2023 California Whiplash Claims Guide
The severity of a whiplash injury should never be underestimated. Unfortunately, many people suffer from whiplash injuries months and years after an accident has occurred but do not address the issue before it is too late. Those who suffer whiplash injuries due to an accident caused by the fault of another should seek legal advice to determine whether they may be eligible for compensation.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is an injury caused by a forceful motion of a person’s head and neck moving back and forth – similar to the cracking of a whip. When the human neck is whipped in such a fashion, the aggressive nature of the movement can cause muscle strain, bone stress and fracture, disk damage, and harm to sensitive nerves and tissues located in the area.
The duration of a whiplash injury typically depends on two factors: the accident’s severity and the injured person’s health. Some whiplash injuries may resolve themselves within days or weeks of an accident. However, other injuries can last for months and years or never fully heal.
For example, although many debilitating whiplash injuries are generally caused by severe accidents resulting in catastrophic damage, some victims experience chronic whiplash injury pain from minor fender benders. Furthermore, accident victims with preexisting back, neck, or shoulder injuries or comorbidities like obesity, may never fully heal.
Common Symptoms of Whiplash
Symptoms of a broken bone or laceration, both common car accident injuries, are fairly apparent. A person with a broken leg cannot move their leg, and a forehead cut bleeds. However, whiplash is different. Because whiplash causes internal damage, any resulting injuries can be disguised as another issue.
According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms experienced by whiplash victims can include the following:
- Neck pain
- Neck stiffness
- Issues with neck movement and loss of motion
- Headaches stemming from the base of the skull
- Tenderness or pain in the shoulders, back, and upper arms
- Numbness or tingling in the arms and hands
- Fatigue and dizziness
- Vision issues
- Ear ringing
- Concentration and memory issues
- Emotional issues
How to Prove a Whiplash Injury
Whiplash cases are most common after rear-end car collisions. However, any number of accidents resulting in a person experiencing a whipping or jerking neck motion can cause whiplash. The goal of a plaintiff seeking compensation for their injury is to not just prove the accident they experienced caused whiplash but also that the accident was the result of the defendant’s acts or omissions.
Proving Fault in a Negligence Case
Because car accidents are the most common culprits of whiplash injuries, it is best to understand the underlying claim resulting in most car accidents – negligence. Negligence occurs when a defendant fails to adhere to the standard of care of a reasonably prudent person in the same or similar position. Drivers are negligent and cause accidents when they fail to act as reasonably prudent drivers.
To maintain a negligence claim, the plaintiff must show four common elements:
- Did the defendant owe the plaintiff a duty of care when the accident occurred?
- Did the defendant breach that duty of care by their actions or omissions?
- Did the defendant’s actions cause the accident?
- Did the plaintiff suffer damages as a result of the defendant’s actions or omissions?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then the plaintiff has an actionable whiplash claim under California state law. Car accidents and other events that lead to whiplash injuries may be caused by other factors leading to different legal theories, such as an intentional tort or criminal conduct. It is best to speak with an experienced California personal injury attorney to determine how best to handle whiplash claims.
Evidence of Whiplash
Once a plaintiff has been able to prove fault for the underlying claim, obtaining compensation for a whiplash injury becomes much more attainable. After a person has experienced any accident or event resulting in physical harm, that person should always seek medical attention.
During a medical evaluation, medical professionals will conduct multiple tests and ask the patient to provide details of the events that caused their injury. It is vital to be truthful with medical staff, especially on issues related to your medical conditions. By doing this, the victim can establish a paper trail of their injury or injuries, which makes it easier to make a whiplash claim later.
Whiplash Injury Compensation
Although most personal injury attorneys see dozens, if not hundreds, of cases per year, each case always presents a different set of facts, which can lead to a wide variety of outcomes for the client. There are essentially two ways to be compensated for a whiplash injury: trial verdict awards or a settlement.
Whiplash Trial Verdicts
Leading up to and during a personal injury trial, a California whiplash injury attorney will have to provide substantial evidence of their client’s whiplash injury. If a judge or jury renders a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, the plaintiff can expect two forms of compensatory damages: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages provide compensation for loss incurred by the plaintiff, including lost income, medical bills, property damage, and other expenses. Non-economic damages provide compensation for damages not easily calculated, like pain and suffering, inability to work, and loss of consortium (inability to maintain intimacy with loved ones).
These days, personal injury settlements are far more common. The reality is that many parties (including many plaintiffs) do not want the hassle or unpredictability of going to trial, which prompts parties to seek out of court settlements. Because every whiplash injury is a little different, settlement amounts can depend on the parties involved, the circumstances that led to the injury, and the severity of the injury.
Settlement dollar figures can range from a few thousand dollars to upwards of hundreds of thousands. Nonetheless, plaintiffs that receive higher settlement amounts have usually experienced much more trauma far beyond typical whiplash injuries, like permanent disability, dismemberment, or even death.
Contact Curtis Legal Group
Whiplash injuries should be taken very seriously, especially because they are not always apparent to the person that has suffered the injury. Nonetheless, an experienced California car accident attorney can walk the victim and their loved ones through the claims process and seek compensation on their behalf. Contact Curtis Legal Group to find out what to do after a car accident.