Whiplash Claims: A Complete Guide (2024)

Sarah Edwards


Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


Read in 4 mins

Whiplash injuries are real. They happen when the neck hyperextends and compresses as the head and body whip around violently. A whiplash claim often arises from a car crash. However, these claims also happen after assaults, falls, pedestrian collisions or amusement park accidents.

You can recover injury compensation for whiplash. Your lawyer must prove the other party caused your injury through negligence or wrongful conduct. The whiplash injury compensation you recover depends on the severity of your injury and how it affects your life.

Causes of Whiplash Injuries

Your neck includes several parts working together to support and move your head. These structures also protect your spinal cord. The parts of your neck include:

  • Cervical vertebrae
  • Ligaments
  • Muscles
  • Tendons
  • Intervertebral discs

Whiplash happens when stresses on your neck from a traumatic event damage these structures. Specifically, the whipping motion of your head hyperextending and compressing your neck causes whiplash.

The average human head weighs about five kilograms or 11 pounds. When you accelerate or decelerate rapidly, your neck pulls your head to keep it with your body. The resulting stresses cause whiplash injuries.

The change in speed or direction that causes whiplash can happen in many ways. The most common source of whiplash comes from traffic crashes. When someone collides with your vehicle, your body jerks suddenly, and your neck hyperextends.

Whiplash can also result from other types of trauma. When you hit the ground after a fall, your head can snap forward or back. A falling object can also impact your head or body and stretch your neck.

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Whiplash Symptoms

Any of the structures in your neck could suffer injury as a result of whiplash. The symptoms you experience will depend on the nature of your whiplash injury. The mildest form of whiplash involves neck strain. This injury occurs when hyperextension damages the muscles and tendons. Some common symptoms of neck strain include:

  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Stiff neck
  • Swelling
  • Spasms

Whiplash can also sprain the neck ligaments connecting the vertebrae. A sprained neck can cause:

  • Neck pain
  • Limited range of head motion
  • Inflammation

Another whiplash injury happens when discs deform. The hyperextension causes the vertebrae and discs to separate slightly, and the compression causes them to crash together. The damaged discs cause symptoms such as:

  • Neck instability
  • Pain that radiates into the shoulders, arms, and hands
  • Numbness or tingling in the upper limbs

When they compress, the discs can herniate or bulge. A herniation happens when the outer layer of the disc separates and allows the inner layer to protrude. A bulge happens when the disc’s structure weakens and bulges.

How to Claim for Whiplash

You can pursue a whiplash claim for injuries caused by someone else’s actionable conduct. A lawyer can analyze your injury and the legal claims you may have. Most injury claims arise under negligence law. Negligence requires proof of four elements, including:

  • Duty of Care: You have a relationship that creates a legal duty.
  • Breach of Duty: The person creates an unreasonable risk of injury to you.
  • Damages: You suffered an injury, causing economic and non-economic losses.
  • Causation: The losses flow naturally and foreseeably from the breach of duty.

A whiplash claim almost always starts with an insurance claim. For example, traffic crash victims pursue compensation for whiplash injuries using car accident claims. Whiplash is a common crash injury included in claims filed against auto liability policies.

An insurance claim describes what happened and includes documents supporting your losses. For example, your lawyer might include copies of your medical records, hospital and doctor bills and wage records.

The insurance company assigns an adjuster to investigate the claim. The adjuster protects the insurer’s interests by ensuring you and your lawyer fully document your injuries and losses. In some cases, an adjuster might use claim denials and processing delays to frustrate you into accepting a low whiplash settlement.

Your Lawyer’s Role

Many accident victims hire a lawyer who knows how to claim for whiplash after car accidents. The lawyer you hire will protect your interests.

They will gather witness statements, photos and other evidence from your accident that proves the other party acted negligently in causing your injuries. They will respond to any claim denials with evidence and legal arguments. When the insurer accepts the claim, your lawyer will negotiate a settlement.

If the insurer persists in denying your claim, your lawyer will outline your options for continuing your whiplash claim. Depending on the strength of your case and the losses you incurred, the lawyer may recommend filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party.

Whiplash Injury Compensation

The whiplash settlement or damage award you receive can compensate you for your economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses cover the financial consequences of your injuries. These losses include your medical bills, income losses and diminished future earnings.

Non-economic losses cover the impact of your whiplash injury on your quality of life. Examples of non-economic losses include pain, suffering and disability.

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Whiplash Injuries and the Law

Whiplash injuries can cause significant medical expenses and wage losses. You can pursue a claim for whiplash by proving the other party’s liability. If you have suffered whiplash and incurred losses as a result, you should consider a free claim review from ConsumerShield.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • If everything goes well and the adjuster accepts your claim immediately, your claim might take a few months. If you must file a lawsuit, your claim might take a year or even longer.

  • Your crash settlement or damage award will cover both financial and non-financial losses. Financial losses include amounts you paid or lost due to your injuries. You usually prove these losses using bank records and wage statements. Non-financial losses attempt to put a price on the impact of your injuries on your quality of life.

  • The answer depends on your state. Some states use contributory fault, which bars any compensation when the victim contributed to the cause of their injuries. Others use comparative fault. Under this doctrine, you can recover compensation, but the insurer or court will reduce it by your share of the fault.

  • To win a whiplash injury claim, you must prove the other person acted negligently or wrongfully. You will need medical records proving you suffered whiplash and how it happened. You will also need witnesses, photos, video and other evidence showing the other party caused your injury negligently or intentionally.

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