Everything You Need to Know About Whiplash Injuries in PI Claims
Whiplash is one of the most common car accident injuries. Though often considered minor, this injury can have serious and long-lasting consequences for a person’s health, job-eligibility, and overall quality of life. Read this article to learn how you can best ensure you will be fairly compensated if you ever suffer whiplash in a car crash.
Whiplash, also known as cervical muscle strain or neck strain, is one of the most common kinds of car accident injuries. According to some estimates, over a million people in the U.S. sustain a whiplash injury every year.
Even though whiplash is commonly thought to be a minor injury, it can have serious consequences for the health and the quality of life of the victim—both short and long-term. For example, one study showed that 7% of those who sustained a whiplash injury were not able to return to work. Another source also mentions that up to 40% of victims never fully recover from whiplash.
Why it can be Difficult to Get Compensation for Whiplash
Despite whiplash injuries being so commonplace, its victims may sometimes find it challenging to obtain fair compensation after filing a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, a whiplash injury can occur after a low-speed, rear-impact collision that produces little property damage. Second, any symptom of whiplash, along with the true extent of the injury, may only manifest itself after a few days or even weeks after the accident.
As a result of both of these factors, victims sometimes delay the decision to start working toward their compensation claim. Insurance companies tend to take advantage of this delay by downplaying the injury, minimizing its effects on the victim’s life, and ultimately making an unfairly low compensation offer.
Thus, it’s important to learn how to recognize a whiplash injury and what medical and legal steps you should take to ensure you will be able to recover—both in terms of its physical and financial impact.
How to Recognize Whiplash
Recognizing a whiplash injury is essential to both your long-term health and your potential injury claim. Depending on the extent of the injury and the strain of the impact on the cervical, or neck, area of the spine, whiplash may initially produce no visible or perceivable symptoms.
The injury, however, may manifest itself in the hours or days following the accident as:
|● Neck pain
● Low back pain
● Shoulder pain and stiffness
● Decreased range of motion in the neck and the spine
● Tingling in the arms and legs
If you start experiencing any of these symptoms after a low-speed, rear-impact collision, you should seek medical attention immediately. However, due to the nature of whiplash, it is usually advisable to see a doctor for a medical checkup.
This is a vital step, even if no visible signs of an injury can be discerned and you believe you are in good physical condition. If the treating physician is able to recognize the injury, you will have a greater chance of a fast and complete recovery. In addition, the medical records will serve as an important piece of evidence, backing up your compensation claim and making it harder for the insurance company to deny it.
How to Start Working Toward Your Claim
In most cases, you should start working toward a compensation claim for your whiplash injury as soon as you’ve received appropriate medical care and attention.
If your injury isn’t extensive, you may start gathering simple evidence—including photographs of the scene of the accident and the damage to your car—right after the collision. You should also document the impact of the accident and injury on your life, health, and budget. The evidence you may gather should include your medical bills as well as the proof of other losses such as those related to wages lost due to days off work.
It is also important to remember that the insurance company of the person responsible for your injury is likely to try to devalue your whiplash injury and offer you a quick but low settlement. You should be wary of these practices and you should not be intimidated into accepting the first offer you get.
In addition, it may be advantageous to work on your claim with a personal injury attorney experienced in handling whiplash injury claims. This is especially true if your whiplash was serious and is likely to have extensive, long-term consequences for your health.