A Skeptical Look at the “Confidential Car Accident Victim Report”

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
May 23, 2013

About ten years ago, three Idaho chiropractors used newspaper ads like the one to the right to offer a free report about “hidden car accident injuries.” The report—headlined “Confidential Car Accident Victim Report—stated that it would reveal:

  • How Hidden Car Accident Injuries Can Cause Arthritis.
  • How Even Minor Injuries Should Get Evaluated.
  • Why Prescribed Pain Relief Medication May Make Your Condition Worse!
  • The Importance Of Documenting Your Injuries Immediately So That You Get
  • The Settlement You May Deserve!

The report further stated that you may be suffering from a hidden or soft-tissue injury if you experience any of the following symptoms: muscle stiffness, spasms, neck pain, headaches, numbness and tingling; mid-back pain; low back pain; difficulty sleeping; irritability; memory loss; fatigue; or difficulty concentrating. “Or worse yet,” the report continued, “you may be feeling none of these right now because your injury hasn’t started producing these symptoms yet.” The report then advised visiting the chiropractors’ office for a free surface electromyography test that could discover and document any injuries. The report can be customized to insert the chiropractor’s name and phone number. (Click to view the full report.)

After receiving complaints in 2003, the Idaho Board of Chiropractic Physicians investigated and concluded that the report (a) contained statements tlnuughtout that “appeal primarily to a lay person’s fears, ignorance, or anxieties regarding his state of health or physical well-being” and (b) improperly disparaged the way “other dctors” might manage their patients’ care.


The complaints were settled in 2005 with stiplulated agreements under which John L. Traviss, D.C. was assessed $850 for investigative costs and attorney fees [1] and Mark L. Walz, D.C. [2} and Michael D. Hardison, D.C., [3}were each assessed a $1,000 fine and $500 for investigative costs and attorney fees and had a 15-day license suspension followed by 6-months of probation.

Surface electromyogeapy, also called surface EMG or SEMG, is a test in which electrical activity of individual muscles or muscle groups is detected, amplified, and analyzed by a computer. The test has legitimate use for analyzing certain types of performance in the workplace, but chiropractors typically use it to promote unnecessary treatment [4].

The marketing systen, which I assume is available from a central source, is still in use. I have encountered offerings in local newspapers, radio ads, and on the Internet.

  1. Stipulation and consent order. In the matter of the license of John L. Traviss, D.C., April 12, 2005.
  2. Stipulation and consent order. In the matter of the license of Mark L. Walz, D.C., Feb 1, 2005.
  3. Stipulation and consent order. In the matter of the license of Michael D. Hardison, D.C., Feb 23, 2005.
  4. Homola S. Dubious use of surface electromyography (SEMG), Chirobase, April 15, 2005.

This article was posted on May 23, 2013.