Do I Need an Attorney to Get Compensation for a Whiplash Injury?
One of the most common types of injuries that people sustain in a car crash is Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD).
Commonly referred to simply as whiplash, WAD is more than just a temporary pain.
Whiplash can result in long-lasting problems that affect your ability to work and live life as you did before the accident.
The damage is only exacerbated when the whiplash is not identified early and when those affected do not received the compensation necessary to help in recovery.
If you’ve suffered a whiplash injury because of a car crash, you’re probably wondering whether you can be compensated. In this article we’ll examine how to identify a whiplash injury and what steps you need to take to receive compensation for the damages you’ve suffered.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is caused by a quick jolt to the neck and shoulders, specifically when the head continues moving forward while the body remains still. Whiplash is a serious soft tissue injury that can leave a person with long-term pain and disability. Those who sustained whiplash as a result of another person’s negligence may be entitled to financial compensation. Unfortunately, because of their nature, these claims tend to be challenging to navigate.
The severity of a whiplash injury depends on the speed and force involved, but all instances of WAD typically results in sprains or tears to the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the neck and shoulders. An X-ray, MRI, or other imaging diagnostic measure might not reveal any physical evidence of injury. However, the fact remains that your injury is real even though it may not be visible just yet.
The challenges of diagnosing or proving a whiplash injury should not discourage you from getting compensation with the help of a whiplash attorney. If you need to discuss your injuries or accident claim further, contact Sutliff & Stout at 713-987-7111 for a free case review with one of our attorneys.
Whiplash Signs and Symptoms
Whiplash can occur in any type of car accident. Drivers and passengers are usually wearing a seatbelt that holds the body in place while the head and neck remain free to move. When a car comes to a sudden stop in a collision, the body stops quickly while the head does not.
This is particularly common in rear-end accidents where the force from behind causes the head and neck to travel forward shortly behind the body before snapping fiercely.
Whiplash may not lead to any immediate outward injury or symptoms. In the aftermath of a car accident the brain perceives danger causing the body to release hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) that cover up pain. For this reason, even if you do not immediately feel any injury, it is important to receive medical attention after an accident.
When the numbing effect subsides, those who suffer from WAD are likely to face a range of symptoms, including:
- Back, neck, and shoulder pain
- Impaired vision
- Jaw pain and soreness
- Ear ringing
- Dizziness & vomiting
It is always best to secure medical support immediately after a collision so that doctors can perform MRIs and CT scans to determine if actual damage was done. At the very least, if you experience any of these or similar symptoms in the aftermath of a car accident, you should get medical help.
How Long do the Symptoms of Whiplash Last?
Fortunately, most victims of whiplash are relieved of its worst symptoms from the injury within a few weeks. However, it is not uncommon for people to suffer with the effects whiplash for months or ever years after the incident.
According to the Mayo Clinic, victims of whiplash may be more likely to experience long-term pain if their initial symptoms were extreme, came on quickly, and included:
- Severe neck pain
- Pain that spread to the arms
Additionally, the risk of long-term health issues associated with whiplash increase in people who have:
- Had a whiplash injury before
- Are older in age
- Existing low back or neck pain
Personal injury lawyers can help secure compensation for a whiplash injury
Under the civil law you are entitled to compensation for the losses you suffer as a result of another’s negligence. Virtually all car accidents include some negligence or unreasonable actions which led to the incident. This is particularly true in the rear-end accidents that most often lead to whiplash. In a rear-end collision, the vehicle occupants in the front car can be struck with a great deal of force that rapidly jolts the body backward and forward, resulting in whiplash injury.
For example, if the driver causing the accident was not looking at the road, following too closely, driving drunk, or speeding, then they may be held responsible for paying for the consequences of the accident.
Although whiplash is typically triggered by rear-end accidents, it is not the only cause. A wide variety of accidents can result in whiplash, including truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, slip and falls, boating accidents, and much more.
Steps to Take to Get Whiplash Injury Compensation
As a practical matter, insurance companies play a pivotal role in determining what compensation is received and how difficult the process is to secure the redress. Your injury attorney will work with you on any negotiation or settlement process.
However, from the very beginning of the accident there are steps that you can take to facilitate a full and fair recovery for your whiplash injuries.
1. Seek Medical Attention
Do not delay seeking medical treatment. This is not only to ensure proper treatment but also to validate the seriousness of the damage in subsequent insurance claim negotiations. If there is a significant gap between the time of the accident and the first medical contact, then the perception may be created that the injury in minor or non-existent. A claims adjuster may also argue that the gap in time suggests that the ultimate injury was caused by an intervening cause (another incident), instead of the car accident in question.
2. Preserve Medical Records
Throughout the process of obtaining medical treatment, it is critical to save all information related to your injury. That is because an insurance adjuster will require that you actually prove the extent of your injuries. That proof can include information like hospital admission forms, radiology test results, doctor’s notes, and similar data. It is also important to diligently continue medical treatment as identified by your medical professional (while preserving records of that continued treatment). This is all in an effort to ensure you have proof of an actual injury requiring real, continued medical care.
3. Document Accident Scene
It may be important to show that another party was fully or partially responsible for the accident. Many different factors will contribute to the determination of fault. If proof is later required it is helpful to have photos of the incident and information from witnesses about what they saw. In addition, your own memory may lapse in the days or weeks after the crash. It is therefore helpful to literally write down what you recall about the incident as soon as possible after the accident.
4. Act in a Timely Fashion
An underlying theme in all accident cases–including those where whiplash injuries are present–is to act swiftly. From securing medical help to obtaining legal representation, there is nothing to be gained by waiting to act. The typical recovery process begins by filing a claim with an insurance company. If the claim is rejected or fair agreement cannot be secured, then an actual lawsuit may need to be filed. There are statutes of limitations which limit when those suits can be heard. The bottom line: Don’t delay to protect your rights.
Why Whiplash Injuries Should Not Be Overlooked
Accident victims who suffer whiplash may be denied a just settlement by their insurance companies who minimize injuries by claiming that whiplash is minor. In reality, whiplash injuries can have serious physical and emotional side effects—and can produce long-term effects.
A person suffering a whiplash injury may not be able to move the neck or lean back or forward. With a limited range of motion, performing any form of physical work or strenuous activity can be painful. People with whiplash may also be unable to perform basic household tasks such as cleaning, cooking, or caring for children. As such, whiplash may necessitate long-term medical treatment and lead to prolonged absence from work, which can lead to a substantial loss of income and an immense disturbance to someone’s well-being.
Other complications that can follow whiplash are depression, anxiety, disinterest, and detachment. The mental toll of not working or caring for your family can be depleting.
At Sutliff & Stout, we understand how whiplash can wreak havoc on victims and families who are suddenly forced to change their lives to manage their injuries. That’s why we will handle your claim seriously—and personally—and strive to attain the maximum award or settlement possible.
How Are Whiplash Injuries Treated?
Treatment is geared toward restoring your range of motion as painlessly and quickly as possible. However, no single treatment is suitable for everyone. Treatment plans are designed based on a variety of factors, including the severity of the injury, overall health, expectations of the outcome, and tolerance of certain treatments. A doctor may prescribe one or more of the following:
- Cryotherapy (cold) and thermotherapy (hot) treatment
- Pain medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen), muscle relaxants (Cyclobenzaprine), or antidepressants
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Supportive equipment and assistive devices
- Steroid injections
- Massage therapy and chiropractic care
How Much Time Do You Have to File a Lawsuit for Whiplash?
The law restricts the ability to bring a claim against a third party after a certain date. This is known as the Statute of Limitations, and it governs the realm of personal injury. In Texas, you have generally only two years from the date of the injury to obtain compensation from the individual or entity responsible. Hence, filing a claim that falls outside the two-year window could result in the dismissal of your case and bar you from seeking damages.
You and your attorney will have to take numerous steps to effectively negotiate with insurance companies and prepare your case for litigation if needed. Therefore, don’t put off seeking legal help. When you seek representation early enough, your chances of being successful are greater.
How Are Damages for Whiplash Calculated?
An injury settlement amount is determined by many factors. First, you must determine the severity of your injury; secondly, considering how long it is expected to last; and thirdly, how your injury has impacted your life and is projected to affect your future. Whiplash injuries may be minor, and symptoms may resolve on their own after weeks or months, while others may last for years, requiring extensive medical treatment. Considering the above information, a sound lawyer will determine the amount of compensation you are entitled.
Some of the damages you may be compensated for include:
- Medical bills (doctor visits, treatment, or rehabilitation services)
- Transportation costs
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Psychological distress
While you are recovering, you will have a harder time determining your losses. In most cases, your lawyer will recommend that you wait until your health stabilizes and you receive medical advice suggesting improvement is unlikely to assess the value of your damages. This will enable your attorney to provide you with a more accurate estimation of your full extent of damages.
Consult with a Qualified Whiplash Attorney
If you’re struggling with symptoms related to a whiplash injury we advise you to speak with a qualified car accident lawyer about your options for compensation. A lawyer will help protect your rights and give you honest advice as to whether you may be able to get compensation for your whiplash injuries.
The legal team at Sutliff & Stout will evaluate if you have a viable claim and help guide you through the claims process with your best interests in mind. Schedule your free, no-obligation consultation by calling 713-987-7111 or completing our online contact form today.