How to Prove You Have Whiplash and How a Lawyer Can Help

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The truth is that whiplash can sometimes be difficult to prove because it is not one specific neck injury. A doctor might see 50 people with cases of whiplash, all of whom experience it differently. Insurance companies use this variation to push back against whiplash injury claims and try to pay out a lower settlement amount.

In this post, we’ll dig into what whiplash is and why it can be so tough to prove. We’ll also explore ways to show that you really did experience whiplash during your auto accident, and how a personal injury lawyer can help you secure the compensation you deserve.

What Is Whiplash and Why Is it So Difficult to Prove?

You’ve probably heard whiplash referred to as an injury diagnosis someone has, but that’s not exactly accurate. Whiplash is something that happens during an incident, such as a car accident or sports injury, and can cause a range of injuries and symptoms.

Simply defined, whiplash is a forceful, rapid, back-and-forth motion of the neck—like the movement of a cracked whip. It affects the soft tissues, meaning the muscles and tendons, and does not usually cause bone fractures.

That whipping motion puts tiny tears in the muscles and tendons in the neck, creating weaknesses in the surrounding structures. Ultimately, whiplash causes strains and sprains in the neck, though it can also injure the shoulders, arms, and back.

Whiplash is one of the most common injuries reported after car crashes. It is especially common after rear-end auto accidents, but it’s possible with other kinds of accidents, too.

Symptoms of Whiplash Injury

Whiplash related injuries typically heal within a few weeks, but sometimes symptoms drag on for months or even turn into years of chronic pain. Typical whiplash symptoms include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Reduced range of motion in the neck
  • Worsening pain with movement
  • Muscle spasms
  • Headaches, often at the base of the skull
  • Numbness and/or tingling in the arm
  • Soreness/tenderness in the shoulders, arms, and back
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

In extreme cases, whiplash can lead to a concussion or other traumatic brain injury (TBI) from the brain being jostled inside the skull. Watch for symptoms like:

  • Blurry vision
  • Ear ringing (tinnitus)
  • Irritability
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Sleep issues
  • Depression

No matter your symptoms (or lack thereof), you should seek medical treatment right away after a vehicle crash. Medical professionals will look for signs of whiplash and record that you got help as soon as you could.

Why Are Whiplash Claims Difficult to Prove?

As such a common occurrence, whiplash should be readily accepted, right? Unfortunately, you can’t assume the insurance company will agree with your whiplash injury claim. Many people experience quite the opposite.

Insurance companies know whiplash is common, and that injured people are likely to claim it after a car accident. This makes insurers more alert to the potential for fraud, and sometimes makes it more difficult to convince then of your injuries. In the meantime, your whiplash pain is getting worse and impacting your life.

Whiplash can be difficult to prove for other reasons. As a soft tissue injury, it doesn’t generally show up on an X-ray or MRI. This kind of imaging should be done to check for bone fractures, and the insurance company might latch on to the lack of visible injury.

Further, a whiplash injury can worsen over time. Because swelling and inflammation take time to develop, you might not report significant symptoms until up to two weeks after the accident. To the insurance company, that’s more than enough time to question whether the pain is truly related to the crash, or has a different cause—such as a previous injury or underlying condition.

RELATED: How Do I Know if I Suffered Whiplash in an Auto Accident?

How to Prove Whiplash Injuries to the Insurance Company

To be properly compensated, you must prove that the other party was responsible for causing your whiplash. This can complicate your insurance claim if more than one vehicle was involved in the accident.

Every case is different, and we certainly can’t guarantee that anyone will successfully convince an insurance company of their accident-related whiplash. Still, you can take certain actions to increase your chances for fair compensation for your injuries.

The following factors may help you prove that a specific incident caused your whiplash and related injuries:

  • How quickly you sought medical attention: As we mentioned, you should always get checked out by a medic or doctor as soon as possible after the accident. The record of this will support your claim of whiplash during the accident and concerns about the injuries it could cause.
  • Observing the doctors’ orders: Be sure you follow the instructions of your medical professionals. This shows that you take your injuries seriously and are doing everything you can to keep them from getting worse.
  • Vehicle damage: Sometimes the location and level of damage to vehicles involved in the crash can indicate what happened and support your claim. For example, if the damage is squarely in the middle of your rear bumper, it’s reasonable that you would have experienced whiplash from a rear-end collision.
  • Your medical records and treatment plans: Especially if these records begin immediately after the accident, they’ll provide details about your injuries and how they’re affecting your life. While your doctor’s records are very helpful, keeping your own daily record of your pain and suffering is also helpful.

As with most personal injury claims, these factors can be twisted, misinterpreted, and used against you in your case. It’s in your best interest to work with an experienced personal injury attorney, who can connect with medical experts and accident reconstructionists that know how to investigate on your behalf.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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