Making an Injury Claim for Whiplash After an Accident
Whiplash injuries are common in car accidents, but making a successful claim for compensation can be difficult, and a lawsuit may be necessary to get "fair value" for this painful type of injury.
"Whiplash" is the common term for the injury and subsequent medical fallout resulting from an abrupt back-and-forth flexion of the neck, which is common in car accidents. Chances are you've seen whiplash portrayed on television, usually involving a less-than-reputable plaintiff's attorney fitting a client with a neck brace for a fake injury. The reality is that whiplash can be very painful and disruptive, and filing a lawsuit for a whiplash injury could be your best option in some situations.
Immediate Medical Treatment is Essential to Proving Whiplash
If you have been in an automobile accident, seek medical treatment immediately if you feel even the slightest amount of pain or discomfort. Many conditions such as whiplash, back strain, and other soft tissue injuries do not become immediately symptomatic after an accident.
Treating physicians, when presented with the facts surrounding a particular accident, will know to look for signs of whiplash that may otherwise go unnoticed by a layperson. It is essential to your injury case that the first disclosure of medical information come from a physician. Insurance adjusters look at whiplash cases with suspicion in the best of circumstances. Do not make any statements about how you feel at the scene of the accident -- seek medical attention, and let your records tell the story.
File a Claim as Soon as Possible
If you have a medically-documented case of whiplash, do not delay in starting the claim process. If you live in a no-fault state, notify your insurance carrier. If you live in a state that allows suits for personal injuries after an auto accident, notify the offending driver's insurance company -- in writing -- of your injuries and your intent to file a claim. There is no sense in "sandbagging." Your injuries may get worse; they may get better. The sooner you notify a potential payee of your claim, the sooner you may be reimbursed for your medical bills.
Document Your Medical Expenses
If you are making a claim with an insurance carrier, be sure to document all of the expenses you incur relating to your treatment and rehabilitation. These include economic damages such as mileage, lost wages, medical bills, prescription costs and insurance co-pays. Any out-of-pocket expenditure could potentially be a reimbursable cost. Insurance adjusters need proof of loss for every dollar they pay out, and they appreciate documentation for any and all expenses. If you make their lives easier by keeping complete records, you may find that money starts coming your way sooner rather than later.
You May Need to File a Lawsuit
There is no guarantee that an insurance adjuster will pay out on your claim. There is no guarantee that the person who caused the accident will even have insurance. You may have to file a personal injury lawsuit to facilitate collection of your damages.
In no-fault states, pursuing a lawsuit for a whiplash injury can be difficult due to threshold injury and damage requirements. In states not governed by no-fault law, you may be able to file a lawsuit as a matter of right. Should your case go to suit, you may be able to recover non-economic damages such as pain and suffering in addition to your economic damages. A local attorney is best positioned to advise you on the laws of your jurisdiction and the potential outcome of your case.
Whiplash injuries sustained in automobile accidents are often derided as "fake claims," but they are legitimate soft tissue injuries. A sudden, violent extension and retraction of your neck can cause serious physical problems, and can impair your ability to function on a day-to-day basis. Following a few simple steps could greatly increase your ability to get fair compensation for your injuries.