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, also referred to as neck sprain or strain, happens when ligaments and muscles in the neck are forced beyond their normal range of motion.
Whiplash is most frequently a consequence of rear-end car accidents. Rear-end accidents are the most common accident type, responsible for more than 30% of accidents every year 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 does not handle these cases, though other law firms may. You may even be able to handle this type of case yourself.
However, some whiplash injuries are more serious. If you believe you have a case and would like to speak with one of our 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.
Whiplash is also associated with concussions and traumatic brain injuries. As the neck snaps forward and back, the brain moves violently as well, colliding with the inside of the skull.
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.Example Verdicts & Settlements
Below we provide example verdicts and settlements won by plaintiffs with whiplash injuries. This is one resource to help you estimate the value of your case. Nationally, the median whiplash case is worth $7,500. However, every case is unique, and your case will not necessarily match that median value or the below cases.
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 trail, a jury or judge will be the final decider of the value of your injuries.
- 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 a settlement of $44K 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, driving the car in the rear, also looks to the left to check for oncoming traffic, failing to notice that the plaintiff ahead has stopped and causing a rear-end collision. 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 disagrees and awards the plaintiff $17.6K.
- 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. The settlement value of a typical whiplash injury in an auto tort case is between $6,000 to $15,000 when the injury is not permanent. The average jury verdict for whiplash injuries in auto tort cases over the last 5 years is just under $20,000. Some cases are worth at least 10 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.
The potential settlement value for a whiplash injury in an auto tort lawsuit will depend on two 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 whiplash injury the higher the potential settlement value 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.
Our 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.
If you have been injured in a car accident, our lawyers may be able to help you win a settlement. Based in Baltimore, Maryland, we handle serious whiplash cases. Contact us at (800) 553-8082 or online for a free consultation.More Resources
- Settling your own accident case (handling your case without a lawyer)
- Common mistakes accident victims make when handling their own case
- Sample demand letter
- Dealing with different insurance companies
- Car accident FAQs
- How much is my case worth?
- “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.
First study demonstrating a difference in neurological diagnosis between regular neck pain patients and whiplash neck pain patients. 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.