Whiplash After Car Accident: Causes, Symptoms And Legal Options
Whiplash after a car accident is a common neck injury caused by the forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the head and neck due to the impact of the crash. Generally, pain usually lasts a few weeks, however, some people may suffer from chronic pain and disability for several months or years. If you are suffering from this neck injury it is important you seek prompt medical attention to ensure you are properly diagnosed.
Unfortunately, too many personal injury lawyers and insurance companies misunderstand the nature of these injuries and, thus, minimize their severity and debilitating effects.
As a result, this type of injury is mistakenly treated as a minor personal injury. Consequently, victims are denied the justice and compensation they’re entitled to when their cases are settled for far less than what this potentially very serious and permanent injury warrants.
What is whiplash after a car accident?
Whiplash after a car accident is a common neck injury in collisions and is caused by the impact of the crash causing the head and neck to violently jerk back and forth. This motion causes soft tissue damage in the neck region resulting in pain and inflammation but for some can cause debilitating effects.
Is it a serious injury?
Absolutely. The average victim is still suffering from significant pain from this type of neck injury more than eight years later.
What to do for whiplash after a car accident
- Get examined immediately
- Get diagnostic imaging
- Document your injuries
- Show relationship with injury and crash
- Don’t “tough it out”
- Talk to an experienced attorney
- Tell your auto insurance company
- Do not sign any settlements, releases, or waivers
1. Get examined immediately
Time may be of the essence. When it comes to properly diagnosing the cause of this injury after a collision, the sooner a person gets the proper diagnostic tests and medical treatment for these symptoms, the sooner they can rule out a potentially life-threatening injury. As an injury lawyer, I always advise people that the sooner they can get the necessary and appropriate medical care, the sooner they can get back on the road to good health and a full recovery, but with this type of injury the key is to rule out a much more serious injury as soon as possible.
2. Diagnostic imaging
Get medical treatment and get a referral for the appropriate diagnostic imaging to detect and diagnose if you have suffered from this injury. A doctor can’t treat you until he or she knows what is causing these symptoms, and the appropriate diagnostic testing – often a CT scan – will enable your doctor to prescribe the best course of treatment for you and make the appropriate referrals for you.
3. Document your injuries
Early documentation of whiplash after a car accident always makes it easier to avoid future problems with your own insurance company. Early medical documentation, such as in an emergency room or as soon as possible with your family doctor, will prove to a health insurance company or a No-Fault insurance company that the crash was the cause of your injury. If it does turn out to be a more serious injury, you’ve documented the early symptoms and again will be able to avoid many of the problems that arise when an insurance company is denying a causal relationship and refusing to pay for medical treatment. Early treatment and medical documentation create the temporal relationship that insurance companies will be looking for when they are being asked to pay for necessary medical care.
4. Show relationship with your injury and crash
Showing a clear temporal relationship between a crash and the documentation of treatment for a condition or injury also makes it easier to get a full and fair legal settlement for your injury when it is caused by another driver’s carelessness or negligence behind the wheel. Delays in seeking treatment hurt your ability to get better faster and make a good recovery, but it also often makes it harder for your attorney to get a reluctant insurance company to pay for your treatment and makes it harder to get a fair legal settlement after your crash.
5. Don’t try to tough it out
This injury may be a symptom of a far more serious injury that may even become fatal if you don’t seek treatment right away. As a lawyer, I’ve seen so many instances where people felt like they didn’t want to “complain,” but within days or weeks what they thought would be a minor injury or something that would go away becomes far more serious.
6. Talk to an experienced attorney
Talk to a car accident lawyer who is experienced at helping people injured in motor vehicle crashes. Most experienced lawyers have helped people suffering from this injury after a crash. The initial call is always free so at the very least you will be informed as to what your insurance company is responsible to pay and what medical help and wage loss you are entitled to. An attorney can also help you review your medical records as well as the treatment and care you’re receiving to make sure bills are getting paid and they can use a car accident settlement calculator to help you assess what your case might be worth if your pain and disability was caused by another driver’s negligence or carelessness.
7. Tell your auto insurance company
Tell your auto insurance company about your whiplash after a car accident. Make sure to include this in your application for No-Fault benefits, which is also referred to as your “written notice of injury” – which must be given to your No-Fault auto insurance company “within 1 year after the accident.” (MCL 500.3145(1) and (4))
8. Don’t sign any settlements, releases or waivers
Do not sign any settlements, releases, or waivers related to your crash until you have talked with an experienced attorney who is looking out for your interests. Do not sign any settlements, releases, or waivers that are presented to you by your auto insurance company, the at-fault driver’s auto insurer or any other insurance companies or persons.
How to claim for whiplash after car accident?
In Michigan, you start your claim for whiplash after a car accident by filing an application for No-Fault benefits with the responsible auto insurance company, according to the No-Fault law’s “priority” rules. The No-Fault insurer will pay for your medical bills and your lost wages if you cannot return to work.
Can I sue for whiplash after a car accident?
In Michigan, you can sue for the following for whiplash after a car accident: pain and suffering compensation and excess medical and wage loss benefits; and unpaid and overdue No-Fault benefits. The first lawsuit will be filed against the at-fault driver. The second lawsuit will be filed against the auto insurer.
If your auto insurance company refuses to pay for – or cuts-off – No-Fault benefits related to the injury you suffered, then you can sue for unpaid, overdue medical bills, attendant care, medical mileage, replacement services and lost wages because your injuries have prevented you from returning to work.
Pain and suffering compensation
In Michigan, you can also sue the at-fault driver for pain and suffering compensation as a result of your whiplash injury, but you will first have to show that the other driver was at-fault for causing the crash and that your back pain constitutes a “serious impairment of body function” under our auto law.
Excess and future medical bills
Additionally, you may be able to sue the at-fault driver for other economic damages, such as excess and future medical bills and lost wages.
How long after a car accident can whiplash occur?
The symptoms of whiplash can develop immediately after a car accident or may take some time to appear. Generally, the symptoms of whiplash can appear within 24 hours to a few days following the crash. However, in some cases, the symptoms may not become noticeable for several weeks.
The exact timing of symptoms can vary from person to person due to several factors, including the severity of the impact, individual differences in pain perception, and the specific circumstances of the crash. Some individuals may experience immediate pain and stiffness in the neck, while others may not notice any symptoms until later. If you have been involved in an automobile crash and are concerned about the possibility of whiplash, it is important to monitor your symptoms closely.
Symptoms of whiplash after a car accident
If any of the following symptoms are observed then victims who have been seriously injured in a rear-end collision may be suffering from this injury:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Pain worsens with movement
- Diminished range of motion in the neck
- Tenderness in neck, shoulders and upper back
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Sleep disturbances
Because this injury involves injury to the neck muscles and ligaments, it is not as easily detected by conventional diagnostic testing as other injuries – such as spinal cord injuries – may be.
This reinforces the importance of seeking prompt medical attention for whiplash after a car accident so a doctor can perform a thorough physical examination to properly diagnose your condition.
How to treat whiplash after a car accident
- Heat or cold compress
- Chiropractic treatment
- Physical therapy
- Massage therapy
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Muscle relaxants
- Cervical collar or neck brace
- Epidural injections to block pain impulses and allow tissue to heal
How long does whiplash last after a car accident?
Generally speaking, most people suffer from whiplash after a car accident for a few weeks but sometimes chronic pain and disability can last for several months or years. It’s important to document your medical treatment so you are legally protected from pain and suffering compensation and other economic damages.
Unfortunately, the road to recovery for whiplash after a car accident is not always straight or smooth. It is not uncommon for injured victims to experience traumatic arthritis, nerve root compression, neuritis of the neck, shoulder, and arm, as well as extreme nervousness and fatigue. Additionally, injured victims are frequently more susceptible to further neck injuries from jolts and shocks.
Injured in a car accident? Call Michigan Auto Law now!
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