Back and Neck Injuries From Rear-End Collisions in Orange County and Inland Empire
December 21, 2018
When someone rear-ends your car during a collision, your body’s response is immediate but often unpredictable. During even a minor impact, your neck moves with an unnatural flexion-hyperextension motion. This sudden whip-like movement sometimes triggers a series of physical reactions commonly known as whiplash.
If a heavy truck or a speeding vehicle strikes you in the rear, the speed and weight intensify the impact and vehicle occupants rarely escape the harmful consequences. Severe rear-end crashes cause extensive vehicle damage which contributes to serious or catastrophic injuries. Injured occupants sustain spinal fractures, spinal cord damage, and other life-threatening traumas. These injuries require immediate emergency medical treatment, hospitalization, rehabilitation, and costly lifetime care.
Although whiplash injury severity is unpredictable at an accident scene, rear-end impacts affect soft tissues, ligaments, nerves, discs, inter-vertebral joints, and other structures. One person walks away and remains symptom-free. Another feels okay at the scene, but pain, discomfort, and inflammation begin within a day or two. Whiplash symptoms ease within weeks but they sometimes worsen or continue for years.
While less serious than catastrophic injuries, a whiplash condition presents complex recovery and treatment challenges as well. Whatever the severity, back and neck injuries have many common elements: high treatment costs, permanent disabilities, lost income opportunities, and lifestyle changes.
Claims Adjusters and the Whiplash Credibility Gap
Liability insurance adjusters understand that rear-end accidents cause a long list of neck and back injuries. As the NIH Whiplash Information Page explains, whiplash injury symptoms usually include neck and back pain, headaches, inflammation, and stiffness. Injured victims also suffer from unanticipated problems such as burning sensations, memory issues, and depression. Despite supporting information from reliable resources, a credibility gap exists between whiplash victims and the adjusters handling their claims. The injury’s unpredictable nature defies automated insurance company injury evaluation software.
- Whiplash symptoms sometimes surface days after an accident.
- Patient conditions vary widely and doctors can’t always predict treatment needs or recovery outcomes.
- Injured people often have extensive medical treatment but few outward signs of an injury.
- Recovery times sometimes far exceed a doctor’s generic 6 to 10-week whiplash prognosis.
- Treatment costs and wage losses add up quickly.
- Whiplash injury dynamics defy insurance company automated injury evaluation programs.
Insurance claim adjusters systematically question whiplash injuries. They challenge doctors’ diagnoses and underestimate settlement values. As most back and neck injury manifestations are internal, when a condition becomes chronic, they suspect malingering or fraud. These attitudes against whiplash promote liability, investigation, evaluation, and negotiation biases.
5 Facts You Should Know About Discussing Your Claim With an Insurance Adjuster
At Aitken * Aitken * Cohn, our lawyers recommend that our clients never get caught up in a whiplash injury dispute. When you’re injured, you need the legal guidance our personal injury attorneys provide. If an adjuster contacts you before you have a chance to review your case with one of our attorneys, consider these critical facts:
- 1. Liability insurance adjusters work for the other driver’s insurance company, not you.
- 2. When you talk to an adjuster, they record or write down everything you say.
- 3. They use your statements against you during negotiations, depositions, and other formal encounters.
- 4. Adjusters rarely debate rear-end accident liability but they often dispute injury severity.
- 5. When adjusters negotiate claims, they settle for the least amount possible.
Chronic Back and Neck Injuries
When your whiplash injuries fail to heal after 6 to 10 weeks, they’re presumably more serious than your doctor originally anticipated. Your spine is highly functional yet sensitive. It doesn’t respond well to whiplash trauma. When weeks pass and your pain continues or increases, it’s usually a sign of a chronic problem. The Know Your Back Whiplash Page explains that several conditions cause chronic back and neck pain after a rear-end accident.
- Facet joint pain: A primary neck pain trigger
- Torn annulus: Irritation of the nerves in a disc’s outer wall
- Disc pain: Pain when a disc irritation fails to heal
- Muscle sprain: Acute muscular pain from protecting discs, nerves, and joints
- Herniated disc: A disc compression
Catastrophic Back and Neck Injuries
A forceful rear-end impact jars a vehicle’s occupants so forcefully, it often causes death or significant injuries. Serious rear-end accidents cause severed spines and fractured vertebrae. Bone fragments destroy spinal nerve cells causing paralysis and diminished bodily functions. The 2018 Spinal Cord Injury Fact sheet documents the tragic connection between vehicle accidents and spinal cord injuries. Vehicles contribute to more spinal injuries than any other cause. Rear-end accident victims must handle a range of serious and catastrophic injuries and conditions.
- Spinal fractures
- Spinal cord trauma
- Diminished bodily functions
- Loss of sensation
- Reduced range of motion
- Reduced life expectancy
- Permanent disabilities
- Psychological problems
- Fatal injuries
Whiplash Treatment Options
Whiplash is a puzzling injury. Each person’s condition manifests its symptoms in different ways and doctors respond accordingly. They begin with traditional back or neck treatments. As pain continues or worsens, they move on to cutting-edge therapies and surgical interventions.
- Pain/anti-inflammatory medications
- Muscle relaxers
- Cervical collars
- Physical therapy
- Cervical traction
- Spinal fusion
- Laser surgery
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Medial branch blocks
Catastrophic Injury Treatment
Catastrophic neck and back injuries have few treatment options. If injected in time, methylprednisolone minimizes spinal cord damage and maximizes spinal recovery. Unfortunately, patients often deal with the medication’s side-effects, including pneumonia and blood clots. As spinal damage is rarely reversible, treatment centers on healing, rehabilitation, and symptom management.
- Respiratory support
- Nerve stimulation
- Body and limb Strengthening
- Physical and psychological therapy
- Pain, heart, bladder, respiration, and bowel management
Recoverable Damages After a Rear-End Accident
Personal injury damages fall within two broad categories: economic damages and general damages.
- Economic Damages include current and estimated future lost income, incurred and estimated future expenses for physicians, medication, prosthetics, mobility devices and structures, and other treatment and rehabilitation costs.
- General Damages include intangible considerations such as pain, suffering, altered spousal and family relationships, lifestyle changes, and other personal and emotional issues.
Courts also consider punitive damages under California Civil Code Article 3: Exemplary Damages [3294 – 3296]. An injured plaintiff must present clear and convincing evidence that a defendant committed oppression, fraud, or malice.
Contact Our Personal Injury Attorneys
At Aitken * Aitken * Cohn our personal injury lawyers consider it a privilege to serve our injured clients. We represent injury victims in Orange County and the Inland Empire. If you or a family member sustained a neck or back injury in a rear-end accident, we want to hear your story and determine if we can help you.
Call our law offices at (714) 434-1424, or complete our contact form at Aitken * Aitken * Cohn online to schedule a free consultation. Our firm handles injury cases on a contingency basis: we charge a fee only after we resolve our clients’ cases.