The Car Accident Whiplash Settlement Process
Whiplash is a term that refers to a very common injury that arises out of car accidents. Whiplash is a colloquial word that refers to a variety soft tissue injuries to the neck and back resulting from the rapid back-and-forth motion of the neck during a collision. Whiplash is also not a legal term. The term is also not used in medicine, which uses more specific terms for the particular injuries referred to as whiplash, such as "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 and, 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, those injuries we call whiplash can result in painful limitations. A well-documented claim can lead to a settlement that will truly compensate the injured person and help them to access the medical treatment and therapy that they need.
Establishing Your Claim
Properly documenting your injury is critical to your ability to succeed in your injury claim. This begins 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.
In the period immediately following the accident there is additional information that should be gathered. At the earliest opportunity you should gather:
- the police report relating to the accident;
- records relating to medical treatment arising as a result of the accident including the diagnosis, treatment, medication, and any other relevant information provided by doctors and healthcare providers.
Medical documentation will be significant and may include:
- emergency medical services records;
- emergency room treatment records;
- hospital records;
- chiropractic records;
- physical therapist records; and
- any other medical documentation.
Lost work will also be relevant to your settlement and you should gather evidence about your employment, income, and the income/work that 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. Statutes of limitation vary significantly between states.
Another consideration involves determining the true extent of your injuries. The full extent of an injury may not be clear until long after the accident. Beginning the car accident whiplash settlement process before you fully understand the extent of your injuries could result in 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, 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 then continue to exchange documents and statements until a mutually acceptable amount is determined or a stalemate is reached. If an agreement can't be reached the claim will need to be pursued in court.
Get a Free Case Assessment
The car accident whiplash settlement process has a number of significant pitfalls that can result in financial losses. A competent lawyer can help guide you through the process and ensure that you are fairly compensated for your injuries. Contact a local attorney to schedule a free case evaluation to review your accident and claims.