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Obstacles and Limitations in Neck Injury Lawsuits

UPDATED: February 24, 2020

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Neck injury lawsuits are incredibly common, and understandably so. Neck injuries can be very severe, with recovery times lasting from many months to several years or longer. Even in the best cases, before recovery is complete, patients often must contend with painfully inflamed muscles, joints, and ligaments every single day for months. Neck injuries also involve widespread reductions in activity levels, impaired range of motion, loss of work and family time, and sometimes depression and other physical and mental health costs. If another’s negligence, or dangerous conditions are responsible for your neck injury, then you can file a lawsuit to receive monetary damages to compensate you for your loss.

NOTE: Personal injury lawsuits involving neck injuries are difficult to manage without the help of an attorney.  Before you take action, consult with an attorney and give yourself the best chance at recovering the damages you deserve.

Caps on Damages in a Neck Injury Lawsuit

In many states, there are caps on a particular type of damages that, for neck injury plaintiffs, is often quite relevant. Monetary compensation for more than simple lost wages, medical bills, etc, covers a set of damages called quality of life damages. These include pain and suffering and other losses that are sometimes difficult to quantify, but are nonetheless real. 

Some state legislatures have put caps on quality of life damages - such as $250,000 or $500,000. Other states have declined to interfere with civil judgments, and leave damages up to judges or juries. It is a controversial issue, but suffice to say that if you in a personal injury lawsuit in a state that cpas damages, your recovery will be limited. The facts of your individual case, the severity of your neck injury, and the magnitude of the personal losses that led to your neck injury and damages claim are not relevant.

Neck Injury Lawsuit Settlements

Sometimes, neck injury lawsuits do not make it all the way to trial and they settle early instead. In theory, neck injury settlements generally result in a lower payout to the plaintiff than s/he could have obtained at trial. But trials are long, lasting months to years, expensive (attorneys, court costs, etc), stressful, and, perhaps most importantly, uncertain. No matter how strong your legal case is, victory at trial is never assured. And if you lose, you get nothing. A successful settlement negotiation at least assures you whatever amount you, your attorney, and the defendant(s) agree to. If you are open to the negotiation process in settlement, you may find that the personal value of your settlement ends up being much greater than its actual dollar value.

Accidents and Comparative Fault in Neck Injury Lawsuits

If you are partially responsible for the accident that caused your injury, your recovery can be limited.  Most states in the U.S. apply a law called comparative negligence, in personal injury cases like your neck injury suit. If you live in a comparative fault state, then the court will look to what percentage of responsibility you have for your own neck injury, and compare it with the defendant’s percentage of responsibility for the same. If the court determines that your fault was at least as great as the defendant’s (i.e. – 50 or 51 percent, depending on the state), then you would be barred from recovering any damages at all. But, in these states, if you were only 49% or less at fault, then you will still be allowed to recover, but your damage award will be reduced by that same percentage.

The few remaining states that don’t apply some form of comparative negligence use something called contributory negligence – an older, and usually harsher standard of review that actually forbids the plaintiff from recovering damages for injuries when s/he bears any (even 5 percent) of the fault. As of 2011, Alabama, District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia were the remaining contributory negligence states.

Time Limits and Late Developing Neck Injuries

Every state has a statute of limitations that sets the time you have to file a lawsuit.  Typically, your time to file a case begins as soon as the accident happens, however, if the severity of your neck injury - and the need to file a lawsuit - is not apparent until months or even years later, you may be able to push back the legal deadline.  If you have a late-developing neck injury and have missed the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit, consult an experienced attorney.

Getting Help

The most important thing to do, aside from obtaining and maintaining proper medical attention for your neck injury, is to find a qualified neck injury lawsuit attorney in your jurisdiction. Only a local attorney can advise you as to all of your legal options and any damage limitations to your neck injury claim.

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