Injury Law Alert - Summer 2011 Issue
Hemmings & Stevens, PLLC Law Firm of Raleigh, NC
WHIPLASH CAN BE A DEBILITATING INJURY
Most of us have heard of whiplash, and it brings to mind pictures of a person wearing a large padded collar to hold his neck in place. But what is the truth about whiplash?
What Is It?
In fact, whiplash is no joke and can be a very serious injury. As its name suggests, whiplash is an injury to the neck caused when the head is thrown backward, forward, or side to side by a sudden and unexpected impact. Such an impact can also cause a neck sprain, which is an injury attributable to the fact that the ligaments in the neck are overstretched due to the strong jolt.
Although whiplash can occur whenever a person's head or neck is violently whipped around, such as while playing sports or in a fall, the most common cause of whiplash is a car accident. Whiplash is often the only injury that a person in a car accident suffers because if the person is properly belted in, his or her head and neck are the only parts of the body that will move very much, but they will move violently.
Like many injuries, the effects of whiplash can vary from mild to severe. At its mildest, whiplash will cause short term stiffness or soreness. More serious cases can make it impossible to turn one's neck or perhaps affect one's ability to walk. At its worst, whiplash can cause long term debility due to severe headaches, muscle spasms, pain, and paresthesia, which is a numbness or tingling in the extremities. The treatment of whiplash will vary with the severity of the symptoms, ranging from rest to chiropractic care to physical therapy.
The whiplash symptoms may worsen hours or even days after the accident. Doctors speculate that this delay occurs because the adrenaline released under the stress of the collision masks the pain until the adrenaline begins to wear off.
See a Doctor Immediately
Because the onset of whiplash symptoms can be delayed, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible after a collision. This is vital because it allows a professional to examine you and, if necessary, to begin treatment. The examination will also document the symptoms that you feel are related to the collision. A delay between the collision and treatment will allow the insurance company for the other driver to argue that you don't actually have whiplash or that it was caused by something other than the accident.
Treatment by a doctor is necessary not only to provide the proper care for your injuries, but also because it will make it easier for you to prove the connection between your neck pain and the accident. In order to recover for an injury, you have to prove that the injury was either caused or made worse by the collision, and such proof requires a doctor's diagnosis. A good doctor will document your symptoms, the treatment necessary to treat the whiplash, and the likely cause, making it easier for you or your lawyer to "connect the dots" and prove that the car accident caused the whiplash.
If you have suffered whiplash in an accident that is not your fault, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. This compensation can include the cost of the medical care necessary to treat the whiplash, lost wages suffered because you were unable to work due to your injuries, and compensation for your pain and suffering.
Obviously, the amount you can recover will vary depending on the severity of your injuries and the length of time that you are debilitated by the whiplash. It is important to remember that the possible delay in the appearance of whiplash symptoms means that you should resist the temptation to take the first offer that the other driver's insurance company makes - an offer that seems generous at first may turn out to be far less than the cost of the medical care you will incur.
What do you do if you suspect you have suffered a serious case of whiplash? The first step is to seek medical help, then contact our firm. We can help you evaluate the facts and determine whether you have a claim, and then make the claim within the limited time allowed. With our guidance, you will receive all of the compensation that you deserve.
AFTER AN AUTO ACCIDENT
Move yourself and your passengers out of harm's way. Call the police.
Assist anyone who is injured. Call for an ambulance if necessary.
Get the name, address, phone number, and license number of the other driver(s) and car(s). Exchange insurance information. DO NOT discuss the accident (except with the police), but DO make notes of anything the other driver(s) says about the accident.
Get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of any witnesses.
Get photographs of your vehicle, contact your insurance company, and write down everything you remember about the collision ASAP.
Contact our firm to discuss your legal options.
LAWSUITS: SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION
Between 1985 and 2003, the number of lawsuits for personal injuries and medical malpractice tried in the federal courts dropped by 79%, and, in the largest state courts, the number dropped almost 32% between 1992 and 2001. Despite these statistics, it seems as if you hear nothing but complaints about the greed of clients and lawyers, and how an explosion in lawsuits is ruining the country. It is time to separate truth from fiction.
We help injured persons seeking compensation for their injuries. We represent individuals and small businesses with insurance claims that have been denied or other contract disputes. We DO NOT represent insurance companies or big business.