Accidents that cause a sudden stop can sometimes cause whiplash. Many types of accidents cause whiplash, including motor vehicle accidents, sporting accidents, and trip or slip and fall accidents. Anything that includes the sudden jerking of your head, such as a rear-end car accident, could cause whiplash. Whiplash injuries may heal in as little as a few weeks, but for some, the pain persists for several months or even their entire life. Reach out to a neck injury lawyer.
If your neck bends in one direction and your upper spine moves in the other (forward or backward) with force, the injuries are collectively known as whiplash. Whiplash can involve the tendons, muscles, nerves, and discs in your neck.
The time a whiplash injury takes to heal depends on the severity of the injury and whether you damaged nerves, discs, muscles, tendons, or a combination.
The types of accidents that cause whiplash may also cause traumatic brain injuries. The same force that causes your spine and neck injury can cause your brain to collide with the inside of your skull.
When your head snaps forward, it forces the neck to extend further than it should. Since your brain “floats” inside your skull, it continues moving when your head stops. Thus, the stronger the impact, the more severe the whiplash and potential for brain injuries.
The symptoms of whiplash vary depending on the severity of the injury.
They often include one or more of:
- Stiffness of the neck.
- Neck pain.
- Low back pain.
- Shoulder pain.
- Arm or hand pain.
- Arm or hand numbness.
- Feeling dizzy.
- Blurry vision.
- Ringing in your ears.
- Being irritable.
- Having trouble sleeping.
- Feeling tired all the time.
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering things.
If you or your doctor suspect you might have whiplash, your doctor will examine you and order relevant tests. These could include X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging tests (MRIs), and computed tomography scans (CT scans).
How a doctor treats whiplash depends on several factors, including your injury’s severity, health, age, medical history, preference and tolerance for medications, therapies, and available procedures.
Various treatments include:
- A neck collar (cervical collar).
- Applying ice.
- Instructing you to take ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
- Prescribing muscle relaxers.
- Recommending minimal movement.
- Osteopathic manipulation.
- Physical therapy.
Your doctor may try something else if the whiplash doesn’t improve with initially recommended treatments and medications.
Sometimes, whiplash shows up immediately. In other cases, it could take from 12 hours to a few days to manifest. Doctors may use the Quebec Classification of Whiplash-Associated Disorders to grade your injuries.
- Grade 0: If you have whiplash, you generally don’t feel pain, nor do you have symptoms or signs of a whiplash injury.
- Grade 1: You might feel stiffness when you move. The injured area may also hurt to touch.
- Grade 2: You have the symptoms listed in Grade 1 and might show physical signs of an injury. Symptoms might include pain radiating to your face, shoulder, head, and back; muscle spasms in your neck; swelling; and bruising.
- Grade 3: Your neck is inflamed or swollen enough to disrupt the nerve signals traveling through the injured area. You might also notice weak muscles; numbness in your upper back, neck, upper arms, or shoulders; the inability to feel heat and cold; having pins and needles feeling in your upper arms, upper back, shoulders, or neck; headaches; vision issues, including blurry vision; trouble swallowing; loss of your voice; vertigo or dizziness.
- Grade 4: The highest grade, grade 4, includes the symptoms in the previous grades, but they are graver. A misaligned or fractured vertebra may put pressure on your nerves or spinal cord.
Paying a Car Accident Attorney and Medical Expenses
Whiplash treatment may accrue extensive medical expenses. Your finances may weigh heavily on your mind, especially if you are unable to work while recovering. A common concern during an initial case evaluation is how a victim can afford an attorney’s fees and medical expenses while trying to keep up with bills and putting food on the table.
You can often use your auto and health insurance to cover your initial medical expenses. When you receive a settlement or trial award, it should include enough compensation to cover any existing out-of-pocket medical expenditures and reimburse your insurance companies that fronted funds for medical care. Thus, it’s always imperative that you save all bills and invoices you receive and track out-of-pocket payments to include in your injury claim.
If you can’t cover out-of-pocket expenses such as co-payments, your attorney can issue a letter of credit asking your medical professionals to hold off on collecting until you recover compensation through your injury claim.
Attorney’s fees are also not a concern because when you retain a car accident lawyer for whiplash or other injuries, you do not pay the firm upfront. Attorneys use a contingency fee agreement which means you don’t pay your attorney’s fees unless you win your case and recover compensation. The attorney’s fees are paid as a percentage of your settlement or court award when you win.
Recovering Damages for Whiplash and Other Injuries and Losses
The amount of damages you recover after an accident depends greatly on the severity of your injuries. The compensation you could recover for whiplash also depends on the severity of the whiplash injury and the effect it has on your life both short and long term.
A whiplash victim can typically recover two types of compensatory damages: economic and non-economic damages.
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value.
More damages apply to your case if you sustain more injuries. Economic damages include:
- Medical expenses, including doctors’ appointments, surgeries, follow-up appointments, prescriptions, prescribed over-the-counter medications and equipment, and ambulatory aids.
- Home health care, rehabilitative home care, and nursing home care.
- Accessibility aids for your vehicle, including wheelchair ramps, lifts, and hand controls.
- Accessibility aids for your home, including but not limited to wheelchair ramps, grab bars, handrails, and widened doorways.
- Repair or replacement of your vehicle and other personal property damaged in the accident.
- Loss of income and loss of future earning capacity. If your whiplash injuries include damaged discs or nerve damage, there is a possibility that your injuries could cause long-term or permanent disabilities.
And, if you lost a loved one in a car accident, you could recover death-related expenses, such as cremation expenses, funeral and burial costs, specific probate court fees, and probate attorney’s fees and costs.
Not everyone recovers non-economic damages. Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value. In most cases, your injuries have to cause long-term or permanent disabilities, or you must have lost a loved one to recover non-economic damages.
Most insurance companies have their own definition of long-term or permanent disabilities. However, the Social Security Administration defines them as resulting in death or lasting longer than 12 months.
While the money doesn’t erase your injuries or bring back a loved one, it significantly reduces your financial stress due to the long-term or permanent loss of earning capacity.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make life-long changes such as taking prescription drugs or using ambulatory aids.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a leg or hand.
- Loss of bodily function use, such as your eyesight or bladder.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer enjoy a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy spending time with your family or attending family activities and events.
- Excessive scarring or disfigurement.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do chores you usually do, including but not limited to house cleaning, grocery shopping, home repair and maintenance, and lawn maintenance.
- Amputation of a digit or a limb.
- The loss of a loved one.
Whiplash Accidents: Settle or Litigate?
Most car accident cases settle. However, whether your whiplash case settles depends on the insurance company. Since insurance companies are in business to make a profit, they will try anything to deny a claim or offer you a pittance for your whiplash and other injuries.
After an accident, if you notify the insurance company of the accident, you should only give your name and contact information, the date and location of the accident, and your car accident attorney’s name and contact information.
Insurance companies use several tricks to deny or reduce a claim, including:
- Twisting your statements to place the blame for the accident on you.
- Delaying communication about your claim so you miss the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit or the insurance company’s deadline to file a claim.
- Offering you a pittance and telling you that is the most they can pay for a claim like yours. This is almost always false.
These are just a few tricks insurance companies use to keep that money in their pockets.
When you retain a car accident lawyer, their preparation for settlement negotiations also prepares them to file a complaint to start litigation—should negotiations break down.
After Winning a Settlement or Trial Award in a Car Accident Case that Caused Whiplash Injuries and Other Injuries
Once you win a settlement or a trial award, it takes some time to receive your money.
Your attorney may:
- Draft a settlement agreement or a proposed final judgment. Your attorney reviews it with you. If it needs changes, your attorney submits them to the drafting attorney. If both attorneys agree, the drafting attorney makes the changes and returns the document.
- Review a settlement agreement, then have you sign and notarize it. The insurance company processes the agreement.
- Forward the proposed final judgment to the court. The judge reviews it to ensure it meets the court’s approval, then executes it and records it with the court. The insurance company must process the final judgment once it receives the executed document from the court.
At this point, the insurance company forwards a check to your attorney, who deposits it in an escrow account. Before your attorney can take the next step, the check must clear the bank. In most cases, it could take up to 14 days to clear due to the check amount.
Once the check clears, your attorney:
- Pays any outstanding medical expenses. Be sure to turn in any new invoices from your medical providers so your attorney can pay them.
- Reimburses your auto and health insurance if you used them to cover medical expenses and loss of earnings. Since the defendant caused the accident and financial impact, your insurance companies should not bear that financial burden.
- Deducts the firm’s percentage based on the contingency agreement you signed when you retained the firm. The rate agreed to often depends on various factors, including whether you settled or litigated your case.
Once the attorney covers the outstanding expenses, they cut a check to you.
If you suffered whiplash injuries and other injuries or lost a loved one in a car wreck, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.