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What is a Whiplash Injury?

The term, “whiplash” is used to describe injury to the soft tissues of the neck, specifically, the ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Whiplash occurs when sudden, jerking force pushes the head forward, backward, or both directions. This type of neck strain is common in auto accidents, amusement park rides, and boating accidents.

Symptoms range from mild to severe, and can appear immediately or even days and weeks later. This delay in onset of pain can be medically dangerous for the victim, and it can also pose a problem for any potential legal claims for the recovery of damages. The sooner a person can visit a doctor, the better.

What are the Symptoms of Whiplash Injuries?

Common symptoms of a whiplash injury may include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Tenderness in the upper back, arms, or shoulders
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms
  • Pain that worsens with neck movement

Some victims may also experience additional whiplash symptoms such as:

  • Ringing in the ears
  • Memory problems
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Blurred vision
  • Depression and irritability

How Much is My Lawsuit Worth for Whiplash Injuries?

The amount of damages that you may be awarded from a whiplash injury depends on several factors. Courts will usually consider the following:

  • The extent of your injuries
  • Who was at fault for the accident
  • The location of where your claim took place
  • The amount of lost wages, medical bills, and the potential of future medical expenses

Whiplash Pain and Suffering

Whiplash is one of the most common injuries that a person can suffer after being in a motor vehicle accident. Specifically, the term whiplash refers to a broad category of injuries involving either a tendon, muscle, or ligament injury that is caused by a severe jolt of a person's neck or head. In fact, the reason that this injury is even called whiplash is due to the rapid, jerky response that a person's neck has to the impact of an accident.

For example, whiplash can occur when a motor vehicle is struck from behind and the collision causes the victim's head to whip forward and backward, or in a quick side-to-side motion. This can be especially dangerous if a victim's car was at a complete stop when they were hit by a moving vehicle.

Basically, if you have ever ridden on a rollercoaster and experienced a sudden force against your neck or head that caused an injury, then you may have suffered from whiplash.

In addition, the effects of a whiplash injury can last up to several weeks or longer. While most symptoms will go away on their own, there are some cases where a victim may need to seek medical attention or the whiplash injury may require them to obtain medical treatment, such as from a physical therapist. Some standard symptoms of whiplash include headaches, neck pain, dizziness, and/or neck stiffness and tenderness.

Whiplash pain and suffering, however, concerns a type of monetary damages award that is issued in a lawsuit involving a motor vehicle accident in which a party received whiplash injuries. In general, damages for pain and suffering are intended to compensate an injured party for hardships linked to an accident that are difficult to calculate.

What Does Whiplash Treatment Involve?

As mentioned, whiplash injuries can be severe and can cause loss of movement in the neck or spine regions. In some cases, they can also be coupled with temporary or permanent paralysis. Whiplash treatment often involves:

  • Time spent in the hospital recuperating
  • Administering of medicines to reduce severe pain
  • Wearing of a neck brace for several weeks
  • Strengthening of the neck muscles (muscular rehab therapy)

In addition, whiplash treatment can sometimes involve psychological aspects, especially if the victim has experienced mental or emotional trauma from the incident.

Are There Any Special Considerations Related to Whiplash Pain and Suffering?

There are a few things that one must consider when it comes to issues regarding whiplash pain and suffering injuries.

For one, unlike a broken bone or other joint injury, the actual pain from whiplash injuries cannot be shown by an x-ray or through some other medical imaging device. Instead, the pain and suffering from a whiplash injury must be proven through a victim's lack of movement or a restriction of their full range of motion near the head and neck area.

In most cases, a whiplash injury will disappear in about a week. So, if a plaintiff failed to seek medical attention within that time frame, then they may not be able to recover damages for this type of injury. With a severe whiplash injury, however, a plaintiff might be able to use a medical imaging device to prove their injuries if the whiplash also caused serious injury to their neck or spine, such as a slipped disc.

Second, whiplash pain and suffering will sometimes not appear as an injury until several days and/or possibly even weeks after a motor vehicle accident. This can become a serious issue since the longer the period of time is between an accident and the plaintiff's recognition of the pain, the more difficult it will be for the plaintiff to prove that the pain was actually caused by the accident.

Additionally, claims for whiplash pain and suffering are typically filed in advance of trial. Thus, this will not only have an effect on the timing of a lawsuit, but could also interfere with the statute of limitations window. If the window expires before the plaintiff is able to file a lawsuit, then they may be barred from recovering any damages.

One last thing to note about whiplash pain and suffering claims is that the plaintiff must be able to prove that their pain and suffering is real. The plaintiff's pain and suffering cannot be imagined or over-exaggerated, or else they may receive nothing. To determine whether the plaintiff is telling the truth, a court will go through several steps and may ask the plaintiff questions to ensure that their pain and suffering would warrant receiving a damages award.

What Type of Compensation Is Available for Whiplash Treatment Costs?

In many whiplash cases and lawsuits, financial compensation may be available for treatment costs. These costs can include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Surgery costs
  • Rehab/therapy expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering (in some cases)
  • Medicines and pharmaceutical costs

Also, in some cases involving intentional conduct or particularly reckless behavior, the defendant may be required to pay punitive damages. Many states place limits on the amount of damages that the plaintiff can collect for whiplash injuries. Also, some whiplash cases may involve workers compensation claims, especially if the person was driving a company car during work hours.

What is a Pre-Existing Injury?

A pre-existing injury, also known as a pre-existing condition, can sometimes make it more difficult to prove that a whiplash injury has occurred. A person is said to have a pre-existing injury if they have a medical condition that existed prior to them getting into the current accident.

For example, if an injured party had already hurt their neck in a previous accident, then this would be considered a pre-existing injury. If their neck was then re-injured in the current accident due to whiplash, then it might change the way in which the court views their resulting injury.

For instance, some courts may find that the current whiplash injury only served to aggravate their pre-existing neck injury. If this happens, then the plaintiff may not be able to recover the full amount of damages that is typically awarded for whiplash in their jurisdiction.

On the other hand, if the whiplash that resulted from the current accident caused an entirely new neck injury to form, then the plaintiff may potentially be able to collect the full amount of whiplash pain and suffering damages that are usually awarded in such cases.

Again, pre-existing injuries or conditions make it very hard to prove whether a new injury has occurred or not. This is especially true when the new injury arises in the same place as the plaintiff's previous injury. Thus, in order to prove that a plaintiff has suffered new injuries and therefore should recover damages, they may need to hire an expert medical witness to testify on their behalf.

Consulting a lawyer can be useful in such situations as well. Not only will a lawyer be able to help a plaintiff build their case, but they can also assist with searching for and hiring the right expert medical witness. Oftentimes, personal injury lawyers will already be familiar with a number of expert medical witnesses since they tend to use them in personal injury cases. Thus, an experienced lawyer may be able to find an expert medical witness in almost no time.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Whiplash Pain and Suffering?

It can be very difficult to establish a claim for whiplash pain and suffering damages. Therefore, if you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident in which you suffered whiplash injuries, then it may be in your best interest to hire a local car accident lawyer as soon as possible.

An experienced car accident lawyer can evaluate your chances of recovering whiplash pain and suffering damages and will be able to advise you on forms of evidence to collect to prove the injury exists. Your lawyer can also help you file a lawsuit against another party and can provide representation during any court proceedings.

In addition, your lawyer can make sure that your rights and interests are protected, and that you understand the relevant laws. Your lawyer can also answer any questions you may have about your case or about whiplash pain and suffering laws in your jurisdiction.

Finally, if your lawyer believes that it is too late to recover damages for whiplash pain and suffering, then your lawyer will be able to recommend other options for legal recourse and can provide you with further legal advice that may be necessary to succeed on your claim.