Whiplash is among the most common types of injuries that people sustain during car accidents. Although whiplash is usually categorized as “minor,” the injury can lead to long-term pain and suffering. Therefore, whiplash injury victims need to be compensated if another person is responsible for causing the accident that led to the injury.
However, you need to note some key points about the injury to increase your whiplash settlements. Understanding these key points enables you to evaluate the amount you can reasonably expect from your insurance claim. Getting a fair compensation figure for a whiplash injury depends on the duration and nature of the injury and excellent medical records.
Here, I will cover:
What Is Whiplash?
This is a painful injury in the neck that usually results from a forceful, rapid back and forth neck movement of the neck, hence the name neck sprain in some circles. Whiplash injuries mainly result from car accidents but can also be due to slip and fall accidents or physical abuse. The sudden movement of the neck that leads to this type of injury is similar to cracking a whip, hence the name whiplash injury.
Therefore, whiplash injury may not be a formal term in medical diagnosis, but it is mainly used by accident victims, personal injury lawyers, medical professionals, and insurance claims adjusters. The injury can be medically described as a soft tissue injury to a victim’s neck. Soft tissue injuries result from the damage of muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
Usually, the recovery process features weeks of physical therapy, rests, and pain medications. However, the recovery process can be arduous and long for some victims delayed by chronic conditions and setbacks that may persist even after all treatment options.
What Causes Whiplash?
There are many ways that lead to whiplash injuries, but the main cause is being rear-ended by another car while in your vehicle. While most people believe that whiplash results when there is a huge impact during the collision, this is not the case. Even a rear-end collision that happens at a lower speed can also lead to whiplash injury.
Apart from rear-end collisions, other types of accidents could also result in whiplash. For instance, a T-bone collision could lead to whiplash, in most cases lead to other injuries. Thus, this type of neck injury can result from any impact that leads to a whip-like snap.
What are the Common Whiplash Injury Symptoms?
In some cases, whiplash symptoms may manifest immediately or within hours after an accident. These symptoms include:
- Restricted range of the movement of your neck
- Neck stiffness and pain
- Pain in the arms, upper back, or shoulders
- Numbness, especially in your upper limbs
- Headaches that radiate from the base of your neck
Other symptoms include:
- Tinnitus (ringing in your ears)
- Depression, memory issues, difficulty concentrating
- Blurry vision
Thus, a person who suffers a whiplash injury after being rear-ended in a car accident should understand that the injury symptoms may not manifest immediately. According to Mayo Clinic, some symptoms of whiplash may even take 24 to 24 hours to appear. In other incidences, signs like neck pain can be immediate.
However, even with the list of the symptoms, you should avoid speculating that you have sustained a whiplash injury after the collision, especially in a rear-end crash. Instead, you should first consult your doctor for a medical examination to confirm the condition. You need to follow this step in case of a rear-end collision regardless of whether you have any symptoms or not.
Can Whiplash be Proven?
Yes, whiplash injury can be proven using past and current medical records. In some cases, the injury may fail to show up on MRI or x-ray, and require you to prove it by making sure that the symptoms are treated by certified medical providers and documented.
How Is Whiplash Diagnosed?
In most cases, doctors rely on verbal and manual examination to diagnose victims in case of whiplash. But the first step involves determining whether there was a rapid movement that could have led to such an injury. In some cases, doctors may need to use an X-ray examination to rule any fears of bone injuries in your neck.
After the first step, a medical provider will physically manipulate and examine the impacted tendons and muscles. In the case of whiplash, stiffness and inflammation of soft tissues are typically apparent. Doctors can confirm a diagnosis by combining stiffness, inflammation with self-reported pain levels.
Finally, in other cases, doctors may be required to perform additional imaging tests. For instance, doctors may order soft-tissue imaging technology in injuries that may involve pinched nerves or nerve damage. Soft-tissue imaging technology makes sure that the treatment does not aggravate any symptoms that may be related to nerve damage.
What Is the Average Whiplash Settlement?
In most cases, whiplash injuries rarely get large settlements after car accidents. This is usually because insurance companies consider this neck injury minor. Besides, most victims take just a couple of months to fully recover from the condition, while permanent damage is not usually associated with this type of neck injury.
However, if you sustained a whiplash injury during a vehicle accident, you will still be entitled to receive compensation through an injury settlement. Each claim is unique, which means that it is hard to determine the average whiplash injury settlement. But the average settlement amount for this type of injury may fall within:
- $1 million and $5 million or even more for injuries that result in permanent disability or life-altering whiplash injuries
- $10,000 and $100,000 for minor back and neck injuries
Well, there is no definite way to determine the exact amount to expect from a whiplash settlement. But an experienced personal injury lawyer can help determine the average range within which your case should fall.
Factors Affecting Your Whiplash Settlement Amount
Usually, whiplash injury claims are filed when you fail to receive enough to cover your damages (such as medical costs, property damage, and lost wages) from your insurance claim. Filing a whiplash injury claim enables the victim to sue the insurance company or responsible party for damages. Some of the factors that determine your injury settlement include:
The severity of your Injury
Almost every personal injury settlement will depend on the severity of the injury sustained. If you suffered whiplash that is likely to result in chronic pain or any broken bones, this could significantly impact your settlement. Severe injuries like broken bones can cause a victim to miss work, which would result in unpaid bills and lost wages.
Besides, the severity of your injury can also affect your life either on a long-term or short-term basis. A broken bone injury may take a few months or even a year to heal. But a more severe neck or back injury can impact your life permanently and may attract a higher settlement amount.
Negligence is the other important factor in determining your settlement in a whiplash injury case. Each driver has the responsibility of taking care of other motorists on the road by taking proper caution. Negligence occurs when a motorist breaches the duty of care.
Usually, personal injury cases depend on negligence. The whiplash injury payout will depend on whether your lawyer can prove negligence and how negligent the at-fault party was in your case.
Type of Back or Neck Injury
Auto accidents result in different whiplash-related injuries. Some of the common injuries in the back and neck resulting from car accidents include:
- Herniated disc
- Spinal cord injury
- Neck pain
- Chronic pain
- Soft tissue injury
- Broken bones
- Back pain
Spinal cord injuries may take a few months to heal, but severe cases may lead to chronic pain or permanent disability. Your personal injury attorney can help you identify the ways a whiplash injury has impacted your life.
Whiplash Injury Cost
A severe injury to your back or neck can lead to physical pain, resulting in permanent disability or lost wages. If your whiplash injury causes you to miss work for a certain period or permanently, this will be factored into your settlement. When it comes to serious whiplash injuries, the medical bills could mount quickly.
Moreover, the time you will take to recover, whether you are expected to recover fully, and any unpaid expenses in your recovery journey will also affect your payout offer.
How to Calculate Whiplash Settlements
Although it is not easy to determine the exact payout to expect in your settlement, it is important to understand how to calculate your settlement, especially when filing your claim. The initial step in determining your whiplash settlement amount is finding the sum of your total losses. Usually, these losses are known as special damages as they are financial losses that directly resulted from your neck injury. Special injuries include lost wages and medical bills.
For instance, if your medical expenses on your whiplash injury treatment were $3,500 and the lost wages were $2,500. The total special damages in your case would amount to $6,000.
From the example above, you can clearly see that determining the losses suffered in your special damages is straightforward and simple. However, calculating your payout for pain and suffering is a bit complicated. The compensation for your pain and suffering will entirely depend on the circumstances and facts in your case. This includes the details of what happens in your treatment and recovery journey.
Insurance claim adjusters and some personal injury lawyers use a pain and suffering calculator to come up with a fair figure for your settlement. The amount spent on treatment, therapy, and medical care is used as the numerical base that helps arrive at a reasonable pain and suffering value in this approach. The base amount is then multiplied by a multiplier, usually between 1.5 and 4.
Remember, if your whiplash injury is not considered severe, the factor used will fall under the scale’s lower end. The case particularly applies if the large amount in your medical expenses is physical therapy costs.
When looking at the overall settlement, they can also consider lost wages. Lost wages are derived from different resources. These include:
- Affidavit from employer
However, it is important to understand that lost wages do not form part of the calculation, even though they are included in the overall payout.
Whiplash Settlement Case Example
Most of the whiplash cases result from rear-end collisions. One good example of such a case involves a situation where a car was stopped at an intersection. A vehicle pulling in from behind fails to slow down and hits the appropriately parked car. The impact from the collision can make the driver or a passenger in the appropriately stopped car suffer a whiplash injury.
The driver went for medical examination and received a formal diagnosis for whiplash injury in the case above. After the diagnosis, he visited his primary four times due to the injury. Besides, he spent four weeks undergoing physical rehab for flexibility and pain issues. The total medical bills were $5,000.
During the treatment period, he missed 5 days of work. As a result, he lost $1,000 in wages. In addition, the whiplash injury caused him to endure pain and suffering, which cannot be determined without the formula.
Since the injury was not considered severe, the pain and suffering payout was based on a factor of 2, a value at the scale’s lower end.
In this case, the pain and suffering figure on his payout was double his medical bills, or $10,000. The total amount that the driver received as settlement for the whiplash injury was $15,000.
What Types of Compensation are Available for Whiplash Claims?
Car accident injury victims are entitled to a number of types of compensation. In most cases, whiplash injury victims incur various expenses, which need to be compensated. Some of the common types of compensation available for whiplash victims include:
- Medical bills and other costs related to your injury
- Lost benefits and wages if you miss work
- Pain and suffering damages
- Out-of-pocket expenses (General household expenses)
- Loss of quality of life (personal enjoyment damages)
How Long Does a Whiplash Settlement Take?
This depends on various factors, including whether the claim becomes a lawsuit or settled out of court. If your claim proceeds to court, the entire settlement process may take six months or even over a year. However, most personal injury cases are settled before going to trial. Therefore, it is more likely for the insurance company to reach you in the early stages of the process, typically within a few weeks.
In some cases, they might have an offer ready when contacting you, or they may want to get more information on your case and gain your confidence. Thus, it might take about two to six months for your claim to reach a pre-trial agreement.
Is it worth suing for whiplash?
Usually, you can always sue for whiplash after being involved in a car accident and sustaining this type of injury. In this case, you are eligible to ask for compensation for damages if you were not responsible for the accident. However, you can also sue for whiplash even without meeting these requirements, but you stand almost no chance to with your lawsuit.
In conclusion, if you experience a whiplash injury due to a car accident where another party is at fault, there are a few key points about a whiplash settlement that you need to keep in mind:
- Insurance companies do not consider whiplash injuries serious.
- A multiplier in the lower end of the scale is usually utilized in calculating pain and suffering value.
- Whiplash injury victims are entitled to various compensation, including medical bills, pain, suffering, and lost wages.
Whiplash Syndrome Reloaded: Digital Echoes of Whiplash Syndrome in the European Internet Search Engine Context: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5387115/
Effect of eliminating compensation for pain and suffering on the outcome of insurance claims for whiplash injury: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10770984/
Potential risk factors for prolonged recovery following whiplash injury:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15160316/
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