Whiplash is a painful, debilitating injury, and it is more common than you may believe. Fortunately, there are very effective treatments for whiplash. However, the recovery process can be long and medical bills and lost wages add up quickly. If you suffered whiplash in an accident, you may be eligible to file an injury claim for compensation. Call a whiplash injury attorney on Long Island from Goldstein & Bashner at 516-222-4000 today to learn more.
What is whiplash?
Whiplash is the common term for a number of neck injuries caused by jerking or whipping the neck back and forth or side to side. These painful injuries can vary from minor annoyances to debilitating injuries that prevent the victim from driving, working, exercising, or even sleeping. In the most severe cases, whiplash can be a chronic condition and affect sufferers for years.
Like other parts of your body, your cervical spine has a normal range of motion. When an accident or other event forces the neck beyond this normal range of motion, it causes overextension injuries. This can lead to one or all of these injuries:
How do whiplash injuries occur?
Most whiplash injuries occur during car accidents as the body is thrust forward and then back, causing strain on the neck and shoulders. For example, if you slam into a solid object such as a highway divider, tree, or another car (or another car hits you), the force of the impact will likely throw your body forward. Your seatbelt will stop your movement, but your head will likely keep moving, falling forward and snapping back.
How will I know if I have whiplash?
Some people recognize a neck injury immediately after an accident and seek medical care straight away. In other cases, however, accident victims overlook whiplash thinking it is typical soreness from the crash.
This is one reason it is always a good idea to have a doctor check you out after a crash, even if you believe you only have minor bruising and soreness.
Because it may take hours or up to a week for whiplash symptoms to appear, it is vital that you see a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms after an accident (even it is five days later):
- Neck pain, especially when you move your head
- Limited range of motion or stiffness in the neck
- Tingling of your arms, hands, or fingers
- Pain in the shoulders or radiating down the arms
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory struggles
The only way to know for sure if you suffered a whiplash injury is to see a doctor. If you do not have a doctor or your doctor is not taking your symptoms seriously, a Long Island personal injury lawyer from Goldstein & Bashner can connect you with physicians and specialists who can help you get the treatment you need.
How can I treat whiplash?
Whiplash symptoms tend to begin slowly and intensify over time. Early treatment is important in preventing long term, chronic symptoms. For those with more serious cases, early diagnosis and treatment also means less time spent incapacitated and less time away from your job.
Minor cases of whiplash caught early may only require over the counter medications, an ice pack or heating pad, and giving your neck some rest. Once the injury begins to heal, the stiffness begins to fade and the range of motion returns.
More serious cases require more extensive medical treatment. Many people need prescription painkillers and muscle relaxers in order to perform daily activities or even to sleep. Rehabilitation typically consists of outpatient physical therapy as well as continued self-guided therapy at home.
It is impossible to know how long victims will suffer from symptoms of whiplash injuries. Some cases heal completely in only a few weeks, while seemingly minor cases last for months or even years. Your doctor can help you determine when it is safe to discontinue treatment or return to work.
Who pays for injuries I suffered in a Long Island car accident?
New York follows a no-fault system for car insurance claims, meaning you file a claim with your own insurer no matter who caused the crash. Your insurance company should pay for your medical care, rehabilitation costs, and other related expenses up to the limits of your policy. The minimum New York auto insurance requirements include $50,000 in no-fault benefits.
Beware, though, insurance companies are businesses that want to payout as little money as possible. They may throw out lowball offers hoping you are desperate enough to take one, or need the money bad enough. Many insurance companies take their time making an offer, knowing your bills are adding up quickly.
Enlisting the help of a personal injury lawyer is your best defense against these practices. Never accept an insurance offer without first consulting an attorney. You may accept far less than you need to cover your expenses.
If you are considering accepting an offer because you are struggling to pay your bills, talk to your attorney about your options for covering these costs until you negotiate a fair settlement.
Can I file a case against the driver who caused the accident?
As stated above, you must first file a claim based on your own no-fault insurance policy, which should cover provable damages up to the limits of the policy. If your injuries meet a certain threshold established by New York law, however, you are also eligible to file a third-party insurance claim against the at-fault driver’s policy or a personal injury lawsuit.
If you have “serious” injuries (defined in New York Insurance Law Section 5102(d)) or if your damages exceed your PIP benefits, you may pursue third-party actions outside of the no-fault system. Examples of these injuries include:
- Loss of a limb, or use of a limb
- Significant disfigurement
- Spinal or brain injuries
- Any type of disability that prevents you from working for at least 90 days
You may also pursue third-party lawsuits if your damages exceed the $50,000 coverage on your PIP benefits. Your lawyer can evaluate the nature of your injuries and circumstances of your case to determine if this is a possibility.
What if the insurance company denies my claim?
In some cases, an insurer may deny your claim for compensation. In a lot of cases, this happens because the policyholder believed she was okay after a crash, but later realized she suffered whiplash or other injury. This period of time between the accident and filing a claim may cause the insurer to believe you are faking or exaggerating your injuries.
Taking on the insurance company to get the compensation you deserve is no easy task, and requires experience and knowledge of New York insurance laws. If the insurance company denied your claim or refuses to offer you a fair settlement after a car accident, contact an attorney to discuss your right to file a lawsuit.
How can Goldstein & Bashner help me?
Goldstein & Bashner can help you get the compensation you need to cover expenses related to your accident and whiplash injury. We fight aggressively to ensure insurance companies treat our clients with respect and payout the money they are legally entitled to.
Contact us today at 516-222-4000 to learn more.