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Whiplash is one of the most common injuries resulting from car accidents in Houston.
Because of the immense forces that occur during accidents, the head can be violently thrust back and forth, causing damage to the soft tissues and vertebral discs in the neck area.
Symptoms may continue after a few days and lead to other longer-term problems. This should not be something you simply have to live with as the victim of an accident.
It may be possible to claim damages for your whiplash injury. Here’s what you need to know before making a claim.
A whiplash injury occurs due to the forceful back-and-forth motion exerted on the neck. This is particularly common in auto accidents where vehicles decelerate suddenly.
In many whiplash cases, victims report little or no pain or discomfort immediately after their accident. However, symptoms can appear over the next 24-48 hours and result in relatively minor discomfort or excruciating pain.
In most cases, the problem resolves in the days after it first appears but, in others, it persists and becomes a more serious problem.
The following whiplash symptoms may become evident immediately, within a few hours, or in the next day or two after an accident:
This is the most common and obvious sign of whiplash.
Depending on the force of the impact and extent of the injury, it may result in excruciating neck pain and stiffness when you move your head.
One of the reasons why whiplash can be so debilitating is that it often leads to a reduced range of motion in the neck.
This can have far-reaching consequences and restrict your ability to drive or park a car, perform work duties, use a computer or even use the bathroom. The loss of quality of life is often as frustrating as the pain and discomfort.
When you experience a collision at excessive speeds, the shockwave of the impact may travel downwards in the body causing trauma to your shoulders, upper back, or arms.
Combined with neck pain, these injuries can greatly limit your mobility.
Debilitating headache pain may radiate from the base of the neck, making sleeping and carrying out one’s daily duties difficult.
Other possible symptoms of whiplash injuries include numbness (especially in the arms), fatigue, dizziness, irritability, tinnitus, and blurred vision in the days following an accident.
It can even lead to mental problems such as difficulty concentrating, memory issues, and depression.
While minor injuries typically heal over the course of weeks or months, severe whiplash injuries can lead to long-term chronic pain.
If you seriously damage vertebrae or pinch a nerve, your quality of life may be permanently affected. A partial disability may even result, requiring lifelong treatment/therapy, which can be extremely costly.
Before you can claim compensation, the fault of the accident must be determined, as Texas is an “at fault” state when it comes to insurance claims.
As part of the claims process, you will probably be contacted by the insurance company of the at-fault party. You may feel pressured into accepting a settlement, and the insurance company may try to downplay your injury to low-ball you on a quick settlement.
At this point, it is usually time to hand the claim over to a personal injury lawyer if you have not already done so.
Your lawyer will conduct all negotiations with the insurance company.
Your personal injury attorney will attempt to negotiate a fair settlement for your whiplash injury with the insurance company by:
An experienced car accident attorney will be familiar with how insurance companies work and with negotiating fair settlements for victims. This can dramatically improve your chances of obtaining the compensation you deserve for your whiplash injuries.
Even if you don’t experience any of the above symptoms immediately after your accident, do yourself a favor and see a doctor. This is an extremely important step to take after you’ve been in a car accident.
Sometimes, whiplash injuries (like many injuries in accidents where the body experiences shock) develop in the days following the accident. A medical checkup by a doctor should be a priority after any serious accident and car accidents are certainly no exception.
Even if you feel OK after the accident, if symptoms develop later and you have no medical report from a doctor, it may damage your compensation claim.
If you are diagnosed with whiplash, the treatment may vary based on the severity of the injury and whether it affects the muscles, ligaments, tendons, or discs.
Rest, icepacks, and over-the-counter medication may be the recommendation for minor muscle stiffness. A more severe sprain might require strong painkillers and physical therapy.
In the event of spinal disc damage or severe problems with ligaments or nerves, you may even require surgery.
In Houston, any hospital visit is likely to incur significant medical bills. Costs for whiplash injuries vary from minor expenses for over-the-counter medications to extensive costs for overnight stays, prescription medications, physical therapy, or even surgery.
This is not to mention the days lost from work if you are unable to perform your job. Even desk jobs involving computer work can be challenging with a whiplash injury.
Fortunately, in Texas, if the accident that caused your whiplash injury was at least 50 percent the fault of another party, you can claim damages from their insurance company.
Unfortunately, the claims process can be exhausting.
Without being specific about amounts, Texas law allows you to claim two types of damages. General damages (with no specific monetary value) include:
Special damages (with a specific monetary value) include:
General damages are often more contested than special damages by insurance companies because there are no receipts to prove the loss. It is fair to say that the more experienced and skilled your lawyer is, the better chance you have of receiving the payout you deserve.
With any whiplash injury requiring medication, therapy, and/or surgery, it’s best to consult an experienced attorney to assess your legal options.
Personal injury attorney Ryan A. DeHoyos is experienced at taking on big insurance companies and fighting for the best interests of accident victims both in and out of the Houston courtrooms.
Ryan DeHoyos is ready to help.
We help people throughout the Houston area claim the compensation they deserve from accidents. As well as Houston, we serve Midtown Houston, The Woodlands, Channelview, Katy, McAllen, Harlingen, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Pearland, and Sugarland areas.
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