Whiplash is a term which is used to describe an injury to the soft tissues of the neck, specifically, the:
- Tendons; and
An individual sustains a whiplash injury when a sudden, jerking force pushes their head forward, backward, or in both directions. This form of neck strain is common in:
- Auto accidents;
- Amuseme nt park rides; and
- Boating accidents.
The symptoms of whiplash may range from mild to severe and may appear immediately after the injury or days or even weeks later. Because of this delay in onset of pain, it may be medically dangerous for a victim and may also pose a problem for any potential legal claims for recovering damages.
The sooner an individual can see a doctor, the better. Whiplash typically occurs in an automobile accident, particularly to individuals whose vehicle is rear-ended.
The name of the whiplash injury is derived from the rapid, back-and-forth motion of the neck which causes it. Whiplash may also be caused by:
- Sports injuries;
- Some other form of trauma; or
- Physical abuse.
Other common symptoms of whiplash include:
- Neck pain; and
- Neck stiffness.
Although the symptoms of whiplash typically resolve on their own after a short period of time, whiplash may cause longer-lasting physical repercussions to the injured party.
What are the Symptoms of Whiplash Injuries?
The symptoms of a whiplash injury may vary by individual but may include:
- Neck pain and stiffness;
- Loss of range of motion;
- Tenderness in the:
- upper back;
- arms; or
- Numbness or tingling in the arms; and
- Pain that worsens with neck movement.
Some injured individuals may also experience additional whiplash symptom, including:
- Ringing in the ears;
- Memory problems;
- Sleep disturbances;
- Blurred vision; and
- Depression and irritability.
What Should I Do if I Have Suffered a Whiplash Injury?
If an individual has suffered a whiplash injury, they should seek medical attention immediately. If an individual’s injuries are left untreated, they may end up with serious long-term neck issues.
In addition, if an individual does not seek medical attention, it is much more difficult to bring a successful legal claim to recover damages. Once an individual is sent home from the doctor or emergency room, they should also seek medical attention if they develop new or persistent symptoms.
An individual should also consult with an experienced personal injury attorney in their area. They should bring all of their documentation related to the accident and injury to their consultation.
It is essential to gather evidence for a case, such as keeping detailed records of the accident as well as the individual’s symptoms. An individual should also gather all documentation related to their medical treatment and their expenses related to the accident.
For more information on these issues, see the following LegalMatch articles:
Are There Any Special Considerations Related to Whiplash Pain and Suffering?
There are several issues that an individual must consider related to whiplash pain and suffering injuries. In contrast to a broken bone or other joint injury, the pain from a whiplash injury cannot be shown on an x-ray or other medical imaging device.
Instead, the individual’s pain and suffering resulting from a whiplash injury must be proven through their lack of movement or a restriction of their full range of motion near the head and neck area. In many cases, the symptoms of a whiplash injury will disappear in around a week.
If the plaintiff failed to seek medical attention within that time frame, they may be prevented from recovering damages for their injury. A severe whiplash injury, however, may be detectable by a medical imaging device if it also caused serious injury to their neck or spine, such as a slipped disc.
Whiplash pain and suffering, in some cases, does not appear as an injury until several days or even weeks following the accident. This may be an issue because the longer the time duration between the accident and the appearance of the pain, the more difficult it may be for the plaintiff to show the pain is a result of the accident.
How is Whiplash Compensation Determined?
In cases of whiplash which are less severe, the injured party may receive a settlement from their insurance company as compensation. In more severe cases, however, the injured party, who is now the plaintiff, may file a lawsuit against the party who is liable for their injuries, the defendant, including any parties who may have caused the injury, and that individual’s insurance company.
If the plaintiff is successful, they may be awarded damages based on the following:
- The severity of the whiplash injuries;
- Whether the plaintiff was partly responsible for their own injuries;
- Whether there were any pre-existing injuries involved; and
- State injury laws, which can be different for each state.
In most cases, an expert medical witness will be necessary in order to determine the amount of compensation that is required. For instance, if the expert determines that the whiplash injuries are not that serious, the damages award may be reduced accordingly.
Or, if the expert determines that the whiplash injuries are particularly severe, the damages may be increased. The court may also award compensation for future loss of income or loss of earning capacity if the whiplash injury hinders the individual’s ability to earn wages in the future.
What if I Have a Legal Dispute Over the Amount of Compensation?
If an individual has a legal dispute regarding the amount of compensation, a medical expert can be an invaluable tool to determine the true amount of damages the plaintiff should receive. A whiplash injury is often underestimated.
In addition, as noted above, the full extent of the injury may not present itself for a period of time. A medical expert is qualified to study the plaintiff’s medical records and case.
The medical expert can make complex medical details clear in order to present an accurate picture of the likely medical costs to the plaintiff and therefore, their need for a larger amount of damages. The assistance of an attorney is also indispensable because some states may limit the amount of car accident damages, depending on state law.
It is important to note that the damage awards for whiplash injuries must be a reasonable amount and must also be proportionate to the severity of the injury. It will be helpful to collect documents, including:
- Police reports;
- Eyewitness information and accounts;
- Medical bills and hospital bills; and
- Insurance documents.
These documents will be helpful in building a case during trial and may serve as evidence in the individual’s favor when they are requesting a certain damages amount.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Whiplash Compensation Disputes?
If your whiplash injury is severe and you need to file a lawsuit to seek compensation, it is in your best interest to seek the assistance of a car accident attorney in your state. Your attorney will review your case, assist you in gathering evidence, and represent you in court.
These types of cases are often complex and require expert medical testimony, as noted above. Your attorney is best equipped to present evidence and utilize expert testimony.
Having an attorney is likely your best chance at obtaining the compensation you deserve for your injuries.