Soft tissue injuries such as sprains and strains are pretty common in car accident cases. And while these injuries can be pretty painful and life-disrupting, they're not always easy to prove. So it's important that you do everything possible to document your soft tissue injuries and protect your right to compensation. In this article, we'll describe soft tissue injuries and the steps you can take to help your auto accident claim.
What are Soft Tissue Injuries?
Soft tissue injury means bruising, spraining, straining, and other damage to tendons, ligaments, and muscles in the human body -- the "soft" areas of the body, as opposed to bone.
Soft tissue injuries can include whiplash (which affects the neck and upper spine) and less serious structural damage at any joint or limb such as the shoulder, knee, elbow, foot, ankle, wrists, and hands.
Soft Tissue Injuries Can be Painful and Long-Lasting
In a car accident case, insurance adjusters often contest or attempt to trivialize soft tissue injuries, especially neck injuries like whiplash. However, soft tissue injuries can be very serious.
A car accident can be a violent experience, with all kinds of sudden stops and starts that can take their toll on the body. After an accident, you may experience continuing neck and back pain, stiffness, and headaches. X-rays may not indicate an injury, but you need to communicate your pain and discomfort to your treating physicians, and to specialists like chiropractors and physical therapists.
In some car accident cases, soft tissue injuries can persist and cause complications for six months or more after the accident, and they may necessitate ongoing follow-up medical care. In that case, you are entitled to compensation for all medical treatment you receive as a result of your soft tissue injuries, as well as other damages such as time missed at work and the negative impact the injuries have had on your life.
Document All Medical Treatment
You can recover compensation for treatment and other costs related to your soft tissue injuries. The best way to make sure your injuries are compensated is to have clear documentation of all treatment you received because of the car accident. The first step is to request all medical records and copies of itemized bills related to your treatment, from any health care provider that treated you. The medical provider may charge a fee to produce your records. Your personal injury lawyer may or may not cover these up-front costs, but these fees will likely be deducted from the settlement in your case.
Demand Letters and Soft Tissue Injuries
In car accident cases, a demand letter is often used to negotiate a settlement before a personal injury lawsuit is filed in court. Since insurance adjusters have a tendency to dispute soft tissue injuries or claim that they were pre-existing, you need to draft a strong demand letter that is detailed and well-written -- both as to the circumstances surrounding the crash (including why the other driver is at fault) and all medical care that was necessary as a result of the accident. You should also describe ongoing treatment and any future treatment that is necessary. Learn more about writing a demand letter in a car accident case.
What If Your Case Goes to Trial?
For various reasons, you may need to scrap settlement negotiations and file a personal injury lawsuit over your car accident injuries. Oftentimes this happens because the insurance adjuster is not making a reasonable settlement offer related to your soft tissue injuries.
As with other personal injury cases, there are risks and costs associated with taking a soft tissue case to trial. A jury may be reluctant to provide compensation for sprains and other soft tissue injuries, even if you have medical records and prognoses that show the need for ongoing treatment. Taking a case to trial can be very time-consuming and expensive, so it may be wise to discuss your options and your best strategy -- settle or go to trial -- with an experienced attorney.