When you hear the term “whiplash,” do you immediately picture a person limping into a courtroom with a neck brace and a devious smile in an attempt to exaggerate his or her injuries and cash in? You are not alone. Whiplash claims have a bad reputation among insurers, defense lawyers and the general public, despite the fact that whiplash is a serious injury that can cause debilitating pain and may severely impair your daily living. An experienced Waldorf personal injury attorney can help you overcome the stigma associated with “whiplash” and obtain fair compensation for your injuries.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is an injury caused by a rapid back-and-forth or side-to side movement of the head and neck, which stretches the soft tissues (the muscles, tendons and ligaments) past the normal range of motion. This generally results in inflammation and mild to severe pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders and upper back, making it difficult to turn your head. Symptoms of whiplash may also include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, difficulty sleeping or blurred vision. Whiplash can diminish your ability to perform regular, everyday tasks, including your ability to work. In more serious cases, whiplash injuries can harm your discs and nerves, causing long-term symptoms. Whiplash also is closely tied to traumatic brain injuries (TBI), which can range from mild to severe. Whiplash can occur from any sudden jolting of the head and neck, such as an automobile accident, slip and fall, physical assault or a sudden stop on a bus or train.
Challenges of a Whiplash Case
Often, the greatest challenge in a whiplash case is proving that your injury is real. Unlike a broken bone, a soft-tissue injury is not visible on an X-ray. The primary symptom or proof of a whiplash injury is your (subjective) claim of pain. Moreover, sometimes whiplash symptoms occur days or weeks after an accident and are not reported or treated immediately, and sometimes an accident aggravates a prior condition or injury. Unfortunately, it is common for an insurance company to question the extent of a whiplash claim and claim that you are faking or exaggerating your injuries. The insurance company may also claim that your injuries are not related to the accident if you did not experience immediate symptoms or seek immediate treatment.
Let’s discuss what you can do after an accident to help your Waldorf personal injury attorneys prove your case and demonstrate your pain and suffering.
- Report your accident and injuries to the police, responding emergency medical personnel, emergency room providers, insurance companies and/or your local DMV office. The first step is to demonstrate that an accident occurred and that you sustained injuries as a result of the accident.
- Fully document the details the accident. If you are involved in a car accident, document the speed of the vehicles, points of impact, road debris, vehicle damage and whether you had warning of the accident. Use a digital camera or your cell phone to photograph the scene and damage to your vehicle to support your claim. Identify witnesses to the accident and obtain contact information. Witness testimony that an impact was “violent” or “sounded like an explosion” paints a vivid picture in support of your case.
- Pay attention to what you say and hear immediately after the accident. Keep in mind that statements you make at the scene or to first responders can be used against you to discredit your injuries. If you are asked “Are you okay?” do not immediately respond “yes” or “I’m not hurt” without fully assessing the situation. Sometimes, human nature or adrenaline or shock from the accident will cause injury victims to minimize their pain. This is not the time to put on a brave face. Also pay attention to statements of others. If the driver of the other vehicle says “I was going too fast” or “I was not paying attention,” these are admissions that you can use to support your case.
- Seek immediate medical attention. A medical provider that has experience with neck and spine injuries can assist in proving the extent and severity of your injuries through a written diagnosis or the interpretation of test results, such as an MRI. To determine whether you are entitled to compensation for your injuries, an insurance company will examine whether you: (a) suffered pain and limiting symptoms following the accident; (b) sought treatment immediately after the accident; (c) were diagnosed with a whiplash or other injury; and (d) have continued to obtain consistent treatment after the accident.
- Keep records of your symptoms and medical appointments, including the frequency and duration of your pain, spasms, numbness, headaches or any symptoms that you believe may be related. It is important that you are candid to allow your medical provider to record your condition and symptoms. A journal can help you to keep track of your symptoms, pain and limitations. Your attorney can use this journal to support the extent of your injuries, pain and suffering.
- Document any expenses you incur that relate to your medical treatment. These expenses include medical bills, co-pays, prescription costs, mileage to travel to appointments, parking fees and any out-of-pocket expenses.
- Record any time you lost from work and all lost wages or benefits. Did you lose overtime pay? Did you have to turn down a job or lose a sales opportunity as a result of your injuries? Write it down. The more detailed your records, the stronger your case will be.
If you are dealing with whiplash pain and related symptoms, contact our Waldorf personal injury attorneys. We can evaluate the circumstances of your case and assess whether you may be entitled to compensation. Call 301-638-1280 or use our email form to schedule your free case review.