It is undeniable that a whiplash injury can negatively impact your life. On top of causing pain to your physical body, it can have adverse effects on your mental state too. Whiplash may also affect your financial status if you cannot go back to work immediately because of your injury-related limitations. As you seek medical treatment for your neck injuries, your medical bills are likely to pile up as well.
If you got hurt because of a car accident or other similar cause, your whiplash injury might be classified as a personal injury. Keep reading to learn more about how you can seek compensation by filing an injury claim. Find out why you need experienced legal advice whether you plan to pursue a whiplash injury claim or negotiate a settlement offer.
What Is Whiplash?
Definition of Whiplash
Whiplash is a type of neck injury caused by the forceful, sudden movement of your head in a forward, backward, or sideways direction. Abrupt movement beyond your neck’s typical range of motion can damage the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissues of your neck. The sprain or overstretching may lead to pain and discomfort in the neck, shoulders, back, and other areas of your body.
Whiplash is usually diagnosed by a physician or other healthcare professionals. The doctor will examine your neck to evaluate your current range of movement, and they may recommend a neck X-ray to rule out a neck dislocation or fracture. However, keep in mind that soft tissue injuries will not appear in the X-ray results.
Causes of Whiplash
Different potential causes may lead to your whiplash injury:
- Car Accidents: The American Bar Association states that the most common reason for personal injuries like whiplash is an automobile, truck, SUV, or motorcycle accident. The rear-end or side-impact brought about by a collision with another vehicle, pedestrian, or object can cause an unexpected, vigorous movement of your head and neck.
- Sports Encounters: Whiplash may result from a powerful blow to your head during contact sports like boxing, wrestling, or football.
- Physical Assault: You may get whiplash if an attacker hits you on the head with a heavy object.
- Slipping or Falling Accidents: Whiplash may be caused by falling or slipping accidents, leading to the jarring or jolting of your head.
Symptoms of Whiplash
Expect to experience one or more of the following symptoms if you sustain a whiplash injury:
- Neck pain
- Temporary loss or limitation of movement in the neck area
- Neck swelling and tenderness
- Neck stiffness
- Arm pain
- Shoulder pain
- Back pain
- Blurry vision
- Muscle spasms
- Physical weakness
- Arm and hand numbness
- Concentration issues
- Swallowing problems
According to Healthdirect Australia, the symptoms of whiplash injury usually manifest themselves approximately six to 12 hours after patients become injured. While you may begin to feel pain on the day of the accident, this pain and swelling are likely to increase in the days to come.
Treatments for Whiplash
There are several medical treatment options for whiplash, based on the severity of your injury:
- For Mild Whiplash: A general practitioner (GP) may prescribe codeine or other strong painkillers.
- For Severe or Prolonged Whiplash: The GP may refer you to other medical professionals if your condition does not improve and your symptoms persist after several weeks. The National Health Service (NHS) explains that the doctor may recommend further treatments with a pain specialist, physiotherapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist based on your physical or mental health needs.
The exact amount of medical bills you need to pay to the hospital or healthcare facility will depend on the type and length of your treatments.
Why Do People Seek Compensation for Whiplash Injuries?
As an injured party, it is your legal right to seek compensation from the guilty party and the insurance company. Here are several important reasons you should make an effort to pursue a whiplash injury claim.
Reason No. 1: Physical Limitations
You should be compensated for the physical pain caused by the whiplash injury, especially if your physical condition has interrupted the regular flow of your professional and personal life.
A study by the Injury journal reveals that many whiplash patients have experienced whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) on a long-term basis. Recovering patients commonly encounter cervical pain, shoulder pain, limb pain, degenerative changes, and decreased range of motion.
Reason No. 2: Mental Trauma
You can experience mental trauma because of your whiplash injury and the accident which caused it. A study by the Disability and Rehabilitation journal estimates that 25% of car accident victims who sustain physical injuries develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Patients with chronic whiplash symptoms are especially vulnerable to PTSD.
Reason No. 3: Financial Loss
You will likely experience financial loss if you acquire a whiplash injury. If your injury is severe enough, you may need to stop working until you are physically fit again.
You also need to make payments for the medical treatments you received for your whiplash injury. Your medical expenses may include doctors’ professional fees, X-ray tests, laboratory examinations, hospitalization, emergency care, rehabilitation sessions, and other miscellaneous medical bills.
Because of your whiplash injury’s adverse effect on the different areas of your life, it is only fair for you to request rightful compensation from the person or organization who caused your injury.
The Claims Process Concerning Whiplash Injury
The claims process for your whiplash injury and other types of personal injury is likely to involve the following steps:
Step 1: Consultation With a Personal Injury Lawyer
First, you will schedule a consultation with your personal injury attorney to discuss your whiplash injury and tell the story that led to your injury from your point of view. You may need to answer questions to clarify the situation.
Your lawyer may request you to provide additional information about the extent of your injury, disability, and pain. If you got hurt in a car accident, you would likely be required to share details about the speed limits, traffic signals, and other pertinent data. If you got injured because of a slipping or falling incident, expect to describe the environment where the accident took place.
Step 2: Assessment of Whiplash Injury Claim
Based on your legal consultation, the attorney will evaluate the merits of your whiplash injury claim before they choose to handle your case. Once they decide to take on your case, they will inform you about your legal rights as an injured party. They can provide you with an estimate of the type and amount of compensation you may expect to receive, given the severity of your whiplash injury.
If you prefer to negotiate a settlement, the lawyer will work with the guilty party and the insurance company so you can get a fair settlement amount. If you plan to pursue a whiplash injury claim because the offer is unsatisfactory, your lawyer will present your case in court.
Step 3: Gathering Supporting Evidence
The personal injury lawyer will gather evidence to support your whiplash injury claim. This evidence is crucial because it establishes the guilty party’s liability and proves the extent of your injury.
If you were involved in a car collision, they may take pictures of the accident scene and get a copy of the accident report. They can collect medical reports and other documents related to your accident. They may also request testimonies from witnesses.
Step 4: Negotiation With the Guilty Party and Insurance Company
The personal injury attorney will communicate on your behalf with the person or organization responsible for your whiplash injury. They may write and send formal letters of representation to the guilty party, insurance company, manufacturers of defective vehicles, and other parties who played a role in your accident.
The lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company and guilty party so that you can receive the maximum amount of compensation possible.
Step 5: Drafting a Demand Letter
The attorney will draft and disseminate a demand letter after completing the investigation of your whiplash injury claim. This document states the specific amount of financial compensation you expect from the guilty party and insurance company.
Step 6: Preparation of a Legal Complaint
The personal injury lawyer shall prepare a legal complaint in case the insurance company and guilty party do not offer you a fair settlement amount for your whiplash injury. The complaint will contain the legal arguments which establish their liability. It also states the compensation amount you are entitled to as the injured party. The recipients will have 30 days to respond to the complaint.
Step 7: Filing of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
The attorney will file a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf if the settlement negotiations with the guilty party and insurance company are not satisfactory. Once you formally file a lawsuit, you will become known as the plaintiff and the person or company who is responsible for your whiplash injury will be known as the defendant.
Step 8: Personal Injury Trial
Finally, your personal injury case will proceed to trial in court and the personal injury lawyer will be your legal representative during the trial, observing all the court protocols and procedures throughout the process. They will present your whiplash injury case and supporting evidence to the jury and judge to strengthen the legitimacy of your whiplash injury claim.
According to the Legal Information Institute, you may be awarded financial compensation if your whiplash injury claim is successful. The damages for personal injury may include medical expenses, lost wages, mental and emotional distress, pain and suffering, travel expenses, and household assistance.
What Is the Average Payout for Whiplash Injuries?
The average payout for whiplash injury claims in the U.S. ranges from a few thousand dollars to $20,000. However, each whiplash injury case is unique. The exact amount of financial compensation or settlement offer will depend on a variety of factors.
What Impacts the Average Whiplash Settlement Amount?
There are a wide range of factors that influence the computation of the whiplash settlement or compensation amount that you may receive.
- Severity of Whiplash Injury: How mild or severe your whiplash injury is and whether or not the injury has resulted in your temporary or permanent disability
- Impact on Professional and Personal Life: The degree of impact that the injury has on your work life and private life
- Recovery Time: The length of time you will need to fully recover from your injury and to return to your regular activities
- Financial Deficit: The financial loss that you have incurred because of lost wages and out-of-pocket medical treatment expenses
- Precedent: The outcomes of other whiplash injury claims that are similar to your own
When To See an Attorney
You should consult with a personal injury lawyer if you sustained a whiplash injury because of a car accident and other comparable reasons. The Law Office of John J. Perlstein can help you receive the fair compensation that you deserve from the guilty party and the insurance company.
Our results-oriented, experienced attorneys are ready to provide you with valuable legal advice as you negotiate for a settlement amount or pursue a whiplash injury claim in Southern California. Call us at (213) 252-1070 or send us a message to request for a free initial consultation from one of our Los Angeles and Orange County injury lawyers.