Whiplash, or cervical strain, occurs when the muscles in your neck stretch or tear; it can also include injury to the discs, joints, ligaments, and nerve roots in the neck. Whiplash from a car accident is common, especially in rear-end collisions as the impact often causes the head to fall forward and snap back, putting undue pressure on the neck.
What are symptoms of whiplash?
People can experience whiplash in a variety of ways, but two of the most common symptoms are neck soreness and stiffness. In addition to general soreness and neck stiffness, other common symptoms of whiplash are:
- Burning or prickling sensations
- Impaired concentration
- Memory loss
- Shoulder and/or back pain
- Sleep disturbance
While whiplash pain is sometimes immediately apparent (within the first 24 hours after a crash), other times symptoms do not develop for a few days; this is why it is imperative to seek medical care as soon as possible after an accident, especially if you feel any pain at all (even weeks later).
Many whiplash sufferers often recover in a matter of days or weeks, but others have ongoing neck symptoms for months, years, and even the rest of their lives.
How can whiplash symptoms affect my life?
When treating whiplash, it is important to listen to your body. Fortunately for most, recovery from a whiplash injury can be as simple as visiting the doctor a few times to monitor your progress and potentially wearing a neck brace for four to six weeks. For others, however, chronic neck pain from a car accident can become an uncomfortable, debilitating part of daily life.
Many people complain of not being able to sleep after sustaining a whiplash injury, as the pain does not allow them to find a comfortable sleeping position. In addition to causing you to lose a good night’s sleep, it also makes it difficult to function properly the next day, whether it be at work, running errands, performing household duties, or taking care of your children.
For others, neck pain can permanently impair their ability to perform their jobs, causing a demotion or unwanted career change.
Whether your pain lasts a few weeks or persists for the rest of your life, whiplash can cost significant amounts of money to treat. In addition to the financial aspect of whiplash, you may also find that you are dealing with considerable pain and suffering and emotional distress.
Is it possible to collect damages for my whiplash injury?
After you have sustained injuries in an accident in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, you must first turn to your own insurance to receive compensation for your injuries. In Pennsylvania, the law requires you to have a minimum of $5,000 in medical payments coverage while New Jersey requires drivers to carry at least $15,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.
While your PIP coverage may cover a mild whiplash injury, severe, chronic whiplash could easily exceed your coverage limits. Fortunately, you may have another option to receive compensation.
It is possible to receive compensation from the at-fault driver but it might be difficult because of Pennsylvania and New Jersey’s insurance laws. First, to be eligible to recover all damages, you must either have full tort insurance (Pennsylvania)/unlimited right to sue (New Jersey) or be able to prove you suffered a “serious injury” in the accident.
This can be extremely difficult, as many insurers do not see whiplash as serious. If you can prove that the injury resulted in any of the following, you may be eligible to file a whiplash lawsuit for all potential damages:
Must be a serious injury “as defined in the automotive insurance contract,” but often includes:
- Significant impairment of a bodily function, organ, or system
You may also be eligible to sue for all damages if the driver who injured you:
- Did not have insurance
- Intended to injure you, himself, or another person
- Received a DUI conviction or accepted Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition
- Was driving a car registered in another state
- Broken bones
- Permanent injury
If you are able to prove a serious injury, you may be eligible to receive compensation for all potential damages in an injury claim.
Now that I have proved my serious injury, what damages can I recover?
Once you have proved that you sustained a serious injury, you must prove that the other driver was at-fault. If you are able to prove that his negligence was the direct cause of your injuries, you can file a claim for injury compensation.
Make sure you document all expenses you have incurred because of the accident, these can include medical bills, rehabilitation bills, lost wages, transportation costs, household expenses you cannot complete yourself due to your injury (e.g., hiring someone to clean your house, mow your lawn, pick your kids up from school), etc.
To prove work loss and reduced earning capacity, have your W-2 information/paystub readily available to prove your typical earnings. Keep a log of the days you had to miss from work or have an office manager provide you with a print out of this information.
You may also want to start a pain journal to keep track of how your injury affects your life and your family’s life (e.g., could not play catch with my son this afternoon, pain was a level nine, my relationship with my son is strained because I cannot do the same things I could before).
The Pennsylvania and New Jersey insurance claims systems can be extremely complex; do not try to file your claim alone and risk receiving nothing. Call the car accident attorneys at Cordisco & Saile, LLC to discuss your situation. The consultation is free and we do not receive payment unless we win your case so it is truly risk-free.