Whiplash is a term that refers to a very common injury that arises out of car crashes. Whiplash refers to a variety of soft tissue injuries. These injuries are the result of the rapid back-and-forth motion of the neck during a crash. Whiplash is not a legal or medical term.
In medicine, more specific terms for particular injuries are used. These terms include "cervical acceleration/deceleration" (CAD), "whiplash-associated disorders" (WAD), or soft tissue injury.
Soft tissue injuries may not present the most serious symptoms in the immediate aftermath of a car accident. Unlike a broken bone or a gash, there is often little evidence that an injury has occurred. This means that insurance adjusters and others may view whiplash claims skeptically. However, whiplash injuries can result in painful limitations.
A well-documented claim can lead to just compensation for the injured person, which will help provide them access for the medical treatment and therapy they need.
This article provides an overview of the whiplash settlement process if you have been in a car crash.
Establishing Your Claim
Properly documenting your injury is critical to your ability to succeed in your injury claim and should begin immediately after the accident. This involves noting and preserving:
- Information about the date, time, and location of the accident
- The identities of the drivers and others involved, along with their insurance information
- The name and badge number of the police officer who came to the scene and prepared a police report about the accident
Immediately after the accident, additional information should be gathered. At the earliest opportunity, you should obtain the following:
- The police report relating to the accident
- Records relating to medical treatment arising as a result of the accident. This may include the diagnosis, treatment, medication, and any other relevant information provided by doctors and healthcare providers.
Medical documentation will be significant and may include the following:
- Emergency medical services records
- Emergency room treatment records
- Hospital records
- Chiropractic records
- Orthopedic treatment records
- Physical therapist records
- Any other medical documentation
Lost work will also be relevant to your settlement. You should also gather evidence about your employment, income, and the lost wages/work you missed as a result of your injuries.
Timing is a critical part of the car accident whiplash settlement process. Statutes of limitations require that injury claims be filed within a predetermined period of time. Learn about statutes of limitations for your state.
Another consideration involves determining the true extent of your injuries. You should seek immediate medical attention after the crash. The full extent of an injury may not be clear until long after the accident. If you begin the whiplash settlement process before fully knowing the extent of your injuries, you could receive an undervalued settlement.
The Settlement Process
The car accident whiplash settlement process involves the following steps:
- The Notification Letter: Your claim begins when you send a notification letter indicating that you suffered injuries and intend to seek compensation
- Reservation of Rights Letter: The insurer will send you a letter saying they will review your claim and reserving their right to disagree with any accusations
- The Demand Letter: You or your attorney send a demand letter with your description of the accident, the injuries you suffered documented by medical records, and the documentation of your damages
At this point, the insurance adjuster may agree to your terms, disagree in part or in whole, or send a counteroffer. The parties will continue to exchange documents and statements. This process continues until a mutually acceptable amount is determined. Or, if there is no agreement, a stalemate may be reached. If an agreement can't be reached, the claim will need to go to court.
Get Legal Help With the Car Accident Whiplash Settlement Process
The car accident whiplash settlement process has many possible pitfalls, any of which may result in financial loss. A competent lawyer can help guide you through the process and help you get fairly compensated for your injuries.
Contact a local motor vehicle accident attorney to review your accident and claims.