Whiplash is a common type of soft tissue injury suffered by car crash victims. The injury occurs when the neck is jolted forward and back rapidly, tearing muscles that cause pain and stiffness to the neck, shoulders, and even back.
While common, whiplash can have severe consequences for the individual– creating medical expenses in addition to necessitating time off work. In order to request an amount of compensation to cover these costs, you will need to work with legal counsel and the insurance company to reach a settlement.
Below are some guidelines on how to handle and document your experiences in an accident and some common pitfalls to avoid.
What is Whiplash?
While whiplash can occur in many kinds of accidents and sports injuries, they are most common in rear-end collisions where the neck is particularly susceptible to being unnaturally jolted.
Symptoms of whiplash include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Inhibited range of motion of the neck
- Tenderness, soreness, or pain in the neck, back, and upper shoulders
- Headaches and/or dizziness
- Numbness or tingling in the arms
Depending on the severity of the injury, individuals may also experience blurred vision, tinnitus, difficulty concentrating, sleep trouble, mood irregularity, and depression.
It is important that no matter what your perceived severity of your injury is, you are given a medical examination. This can provide you with an accurate diagnosis, treatment options, and documentation that can be used later in your case.
Evidence: Collecting Necessary Documentation
Insurance adjusters are notorious for trying to poke holes in your claim in an attempt to keep settlement costs as low as possible. Because of this, you will often need quite a bit of documentation to provide as evidence to help support your injury claims and justify your settlement demand.
Below are some of the most important documents to collect and have on hand for when you begin your claim.
Personal and Third Party Statements
Having personal journals detailing the event and statements of witnesses will help increase the validity of your claim. When possible, have these statements in writing as soon after the event as possible to avoid the potential for inconsistent memory or missed details.
Photographs of the crash site, your vehicle, and any visible injuries will further support your claim at a later point in time.
Police and Medical Reports
Reports of the accident and your injuries from police and paramedics are one of the most reputable sources of documentation you can use in your case. Not only are both parties unbiased but they are the first responders on the scene of the crash and will often have the most accurate information.
A vast majority of whiplash cases are settled without the need for litigation. Just because the case does not reach court however, does not mean there is no benefit in retaining a personal injury attorney to ensure a fair settlement for your damages.
Your settlement amount relies on several factors. Generally speaking, you want your settlement to cover any expenses incurred by the accident in addition to compensation for vehicle damage, time off of work, and your own physical suffering.
Some of the major influencers used by insurance adjusters to come to an initial settlement amount are outlined below.
The severity of your injury
First and foremost is the severity of your injury. Ways you can prove the severity of your whiplash symptoms includes documentation of your pain over the days and weeks following your accident and any medical treatment received.
Damage done to your vehicle
Here, you will be most helped by any photographs of vehicle damage to help further your case that you were, in fact, injured. The more extensive the damage to your vehicle, the less likely it is that insurance adjusters will attempt to invalidate your claim.
Medical bills encompass any expenses needed to assess and heal your injury. This can include visits to the doctor, hospital visits, medications, and physical therapy. Maintaining an accurate record of your expenses in this category will be most helpful when determining the amount you are owed.
If you needed to take time away from work due to your injury or its treatment, any wages lost during that time will be combined into this category.
Pain and suffering
Pain and suffering are non-economic damages. This means that unlike medical expenses and lost wages, there are no concrete numbers you can present to the insurance company. In these cases, a monetary amount will be associated with the extent your pain and suffering affected your daily functioning, and for how long. Some examples of pain and suffering include not being able to participate in regular physical activities, inability to attend social gatherings, and depression or isolation resulting from the aftermath of the accident.
There are many incidences where individuals inadvertently put their case in a compromised position. Usually, this is because of reflexive reactions or insurance defendants exploiting the lack of legal understanding of everyday individuals.
If you have been in a collision and are looking to file a claim, avoid these 4 actions that can potentially harm your case.
Running the Statute of Limitations
For personal injury cases such as car accidents, you have 2 years to file a claim in the state of Arizona. The time is calculated from the date of the accident.
Claiming you are un-injured
When you are in an accident, the body releases adrenaline– your flight or fight hormone– which often acts as a painkiller and masks the severity of your immediate injuries. One of the most common pitfalls in soft tissue cases is that plaintiff’s will claim they do not feel injured in the moments following the accident. This is often made worse by individuals who refuse an initial physical examination by paramedics.
In cases like the above, you risk damaging the credibility of your claim at a later point in time by creating inconsistency in your narrative. To avoid this, allow yourself to receive medical attention and do not say “I’m fine” or “It’s not that bad.” If you do, these reflexive statements might come back to haunt you later.
Submitting to an IME
An IME is an abbreviation for independent medical examination. Insurance companies will sometimes ask that you submit to an IME from a doctor they selected to assess your injuries. Most often, doctors who work with insurance companies will be inclined to be increasingly critical of your suffering and downplay your injuries in an attempt to knock down your damages claim.
Understand that you do not have to submit to an IME from a doctor hired by the insurance company.
Not having legal representation
Trying to negotiate an insurance settlement without legal counsel can be an arduous process. Insurance adjusters know the average person does not have the legal knowledge to accurately assess their claims and damages, making them more likely to propose low-ball offers that are ultimately accepted without question.
Retaining Legal Assistance
Contacting a personal injury law firm for legal advice is the quickest and most effective way to assess your claim and increase your chances for a fair settlement.
With over 25 years of litigation experience, the BBerry Law Office can help you with your personal injury claim from initial assessment all the way through litigation and trial. Call (520) 347-8484 to schedule a consultation to explore your options for a fair outcome.