Traumatic injury and perceived injustice: Fault attributions matter in a "no-fault" compensation state

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Background: Traumatic injury can lead to loss, suffering and feelings of injustice. Previous research has shown that perceived injustice is associated with poorer physical and mental wellbeing in persons with chronic pain. This study aimed to identify the relative association between injury, compensation and pain-related characteristics and perceived injustice 12-months after traumatic injury. Methods: 433 participants were recruited from the Victorian Orthopedic Trauma Outcomes Registry and Victorian State Trauma Registry, and completed questionnaires at 12-14 months after injury as part of an observational cohort study. Using hierarchical linear regression we examined the relationships between baseline demographics (sex, age, education, comorbidities), injury (injury severity, hospital length of stay), compensation (compensation status, fault, lawyer involvement), and health outcomes (SF-12) and perceived injustice. We then examined how much additional variance in perceived injustice was related to worse pain severity, interference, self-efficacy, catastrophizing, kinesiophobia or disability.Results: Only a small portion of variance in perceived injustice was related to baseline demographics (especially education level), and injury severity. Attribution of fault to another, consulting a lawyer, health-related quality of life, disability and the severity of pain-related cognitions explained the majority of variance in perceived injustice. While univariate analyses showed that compensable injury led to higher perceptions of injustice, this did not remain significant when adjusting for all other factors, including fault attribution and consulting a lawyer. Conclusions: In addition to the "justice" aspects of traumatic injury, the health impacts of injury, emotional distress related to pain (catastrophizing), and the perceived impact of pain on activity (pain self-efficacy), had stronger associations with perceptions of injustice than either injury or pain severity. To attenuate the likelihood of poor recovery from injury, clinical interventions that support restoration of health-related quality of life, and adjustment to the impacts of trauma are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0178894
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017

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