified to no relation between the legal system and their disorder.

80% of the patients in both groups suggested that the post-traumatic movement disorder was more debilitating than the original injury. The patients with legal representation, as a group, were younger, and all were working previous to initial injury. The patients' employment explains their necessity for legal representation--to obtain the maximum medical compensation. However, at the time of this study only 37% of the patients with attorneys were working, whereas 82% of patients without legal aide continued to work. The authors explain, "This raises the possibility that the patients in the group with attorneys had more severe injuries which caused more severe and more persistent movement disorders. There is, however, poor correlation between the severity of initial injury and the long-term prognosis."

Scarano V, Jankovic J. Post-traumatic movement disorders: effect of the legal system on outcome. Journal of Forensic Sciences 1998;43(2):334-339.