By: South Sound Law Group

What is the Process of Seeking Compensation for Whiplash After a Car Accident?

Personal Injury

How Can You Recover Damages After a Whiplash Injury?

Car crashes can happen in the blink of an eye, and even a low-speed collision can leave you with painful injuries and vehicle damage. Whiplash is one very common injury people experience after side and rear impact car accidents. Unfortunately, the pain and impact on your mobility from these injuries can persist for months or years after the crash.

If you’ve suffered whiplash during a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible to recover compensation for your losses. However, how you handle the claims process can significantly affect the value of your settlement. A knowledgeable Tacoma car accident attorney can explain the essential steps in the process and provide valuable guidance and representation as you work toward a settlement.

What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a neck injury caused by a rapid, forceful back-and-forth movement of the neck.

Diagnosing whiplash involves a medical history review, physical examination, and possibly imaging tests like X-rays, MRI, or CT scans to assess soft tissue damage that may not be visible on X-rays. Common symptoms experienced by individuals with whiplash include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Pain that worsens with neck movement
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Headaches, frequently at the base of the skull
  • Pain or tenderness in the upper back and shoulder area
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms
  • Fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision, and other symptoms

What Are the Steps for Filing a Whiplash Claim in Washington State?

Whether the whiplash resolves quickly or persists as a chronic condition, it can cause serious financial disruptions and expenses for victims. Whiplash cases can lead to hefty medical bills for treatment and prescriptions, time off work for recovery resulting in missed wages, and significant pain and suffering for the victim while the injury heals. To recover these losses, victims will either need to file an insurance claim with the at-fault party’s insurance or pursue a civil lawsuit if the insurer will not agree to pay a fair settlement or the driver was uninsured. A driver with uninsured or underinsured insurance coverage may also be able to recover from their own insurance company.

While every whiplash case is unique and may progress differently, the following are some of the key steps you may need to take to seek compensation for your injury:

  • Seek medical attention: After sustaining a whiplash injury, it’s crucial to seek medical help promptly. Documenting your injuries and receiving appropriate treatment is essential for your recovery and claim.
  • Document the accident: Gather information about the crash, including the location, weather and road conditions, contact details of witnesses, license and insurance information of the other driver(s), photos and videos of the accident scene, and any further relevant details that could bolster your claim.
  • Contact an attorney: Consider reaching out to an experienced Washington State personal injury attorney who can walk you through the legal process, assess your case, and help you understand your rights and options for seeking compensation.
  • Record your damages: Proper record-keeping is crucial for supporting your claim. Keep detailed documentation of all medical expenses, treatment records, lost wages, property damage, and any other financial losses due to your whiplash injury.
  • Prove negligence: To file a successful whiplash claim, you must establish that another party’s negligence played a role in causing the accident and your resulting injuries. Under Washington State’s comparative negligence laws, you are eligible to seek compensation for an accident as long as you are not 100% at fault. However, your final settlement award will be reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault assigned to you. To recover maximum compensation, you must ensure that liability for the crash is apportioned accurately and fairly.
  • File a claim: Typically, you will begin by filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Under state law, all drivers are required to carry a minimum amount of insurance coverage. Unfortunately, not all individuals follow the law. If the at-fault driver was uninsured, you may be able to file a claim with your own Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage or bring a civil lawsuit.
  • Negotiate a settlement: It is best to work with your attorney to negotiate with the insurers or other parties involved in the claims process. Car accident lawyers have finely honed negotiation skills which can help you secure fair and full compensation for your injuries and losses. If negotiation is unsuccessful, your case may go to trial, and a jury will determine your settlement amount.

How Can You Protect Your Legal Rights After a Car Accident?

There are several steps you can take after your car accident to give yourself the best possible opportunity to recover the maximum compensation for your whiplash claim:

  • Be proactive: There are deadlines, known as statutes of limitations, for taking legal action. Under Washington State statutes, you generally have three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the other party or their insurance. Delaying action can result in missing these critical deadlines.
  • Avoid admitting fault: Never apologize or accept fault at the accident scene or when communicating to any insurance company, as this can be used against you to reduce or deny your claim.
  • Seek legal counsel before accepting an insurance settlement: Insurance companies often make low initial offers. Taking the first offer can leave you with less compensation than you may be entitled to. It’s usually advisable to have an attorney review any settlement offers.

How Can Our Law Firm Help Simplify the Process?

Regaining your financial stability after a whiplash injury is vital to your future physical and mental health. A fair settlement should handle your current expenses and any future bills you may have for medical care and other injury-related needs. Unfortunately, pursuing a whiplash claim on your own can feel challenging and overwhelming as you try to navigate the complexities of the claim while attempting to also recover.

Our skilled personal injury attorneys at South Sound Law Group can evaluate your claim and help you decide the best course of action for recovering compensation. Our experienced staff is here to support you through every step of the process. Contact our law firm today at 253-465-2722 to request your free consultation.