One might expect that injury compensation would leave injured parties better off than they would otherwise have been, yet many believe that compensation does more harm than good. This study systematically reviews the evidence on this "compensation hypothesis" in relation to compensable whiplash injuries. PubMed, CINAHL, EMBASE, PEDro, PsycInfo, CCTR, Lexis, and EconLit were searched from the date of their inception to April 2010 to locate longitudinal studies, published in English, comparing the health outcomes of adults exposed/not exposed to compensation-related factors. Studies concerning serious neck injuries, using claimants only, or using proxy measures of health outcomes were excluded. Eleven studies were included. These examined the effect of lawyer involvement, litigation, claim submission, or previous claims on pain and other health outcomes. Among the 16 results reported were 9 statistically significant negative associations between compensation-related factors and health outcomes. Irrespective of the compensation-related factor involved and the health outcome measured, the quality of these studies was similar to studies that did not find a significant negative association: most took some measures to address selection bias, confounding, and measurement bias, and none resolved the potential for reverse causality bias that arises in the relationship between compensation-related factors and health. Unless ambiguous causal pathways are addressed, one cannot draw conclusions from statistical associations, regardless of their statistical significance and the extent of measures to address other sources of bias. Consequently, there is no clear evidence to support the idea that compensation and its related processes lead to worse health.
Copyright © 2012 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.