The short answer is “No.” Insurance companies don’t have a dollar amount that they start from when figuring out how much a car accident settlement is worth when someone has suffered a whiplash-type neck injury. Every case is different, and there are far too many variables that go into the valuation of a claim for there to be one uniform starting point. But there are a number of common factors that car insurance companies consider when assessing the value of an injury claim, and we’ll discuss those here in the context of whiplash-type neck injuries.
The first thing to know is that the term “whiplash” has fallen out of favor among attorneys and insurers. So it’s best to refer to these types of injuries in more specific medical terms. That means calling them what they are: soft tissue injuries to the neck, also commonly referred to as neck strain or neck sprain. These injuries are common in car accidents because at impact, a driver or passenger’s neck can go through sudden extension and flexion, a sort of whipping back and forth. The result can range from stiffness and lack of mobility in the neck to torn ligaments, and these injuries can even be accompanied by damage to the vertebrae.
Whiplash-type injuries can run the gamut in terms of seriousness, but even the most painful and life-disrupting of these injuries will probably not show up on an x-ray, MRI, or other diagnostic exam. 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.
An insurance company isn’t simply going to take your word for it when you claim that you have been seriously injured after a car accident, and then cut you a check for thousands of dollars. You need to be able to point to a course of medical treatment, which is easily documented with medical records and bills, as proof that your injuries were significant, and also as proof that you were serious about trying to get better quickly.
When the car insurance company considers your claim and approaches you (or your attorney) with a car accident settlement proposal, it’s a safe bet that they have weighed a number of key factors before deciding on a dollar amount. These include, among others:
The severity of your injuries. Is your claim limited to soft tissue injuries, or were there also lacerations, contusions, or other complications?
The course of your medical treatment. Does the extent of your treatment include one trip to the ER just to get checked out, or did you see your own physician, 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, play, and participate in activities just as you did before the accident, or do your injuries limit the things you can do?
The clarity of legal liability 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 as well, and if the insurance company’s offer is too low, call attention to or 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.