There are some experiences that are incredibly difficult to explain to a person who hasn’t experienced it. Think about physical sensations. You can describe it, but unless the person has experienced it, it is hard to make them understand. When I was in middle school, a teacher asked us to describe the taste of salt without using the words salt or salty. The best description we came up with was the taste of a dry ocean, which is accurate, but doesn’t capture how good salt can taste too. And when the sensation also affects your mind, it is even more difficult. That is one reason it is so hard to explain severe chronic pain to a person who has never experienced it.

A few years ago I was playing pick-up basketball with some friends late at night. As it sometimes happens when you play basketball, I rolled my ankle pretty severely. While most sprained ankles, even severe sprains, just need time to heal, I had torn a chunk of cartilage out of the joint. My doctor recommended that I have a small surgery to get the chunk of cartilage out and clean out the joint. I did, and the surgery went fine. But the bandage was wrapped incorrectly and killed the nerve that runs down the top of my foot and down into my large and second toe.

For the next year my body tried to regrow the nerve. Nerves grow at the rate of about one millimeter per day. For me, it felt like a severe burn was slowly growing down the top of my foot. When I think back on that chronic pain and compare it to various other injuries I have had, there is no comparison in my mind. Chronic pain is worse because it is always there, even though it wasn’t the most intense pain I’ve ever had.

What people who have never experienced severe chronic pain don’t understand is that it is not just the physical pain, but how the constant pain affects you psychologically enough that it can even change the person you are. Even when you get some relief, the fear of the pain coming back dictates how you live your life.

In my experience in dealing with insurance companies for my clients who have chronic pain as a result of an accident, insurance adjusters simply do not understand how life-altering chronic pain can be. Insurance adjusters want to say the person is faking it, or a cry-baby, or a “wimp.” I think that, for an insurance adjuster who deals with accidents all day long, facing the fact that a person who is injured may never recover and will have constant pain is just too terrifying to admit, which is why accident victims who feel the lifelong effects of chronic pain need a lawyer who understands and will fight for them.