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Understanding Whiplash in Car Accidents

Car Accident Injury And Neck Pain. Auto Stress

Whiplash is one of the most common injuries resulting from car accidents, particularly in rear-end collisions. Despite its prevalence, many people are not fully aware of the nature of whiplash, its symptoms, and the legal implications that can arise from such an injury. Below we explore what whiplash is, how it occurs, and the steps you should take if you suspect you have suffered from whiplash due to a car accident. If you’ve been injured in a crash in Ulster County or surrounding areas in the Hudson Valley, contact Rusk, Wadlin, Heppner & Martuscello, LLP to speak with a skilled and experienced Kingston personal injury lawyer.

What Is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a neck injury caused by a sudden and forceful back-and-forth movement of the neck, similar to the cracking of a whip. This motion can cause damage to the soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, and tendons) in the neck, leading to a range of painful and debilitating symptoms. Whiplash is most commonly associated with rear-end car collisions, but it can also occur in other types of accidents.

Symptoms of Whiplash

The symptoms of whiplash can vary widely in severity and may include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headaches, often starting at the base of the skull
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

It’s important to note that symptoms may not appear immediately after the accident. In some cases, it can take hours or even days for whiplash symptoms to manifest.

Diagnosing Whiplash

If you’ve been in a car accident and suspect you have whiplash, it’s crucial to seek medical attention as soon as possible. A healthcare professional can conduct a physical examination and may order imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs, to rule out other injuries and confirm the diagnosis of whiplash.

Treatment for Whiplash

Treatment for whiplash typically involves a combination of rest, pain management, and physical therapy. Over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medications may be recommended to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. Physical therapy exercises can help restore range of motion and strengthen neck muscles. In some cases, a cervical collar may be used for a short period to support the neck.

Is Whiplash a “Serious Injury”?

A whiplash injury will typically involve a period of medical care and may also keep the accident victim from being able to work for some time. In New York, no-fault benefits are a relatively quick and easy way to obtain coverage for medical expenses and lost wages after a crash; you don’t have to prove the other driver was to blame and can even receive benefits if the accident was your fault. These benefits are limited, however. For instance, no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) only pays for 80% of lost wages; furthermore, these benefits are capped at $2,000 a month and can last no longer than three years at the very most. A PIP policy does not provide any compensation for other legal damages common in a car accident, such as pain and suffering and emotional distress.

In New York, pain and suffering damages are only available if the car accident victim suffered a “serious injury” as defined in the law. To get these damages, you have to file a fault-based claim against the other driver and their liability insurance. Here, you do have to prove the other driver was negligent and at fault for causing the crash. If successful, however, you can recover the full amount of lost wages along with medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other legal damages.

So, is whiplash a “serious injury” under New York Insurance Law? Whiplash is not categorically serious or not serious under the law; whether whiplash qualifies as a serious injury depends on how the injury has affected the individual, and so it will differ for each person. New York Insurance Law 5102(d) defines a serious injury as a personal injury which results in:

  • death;
  • dismemberment;
  • significant disfigurement;
  • a fracture;
  • loss of a fetus;
  • permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system;
  • permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member;
  • significant limitation of use of a body function or system;
  • or a medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.

Whiplash is most often evaluated under this last criterion, the so-called 90/180 rule. If the whiplash injury was severe enough to leave the sufferer unable to perform daily tasks for three months in the first six months after the crash, then they have a serious injury that takes them outside of the no-fault law and authorizes them to pursue a fault claim against the negligent driver for the full amount of damages.

Help With Car Accidents and Serious Injuries in Ulster County

Pursuing a fault claim against a negligent driver requires the help of a seasoned personal injury lawyer. An attorney can gather the medical evidence that proves the whiplash injury qualifies as a serious injury and can also build a case proving the other driver’s liability. A lawyer will also know how to negotiate a fair settlement that fully accounts for the harm caused. As a rule, people who try to pursue a car accident claim on their own are either unsuccessful or receive less in the end than an experienced personal injury attorney could have gotten them.

In Ulster, Dutchess, or Orange County, the law firm of Rusk, Wadlin, Heppner & Martuscello, LLP is your trusted partner for obtaining justice and compensation after a car accident or other serious injury. For a free consultation with one of our compassionate and dedicated lawyers, call 845-331-4100 in Kingston or 845-236-4411 in Marlboro, or call 800-566-4101 for help anywhere in the Hudson Valley. There is no obligation, and no fee until we win your case.

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