Cassidy says he compared the tort and no fault patient population groups to make sure there was nothing distinctly different about them. In addition to the improvement in recovery time, Cassidy found that whiplash claims themselves actually dropped 28% during the study, despite the fact that accident numbers went up.
Other positive health indicators in the Canadian study include improvements in reports of symptoms like neck pain, physical functioning, and mood -- all correlated with a quicker resolution of the claim.
Freeman has been up in Saskatchewan offering support to a group that opposes no fault insurance. "These people were led like cattle to the slaughter in my opinion. They are being forced into treatment they don't want. They are being kicked out of programs if they don't cooperate," says Freeman, who has testified as an expert witness for whiplash plaintiffs.
Cassidy insists everyone in the study was given informed consent, and that his research shows the benefit of focusing on rehabilitation instead of legal remedies. "Plaintiffs' experts and lawyers certainly benefit [financially] from a tort system. ... I'm saying, why do that? Why not help people get better twice as fast and take [lawsuits] out of the equation?" says Cassidy. The researcher says that the tort system added $4 billion in excess costs to the U.S. medical bill in 1993.
In an editorial accompanying the study, author Richard Deyo, MD, MPH, of the University of Washington in Seattle, notes that many treatments for whiplash have not been thoroughly tested. For policy makers, this study should encourage further experimentation with systems like the one in Saskatchewan.
The research was supported by a grant from Saskatchewan Government Insurance -- the public agency that provides the majority of motor vehicle injury insurance in the province of 1.1 million people.