Car accidents, especially rear-end collisions, often cause the painful soft tissue injury known as whiplash. Despite its reputation as a “minor” injury, whiplash can cause long-term, debilitating, chronic pain that forces victims out of work or school, and makes their lives miserable.
If you suffered whiplash in an accident caused by someone else’s careless or reckless actions, then you deserve compensation. An experienced car accident injury lawyer can help you secure that compensation, oftentimes through a settlement with the at-fault party.
Let’s explore accident settlements for whiplash injuries in detail.
What Is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a soft-tissue injury, a type of sprain, to the structures of the neck that occurs when the body, head, and neck move rapidly back and forth, similar to the motion of cracking a whip. This type of injury typically causes muscle pain to the neck and back. It may also be referred to as a “neck strain” or “cervical muscle sprain”.
Victims can suffer neck injuries like whiplash in a range of circumstances, including assaults, sports injuries, and falls, but it is also one of the most common injuries in a car crash, especially rear-end collisions. Occupants of the lead car in that sort of collision face the greatest danger of whiplash.
Symptoms of Whiplash
Whiplash injury victims can suffer from a wide range of symptoms, many of which persist for months or more and can cause severe pain and disability. Common symptoms of whiplash include:
Whiplash impacts the soft-tissues, which are muscles, ligaments, and tendons, in the neck, all of which can become stiff after injury. This leads to an overall stiffness of the neck characterized by the loss of range of motion in the neck—that is victims cannot move their neck without pain, if at all.
Whiplash victims can experience painful headaches that begin at the base of the skull and radiate throughout the head.
Soft tissues in the neck connect to the shoulder, so pain from a whiplash often includes shoulder pain too.
Lower Back Pain
Whiplash injuries can do damage to the spine and can pinch nerves, causing victims to suffer lower back pain in addition to neck pain..
Whiplash also impacts the brain stem which can lead to dizziness or vertigo.
When the head whips back and forth in a car crash, it can also cause problems with the optic nerve that connects to the eyes, leading to blurry vision.
A general feeling of lethargy or fatigue is often a result of whiplash impacting the brain.
Trouble Staying Asleep
Difficulty sleeping also occurs after whiplash as a result of nerve damage, pain, or a possible brain injury.
How to Prove a Whiplash Injury?
Proving whiplash is not always an easy task. Medical documentation is the best way to provide evidence of your injury, which is why it is imperative that you seek medical care immediately after a car accident.
Make sure to follow your doctor’s orders with regard to rest and medical treatment and keep copies of all your medical records.
Contact an attorney as soon as possible to begin the process of seeking compensation for your injuries from whiplash.
In the meantime, keep track of lost wages and any expenses you incur as a result of your whiplash, such as medical expenses and travel costs to and from the doctor. Whiplash can result in many costly bills from necessary medical attention for things such as x-rays, a neck brace, and physical therapy.
The Process of a Whiplash Injury Claim
A whiplash claim typically begins with your car accident lawyer demanding payment from the party at-fault for your accident, usually by sending a demand letter to that party’s liability insurance carrier.
Most auto accident claims settle without going to court, because both sides want to avoid costly court fees and other expenses related to litigation.
However, depending on the situation and the way the insurance company responds to your initial insurance claim, your attorney may advise you to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, as a means of protecting your legal rights and showing the at-fault party’s insurer that you mean business.
Filing a lawsuit does not prevent your personal injury claim from settling. In fact, often it puts just the right amount of pressure on an insurance company to push the case to a favorable outcome for you.
The strength of your whiplash injury claim depends on your lawyer’s ability to prove that the party who caused the car wreck (usually the other driver) acted in an unreasonably dangerous manner that put you in harm’s way. Or, in other words, that the other driver was negligent.
The most common type of car accident to cause whiplash is a rear-end collision. Usually, it is the occupants of the leading vehicle who suffer injuries from whiplash, and the driver of the trailing vehicle who is negligent and, thus, at-fault.
Determining fault for whiplash is important in West Virginia because state law holds the at-fault party liable to victims for their injuries.
To establish negligence, car accident attorneys gather evidence to prove how the accident and your injuries happened. Evidence can consist of witness statements, police reports, medical records, photographs and video of the accident scene, and any other information that shows how the negligent party’s poor decisions and actions led directly to your injury and losses.
You can help your lawyer to prove negligence in your whiplash car accident case by saving all documents and items in your possession that relate to the crash or your injuries.
If possible, it may also help for you to take photos or videos with your phone at the accident scene, and to collect contact information from all parties involved and any witnesses.
Amount of Compensation from a Whiplash Settlement
Each whiplash case has underlying facts and circumstances that determine the amount of money that the victim should receive as damages in a settlement. As a general matter, victims of whiplash injury in an accident have the right to seek compensation for:
- Medical expenses and medical bills related to treatment of whiplash and health complications it causes, which can vary widely but may reach into the thousands of dollars;
- Other costs incurred because of the accident and injury, such as the expense of property damage;
- Lost wages and income attributable to the injury, such as when the victim misses work while recovering or suffers from disabling pain that prevents a return to work in the long-term;
- Pain, suffering, and diminished quality of life caused by the whiplash; and
- Sometimes, punitive damages that punish extreme or outrageous conduct that led to the accident.
There is no guarantee in any whiplash case that the victim will recover damages. However, the most reliable way to give yourself the best possible chance of success in your claim is to seek the help of an experienced car accident injury attorney as soon as possible after the crash.
Who Pays a Whiplash Settlement?
In most cases, the negligent, at-fault driver’s insurance company pays a whiplash settlement. Yet, some drivers are underinsured or uninsured. In these situations, your auto insurance carrier might pay you from your uninsured or underinsured motorists coverage, if you have it.
In the event your damages are greater than any of the insurance policy limits, this does not absolve the driver from financial responsibility, however. You may also have the ability to seek payment directly from the at-fault driver by suing for compensation.
Keep in mind that it may take some time to resolve your whiplash injury claim. You are responsible for paying your medical treatment costs until you receive settlement money or a jury award. An experienced attorney may help you communicate your situation to your medical provider, if you need payment assistance while waiting for a settlement to arrive.
Is a Personal Injury Attorney Needed for a Whiplash Lawsuit?
Yes. Personal injury attorneys know how to communicate and negotiate with insurance companies, giving you the best chance of receiving the maximum amount of compensation available for your injuries.
They also know how to build the strongest possible case on your behalf, in the event taking your case to court stands the best chance of getting you the money you deserve.
How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
Personal injury lawyers provide valuable services that begin as soon as they take on a case. Building a strong case against the at-fault driver requires investigating the accident and gathering evidence.
This includes speaking to witnesses, finding possible video footage, providing legal advice, and compiling documents such as your medical records and the official police report.
An attorney also protects you from insurance companies and adjusters who will often try to undermine the value of your claim using questionable tactics.
Insurance adjusters may attempt to put the blame for the rear-end crash on you as a way to avoid financial liability. A lawyer can protect you from these tactics.
As the claim process moves along, an attorney can pursue negotiations with the defense lawyer and insurance representatives to seek fair compensation for your injuries through a settlement. An attorney can also prepare, file, and litigate a lawsuit on your behalf, which may include making arguments in court to a judge and jury.
If you have suffered whiplash or serious injuries in a rear-end collision caused by someone else’s careless or reckless conduct, then you deserve compensation for your injuries.
The skilled legal team at Miley Law Group has extensive experience representing car accident victims, and we are here to help. Contact our law firm today for a free consultation and free case evaluation to discuss your legal rights and options.