Whiplash, a relatively common neck/upper back injury, most often results from car accidents, although it can also result from a sporting accident, physical abuse, a blow to the head, a cycling accident, or a fall. An estimated 3 million people sustain whiplash injuries each year, roughly half of which stem from auto accidents, according to the Spine Research Institute of San Diego (SRISD). If you have whiplash from a car accident, you can collect compensation for damages.
Everyone has heard of whiplash, but few really know exactly what it is and what it entails. And unfortunately, whiplash has gotten a bad reputation because a lot of people assume victims are faking or exaggerating. However, for those who are actually suffering from the condition, they can experience varying degrees of pain, discomfort, and immobility, which can greatly affect their daily lives and their ability to perform regular, everyday tasks.
At our firm, we see a lot of clients who start developing neck, shoulder, and/or back pain after a car accident and suspect whiplash, but are apprehensive about reporting it to their doctor, employer, or insurance adjuster for fear of being accused of faking. But you should not endure symptoms when there is treatment available, nor should you pay out-of-pocket for losses related to your whiplash if someone else is at fault for the accident. While recovering damages for whiplash-related injuries can be challenging, with adequate evidence and a good attorney, it can certainly be accomplished.
What is whiplash?
Whiplash is a catchall term for soft tissue injuries of the neck that occur when a person’s head is suddenly jolted forward and backward or side to side with great force. It is essentially a neck sprain, although it can involve other surrounding body structures which can exacerbate the condition.
Whiplash occurs when the head is thrusted about past its normal range of motion, and the soft tissues (muscles and ligaments) overstretch or sustain micro tears. This can cause inflammation, pain, discomfort, and stiffness in the neck, making it difficult to turn your head. The injuries can sometimes affect the shoulders and upper back, too. In more serious cases, the bones, discs, and nerves can be affected, as well.
The symptoms can range from mild to debilitating. They can include the following.
- Pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, and upper back
- Fatigue and weariness
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Irritability and an inability to sleep well
- Problems with concentration and memory
While the condition is considered relatively minor, it has a long-term impact for some victims. In fact, according to the SRISD, as many as 50 percent of people with whiplash have long-term pain and 14 percent become disabled. Not getting treatment or trying to force yourself to do too much before your injuries heal can worsen the symptoms and cause complications.
Will my car accident settlement cover damages related to whiplash?
Any whiplash-related damages in a car accident, such as medical bills and lost wages that you sustain in a car accident should be compensable in a car accident settlement. Most people sustain whiplash injuries when they are rear-ended by someone. This generally means the driver that hit you from behind will usually be found at fault and therefore be deemed liable for your damages. Even if you were partially at fault, you may still be able to collect damages, due to Georgia’s modified comparative negligence law.
As such, the common legal route to take is to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company under their liability coverage. All drivers in Georgia are required to carry at least $25,000 of bodily injury liability insurance, which can be used to cover your damages when that driver is found at fault. Compensable damages include anything that is related to the accident and your whiplash and other injuries, such as the following.
- Hospital and doctors’ bills
- Diagnostic tests
- Treatment and prescriptions
- Lost wages
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Pain and suffering
However, a lot victims who try to recover for whiplash-related damages run into problems with insurers. Insurance adjusters often refute the viability of whiplash claims because they say the victims’ injuries are exaggerated, or that the injuries cannot be all that severe because there was a delay in manifestation of symptoms.
In some cases, insurers might try to deny compensation by claiming that the injuries were preexisting or completely fabricated. If you have already tried filing a claim and the adjuster is denying your claim or minimizing the value of it, you will need to call an attorney immediately.
You and your lawyer can work together to compile evidence to prove your injuries and support your claim. If a fair agreement with the insurance company cannot be reached or if the other driver has too little liability insurance to cover the full extent of your damages, you are not without recourse. Your lawyer can help you take the case to court to fight for your settlement and have a judge decide the outcome.
How do I prove the severity of my injuries?
Our firm has helped numerous victims successfully pursue whiplash car accident claims and lawsuits in Georgia. In our experience, the more thorough your evidence, the more compelling your case will be and the greater the likelihood that you will win your settlement.
There are several key pieces of evidence that can be very instrumental in proving the severity of your injuries.
- Medical documentation – You will want a paper trail of medical records that shows that you sought treatment right after the accident, you were diagnosed with whiplash, and you have continued to seek and follow through with treatment. You will want to collect any type of documentation that is related to your injury including your medical charts, hospital admission forms, results from your diagnostic tests (x-rays, CT scans, blood work, etc.), notes and prognoses from your primary doctor and any specialists you see, prescriptions and other proof of treatment, follow-up appointments, and recommended future treatments. Essentially, you want to be able to show the insurer or court a pattern of consistent treatment after the accident.
- Expert testimony – Your attorney can obtain a testimony from a medical field expert who can provide his/her opinion about the severity of your injury. Insurers and courts place a lot of value on credible experts’ input. If you decide to consult our car accident attorney, we will help you connect with a medical expert that handles challenging cases such as whiplash.
- Injury journal – If you have not done so already, you will want to begin keeping a journal to document your injuries. At least twice daily, jot down information about how you are feeling, what your pain levels were, and what kind of limitations you experienced. You might also note any treatments you underwent and rate their efficacy. This journal can be used to support the extent of your injuries and the validity of your claim.
How do I prove my injuries are not preexisting?
One of insurers’ commonly used tactics when denying whiplash-related car accident claims is to say that the victim’s injuries were preexisting. You will need to prove otherwise. You can do this by gathering and presenting your past medical records to show that you did not, in fact, have any previous whiplash or neck injuries.
That being said, what if your whiplash injuries legitimately resulted from the accident, but do have some preexisting injuries on your record? This may complicate your claim, but it does not necessarily discredit it. If your whiplash injuries are completely different from your old injuries or if your new injuries exacerbated your prior injuries, you can still recover damages. A medical expert can be used to show proof that your current condition (and subsequent damages) is related to your recent car accident.
Where do I get help for my car accident case?
Because collecting damages for whiplash-related injuries is so challenging and the process can be very complicated, it is crucial to have an attorney facilitate your case. You will need a legal professional’s assistance to fight allegations that your injuries are fake, preexisting, or exaggerated, and pursue the funds you are rightfully due.
For more information, feel free to download our free eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Injury Cases in Georgia – The Truth about Your Injury Case. You can also call our office and schedule a consult with attorney Jason Schultz who has decades of experience helping injured victims recover the settlements they deserve. Contact us today at for a free case evaluation.