Many people experience whiplash after a car accident. In fact, some studies have shown that whiplash is the single most common injury in auto accidents. It can happen in other types of accidents too.
Unfortunately, the prevalence of whiplash has led to a number of misconceptions about how serious or “legitimate” this injury is.
Thanks in no small part to the insurance industry, accident victims who claim whiplash in the absence of other serious injuries are sometimes derided as hypochondriacs, money grubbers, ambulance chasers, or phonies. As a result, some victims are embarrassed by the injury even if it wasn’t their fault, convincing themselves that their pain is just a nuisance or annoyance.
But medical science disagrees. Whiplash can be a serious injury — extremely serious in some cases — and there is a growing body of medical evidence to back that fact up.
If you’ve experienced whiplash yourself, you already know how real the pain can be… and how significantly it can impact your everyday life. It isn’t uncommon for accident victims to endure prolonged suffering and/or miss days of work because of whiplash alone.
This article is intended to provide a kind of “Whiplash 101” — explaining:
- What whiplash is,
- How it happens,
- Why insurers are unduly skeptical of whiplash claims,
- What the average payout for whiplash in West Virginia looks like (one of the questions we hear most often!), and
- How our team of West Virginia auto accident attorneys can help.
What Is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a colloquial, nontechnical term referring to various soft tissue injuries affecting the head, neck, shoulders, and upper back.
It happens most often in the context of auto accidents, when the force of impact causes your head to move back and forth rapidly (front to back or side to side) — much faster and more forcefully than it is designed to move.
The resulting strain can cause damage to the muscles, tissues, tendons, ligaments, and joints in that region. Some people experience an injury to their nerves, nerve roots, intervertebral joints, cervical muscles, or even the cervical spine.
Common symptoms of whiplash include:
- Neck pain
- Stiffness or soreness in the neck, shoulders, jaw, or arms
- Pinched nerves (leading to pain, weakness, and/or lack of sensation)
- Tingling or a “pins and needles” sensation
- Reduced range of motion
- Muscle spasms
- Back pain
Though they are occasionally obvious right away, the symptoms of whiplash can become apparent to come on rather slowly. Soreness, for example, might set in gradually over the course of days or weeks.
You do not need to experience all these symptoms to be diagnosed with whiplash; you may have only one or a few of them.
A number of treatments are available for whiplash, but some of them are costly. Even with proper medical attention, some people require an extensive period of recovery. Occasionally, a victim never fully recovers, experiencing long-term or chronic whiplash symptoms for many years.
The Nature of Whiplash: Why This Particular Claim Can Be Challenging
Unfortunately, even though the evidence of whiplash’s potential severity is clear, insurance companies have a tendency to view these claims as extraneous, superfluous, or unserious. Indeed, the insurance industry has bought into its own self-made, self-serving myth.
Courts have evolved in their understanding of whiplash, but even there, some juries view whiplash with skepticism. The comic cliché of a dishonest accident victim wearing a phony neck brace has appeared in so many sitcoms and movies that some people have a hard time shaking that image.
An experienced car accident lawyer can help you combat that perception and take an aggressive stand for the compensation you’re owed.
One of the biggest challenges in pursuing a whiplash claim is evidentiary in nature — whiplash is hard to see on X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs. But there are other kinds of evidence available, including your own testimony and that of your health care provider.
At Colombo Law, we often work with medical experts to bolster our clients’ accounts of their injuries. Part of our job is doing what it takes to persuade an insurance company or a jury that your injuries are legitimate — and to demand adequate compensation for you under West Virginia law.
Damages Available in a WV Whiplash Case
The damages available in a West Virginia whiplash claim may include (but are not necessarily limited to) compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income due to time away from work
- Physical therapy / rehabilitation
- The cost of future or ongoing care
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Inconvenience & loss of enjoyment of life
What Is the Average Payout for Whiplash? How Much Money Can I Expect?
This is a difficult question to answer because every case is different, and the amount of compensation can differ dramatically from one case to the next, depending on the various facts and circumstances surrounding it.
There have been some informal surveys taken over this question, with average settlements for whiplash and other neck injuries falling in the range of $2,500 to $20,000.
In taking note of that number, however, we must emphasize that there are many outliers. Some cases are more serious and may result in six-figure or even seven-figure sums. Other cases, meanwhile, are far less serious and may result in only hundreds of dollars, or less than $2,000. Indeed, some claims do not succeed at all.
In the next section, we will briefly discuss (as a general matter) several factors that can have an impact on the average payout for whiplash in West Virginia. But the best way to understand how much you might be entitled to in your specific situation is to talk one-on-one with an experienced attorney.
At Colombo Law, we offer free consultations to whiplash victims with no obligations whatsoever. Our West Virginia auto accident lawyers can listen to the details of your situation and help you understand your options. While we can never guarantee specific results, we can help you understand how much money victims have recovered in situations similar to yours in West Virginia.
Factors Affecting the Average Payout for Whiplash in West Virginia
Numerous factors can affect how much money you might recover in a whiplash case. These might include (but are not limited to):
- The nature of the medical treatment(s) and/or medication(s) required
- How long your symptoms have lasted / are expected to last (your overall prognosis)
- Whether rehabilitation and/or physical therapy are required
- How much work you have missed as a result of the whiplash
- Any other injuries or losses you might have suffered in connection with the accident
- Any medical conditions that might have been aggravated or made worse by the accident
- How severely the injuries are impacting other areas of your life
- Evidence of pain, suffering, or emotional distress
Is There Anything I Can Do to Help My Whiplash Case?
See a doctor as soon as possible after an auto accident., even if you aren’t yet experiencing whiplash symptoms. A documented medical exam soon after the accident can help to strengthen your claim should symptoms arise later.
It’s also helpful to take photographs of the accident scene. The more photographs, the better.
We also encourage accident victims to keep a journal about their own experiences, documenting everything from physical pain to emotional struggles and any other impact the accident might have on your life. Here again, details matter.
Finally, see an experienced West Virginia auto accident lawyer as soon as possible. Studies have shown that auto accident victims who hire a personal injury attorney tend to recover more money than those who do not. A lawyer can advocate on your behalf and help you avoid common mistakes along the way.
Talk to a WV Auto Accident Lawyer at Colombo Law
If you’re experiencing whiplash after an auto accident in West Virginia, Colombo Law wants to help. We are dedicated to fighting for auto accident victims throughout the entire claims process.
In the majority of our cases, we have even been able to negotiate favorable settlements without going to trial, getting our clients more money than the insurer was willing to offer before we got involved.
We fight to maximize compensation. Let us fight for you. Colombo Law proudly serves victims across the whole state of West Virginia, including: Bridgeport, Buckhannon, Clarksburg, Elkins, Fairmont, Morgantown, Parkersburg, and Weston.