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Whiplash: Car Accident Injury

You were in a minor accident and at the time it didn’t seem like it was a big deal. But as time passed, you started noticing an ache in your neck and upper back. You went to the doctor and found out that the ache is not going away for a while. You find yourself the forced owner of not only a medical condition but also medical bills.

Whiplash is one of the most common automobile injuries; especially rear-end collisions. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Security (IIHS), neck sprains and strains, commonly known as whiplash, are the most frequently reported injuries in U.S. insurance claims. Also, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “The Highway Loss Data Institute estimates that in 2012, the cost of claims in which neck pain was the most serious injury was about $10 billion, or 26 percent of the total payout for crash injuries.”

WHAT IS WHIPLASH?

Whiplash is a common type of trauma that is often ignored. It happens to a person’s neck after a sudden acceleration-deceleration force that causes quick back and forth movement of the neck and head. The term was first coined in 1928. The term “whiplash injury” means the damage caused to the bone structure as well as the surrounding tissues of the neck and head area. Whiplash is not a life-threatening injury, but it can cause long periods of temporary disability. It can also incur a lot of expenses for the injured person, including:

  • Medical care
  • Disability
  • Time off from work
  • Lost productivity
  • Litigation

It mostly happens because of a collision between two automobiles, but it can occur in other circumstances too. Usually, it is the result of a rear impact while in a stationary position. The impact causes the head and neck of the person to be thrown into a hyperextended (backward) position as the seat of the car pushes his torso forward. After a momentary delay, the head and neck are thrown into the hyper flexed (forward) position.

After a car accident, you may walk away, seemingly unscathed. Because of shock and the adrenalin, you may not notice the injuries at that point. But symptoms can surface hours even days later. These symptoms might be due to the physical injury or the emotional trauma caused by the collision.

Factors Affecting Whiplash

There are many factors that impact the quality of whiplash in motor vehicle accidents such as the height of the passenger, the gender, and the position and quality of the car’s head restraints.

Height of the Passenger

The height of the passenger plays a very important role in any whiplash accident as the height determines the position of one’s head in relation to the head restraint. When people enter the car, they rarely think about adjusting the head restraint to the optimal height and angle recommended for their height.

Gender

Women suffer more from whiplash caused by automobile accidents than men. Over 55% of females that experience whiplash also suffer long-term disability. Results from studies show that the stronger the neck muscles, the less likely one is to suffer a whiplash injury.

Head Restraint

It is recommended for all passengers to adjust the head restraint according to their height whenever they enter a car. The head restraint should be 3.5 inches below the top of the head.

The common symptoms of whiplash may include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Shoulder pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Jaw pain
  • Visual impairment
  • Ringing in the ear
  • Back pain

What to do After an Accident?

Whiplash injury doesn’t show up on X-ray as it affects the soft tissues. Hence, it is harder to prove than something like a wound or a broken bone. Add to it the fact that the symptoms may materialize hours or even days after the accident, whiplash injuries are very commonly used for insurance fraud schemes. This can make your case very difficult to prove. Insurance companies usually fight whiplash injury claims more arduously than any other. Here’s what you need to do after a car accident:

Get Medical Treatment Immediately

After you’ve been in a car accident, go for a medical checkup immediately, whether you feel injured or not. Know that whiplash is not the only injury that can show its symptoms later. You can’t ignore traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries or back injuries. Visiting a doctor immediately can result in a faster diagnosis and treatment right away. This also shows the insurance company that you take care of your health and safety.

File a Case

Once the healing has started you should attempt to file a claim as soon as possible. If you presently reside in a no-fault state, you need to contact your own insurance provider and tell them about your injury. If you reside in a state that allows a fault to be determined, you need to contact the other driver’s insurance company. Try to keep it in writing i.e. write them a letter or an email. In your email, you should cover your injuries as described by your doctor and your intent to file an insurance claim. Try to do it as soon as you can. Most insurance companies demand “as soon as possible” reports. Don’t agree to give a recorded statement or say yes to the first settlement offer that they float your way. Instead, call an accident attorney before going anywhere further with your claim.

Keep Records

Medical

Since whiplash is a soft tissue injury, it means that it’s up to the doctor to decide whether you are suffering from it or not. It’s also not taken as a serious injury, so to have a successful claim, it’s imperative that you keep excellent records. It doesn’t matter if you want to sue or not, it’s best to have a doctor record your injuries at the time of the accident. Having all these records in hand will greatly help prove that you’ve been injured. Keep a record of every visit to the hospital or the doctor’s office.

Costs

Not only do you have to keep track of your medical bills and records, but also the cost of all your visits to the doctor. This includes the wages lost as a result of being out of work, mileage as a result of traveling to and from the doctor’s office or the hospital, and notes from the physician that keep you away from your work for a specific period of time.

Evidence

One of the most important things to do after the accident is collecting the evidence. This includes pictures of the location of the crash from multiple angles, pictures of the road conditions at the time, and any witness accounts if they are possible.

Hire an Attorney

Only an attorney can properly guide the whiplash victims. Without engaging a lawyer or an attorney for help related to whiplash injury, people will fail to file viable claims with the insurance companies. Either that or if they do file a proper claim, they will be severely ill-equipped to handle the settlement negotiations in a successful manner. Always consult with legal counsel familiar with car accidents as to your rights following a whiplash accident and injury.

How much is the Case Worth?

whiplash in a car accidentIt’s vital to know that reimbursements in a whiplash case are usually not that much. If the doctor has diagnosed you with whiplash injury or neck strain or sprain, it is generally not a severe injury. So, your claim might not be a very big one. The first thing you should do is to add up your economic damages. For example, let’s say that you have medical bills worth $3000 and you’ve lost $1000 because of lost wages or cab fare to and from the hospital. This puts your total economic damages at $4000. The second thing to calculate is the non-economic damages like compensation for trauma and suffering. Now the important thing is how to calculate these damages in a whiplash case? You might know that insurance companies use a “multiplier” as part of their car accident settlement formula. This multiplier could be anywhere between 1.5 and 4. But this concept is only dependable up to a point. If your case goes to trial, the jury does not use any kind of multipliers. The jury looks for other factors in the case like:

  • Is the plaintiff a good or a bad witness?
  • Whether he or she is believable.
  • Whether the jury understands the plaintiff’s injuries.
  • The nature and range of the plaintiff’s medical treatment.

Another thing that’s of the utmost importance is who treats the plaintiff. If the plaintiff has incurred medical bills mostly from physical therapy and chiropractic treatment, as opposed to hospital bills or a private medical doctor, both juries and insurance companies are going to take your case very lightly. Both juries and insurers believe that if the complainant really had serious injuries, he or she would be going to a medical doctor and not a therapist or a chiropractor.

So, if you think that you and the insurance company cannot see eye-to-eye, it is time to put your case in the capable hands of an experienced law firm, like the Walker Law Firm

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