What You Should Know About Whiplash Car Accident Settlements

What's In This Article

If you have suffered whiplash as the result of a motor vehicle accident, you should seek medical attention as well as the advice of a qualified and dedicated motor vehicle accident attorney. As a result of your whiplash and back injury claim, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your physical injuries, damage to you vehicle, lost wages and more. In this case, it’s good to know the facts about whiplash car accident settlements.

Don’t delay in filing your claim, as the more time that passes after your accident, the more difficult it can be for an attorney to fight for financial compensation.

Whiplash Injury Causes

Whiplash most commonly occurs during rear end car accidents. It happens when a vehicle strikes your car, causing the body to jerk forward quickly. The head usually trails by a second, causing injuries to the muscles and soft tissue in the neck as it makes exaggerated movements due to the force of the crash. Thankfully, these accidents are typically easy to prove fault.

In other types of car accidents, whiplash occurs from the sheer force of a collision and the effects that force has on the head, neck, and other body parts. The sudden forward and backward or side to side movement that often occurs during a car accident can cause painful whiplash.

Note that whiplash symptoms can develop days or even weeks after the accident. If at any point after your accident, you experience stiff neck pain, difficulty moving your head, or frequent headaches at the base of the head, seek medical attention immediately.

How to Prevent Whiplash in a Car Accident

It’s easy to forget how much power is harnessed by the modern automobile. As we run errands or sit in traffic, we rarely consider the sheer weight and force required to get us from one place or another. It’s not until we’re involved in an accident that we truly appreciate the physics at work. During a crash, a person’s body weight is multiplied by the speed of a vehicle, causing G-forces to bear down on some of their most sensitive body parts.

Not surprisingly, that weight can have a serious impact on the human body. While safety features have come a long way to take the brunt of this weight, injuries like whiplash are still incredibly common. Sudden stops can cause serious damage even when a person does not sustain cuts, bruises or wounds in a crash. Thankfully, there are a few steps a person can take to minimize the impact of this force on the body and prevent whiplash from occurring.

The Physical Impact of Whiplash

Whiplash occurs when a person’s neck is jerked suddenly back and forth. The movement pulls the cervical spine beyond its usual range of motion, damaging the muscles and ligaments in the neck. Particularly common among victims of rear-end car accidents, whiplash can occur any time a person’s neck moves back and forward unexpectedly.

Whiplash can be deceptive, with symptoms often not presenting for hours or even days after an accident. Common symptoms include headache, blurred vision, dizziness and neck pain. Though thought of as a relatively mild injury, whiplash can have long-term effects on a person. Chronic pain and discomfort is possible in people suffering from whiplash. Most, however, recover in about three weeks.

Reducing the Risks

Understanding the physics at work in a car crash scenario can help accident victims minimize the effects of whiplash. Because whiplash occurs when the head is jerked back and forth, having the headrest properly adjusted can reduce the severity of such movements in a collision. A headrest should sit directly behind your head while driving. Adjust it as close to your head as is comfortable, with the height reaching to the top of the ears. Ideally, there would be no space between your head and headrest. Realistically, that would be both uncomfortable and impractical. Instead, limit the space between as much as possible. Distances greater than 10 centimeters have been associated with increased symptoms of neck injuries.

Wearing your seatbelt can also help reduce the chances of whiplash. Though seatbelts may not keep your head from jostling in a wreck, they can help keep your torso in place. This complements the work done by the headrest, keeping your entire body in place despite the amount of force it endures. The reduction of strain minimizes the effects of whiplash.

Of course, the best way to avoid whiplash is to prevent car accidents altogether. By driving defensively and staying alert to changing traffic conditions, you can lower the odds of ever being involved in a wreck. While not all collisions are avoidable, many of the most common kinds of accidents are indeed preventable.

Evolving Technology and Whiplash

Modern cars are designed to absorb as much energy as possible in crash situations. Rather than pass the energy on to the passengers, vehicles offset collisions by using crumple zones to bear the impact of the crash. Air bags, seat belts and side impact protection go a long way to prevent the force of the wreck from harming passengers inside.

Headrest effectiveness has become a particular point of focus for safety regulators in recent years. Newly introduced federal standards on the height of head restraints and the allowable distance between the head and the headrest have seen dramatic changes in the way car interiors are manufactured. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety began a rear-crash program in 2004. Their initial research revealed that nearly half of front head restraints were rated “poor.” By 2014, however, none were rated “poor” and 95 percent were classified as “good.”

The Importance of Aftercare

Even when you take precautions to prevent whiplash, accidents happen. Controlling for damage sometimes isn’t enough. If you have been involved in a car crash and feel the telltale signs of whiplash, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. A doctor will conduct a thorough examination and may require imaging like X-rays, CT scans or an MRI to better understand your injuries. In many cases, a doctor will prescribe physiotherapy to help the patient heal.

Before visiting the doctor, make a list of your symptoms. Be ready to explain exactly what led to your injuries and what treatments, if any, you used to combat pain. Have a list of questions about your whiplash ready, and be sure to address concerns about chronic pain. Do not leave your doctor’s office without getting copies of their findings. If you choose to file a claim, documentation will be required by your insurance company.

The 5 Levels of Car Accident Whiplash

When it comes to whiplash caused by a motor-vehicle accident, patients are classified on a 5 level scale that represents the pain and severity of their injury. These 5 levels can be used to help doctors determine what type of treatment you should receive for your whiplash. The levels are:

  • Grade 0 – No symptoms or physical signs of neck injury.
  • Grade 1 – Symptoms of pain or tenderness with stiffness, but no physical signs of injury.
  • Grade 2 – Symptoms of pain, stiffness, and physical signs of injury including difficulty moving the head.
  • Grade 3 – Symptoms of severe pain, headaches, tenderness and other symptoms. Physical signs are more pronounced and include a decreased range of motion, difficulty moving the head, and tenderness in key points of the neck and shoulders.
  • Grade 4 – Symptoms of extreme pain, headaches, and other symptoms. Neck fracture and dislocation are assigned to this grade.

The 5 level scale helps both you and your medical professional classify the severity of a whiplash injury. If you are experiencing neck pain after a car accident, you may be suffering from a case of whiplash. If you are diagnosed with whiplash, receive treatment, and otherwise have to alter your normal day to day life because of your car accident, you may be entitled to a whiplash settlement to help cover the financial costs.

What are the symptoms of whiplash?

Whiplash is a type of neck strain or injury most commonly associated with car accidents, but can occur due to any impact that causes your neck to jerk suddenly in an unnatural direction. Our neck muscles are strong, but can not withstand abrupt force without suffering from strains and possibly even tears. Because our heads and necks are unrestrained while we drive, this puts us at a greater risk of whiplash when involved in car accidents such as being rear-ended.

The symptoms and pain associated with a whiplash injury will depend on the severity of your injury. Some of the most common symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Pain or stiffness in the neck
  • Difficulty turning the head or nodding
  • Muscle spasms 
  • Blurred or obstructed vision
  • Headaches at the base of the skull
  • Periods of dizziness
  • Sustained fatigue 

While the above are obvious warning signs of whiplash, there are also less common but equally as serious symptoms. These include:

  • Trouble sleeping or insomnia
  • Sudden mood changes and irritability
  • Nausea
  • Tenderness of the neck
  • Pain in the lower back
  • Ringing in the ears

If you are experiencing any sustained symptoms of whiplash after a car accident, seek medical attention immediately. Starting the diagnosis and physical therapy process to treat whiplash as soon as possible is crucial to your long term health. Additionally, having a medical track record of treatment that you and your lawyer can reference may help you win a whiplash settlement claim that helps offset the financial costs involved with an accident.

What does whiplash feel like?

While every accident is different, whiplash is named after one of the most common causes of the injury: a sudden and forceful back and forth of the head, which can be compared to the crack of a whip. 

Many who have suffered from whiplash describe the pain as a stiffness or burning sensation in the neck. Some may feel numb in their lower neck or arms, or suffer spells of dizziness or feeling “out of sorts.”

If moving your head causes immediate or intense pain, seek medical attention. Symptoms that may initially present themselves as a minor case of whiplash may be a serious case of whiplash or another type of injury. Sometimes the initial impact that causes whiplash may also result in a concussion or other serious medical complications. 

How long does whiplash last?

While the pain associated with your whiplash may be intense, thankfully the majority of whiplash cases have pain that can go away in as little as a few days. Even serious cases of whiplash can resolve themselves within three months. The symptoms of whiplash can vary in their severity or length, and the majority of whiplash car accident settlements account for a person’s individual situation rather than relying on the existence of extreme pain and suffering. 

However, lasting pain from whiplash is unfortunately very possible. Studies have shown that severe, immediate pain following your accident can be an indicator of whether or not your whiplash will be persistent. If your whiplash is permanent, you may be entitled to far more legal compensation from your whiplash settlement than you may initially believe. 

How long does it take for whiplash symptoms to appear?

Every car accident is different and so is every driver and passenger. Whiplash symptoms can appear immediately and be extremely painful from the moment of the accident. However, many cases of whiplash do not follow this pattern. In some cases, you may not begin to feel the symptoms of whiplash until several hours after your accident. 

Occasionally, it can even take days after the accident for the true extent of your symptoms and pain to show themselves. As soon as you begin to experience symptoms of whiplash, start building a medical record by going in to see your doctor. They will be able to give you a diagnosis and guide you along the next steps toward treatment for your whiplash pain.

How is whiplash diagnosed?

Whiplash injuries can be extremely hard to pinpoint using modern medical technology. Due to the fact that whiplash injuries primarily consist of damage to the soft tissue of the neck, X-rays can not be used to determine if a person does or does not have whiplash. Your doctor may order MRI or CT scans in order to help rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. 

However, the primary method of diagnosing whiplash remains your symptoms – so be sure to answer any and all of your doctor’s questions about your pain and your accident truthfully. Exaggerating your pain or minimizing how bad it is in order to appear tough will only cause more confusion and make treating your whiplash injury more difficult.

Your doctor will refer to the 5 level classification system for whiplash car accidents to help further guide your treatment. Less severe cases of whiplash can be treated with at home remedies such as ice packs, heating pads, and over-the-counter-medication. However, extreme cases of whiplash can lead to permanent damage that requires extensive physical therapy, medication, and even surgery to correct. 


Long Term Effects of Whiplash After a Car Accident

There are several long term effects of whiplash after a car accident. If you have suffered a car accident whiplash injury, be sure to talk to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to see if you can receive compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering and medical costs.

Long Term Effects

Beyond the short term effects of neck pain, stiffness and soreness, there could be longer lasting symptoms of the injury that may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Pain and stiffness in the neck area, such as shoulders
  • Severe pain in the upper and lower back locations
  • Jaw throbbing
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Migraines
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Balance issues

It is possible for these symptoms to last for days, weeks, months or years. Full symptoms could only appear a few days after the crash, with the injury most often felt within 12 hours after the accident. This is why it is always important to have yourself checked by a doctor after the accident; a very serious whiplash injury may not feel like a significant injury until days after the accident.

Also, some areas of the body could have weakness or numbness, such as legs or arms. Some sufferers may have serious ear ringing. Others can have difficulty concentrating and problems with memory. If long term whiplash symptoms affect the eyes, you could have blurred vision.

Whiplash effects that are felt for over six months is referred to as chronic whiplash. It can be treated with prescription painkillers, muscle relaxants, physiotherapy and rest time from work. Other options for whiplash treatment can include acupuncture, chiropractic car, massage, and electronic nerve stimulation to reduce pain in the neck.

How Long Term Whiplash Effects Affect Your Claim

There are a number of ways that long term whiplash injuries could increase or decrease the dollar value of the claim. In some cases, the injured person cannot stay in the courtroom because of the physical pain of the injury. This can indicate to the judge and the jury that the physical damage of the whiplash was significant and requires you to receive more treatments and pain medication. An attorney working with a physician may be able to explain how the severe whiplash occurred and how serious injuries put additional strain on other parts of the body.

Proving Long Term Effects of Whiplash for the Claim

Usually, strong evidence is required to prove that long term whiplash injuries exist. If you are suffering long term effects that show obvious symptoms, it is not as hard to prove that you suffered long term effects. This will increase the strength of the claim and show why a higher whiplash settlement is necessary. You will need to show the court your medical records from various medical professionals that prove that your whiplash injuries are having long term effects on your life. The more documentation you can show, the more likely you are to convince the judge and jury.

Should I seek compensation for my whiplash injury?

If your neck pain after a car accident has been diagnosed by a medical professional as whiplash and has caused serious interference with your normal life, you should seek compensation for your injury from the party or parties responsible. This is where it becomes extremely important to reach out to an experienced local attorney who can assess your whiplash settlement claim’s viability. Their localized experience will be invaluable in fighting to get you the whiplash injury compensation you are entitled to from the insurance company.

In the case where your whiplash symptoms have become chronic (permanent) you should almost always seek compensation. Cases where the symptoms of whiplash are long lasting are generally much easier to prove financial impact, pain and suffering, and the need for an above average whiplash settlement.

Examples of Whiplash Car Accident Settlements

$1.75 Million – fought for a recovery of $1,750,000 for a client who sustained injuries after being T-Boned by a commercial vehicle on a neighborhood roadway. Because this whiplash car accident involved a commercial vehicle, the attorneys were able to negotiate for a higher settlement amount than they otherwise would. Commercial vehicles generally carry much better insurance than we do on our personal vehicles and drivers often go through training; which means that when they are involved in a crash, the cases are handled with much more scrutiny. 

$1.1 Million – achieved a recovery of $1,100,000 on behalf of our client who was injured when her vehicle was struck while she was crossing through an intersection. Accidents where you are a pedestrian rather than another driver involved in a crash are taken much more seriously by insurance companies, especially if you experience neck pain after the car accident. An experienced attorney was able to fight for this client against the insurance company to make sure she received the whiplash settlement amount she was entitled to for her medical care, lost time off work, and pain and suffering.

$1 Million –  obtained a $1,000,000 recovery for our client who was hit by a drunk driver that fled the scene of the accident immediately after the impact. Unfortunately, whiplash car accidents involving drunk drivers are more common than anyone would like. With these cases, insurance companies often fight hard to pay out settlements as cheaply and quickly as possible. The client was able to settle their whiplash claim to help pay for the expenses incurred due to the drunk driver’s absolute negligence. 

Factors That Affect Whiplash Car Accident Settlements

There are many factors that will affect how much your whiplash compensation ends up totalling. In a jury trial, there are many stereotypes about whiplash accidents that work against you and in favor of the insurance company. Thankfully, a majority of whiplash cases are settled out of court. Despite this, it can provide peace of mind if you know that you are prepared should your case head all the way to the courthouse.

Property Damage Can Increase Your Whiplash Compensation

Because it is extremely difficult to show evidence of whiplash injury due to muscle tears and strains not showing on traditional X-rays or MRIs, many jurors turn to the damage to your vehicle to help them determine the severity of your accident. 

If Neck Pain After Your Car Accident Is Permanent

If you experience chronic or permanent symptoms of whiplash due to your accident, this can greatly influence your chances of receiving an above average whiplash case settlement. Permanent damage or pain has a huge effect on your chances of receiving monetary compensation for pain and suffering.

The Type of Vehicles Involved In Your Car Accident

The type of vehicle involved with your whiplash car accident will have a serious effect on your whiplash claim. If you were riding a motorcycle at the time of your crash, for example, you may be entitled to more compensation than you would if you were driving a car. This is because many states do not require you to prove that your injury is permanent to receive compensation for pain and suffering if you were riding a motorcycle at the time of your accident.

Car accidents involving big rig vehicles are also extremely serious, especially if you experience neck pain after your car accident. Many larger trucking companies keep very good insurance on their drivers and big rigs for just this reason. Whiplash car accidents involving big rigs generally have a much higher settlement payout due to the risk and danger involved with such a large vehicle crash.

Who Was Negligent? 

If you were responsible or partially to blame for the accident that caused your whiplash injury, your chances of receiving any sort of settlement payout plummet, and you may need to seek compensation from your own insurance. In order to receive a whiplash settlement for pain and suffering, you must be able to prove negligence on the part of another driver. 

Additionally, if a drunk driver was responsible for your whiplash car accident, your settlement case will be affected. An experienced attorney will often be able to argue for punitive damage in a whiplash settlement involving a drunk driver, which increases your likelihood of a higher settlement.

What Can You Expect to Receive for a Car Accident Whiplash Claim? 

Settlement amounts for whiplash will vary depending on your location, the severity of your injury, and the culpability of the other driver. In most mild to moderate cases, you can expect to receive between $2,500 and $10,000. More serious cases that require physical therapy for several months can result in a settlement of $30,000 or more. 

Neck injuries that go beyond normal soft tissue damage to affect the nerves or vertebra can end up with a settlement beyond $100,000. This is one of the reasons that it is crucial you see a medical professional following your whiplash car accident and schedule follow-up visits if your pain persists. What you may initially think of as whiplash may actually end up being a much more serious injury with complications and a larger potential settlement.

The Insurance Coverage Type Matters Most

Many of the most well-known insurance companies hit the average for whiplash settlement claims. The most important factor when trying to determine how much your settlement claim may be worth are the types of injuries and accidents the other driver’s insurance plan covers. This is harder to find out on your own without an experienced attorney, but will tell you much more than merely finding out the name of their insurance company. 

If you were involved in an accident with a big rig or other commercial vehicle, your chances of receiving an above average whiplash settlement increase. These vehicles and drivers are often insured at a much higher coverage level than most regular drivers due to the sheer amount of time they spend behind the wheel and the danger of bigger vehicles. If your car accident in