Whiplash is a neck injury that can occur after a car accident. It is caused by a forceful bending of the neck in a forward and backward motion. Many occur when the driver (or the passenger) is hit from behind. If you have suffered whiplash injuries from a car collision, you may be entitled to compensation.
Car accident compensation can range from amounts in the low thousands to millions of dollars in the most extreme cases. Generally speaking, the more significant the harm caused, the larger the compensation will be. Because no two cases are alike, it’s difficult to predict the exact amount that a person may be entitled to. Hiring an attorney with expertise in car accident claims can help you determine whether you have a viable case.
Though awards may vary, there are two standard types of damages that a person claiming a car accident related injury may be entitled to:
Economic Damages (a/k/a special damages)
- Medical expenses related to treating the injury, such as hospital bills, surgery, rehabilitation, medical equipment, etc.
- Lost wages as a result of being unable to return to work, or having to work less due to the injury
Non-economic Damages (a/k/a general damages)
- Past and future pain and suffering from the injury, including post-traumatic stress disorder
- This is a more subjective category of damages, and therefore more difficult to quantify in dollar amounts
- Generally, an injury of a more serious nature that requires extensive medical treatment will be seen as imposing much more pain and suffering then a soft tissue injury or one that is easily treated. Therefore, accidents where the whiplash-related injuries are more substantial will be entitled to receive compensation for pain and suffering
The Effects of Whiplash
Whiplash, depending on the extent of the injury, can have a number of effects on a person. The Cleveland Clinic distinguishes whiplash injuries into five categories:
- Grade 0: No pain
- Grade 1: Pain, such as tenderness and stiffness in the neck
- Grade 2: Pain and signs of injury, such as bruising and swelling, radiating pain, muscle spasms
- Grade 3: Pain, signs of injury and neurological effects, such as vision problems, dizziness, burning sensation in the neck and shoulders, trouble swallowing
- Grade 4: Severe pain and signs of serious or dangerous neurological effects.
Additional whiplash symptoms for some people may include memory loss, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and depression.
The effects of whiplash are usually resolved within several months with treatment. For example, people with symptoms can be prescribed pain medication, anti inflammatories, antidepressants, and physical therapy. There may be instances of residual neck pain and headaches.
New York is a no-fault state. This means that in a motor vehicle accident, regardless of who is to blame, an injured person must seek compensation through their insurance. The amount of money will depend on the policy’s coverage. Consequently, you can only file a lawsuit against another responsible party in an auto accident if:
- Your economic losses exceed your no-fault benefits, or
- You have a qualifying “serious injury” as defined under New York law.
In order to sue for non-economic damages, a car accident victim must meet the New York requirement for “serious injury.” Under New York Insurance Law § 5102(d), qualifying serious injuries (relevant to whiplash) may include:
- significant disfigurement
- permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function, or system
- permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member
- significant limitation of use of a body function or system
- a medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than 90 days during the 180 days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.
Role of Comparative Negligence in Determining Damages
Most cases will be settled through out of court negotiations by the opposing attorneys and insurance companies. However, some inevitably end up in the courtroom and proceed to a jury trial. Normally, the jury will hear the case and decide on the amount of damages to award to the injured party, if any. New York uses comparative fault in determining damages awards. This means that the jury will calculate the fault of one party relative to the other in the resulting harm. If the party claiming injury is deemed to be 10% at fault, while the party being sued is 90% at fault, then the injured party will only obtain 90% of the final damages amount. This is not the case for every state; however, it is the prevailing rule in New York.
Cases to Illustrate Compensation Amounts
The following cases illustrate the range of money that has been awarded in New York for injuries that included whiplash. The more serious the injury, the higher the compensation tends to be. In the most extreme cases, hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars, have been awarded.
J.R. v. Geter
- A 13-year-old was involved in a motor vehicle accident with another vehicle and suffered from cervical whiplash.
- The parties reached an out-of-court settlement for $6,500, $3,279 of which went to an interest-bearing account held for the benefit of the injured minor, with the rest going to attorneys and other miscellaneous expenses.
A.P. v. Darrigo
- A teenage girl was in the passenger seat when the car she was in was hit from the side.
- The girl claimed the following injuries: whiplash with cervical, thoracic, lumbar and left elbow sprain/strains, knee contusions, right eyelid lacerations and post-traumatic stress syndrome.
- The parties reached an out-of-court settlement for $42,500 in compensatory damages.
- A 42-year-old male was hit from the rear by another vehicle and suffered numerous injuries, such as cervical radiculopathy, decreased range of motion in cervical and lumbar spines, wrist neuritis that caused permanent disability for three days and lifelong partial disability, and headaches related to whiplash.
- The jury awarded a total of $217,000 in damages, including $5,000 for past medical expenses, $32,000 in future medical expenses, and $180,000 for pain and suffering.
- An adult female was riding in the passenger seat of a car that was struck in the rear by a truck.
- She suffered from a pre-existing brain and skull condition that was aggravated by the collision.
- Whiplash-type injuries caused a blockage of the spinal fluid and migraines from headaches, as well as bulging discs in her back.
- The jury awarded a total of $1.5 million for her pain and suffering.
How to File a Lawsuit
Your attorney will decide whether or not to pursue the case after an initial consultation. Should an attorney and client agree to work together, the next steps would be to gather all of the necessary information regarding the accident and the injury. From then on, the attorney will navigate the legal landscape, and will be talking with the party being sued, which will involve the opposing insurance company to try and resolve the case before it goes to trial.
Why You Need a Lawyer
If you have been in a car accident and have suffered whiplash-related injuries (and possibly even more), it’s important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. You should not have to pay out-of-pocket for the harm done to you by another party. The legal process can be a challenging landscape to navigate, and might seem like it would add to the growing list of problems one might be facing post-collision. However, contacting an attorney is the best course of action. By giving yourself a chance to receive financial compensation, you would be alleviating the burdens that the injury has placed on you. An experienced attorney will handle the legal process for you and represent you with the competence and skill necessary to win settlement money.
Furthermore, car accident cases often involve insurance companies in addition to opposing attorneys. Insurance adjusters tend to be more experienced negotiators because they deal with claims often. Therefore, you have to make sure you have an experienced negotiator fighting for you.
At Rosenblum Law, we have been handling car accident cases for many years. We understand the effects auto accident injuries can have. If you have a claim, we’ll guide you through the process and fight on your behalf for maximum compensation.
For a free consultation, call us today at 888-235-9021 or contact us through our website.
In New York, the statute of limitations for filing a car accident lawsuit is up to three years after the alleged injury occurred. It is best practice not to delay and consult an attorney today to give yourself the best opportunity to file a lawsuit in a timely manner.
Medical malpractice attorneys will typically offer an initial consultation free of charge. It’s also standard for attorneys to take medical malpractice cases on a contingency basis. This means that they won’t get paid up front. Instead, their attorneys’ fees will come out of any money they win for you in a verdict or settlement. Medical malpractice attorneys usually advance litigation expenses as well, such as fees for depositions, copying records, and engaging experts. These expenses will also be reimbursed from any verdict or settlement.
A person should allow for a case to be settled within a few years. Some will be settled faster, and some may take longer. This is because there are many factors that influence the timeline. Some examples include the amount of time it will take to gather all the evidence, the pace of attorney negotiations, the strain of the court docket, and the motions for discovery and extensions that the attorneys will file during the process.
It is possible for whiplash to set in later, rather than immediately after the accident. This is because adrenaline can mask the underlying pain. Furthermore, while some symptoms can appear several days after the accident, others can take weeks, months, even years to develop. Whiplash syndrome describes this delayed effect. It’s important to be aware of this possible delay, and keep an eye out for symptoms even though some time may have passed since the accident. The statute of limitations allows up to three years after the incident to file a lawsuit, so just because you might not experience the effects of whiplash right away does not mean you will be barred from filing a lawsuit.
Chiropractic specialists and physical therapists are often best suited to address the most common whiplash injuries. Their sessions help to realign the body, and combined with icing, medication, and massages, are normally adequate to treat whiplash. In more extreme cases, a surgeon specializing in spine or orthopedic surgeries may be the proper course of action. Seeking out treatment in a timely manner is important not just for physical recovery, but also because in a personal injury case, the best way to assess economic damages is by getting to “maximum medical recovery.” This is where a doctor determines you have been fully treated or are as healed as you will be. From there, the total cost of your past (and possibly future) treatment is easily quantifiable because of your medical bills.
Whiplash has the ability to damage the cervical spine and cause a herniated disc. The herniation causes pain in the neck, shoulders, and arms. If a person is experiencing symptoms associated with herniation, it is important to go to a doctor and get treatment right away to prevent long-term damage and suffering. A herniated disc on its own is probably a lower-grade injury, though if it leads to aggravation of a pre-existing condition or develops into a more serious injury, the settlement amount for compensatory damages will likely be bigger.