A whiplash is a type of injury that sprains and strains the neck and spinal cord. It may also damage muscles, ligaments, and bones. It is one of the most common injuries after an auto accident, particularly in rear-end collisions. They usually cause whiplash injuries because of the impact causing a sudden back-and-forth motion.
According to a 2021 research published in Frontiers in Psychology, 69.3 percent of rear-end accidents cause whiplash injuries. Head-on collisions ranked second at 22.2 percent, while side-impact crashes ranked third at 8.5 percent.
An analysis from ScienceDirect found that in the US, 1.2 million people suffer from whiplash annually. The authors made a disclaimer, stating there was a lack of reliable estimates of crash-related neck injuries. Still, whiplash and other cervical spine problems happen due to traffic collisions.
Contact a reliable personal injury attorney if you suffered neck pain and related injuries from a car crash. They can provide legal advice on whiplash settlements and how to get fair compensation.
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Factors Affecting Whiplash Settlements
Several factors affect settlements in case of whiplash injuries. They can include injury severity, defendant’s liability, and requested claim amount.
Experts established the Quebec Classification of Whiplash-Associated Disorders to evaluate whiplash injuries. Usually, the severity of your injuries may determine your payout. The system also shows that the symptoms of whiplash depend on the injury’s grade.
For instance, grade zero whiplash has no visible signs of injury. It also impacts an accident victim’s daily life and work the least. A whiplash categorized in this grade only requires minimal medical attention. Still, patients should undergo specific tests to rule out hidden injuries.
The symptoms of grade one whiplash include a limited range of motion due to a stiff neck. You may also experience tenderness around the affected area. Doctors typically recommend medical care when these symptoms manifest after an auto accident.
The most apparent signs of grade two whiplash include bruising and swelling. You may also complain of head, neck, shoulder, and back pain. Moreover, grade two whiplash may lead to muscle spasms, making moving your head and neck difficult.
Grade three whiplash may involve headaches, dizziness, vision problems, and loss of voice. It also affects the nerves, causing numbness in the neck, upper back, or shoulders. You may also feel a burning or tingling sensation in the same body parts. This category of soft tissue injury requires immediate medical attention.
Victims with grade four whiplash usually experience chronic pain and all the above symptoms. Hence, they may suffer from headaches, neck pain, numbness, vision problems, and other neurological conditions. Doctors may perform spine surgery to treat this serious injury.
Other treatments for this car accident injury include immobilization, painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and muscle relaxers. Some patients may also need physical therapy to regain strength and mobility.
Liability of the defendant
The defendant’s liability may also affect your whiplash case settlement. You can receive fair compensation for your losses if you present sufficient evidence to establish fault.
Your personal injury lawyer can prove liability through the doctrine of negligence. Regarding whiplash settlements, its elements include:
- the other party’s legal duty
- the violation of such an obligation
- your whiplash injuries, and
- the connection between the breach and whiplash.
For example, Section 42-4-1008 of the Colorado Revised Statutes prohibits drivers from following another vehicle too closely. The law mandates a motorist’s duty to maintain a safe distance. So if another driver tailgates you, it violates a legal obligation. Suppose the tailgating resulted in whiplash injuries. In that case, you may demand compensation from the negligent motorist.
Your legal counsel may also invoke the product liability doctrine. It refers to a cause of action regarding a defective consumer item like vehicles and auto parts. The company may have manufactured the product incorrectly. Sometimes, the defect may be due to the design, or the seller may have failed to fulfill the warranty terms.
To establish responsibility under the strict product liability, your attorney must prove that when the manufacturer distributed the item, it was already defective. Moreover, the defect must have caused your whiplash injuries.
An example involves a vehicle manufacturer of a car with faulty steering wheels. Due to the defective auto part, the motorist lost control of the sedan and crashed into a tree. Hence, the driver sustained a whiplash injury. Under personal injury law, the injured party may ask the auto manufacturer to pay their hospital bills.
Complex accident cases involving significant amounts may take more time to settle than small claims. For instance, if you seek to recover $70,000 for medical bills, the other party may need to investigate the claim further. But suppose you ask $5,000 for a minor whiplash. In that case, the insurance company or the at-fault party may quickly approve your personal injury claim..
Aside from expenses due to past medical treatment, you can also demand future physical therapy costs. Some whiplash injuries need continuing rehabilitation to restore strength and function. You may also need pain management treatment in case of grade four whiplash, which causes chronic pain.
Since patients with grade three whiplash may experience vision problems and neurological disorders, they may not be able to perform their usual work. They will need to take a leave of absence, causing a loss of salary, benefits, commissions, and bonuses. Hence, injured parties may ask for compensation for lost income.
Aside from the quantifiable losses that victims may experience, the accident can also affect their mental and emotional health. In effect, they may request compensation for pain and suffering.
Pain and suffering involve physical discomfort, inconvenience, and emotional trauma. Some victims may have nightmares about the collision or experience flashbacks when riding a vehicle after the crash. These instances significantly affect the injured party’s quality of life.
Process of Whiplash Settlements
Whiplash settlements follow a predictable path in most cases. It includes notifying the insurance company, establishing your claim, negotiating with adjusters, filing a lawsuit, and participating in a mediation conference.
Notifying the insurance company
Contact the insurance company about the accident in preparation for making your claim. Depending on the situation, it may be your insurer or the at-fault party. In either case, do it as soon as possible, as some insurance companies have a time limit for filing claims.
Your insurer must receive the following information:
- Name and contact number of involved drivers
- Details of the incident and your injuries
- Accident report
You may get the accident report online or visit the local police station where the crash happened. For instance, the New York Police Department has a website for accessing motor vehicle collision reports. Section 605 of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law requires drivers to report the accident within ten days.
State laws also compel motorists to provide their name, address, insurance carrier, and license information. Section 600 is an example of a provision requiring information exchange among drivers in New York. Hence, you can easily collect the details needed by insurers.
Establishing the whiplash injury claim
Aside from the accident report, you must submit other evidence, such as photographs, medical records, and imaging results.
It would be helpful to take pictures of your vehicle after the collision. Your photographs must show skid marks, debris, and airbags. Car accident victims should also capture stop signs or traffic signals for a more objective view of the incident.
Moreover, medical records, X-ray results, and doctor’s testimony can show the severity of the injury. Since damage to the soft tissue may not be seen on an X-ray, it is essential to undergo an MRI or magnetic resonance imaging scan.
Your doctor or surgeon can also testify on the grade of your whiplash and clarify complicated facts about your injury. Fortunately, a personal injury lawyer can help you find expert witnesses to support your claim.
Negotiating with insurance companies
Insurance adjusters will evaluate whiplash claims before negotiating a settlement. They will investigate the motorists involved in the auto accident, the collision report, and the injury assessment. Follow-up interviews may involve clarifying past statements and soliciting in-depth information regarding the events before, during, and after the crash.
Aside from these meetings, insurance adjusters will also inspect the cars involved to verify the parties’ statements. They may also interrogate witnesses and passengers to decide on the initial offer. Moreover, they will look into your medical records to determine the severity of the injury.
After doing their due diligence, insurance adjusters will then start negotiating a settlement. However, they work for insurance companies, so they might offer less than you demand. A car accident attorney can negotiate with adjusters to improve your chances of getting fair compensation.
Filing a personal injury case
Suppose negotiations fail because the parties cannot agree on the terms of a whiplash settlement. In that case, you can file a personal injury case.
However, personal injury lawsuits are subject to a state’s statute of limitations, starting from the vehicle accident date. If you go beyond the time limit established by law, the court may not entertain your claim. As a result, you will not be eligible to recover damages for your losses.
Your personal injury attorney will prepare the civil complaint to start the case. The contents of the complaint may vary by state. However, they typically include a statement of facts and the damages or relief requested.
Entering into a mediation conference
Most states require parties to a civil lawsuit to schedule a mediation conference to resolve their issues. The purpose is to avoid the high cost of a court trial. The mediator is a neutral third party who assists in the negotiations without taking sides or making judgments.
Mediation conferences provide an informal and confidential forum where parties can make offers and counter-offers. It may happen through video, telephone, and in-person meetings.
This alternative dispute resolution method requires the active participation of the parties and their lawyers to get a personal injury settlement. During the initial session, the parties may be in the same room where they have opportunities to be heard. The mediator may also communicate with each party separately in subsequent meetings.
The mediator may encourage settlement by providing settlement payout ranges and laying out law-based settlement practices throughout the process. Hence, the parties can avoid decisions based on a whim.
Once the parties air all issues and interests, there may be a settlement offer. As a claimant, you can decide to accept or deny it. If mediation fails, the case will go to trial.
Average Whiplash Settlements
The amount you may receive depends on the severity of the injury and the extent of the other party’s liability. For instance, the average whiplash settlements for grade zero whiplash ranges from $1,000 to $5,000.
On the other hand, if you have grade one injuries, you may receive a whiplash settlement amount of $5,000 to $10,000. Patients with grade two whiplash may get $20,000 to $30,000 since they spend more on medical expenses than those with mild injuries.
Grade three whiplash involves neurological effects, so accident victims may demand an average settlement of $25,000 to $100,000. They might need surgery and rehabilitation programs, which can be costly.
Lastly, settlements for the most severe whiplash injuries may go up to $1 million. The reason is grade four whiplash typically requires complex surgeries and long-term therapies. These can affect a person’s quality of life, preventing them from working and enjoying past hobbies.
You can minimize the risk of whiplash by adjusting your head restraint, wearing your seatbelt, and leaving a safe distance between your car and the vehicle in front.
Find a Car Accident Lawyer Near You
One of the most frequent injuries in car accidents is whiplash. While most cases are minor, some can significantly affect your quality of life. It is only fitting that you get fair compensation for your losses. A personal injury lawyer can help you with the claim process.
Schedule a free consultation with The Personal Injury Center to find attorneys or law firms with experience handling whiplash settlements.
Whiplash settlements can help victims recover their losses. Visit The Personal Injury Center to find out your legal options regarding accident injuries.
FAQs on Whiplash Injury Settlements
What is subrogation in settlements?
Subrogation allows the insurance company that paid an injured client’s damages to sue the at-fault party or their insurance company. Essentially, the insurance company is taking on their client’s legal rights to recover damages from the at-fault party.
What is a medical lien?
A patient and medical provider enter a medical lien agreement to ensure that the injured party receives immediate medical attention. The provider can regain health care costs after the settlement proceedings in exchange for prompt medical care.
Is the rear driver automatically liable in a rear-end accident?
No. The front driver might become liable if they violated traffic rules, such as turning without signaling and failing to maintain brake lights. The government can also be responsible in case of hazards like potholes and rough roads.