Whiplash is a common injury from car accidents, especially rear-end crashes. The term whiplash aptly comes from the “whipping” or back-and-forth motion of a person’s head during high impact.
Notably, car accidents are one of the leading causes of whiplash injuries. However, you can suffer from whiplash as a result of a sports injury, equestrian accident, fall, or any jarring physical act.
Recovering from whiplash can be more challenging than you might think and often comes at a physical, emotional, and financial cost. If you were recently involved in an accident and suffered a whiplash injury, consult a personal injury attorney to discuss your legal recourse.
Whiplash is a neck injury typically caused by being rear-ended, but it can also be due to rapid acceleration. The crash’s impact causes the person’s head and neck to thrust forward while their body remains restrained by the seat belt.
The effect can cause the neck muscles and tendons to stretch, tear, strain, or move unnaturally. Cases of whiplash are prevalent after a motor vehicle accident, and most cases are relatively mild and resolve with little medical intervention. Typically, they can be treated at home with over-the-counter pain medication.
If you see a doctor following the accident, they may recommend some light stretching and exercises to help improve the injury. In addition to seeing a doctor and taking over-the-counter pain relievers, some additional tips for recovering from whiplash include:
- Alternating between applying ice and heat,
- Adequate rest,
- Ensuring you have proper neck support during sleep, and
- Light massage or stretching.
Although most whiplash injuries are mild, some can be severe and long-lasting. Recovering from severe whiplash can be challenging, as extreme cases can lead to chronic and extensive neck pain that requires medical intervention, treatment, and physical therapy. Whiplash can also be associated with concussions and traumatic brain injuries.
Common symptoms that occur with a whiplash injury include:
- Neck pain;
- Neck stiffness and soreness;
- Loss of range of motion;
- Tinnitus (i.e., ringing in the ears);
- Upper body and extremity pain, including shoulder, arm, and back pain;
- Numbness or tingling;
- Muscle fatigue;
- Muscle spasms; and
- Blurred vision.
Sometimes, whiplash injuries have less apparent symptoms, and you might wonder, how do I know if I have whiplash? If you suspect you have whiplash or a pulled muscle in your neck, symptoms can include the less obvious:
- Difficulty concentrating,
- Inability to focus,
- Unexplained fatigue,
- Poor sleep quality,
- Memory loss, and
- Mood swings.
Recognizing these often vague symptoms can be crucial to your recovery. Depending on your symptoms and ultimate diagnosis, the treatment for a strained neck muscle, back injury, or brain injury can vary widely.
Who Is Most At-Risk for Severe Whiplash?
Everyone is a potential whiplash victim, but some individuals are more prone to or at risk of experiencing severe or chronic whiplash. Some of the risk factors associated with severe or prolonged whiplash include:
- People with a previous or pre-existing neck injury,
- Someone who suffered from prior whiplash,
- Elderly individuals,
- Vehicles hit from behind at a high rate of speed, and
- Individuals that lack awareness of the impending impact.
You may have severe whiplash without any known risk factors. If you have persistent neck, back, or head pain after a car crash, you should see a doctor immediately to prevent worsening symptoms or permanent injury.
Average Settlement for Whiplash Injuries
As lawyers, we are often asked, What is the average settlement for a whiplash injury? But there really is no average—and even if there were, it would likely be inaccurate because so many settlements are not made public.
If someone tried to come up with an average, it would be meaningless to you because whiplash claims depend on several factors unique to each individual.
Factors considered in the payment include the following:
- The severity and extent of your injury;
- Anticipated recovery (i.e., full or partial recovery);
- Cost of past and future medical treatments;
- Lost wages and time missed from work;
- Pain and suffering;
- Mental anguish; and
- Other expenses or damages associated with your injury.
Compared to other catastrophic injuries, whiplash is relatively minor. You might expect a settlement of several thousand dollars for a little incident but upward of six figures for a more moderate whiplash injury.
However, if your whiplash is severe, your settlement could reach $1 million or more. An experienced attorney can provide you with a better estimate of what you might expect.
Should your case not end in a settlement but instead proceed to trial, the jury or judge will consider many of the same factors—economic and non-economic damages—in calculating your award.
Proving Whiplash Injuries
Proving whiplash can be incredibly challenging because it is often revered as a minor injury and not as obvious as broken bones or other immediately apparent injuries.
Although challenging, it is not impossible to prove a whiplash injury, and an experienced personal injury attorney can assist you in gathering the evidence needed to prove your case.
Because the problems associated with whiplash usually cannot be easily proven by X-rays or other medical tests, other sources of proof will be essential to support your claim.
Documentation of the Accident
Documenting what you can remember before, during, and after the accident can provide helpful insight into how the accident happened. Jot down information such as the following:
- Your position in the vehicle (e.g., driver, front passenger, etc.);
- How fast the vehicle was traveling;
- Where the car was struck (e.g., rear-ended, t-boned);
- If the airbags deployed;
- If you were wearing your seatbelt; and
- What the weather and road conditions were like.
This is not an exhaustive list, but this type of information can paint a picture of how the accident and injuries occurred. It can help fill in gaps or misrepresentations in police reports or witness statements.
Gather Medical & Pharmaceutical Records
Medical records are imperative to proving your whiplash case. These records can include the following:
- Emergency room visits,
- Primary doctor office visits,
- Chiropractic care,
- Radiology results,
- Physical therapist, and
- Orthopedic surgeon records.
Even your medical records from before the accident may be necessary to show you did not suffer from a pre-existing neck injury or condition. In addition, any pharmaceutical records or over-the-counter medicine receipts will show medications you have taken for pain and treatment.
Documentation of your damages, in addition to medical bills, can include paystubs for lost wages, receipts for out-of-pocket medical costs (e.g., deductibles, co-pays), and receipts for expenses like child care or household chores you cannot perform because of your injury.
California Personal Injury Lawyers
At Peerali Law, our team is dedicated to helping accident victims seek the justice they deserve. We are a boutique law firm providing personal, individualized attention to our clients to ensure they receive the best possible outcome for their cases. Contact us today.