Whiplash Injury Claims and Lawsuits
UPDATED: July 19, 2013
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Whiplash injuries are common after car or slip and fall accidents, and the law offers you the opportunity to receive compensation to pay for damages if you have serious neck problems that require medical attention. Before you take legal action, you can help your case by understanding whiplash injuries, knowing your options to recover, and taking the appropriate steps after your injury occurs. If you have suffered whiplash and need assistance with your case, contact an experienced personal injury attorney.
Whiplash Cause and Symptoms
Whiplash is a soft tissue injury that happens when the neck and head are thrown forward and back again due to sudden impact (which is almost always a car accident). The impact flexes the head and neck beyond their normal range of movement. In addition to the tissue in the neck area, whiplash may also damage joints, discs, ligaments, muscles and nerve roots. Symptoms that indicate you have suffered whiplash include:
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Loss of motion in the neck
- Injured muscles and ligaments
- Memory loss
If you have been in a car accident, and suspect you may suffer from whiplash, you should always see a doctor immediately, even if you don’t have a lot of pain. Whiplash treatment may include pain medication, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, a cervical collar and perhaps antidepressants. Your doctor may also prescribe range-of-motion exercises and physical therapy.
Recovering Damages for Whiplash Injuries
If you have suffered a whiplash injury in an accident caused by another party, you can pursue compensation for your medical costs and other damages in a few different ways:
- If you live in a no-fault state, or the other party does not have adequate insurance to cover your injuries, you can file a claim under your own auto insurance or health insurance policy. Under this option, you may be limited in what types of damages you can collect and how much you will receive.
- You, or your attorney, can also contact the responsible party’s insurance company on your behalf and file a claim against that policy. Filing a claim against the responsible party’s insurance policy won’t have the same limitations on types of damages you can collect, but it will be a more difficult process than filing with your own insurer. An attorney can assist you.
- You can also file a lawsuit to recover financial compensation. You only have to file a lawsuit to pursue compensation that you deserve that the insurer refuses (or the other party if they have no insurance) to pay to you. Even if you do eventually file a lawsuit, most lawsuits result in settlement long before a trial is necessary. You should always have an attorney assist you if you pursue legal action for whiplash injuries.
Regardless of what path you pursue, you will are well served by taking some very simple steps after the accident and during the course of your medical treatment:
- Keep track of all medical records – including hospital bills, written diagnosis from doctors, prescription medication, and any other document that indicates your injury, treatment, and ongoing medical needs.
- Track all costs associated with your injury – from cost of trips to and from the hospital, to childcare, to lost time from work, you will need to document every cost that arises as you work through your injury. Keep receipts, invoices, letters from doctors saying you have to miss work, and anything else that shows your losses.
- Gather evidence of the accident – take photos, get witness information, find police reports. Your attorney will know what you need, but you can take initiative by gathering up all the evidence of the accident.
- Record all your symptoms and how they affect your daily life – if your whiplash injuries are so severe that you are losing sleep, missing out on family events, unable to engage in hobbies or activities you used to enjoy, or otherwise have a diminished quality of life, then you need to record everything.
Whiplash injury claims and lawsuits have many obstacles that you need to overcome. If you work without an experienced attorney, you risk undervaluing your claim, missing key deadlines, or failing to prove the other party is at fault. Personal injury lawyers typically offer free consultations, and many work on a contingency fee basis – meaning they only collect a fee after you win a judgment or agree to a settlement.