My neck was injured in a car accident in Maryland
A neck injury or whiplash is a relatively common injury that occurs in a car accident in Maryland. Whiplash often occurs to a person’s neck following a sudden acceleration-deceleration force that causes unrestrained, rapid forward and backward movement of the head and neck, most commonly from motor vehicle accidents. Fortunately, whiplash is not a life-threatening injury. Whiplash can lead to a prolonged disability.
There are significant economic expenses related to whiplash including:
- medical care including doctors, prescriptions and physical therapy,
- lost wages
- sick leave,
- lost productivity,
- loss of consortium (effects on the marriage)
- pain and suffering and
While most people involved in minor motor vehicle accidents recover quickly without any chronic symptoms, some continue to experience symptoms for years after the injury. This wide variation in symptoms after relatively minor injuries has led some to suggest that, in many cases, whiplash is not so much a real physiologic injury, but that symptoms are more created as a result of potential economic gain. Unfortunately, while there will always be people willing to attempt to mislead the system for personal gain, whiplash is a real condition with real symptoms.
Whiplash is most commonly caused by a motor vehicle accident in which the person is in a car that is not moving, and is struck by another vehicle from behind. It is commonly thought the rear impact causes the head and neck to be forced into hyperextended (backward) position as the seat pushes the person’s torso forward – and the unrestrained head and neck fall backwards. After a short delay the head and neck then recover and are thrown into a hyper flexed (forward) position.
Common symptoms related to whiplash may include: neck pain and stiffness, headache, shoulder stiffness and stiffness, dizziness, fatigue, jaw pain (temporomandibular joint symptoms), arm pain, arm weakness, visual disturbances, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and back pain, Dull or sharp pain in the neck or between the shoulder blades, which can intensify in certain positions or after certain movements, pain that radiates down the shoulder, arm to the hand or fingers (this is called radiculopathy),and numbness or tingling in the shoulder or arm.
In a more severe and chronic case of “whiplash associated disorder” symptoms may include: depression, anger, frustration, anxiety, stress, drug dependency, post- traumatic stress syndrome, sleep disturbance)
How do you diagnose whiplash?
- After an accident the patient may be taken to the hospital or a doctor’s office to be examined. The doctor will examine the patient to determine if they have any injuries that require treatment.
- Based on the symptoms and examination findings the doctor may place a collar on the neck for additional support.
- The doctor may also obtain x-rays of the neck to check for more serious injury. The most important first step is to make sure there is no major injury to the neck, head or the rest of the body requiring immediate treatment.
- If the x-rays are normal but the patient continues to have neck pain, the doctor may keep the cervical collar in place and see the patient back in the office in about a week for an additional examination.
- About a week later the doctor may obtain new x-rays to see if there have been any changes. If the doctor is still concerned about soft tissue injuries, he or she may obtain either x-rays with the head leaning forward and backwards (dynamic x-rays) or obtain an MRI or dynamic x-rays or MRI scans are better able to detect injuries to the soft tissues of the neck, especially instability, that may not have been seen with normal x-rays of the neck.
- In the past, the initial treatment for whiplash was often a soft cervical collar for several weeks. The goal of the collar was intended to reduce the range of motion of the neck and to prevent any additional injuries.
- More recent studies have shown that this prolonged immobilization actually slows the healing process. If there is no evidence of abnormal spinal alignment, early range of motion is advised.Patients involved in early range of motion exercises have been shown to have a more reliable and rapid improvement in their symptoms. This treatment typically involves rotational exercises performed 10 times per hour as soon as symptoms allow within the first four days of the accident.
- It seems that excessive rest and immobilization have been shown to have greater chances of chronic symptoms. This is explained by loss of range of motion leading to increased pain and stiffness. Immobilization also causes muscle atrophy (muscle wasting), decreased blood flow to the injured soft tissues, and healing of damaged muscles in shortened position that renders them less flexible.
- Physical therapy can be useful in helping to wean a patient from a cervical collar as well as to help strengthen muscles and reduce painful motions. Heat/cold therapy, especially during the first 24-48 hours. Physical therapy exercises such as gentle massage, stretching, and neck bracing or traction to decrease pain and increase flexibility. Occupational therapy can be used to help return the patient to the work environment.
- Pain medications such as anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling and pain, muscle relaxants to calm spasm, and narcotic painkillers to alleviate acute pain.
- If the patient begins to develop psychological symptoms including anger, anxiety or depression following an injury, prompt treatment of the emotional condition is recommended. This can help the patient better understand the good chances for successful recovery and reduce the chances of chronic symptoms.
What Can a car accident lawyer do for me when I have injured my neck in a car accident?
- Find a qualified doctor
Initially, if you have been injured and have not received medical treatment, an attorney can help you find the appropriate medical care. Often, specialists like orthopedic surgeons or neurologists have long waiting lists that cause patients to wait months before receiving care. Attorneys can help greatly with this lag time, as they are frequently able to get specialist appointments for their clients in a relatively short period of time, allowing for adequate medical treatment in a much timelier manner.
Individuals who are injured in automobile accidents often find, however, that doctors do not like to get involved in litigation because they do not like going to court. In order to prove to an insurance company and/or a jury that you were in fact injured, a doctor must provide detailed reports connecting the injuries to the accident. A lot of physicians refuse to dictate reports deemed acceptable by the insurance companies, thus it is important to select a doctor who is at least willing to dictate a report after each visit. Each document provided by the medical facility is extremely important in your automobile accident case, as insurance companies base the amount of money that they are willing to offer you upon the documentation available. Visiting a family physician who is unwilling to write a dictated medical report or who scribbles an illegible note on his office chart may result in a smaller settlement than would come from consulting a doctor who is willing to write a fully dictated report clearly outlining the injuries and necessary treatment. Therefore, how well the doctor documents your injuries can be extremely important, as inadequate documentation can lead to less money for the same injury.
- Submit a convincing and complete demand package
After all of your medical treatment has been completed, an attorney can then submit a demand package to the insurance company. A demand package includes a favorable description of the client and summaries of the accident itself, the liability issues involved, the injuries involved, medical treatment incurred and total medical expenses or other losses. Finally, an evaluation of the claim is submitted to the insurance company along with a demand. I have handled thousands of similar claims and I am extremely familiar with the values of these particular cases. Most clients have no idea of what their case is worth, since they have never been involved in the process before, or if they have been in the process before have only limited experiences.
- Determine what a case is worth.
In evaluating the value of a claim, the attorney looks at many factors and considers many elements and questions surrounding the accident. Included in those factors is the type of injuries, such as whether fractures or any other physical signs of visible signs of injury exist versus complaints with no visible signs of injury. Questions and considerations include:
- Is there a permanent injury?
- Who is the client and what kind of witness will the client make?
- Where did the accident happen is important since some counties are known to give more generous verdicts than other counties?
- Whether there was significant damage to the vehicles involved since judges and juries are more likely to believe injuries in serious looking accidents than they are in minor property damage cases.
- What judge do you have?
- How long did the treatment last, which doctors performed the treatment, and were there any objective findings in the x-rays or MRI’s that would point to proof of injuries?
- Is there is any scarring and/or bruising
- What is the age and sex of the client?
- Whether the client has had any other accidents, as the courts look very closely at cases where a client has filed more than one claim and tend to give less credence to people who have filed many claims
- Is the fault clear or disputed?
Lawyers who have been practicing for a long period of time and have tried many cases know how to give weight to each one of these factors. You can see that each case is different and there is no way for a lawyer to tell you the first day of an accident what the case is worth. The lawyer’s opinion of the value of the case can change as more information is gathered over a period of time and any lawyer who promises you that he knows the value of your case based upon your initial interview, will most likely not be able to deliver on any promise he makes.
Common arguments made by an insurance company when a claim is made for whiplash or neck strain as a result of the accident:
- No-one was injured in the other vehicle.
- There was no damage to the car you were in.
- Whiplash should clear up in a couple of days
- The condition would have cleared up without treatment.
- You were the only person injured in your car
- You told the police you were not injured
- You did not complain of any injuries at the scene
- You had no symptoms until several days after the accident
- You already had similar complaints before the accident
- You were offered an ambulance at the scene and refused
- You went to work directly from the scene
- You did not go to the hospital
- You did not keep your appointments with the doctor
- The doctor charges too much
- You left on a scheduled vacation
- Treatment was too short
- Treatment was too long
- Did not follow through on treatment plan
All of the above arguments are tactics used by the insurance company to diminish the value of your claim. None of these arguments are usually accompanied by any medical testimony to back up their relevance. Your Maryland car accident lawyer will help you defend yourself from these frivolous defenses.
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