Car accidents, no matter how big or small, often result in one or more people sustaining a variety of different injuries, some of the most common of which are injuries to the neck and back. While these areas of the body typically sustain soft tissue injuries, they can cause extreme pain and require a significant amount of treatment for recovery.
Drivers and passengers involved in car accidents struck by negligent drivers can file claims to receive a financial settlement for pain and injuries they suffered as long as they satisfy all the necessary legal requirements. The burden of proof is on the accident victim. A car accident lawyer will help gather evidence to prove your personal injury claims.
Damages for Neck and Back Injuries
The types and amount of monetary damages that could be awarded to a person who sustained neck and back injuries in a motor vehicle accident depend on several factors and vary on a case-by-case basis. Some of the most common types of damage compensation for personal injury claims include:
- Medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses resulting from the injuries
- Lost income from missed work time due to medical treatment or recovery from the injuries
- Pain, suffering, and inconvenience endured due to the injuries
- Permanent neck or back injury or disability resulting from the accident
- Temporary or permanent loss of capacity to earn or inability to work due to the injuries
- Loss of spousal support or companionship related to the injuries
Whiplash - The Most Common Injury
Of all the types of injuries a person can sustain in an automobile accident, whiplash is the most common. It most often occurs as a result of a rear-end collision, which is the most common type of car accident. Whiplash injury claims are very high, with billions of dollars being paid out in settlements across the country each year.
While whiplash settlements have basically become standard due to the frequency with which they occur, you may be entitled to receive more than what the insurance company is ready to award. Most insurance companies at this point have a standard whiplash injury compensation amount, which they hide behind and refuse to raise.
Common Signs of Whiplash in the Neck and Back
Whiplash is typically sustained when a person's head or neck moves forward and backward in a rapid motion. Whiplash is a common injury most often sustained in rear-end motor vehicle accidents. The suddenness of the impact in such collisions creates a perfect scenario for whiplash. The harder the collision, the more likely the driver and other occupants of the vehicle hit will suffer from whiplash to the neck and back.
Technically speaking, a whiplash injury is a soft tissue injury, which means it's an injury that affects the muscles in the upper back and neck as opposed to an injury that results in the fracture or breakage of a bone. Because it's a soft tissue injury, symptoms may not manifest right away, which is why it's best to seek medical treatment even if you don't think you've been injured.
Some of the most common symptoms of whiplash following a car accident include:
- Neck pain
- Stiffness and/or pain in the upper back, and/or shoulders
- Burning pains in the neck and/or shoulder area
- Short-term memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
Short-term memory loss, difficulty sleeping, and difficulty concentrating are all symptoms that may indicate severe injuries. However, regardless of severity, any whiplash injury will lead to pain, discomfort, and the inability to move the neck to some degree.
While a minor whiplash injury can heal on its own within several days, it can also turn into a major whiplash injury in the same period of time. The best way to avoid that and document the injury for an injury claim settlement is to seek medical treatment as soon as possible following the collision and keep all the treatment records from the care you receive.
How to Establish the Severity of a Neck or Back Injury
The only way for auto accident victims to prove the severity of a neck or back injury, such as whiplash, that resulted from a motor vehicle accident is to obtain and submit evidence. An experienced car accident lawyer knows what to collect and submit and might be able to save you a lot of time and energy in this respect.
As a general rule, the more evidence you have to prove your damages, the higher your chances are for reaching a fair settlement value for your case. Some of the most important pieces of evidence you can submit for a neck or back injury case include medical documentation, testimony from a medical expert, and a journal of your injuries and medical treatment.
Whiplash injury victims and their lawyers need to obtain copies of all of your bills and medical records from the medical facility and health insurance company that provided the treatment for your neck and back injuries. These records do more than help you prove the cost of treatment - they can be used to confirm the diagnosis and prove that you were being treated consistently for the injuries. They can also help determine possible future treatments, if necessary, and the costs associated with those treatments. Always keep your own copies of all medical records and paperwork from your health insurance company as well.
Testimony from a Medical Expert
It's crucial to have a knowledgeable medical expert on your side when you need to prove that you're entitled to compensation for pain from an accident injury, including whiplash. It must be demonstrated that the injuries sustained were related to the auto accident. A medical expert can provide a written statement or even testify before trial or as an expert witness at trial. Having a qualified medical expert (a doctor or other healthcare professional who examined you after the accident) on board to support your case will significantly increase your chances of receiving the highest compensation for pain that you can be awarded.
Journal of Injuries and Treatment
Keeping a journal of all medical treatment received following a motor vehicle collision is always a good idea for validation purposes. In this journal, you should record your physical pain symptoms and the level of pain you're experiencing. Record how the treatment made you feel and whether you're experiencing chronic pain. Such a journal can come in handy when it's time to prove the validity, extent, and severity of your neck and back injuries, especially if your whiplash claim includes damages for pain and suffering.
How to Prove Whiplash, Neck, and Back Injury Damages
Since whiplash and other soft tissue injuries aren't observable on diagnostic tests or imaging studies like X-rays and MRIs, they can be difficult to prove. Because of this, insurance companies may try to argue that the victim of the collision is actually suffering from preexisting conditions or degenerative changes due to age. They may also claim that the victim is exaggerating symptoms.
In order to prove your case, you must show that the at-fault driver caused the car accident due to carelessness and negligence and that you suffered physical injuries as a result of the motor vehicle collision. The best way to do this is through a medical examination immediately following the accident. Experienced attorneys can help with gathering the evidence required to prove your case.
The Statute of Limitations in Ohio
Ohio has a statute of limitations for car accident cases, which allows the injured party up to two years to file a personal injury lawsuit over the accident. If you fail to file a lawsuit or settle your case within the stipulated time period, the case will simply be closed. There are a few very limited exceptions to the rule. If you fear you may be too close to the statute of limitations but still want to file a claim, you should reach out to a lawyer to see if they can help.
Ohio Shared Fault Rule
In addition to the statute of limitations, Ohio also has a modified comparative fault, or shared fault, rule, which states that the total damage award is reduced by the percentage of fault the judge decides is yours.
Since whiplash is so common and results in a range of symptoms that aren't really discernible by anyone other than the person suffering from them, it's more closely scrutinized than any other injury in a car accident claim. Most insurance companies automatically suspect fraud in such cases, and some may not even accept tests run by physicians.
If you've suffered a whiplash injury or any other neck and back injuries resulting from a motor vehicle accident, you might want to consider contacting an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. The attorneys at Babin Law, LLC can help determine if you have a valid claim and work out an estimated amount for a potential settlement.