Whiplash is one of the most common injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents, especially rear-end collisions. As many as two-thirds of drivers and passengers involved in vehicle crashes suffer symptoms of whiplash after an accident, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
Because whiplash is so common, many people consider it a relatively minor injury, but the reality is that the personal and financial impact of whiplash can plague accident victims for weeks, months, or even years. If you are suffering from a whiplash injury caused by a collision with a negligent driver, you may be entitled to recover compensation.
To receive compensation, personal injury victims must generally prove that their injuries were caused by the negligence of another person. “Invisible” injuries like whiplash are often more difficult to prove than obvious trauma like bone fractures or surface wounds. The assistance of an Alabama whiplash lawyer can be invaluable in the pursuit of your rightful, maximum compensation.
Signs, Symptoms, and Lasting Effects of Whiplash
The Mayo Clinic defines whiplash as a neck injury resulting from the “forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck,” similar to the motion used to crack a whip. Whiplash can result from sporting accidents, physical abuse, falls, car accidents, and other forms of head or neck trauma.
Most of the time, the signs and symptoms of whiplash develop within several days of an accident injury, and commonly include:
- Stiffness and pain in the neck
- Inability to move the neck without pain
- Headaches near the base of the skull
- Shoulder, upper back, or arm soreness
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
- Blurred vision, fatigue, or dizziness
- Ringing ears or sleep disturbances
- Unusual irritability or depression
- Memory or concentration difficulties
How Car Crashes Cause Whiplash (Medicine)
When a vehicle traveling at speed collides with another vehicle or large object, the car is typically stopped or slowed by the crash a split second before its passengers are. This means that the people inside the car are sometimes violently jerked around on impact, as they are thrown forward and immediately caught by their seat belts or car interiors.
When this kind of force causes the head to suddenly “whip” back and forth, whiplash frequently results. The effects of whiplash can cause injuries to vertebrae, spinal disks, muscles and ligaments, soft tissues, and even nerves.
Is It Worth to Pursue a Whiplash Personal Injury Claim?
If your whiplash injury left you with chronic symptoms and substantial treatment expenses, it’s almost certainly in your interest to pursue a personal injury claim for compensation. However, not all whiplash injury claims are worth the time and effort required to pursue a successful settlement. In some cases, minor whiplash symptoms will go away on their own without costly medical interventions or significant lost time from work.
Also, if you suffered from a whiplash injury but do not have a formal medical record to support your claim, you may have a difficult time seeking compensation. Since whiplash is not visible on tests like X-rays, your claim will rely on records of any doctor’s appointments or treatments you received to address your injury.
If you feel uncertain about the potential success of your claim, a qualified personal injury attorney can help you determine whether you have a case worth pursuing.
What Should I Do If I Get Whiplash From a Car Accident?
If you suspect that you may have sustained whiplash in a car accident, there are several important steps you should consider to protect your personal health and any potential claims you make for compensation.
The personal injury attorneys of Stokes Stemle, LLC encourage all of our whiplash injury clients to:
- Seek immediate medical attention. Whether or not you immediately experience any whiplash symptoms, it’s always a good idea to seek immediate medical attention after a car accident. You may not notice certain symptoms right away, so getting an evaluation from a physician can ensure you are diagnosed and receive the treatment you need as soon as possible. Also, immediate medical attention will show insurance adjusters that you are taking your personal health seriously, which could boost your chances of a successful claim.
- Follow the treatments prescribed by your doctor. If a doctor determines you have a significant injury that requires treatment, you should always follow the treatment plan they prescribe. Not only will this help you recover as quickly as possible and prevent additional side effects, it will also demonstrate, once again, that you are taking your injury seriously.
- Notify the police and your insurance provider. If you’re able to, call the police immediately after the accident occurs. Police officers can help you and others get to safety following a collision and will compose an official accident report that may later support your claim. Your insurance provider also likely requires you to report all accidents that occur, so make sure you notify them as well. Do not admit fault or embellish any facts when you do.
- Gather evidence to support your claim. Make sure you collect contact and insurance information for other drivers at the scene if you are able to. Try to get information from other witnesses and as much of your own supporting evidence as possible. You’ll want to gather photos of your injuries and the accident scene, medical treatment records, diagnostic test results, and documentation of any expenses you incur.
- Seek legal advice and representation. Contact an experienced whiplash injury lawyer. An attorney can help you communicate with insurance adjusters, collect compelling evidence, and negotiate a fair settlement for your claim.
Is Whiplash a Permanent Injury?
Although some whiplash victims recover within weeks or months of receiving medical attention, many may suffer from chronic pain and other complications for years.
It’s difficult to predict how a whiplash injury will progress, but long-lasting symptoms are generally more likely when:
- Initial symptoms are intense, with rapid onset.
- Severe neck pain is present.
- Victims suffer especially limited ranges of motion.
- Pain has spread to the victim’s arms.
- Victims have suffered whiplash in the past.
- Victims are older.
- Victims suffer from existing neck or back pain.
- The injury resulted from a high-speed collision.
Whiplash Claim Limits in Alabama
The Alabama Supreme Court has determined that laws limiting damage payments in personal injury claims are unconstitutional, so there is currently no limit to the amount of compensation you can recover from personal injury claims against private individuals. However, there are some exceptions.
Alabama follows a doctrine of contributory negligence in personal injury cases, which can make it difficult to recover compensation if you bear any responsibility for your accident. Under contributory negligence rules, even if you are found only 1 percent at fault for the crash, you will be ineligible for any compensation for your related injuries.
Also, there are legal limits on the damages that personal injury victims can recover from punitive claims. Punitive damages are generally awarded to plaintiffs who suffer injury from malicious parties, whose actions represent more than simple negligence. Alabama courts require clear and convincing evidence of “deliberate or conscious malice” before they will award punitive damages. Punitive damages are capped at either three times the victim’s compensatory damages or $1.5 million, whichever is greater.
Is It Worth It to Hire a Lawyer for a Whiplash Injury Claim?
Because Alabama has such high standards for proving successful personal injury claims, the representation of a seasoned personal injury lawyer can be very valuable in your case. While lawyers are not strictly necessary, an experienced legal advocate on your side can handle the tedious and difficult aspects of gathering evidence, building your case, and negotiating a settlement while you focus on recovery.
Another thing to keep in mind is Alabama’s statute of limitations for personal injury cases. This law establishes a two-year time limit to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you’re unable to reach an insurance settlement for your whiplash injury, you’ll have only two years from the date of your accident to bring charges in court.
Two years can go by surprisingly quickly, so having an attorney in your corner from day one can help ensure you’re prepared for any curveballs in your pursuit of justice.
Get Legal Help with Your Whiplash Claim Now
The relentless attorneys at Stokes Stemle, LLC, have built a reputation for success through their exclusive focus on personal injury law. Our lawyers are proud to serve Alabama residents just like you, suffering from the personal and financial challenges associated with serious accident injuries such as whiplash.
It is our mission to use our compassion, experience, and professional resources to help you with these challenges. We will fight aggressively for the maximum compensation you deserve to support your family and move forward with your life.
Schedule your free consultation with our team now by calling us or contacting us online.