In certain car accidents, sudden deceleration or acceleration causes the neck to whip forward and back, often causing injury to the cervical spine—the part of the spine found in the neck—and neck tissues. Whiplash, neck sprain, or strain (they all mean the same thing) are the result of ligaments and muscles in the neck are forced beyond their normal range of motion.
Whiplash is common in rear-end car accidents. Rear-end accidents are the most common type of motor vehicle collusion. These crashes are responsible for more than 30% of injuries in car accidents in the United States.
Needless to say, there have been millions of whiplash lawsuits. Most whiplash injuries are mild and only last for a few weeks. Our law firm handles these cases although in smaller cases, you may even be able to handle this type of case yourself without a lawyer if the injuries are not significant and resolve quickly.
Some whiplash injuries are more serious. If you believe you have a personal injury case in Maryland and would like to speak with one of our whiplash lawyers, contact us at (800) 553-8082 or online for a free consultation.Whiplash and Brain Injuries
Sudden acceleration and deceleration of the neck can damage the human body in more ways than one. Injuries to the spine and neck tissues are common, including muscle strains, inflammation, herniated or bulging discs, facet joint injuries, and more. These injuries can be painful and sometimes go undiagnosed and untreated.
Researchers have found that patients with mild traumatic brain injuries from whiplash can still have cognitive deficits long after the injury occurred, such as problems with attention, memory, planning, abstract reasoning, and problem-solving.1
Indeed, brain injuries may account for some of the more lasting effects of whiplash. For example, neck pain patients with a history of whiplash are more likely than those without a history of whiplash to have a Chiari malformation, a condition in which the brain protrudes downwards into the spinal canal. This suggests a possible neurologic origin of chronic pain following whiplash.2The Severity of Whiplash Injuries
Whiplash typically goes away within a few weeks. This can often be achieved simply with pain medication and exercise. Other people may experience lasting, chronic symptoms. Other injuries may be present as well that contribute to a victim’s lasting symptoms. Some spinal injuries, for example, go undiagnosed. Damage to the spinal discs and facet joints are common.
The symptoms that commonly follow a whiplash injury are collectively referred to as Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD) or Cervical Spine Syndrome.3,4 Symptoms of whiplash include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Pain when moving neck, loss of range of motion
- Shoulder, arm, upper back pain
- Numbness, or tingling of the face, arms
- Blurred vision
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Trouble sleeping
- Cognitive and emotional symptoms (irritability, trouble concentrating)
Being in a high-speed accident, experiencing severe pain, having trouble moving your neck, and tingling or pain that travels through the arms are all indicative of a more serious and lasting whiplash injury.
Additionally, some people are more at risk for more severe injuries, including those who have had whiplash or other back/neck problems previously and the elderly.
The treatment for WAD initially involves pain medication and exercise. Physical therapy involves strength training to improve posture, which in turn reduces stress on the spine and neck tissues.
Chronic neck pain is usually the result of a spinal or neurological injury, not a tissue injury. Treatment for chronic neck pain depends on the type of underlying injury, be it surgery to repair a herniated disc or epidural injections for pain.Why Some Whiplash Injuries are Worse Than Others Defense lawyers and insurance companies always want to know why some victims have long-term whiplash injuries and others do not. Baked into their question is the suggestion that the victim is faking or exaggerating their injuries. But science explains why some are more susceptible to long-term whiplash injuries.
- Cervical lordosis (curvature of the spine is off)
- Hit from behind
- Older victim
- Preexisting degenerative changes (whether or not symptomatic)
- Prior whiplash injury
- Lack of awareness of impending impact (in spite of what many believe)
Example Whiplash Settlements and Verdicts
Below we provide examples of car accident whiplash injury settlements and verdicts won by victims. This resource will, along with other resources, help you estimate your whiplash injury settlement value. Nationally, the median whiplash payout is approximately $7,500. However, every whiplash personal injury case is unique, and your case will not necessarily match that median value or example cases our lawyers provide below.
To win your case, you must prove that the other driver was at fault and that their negligence was the cause of your injuries. In a settlement, the insurance company and your counsel will then debate the value of your injuries. At trial, a jury or judge will be the final decider of the value of your injuries.
- January 2020, Maryland: $200,000 Settlement Our client is a really good guy with a fantastic family. He is rear-ended at a red light. There are no objective injuries. It is a whiplash with physical therapy-type injury. He gets little physical therapy because it is not helping. The insurance company jumps on the limited treatment and offers $17,000 to settle. Our lawyers file suit. Before trial, their offer doubles. We would have taken that offer before filing a lawsuit. But it is too late now. The trial begins. Our lawyers put on a great case and, more importantly, our client, his co-worker, and his wife make great witnesses. Our client accepted a $200,000 settlement offer before the jury reached a verdict.
- December 2019, Washington: $44,000 Settlement A mother is driving on a highway in Washington with her two children in the backseat. She stops for traffic ahead of her. A driver two cars behind her fails to stop, causing a chain-reaction car accident, and she is rear-ended. The mother suffers sprains/strains in her ankle and her neck, back pain, and whiplash with headaches. The defendant admits liability, and the case is arbitrated, landing on an insurance settlement of $44,000 which includes medical bills, noneconomic damages, and legal costs.
- July 2019, Idaho: $24,500 Settlement Two cars enter a right turn lane. The plaintiff, driving the car in front, slows to yield to oncoming traffic from the left. The defendant fails to notice that the plaintiff ahead has stopped and rear-ends her. The plaintiff suffers a cervical disc bulge from whiplash, causing pain to radiate down her left arm. She is treated with physical therapy. The parties settle for $24.5K, including compensation for past and future medical expenses and lost wages.
- June 2019, Texas: $17,600 Verdict A man is driving along when another driver in a parallel lane merges into the side of his car. He suffers a whiplash injury, including problems with range of motion and post-traumatic sleep disorder, requiring rehabilitation treatment. The defendant denies liability and denies that the plaintiff’s injuries require future medical treatment. A jury awards the plaintiff $17,600.
- April 2017, Maryland: $87,000 Verdict A Miller & Zois client is a passenger in a taxicab in Baltimore County (supposedly a very difficult jurisdiction to get a fair result in whiplash cases) when another driver makes a left turn in front of the cab, causing an accident. There are no complaints of injury at the scene, but later she files a whiplash case. The insurance company makes no settlement offer for the case, although they do ask before trial if we "would take $13,000 if it was offered."
Whiplash is not considered a very serious injury. But it still has value in an auto accident lawsuit. Whiplash personal injury compensation in an auto tort case is typically between $6,000 to $20,000 when the injuries are not permanent.
The average jury verdict for whiplash injuries in auto tort cases over the last five years is just under $20,000. Some whiplash payouts at trial are more than ten times this amount, as we discuss below.
Whiplash is the name for a specific type of injury to the neck or cervical area of the spine. This type of injury is similar to a sprain and it is caused by the head whipping back and forth as a result of very sudden and violent deceleration (such as in an auto collision). The whipping action that causes the injury is where the name "whiplash" comes from.
Whiplash lawsuit settlements amounts will depend on three primary factors.
The first factor is the severity of the plaintiff's whiplash injury. Some whiplash injuries are much more severe than others and result in more pain and longer healing time. The more severe the injury the higher the potential whiplash personal injury settlement payout will be.
The second factor is the credibility of the plaintiff. Whiplash injuries cannot be identified with diagnostic imaging. So they are inherently very subjective. Juries need to believe the plaintiff to believe that she has a serious whiplash injury.
Finally, you need to hire the best whiplash lawyer you can find. Good lawyering makes a difference in the outcome of soft tissue injury cases at trial and at the settlement table.
Our Maryland car accident lawyers took a whiplash case to trial earlier this year. The insurance company's offer was $17,000. We understood why. No objective injury. Little property damage. But our client was hurt. So we went to trial. Simply put, we beat them senseless at trial and they raised their offer to $200,000 before the jury gave their verdict. (Notably, this case was in Prince George's County.)
If you have been injured in a car accident, our lawyers may be able to help you win compensation with a settlement payout for what you have endured. Our Baltimore, Maryland-based law firm handles serious whiplash cases. Contact us at 800-553-8082 or 410-779-4600. or online for a free consultation.More Resources
- “Persistent cognitive deficits after whiplash injury: a comparative study with mild traumatic brain injury patients and healthy volunteers” by Kurt Beeckmans et al., Acta Neurologica Belgica, 2017. Whiplash injury patients and healthy controls were given extensive neurological tests. Whiplash injury patients scored significantly more deficient with “speed of performance during sustained and divided attention, focused attention, alternating attention, the storage of new auditory-verbal unrelated information into memory, the long-term delayed recall of stored auditory-verbal related information from memory, abstract reasoning and accuracy of performance during planning and problem solving.”
- “A case-control study of cerebellar tonsillar ectopia (Chiari) and head/neck trauma (whiplash)” by Michael Freeman et al., Brain Injury, 2010. This is the first study demonstrating a difference in neurological diagnosis between regular neck pain patients and whiplash neck pain patients. Researchers found that whiplash patients had a higher incidence of Chiari malformation.
- “Acute whiplash associated disorders (WAD)” by Khushnum Pastakia and Saravana Kumar, Open Access Emergency Medicine, 2011. An overview of whiplash associated disorders and treatments.
- “Pathology and Treatment of Traumatic Cervical Spine Syndrome: Whiplash Injury” by Nobuhiro Tanaka et al., Advances in Orthopedics, 2018.Clinical practice guidelines and classification for cervical spine syndrome.