Calculating Payout for a Whiplash Injury

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One of the most common injuries associated with auto accidents is a whiplash-type neck injury, but it can be difficult to predict what an insurance company will offer in terms of settlement in this kind of case, because the injury may not be all that obvious. That does not mean that an injured driver or passenger is not entitled to compensation in these kinds of claims. It does mean that if you've suffered whiplash-type neck injuries after a car accident, you'll need to bolster your case with medical records and other documentation before an insurance company will come to the table with a satisfactory settlement offer. Read on to learn more.

What is a Whiplash Injury?

While the term "whiplash" may have negative connotations -- it may conjure up images of a courtroom plaintiff strapping on a neck brace prior to taking the stand -- these kinds of injuries are real, and they can have long-lasting negative effects after a car accident. These injuries are more accurately referred to as:

  • soft tissue injuries to the neck
  • neck strain or neck sprain
  • cervical strain or sprain
  • neck flexion-extension injury
  • cervical hyperextension injury, or
  • acceleration-deceleration injury

These injuries are often caused by a sudden stop or sudden forward-backward pressure on the neck, which is why they're so common in auto accidents. The force from the impact causes the head to snap forward and back, even when the impact doesn't seem all that severe or the cars weren't traveling at a very high rate of speed.

Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to whiplash-type injuries is that they may not be immediately evident. Your body releases pain-masking adrenaline and endorphins in a traumatic event such as a car accident, and it may take hours, days, or even weeks before symptoms of a soft tissue neck injury crop up. So keep an eye out for these symptoms, which include:

  • headaches
  • stiffness and lack of mobility in the neck
  • numbness in the neck
  • neck pain that is dull and aching
  • dizziness
  •  back pain, and
  • balance problems

Whiplash-type injuries can vary widely in terms of seriousness, but even the most persistent and painful of these injuries will probably not appear in the results of diagnostic exams such as an X-ray or MRI. So it is important that you get proper medical treatment if you are experiencing any level of pain or discomfort in your neck or upper back after a car accident.

Calculating the Settlement Value of a Whiplash-Type Injury

When any car insurance carrier assesses your claim and makes you a car accident settlement proposal, rest assured that they have weighed a number of key factors before deciding on the dollar amount. These factors include:

The seriousness of your injuries. Is your claim limited to soft tissue injuries, or were there also other complications such as lacerations, contusions, or broken bones?

The scope of your medical treatment. Does the extent of your treatment include one trip to the emergency room, or did you see a specialist, and perhaps a physical therapist?

Your prospects for a fast and complete recovery. Are you free of symptoms in a few weeks, or will the effects of your injuries be long-lasting or even permanent?

The impact of your injuries on your daily life. Are you able to work and participate in activities just as you did before the accident, or do your injuries limit the things you can do?   

The clarity of fault for the accident. Is it obvious that the other driver was at fault for the car accident (you’ve got three witnesses saying the other driver ran a red light) or is legal liability for the crash a more cloudy issue?

You need to keep these factors in mind, and if the insurance company’s offer is too low, accentuate the aspects of your claim that show you’re entitled to more compensation for your injuries. If you haven’t done so already, it’s a good idea to make these points (and others) in a detailed demand letter that you’ll send to the insurer. Learn more about how whiplash injuries affect the value of your car accident claim.

by: , J.D.

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