10 Tips to Boost Whiplash Injury Compensation After a Car Accident

How to maximize your whiplash compensation after a car accident. See average payouts, examples, and what to do and say when claiming whiplash.

Millions of Americans suffer whiplash injuries every year.¹ When you’ve suffered a neck injury in a car accident, you expect to be fairly compensated by the insurance company.

Compensation for whiplash injuries can range from $2,500 to more than $300,000, depending on the severity of the injury and its potential lingering effects.

Learn how to estimate the value of whiplash injury claims, and what you can say and do to maximize your car accident compensation.

10 Tips to Boost Whiplash Injury Compensation

What you say and do at the accident scene, at medical appointments, and when dealing with the insurance company can make a big difference in your final settlement. Here’s how to help your injury claim:

1. Watch What You Say At the Scene

Always call 911 to report a traffic accident. Don’t tell the 911 dispatcher, the police, or anyone involved in the crash that you’re fine, that you’ll be okay, that you shouldn’t have stopped so fast, or any other comments that will come back to bite you.

2. Be Careful What You Do At the Scene

Don’t try to push your car, pry apart bumpers, or do any other activity that can worsen your injuries. Unless your activities are saving a life, they can hurt your car accident insurance claim. You may be experiencing a rush of post-crash adrenaline that’s masking a significant injury.

3. Let Paramedics Evaluate You

Refusing medical treatment at the scene can sink your insurance claim. Tell the paramedics how your body was jolted by the crash, if you hit your head, or slammed into your safety belts. Tell them about every symptom, no matter how mild. Don’t make excuses for your pain, like blaming it on old age or a prior injury.

4. Collect Important Evidence

If you’re able to move around at the scene, take pictures of the vehicles and surrounding area. Get contact information from witnesses to the crash. If the other driver says anything that implies fault, like, “I didn’t see you in time” write it down. You’ll need good evidence to prove the at-fault driver’s liability for your injury.

5. Have a Full Medical Evaluation

If you aren’t taken directly to the hospital from the scene, go to the nearest emergency room or urgent care center. The faster you seek medical attention, the more credible and provable your claim will be.

Refusing or delaying medical care for whiplash can ruin your chance for compensation. The insurance adjuster will deny your claim, arguing that your injuries weren’t caused by the accident.

Here’s a case example where lack of proof results in a whiplash lawsuit being dismissed.

Tell your doctor exactly what happened to your head and body during the accident. Let them know that you didn’t experience pain and stiffness before the car crash. Explain your job duties so the doctor can decide if you should refrain from working

6. Choose Qualified Medical Professionals

The value of a whiplash injury settlement is based largely on the total amount of your medical bills. However, the insurance company is only required to accept reasonable costs for medically necessary treatments in line with approved standards of care.

While many patients swear by the relief they’ve gotten from chiropractic care, be aware that insurance companies aren’t so impressed. The insurance company may not be willing to pay for weeks and months of chiropractic treatments.

Most whiplash cases are first treated by emergency room doctors or family physicians. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you might then be sent to an orthopedic doctor. Orthopedists are often called to treat car accident victims. Depending on your symptoms, a neck injury may need to be evaluated by a neurologist for nerve damage.

7. Only Sign a Limited Medical Release

The insurance company has no right to your private medical history before the accident. They have no right to any non-whiplash-related medical or pharmacy records after the crash, either. Adjusters like to fish for unrelated medical information they can use against you in settlement negotiations.

Only sign a medical release that specifically limits the insurance company to records after the accident date, and only from providers who treated your whiplash injury.

8. Get a Work Slip for Absences

Even if your employer doesn’t require a work note for absences, or if you’re self-employed, get a note from the doctor detailing the days you’ll be out of work. You will need the work slip and your doctor’s medical records to justify the lost income part of your injury claim.

9. Keep an Accident Diary

As soon as possible after the crash, write down what you were doing before the collision, what happened during the crash, and everything you remember afterward. Continue to write detailed notes on a regular basis about your whiplash diagnosis, your pain and other symptoms, and how the injury is affecting your daily life.

Include entries that show when you needed help from friends or relatives. Write about when you needed help to get dressed, bathe, wash your hair, or anything else that changed because of the injury.

Your diary of life after the crash can be important evidence of your limitations, and justify your demand for pain and suffering.

10. Consult a Personal Injury Attorney

Some neck injuries are more severe and potentially debilitating. If you’re suffering from a serious or complicated whiplash injury, you’ll need an attorney to get anywhere near the amount of compensation you deserve.

There’s too much at stake with a complicated personal injury case. Most injury attorneys offer a free case evaluation to auto accident victims. There’s no obligation, and it costs nothing to find out what a skilled attorney can do for you.

Average Settlements for Whiplash Claims

If you’ve recovered from a mild to moderate soft-tissue neck injury, you should be able to calculate a fair settlement by totaling your medical costs, out-of-pocket expenses, and a few days of lost wages. Add one or two times that amount for pain and suffering (unless you’re in a no-fault insurance state).

After you fully recover from your injuries, write a letter to demand compensation for your whiplash injury.

Insurance payouts for soft-tissue injury whiplash can range from $2,500 to $7,000. The settlement amount is based on one visit to a hospital emergency department ($1,200) or urgent care center ($200), a follow-up visit to a primary care provider ($171), a few days off work, and a nominal amount for pain and suffering.

Example: Insurance Payout for Mild Whiplash 

Kevin’s SUV was rear-ended by a minivan while he waited in a fast-food drive-through lane. Diane, the driver who hit him, admitted she was distracted by her children and did not notice the line had stopped.

The drivers exchanged information. Both vehicles were drivable after the collision. Before leaving the property, Kevin spoke to the restaurant manager and asked her to preserve the drive-through’s security camera footage for the day.

Kevin’s wife drove him to the local hospital emergency department to get checked out. He was treated for a whiplash neck strain. He was released with instructions to rest for a few days, use a heating pad, and see the family doctor if he wasn’t better in a week. Kevin was fully recovered in less than a week and had no further medical care.

Kevin had $500 in lost wages ($25 per hour x 20 hours) and his medical costs came to $1,200.

Kevin’s economic damages totaled $1,700 ($500 + $1,200).

He added two times that amount to account for his pain and suffering: $1,700 x 2 = $3,400.

Combining the economic and non-economic damages ($1,700 + $3,400), Kevin’s claim value is $5,100.

Kevin submitted a settlement demand to Diane’s insurance company for $5,500.

Kevin’s expenses were documented, and the other driver had admitted fault for the accident. After a bit of haggling over the pain and suffering compensation, Kevin settled his personal injury claim for $4,500.

Read another case example of multiple claimants with mild whiplash injuries.

Compensation for Severe Whiplash Injuries

Serious injury claims should be handled by a personal injury lawyer. Whiplash injuries involving surgery or significant neurological problems will be challenged by the insurance company.

Whiplash injuries that require surgery become high-dollar insurance claims, with settlement values ranging from $150,000 to $500,000, depending on the age and employment status of the victim.

Spinal fusion surgery, to stabilize vertebrae or fix a slipped disc can cost from $80,000 to $150,000. Follow-up physical therapy can add another $10,000. The victim may be out of work for three to six months following the car accident.

Example: Severe Whiplash from Multi-Car Accident

Brian was in a multi-car pileup on the interstate. Traffic came to a standstill when a tractor-trailer lost its load. Brian had come to a full stop in his vehicle when he was violently jolted by the impact of an SUV that crashed into the rear of his car. Seconds later, Brian was jolted again, when the SUV behind him was rear-ended by a box truck.

Brian was in immediate pain in his head and neck, running down into his arms. He was transported by ambulance to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a severe whiplash injury including two bulging discs in his neck.

Three weeks later, Brian underwent neck fusion surgery, followed by eight weeks of physical therapy.

Brian incurred $120,000 in medical expenses. He lost $24,960 in wages because he couldn’t go back to his auto mechanic job for six months. Replacement services for lawn care and home repairs (that Brian normally would have done) came to $700.

Brian’s economic damages totaled $145,660 ($120,000 + $24,960 + $700 = $145,660)

Brian’s non-economic damages were significant. He endured terrible pain and suffering from his injuries and surgery. A healthy and active man before the crash, he was unable to participate in activities with his children or his friends for six months. The pain and physical limitations interfered with his marital relations.

The car accident lawyer hired by Brian and his wife sought $650,000 in compensation from multiple insurance companies, including $500,000 in non-economic damages.

It took two years to resolve the claims against the company that owned the trailer that dropped its load, and the insurance companies of the drivers who rear-ended Brian.

Brian’s car accident claims eventually settled for a total of $475,000.

Whiplash Causes and Symptoms

If you have neck pain after a car accident, you may be wondering if you’ve suffered whiplash, also known as Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD). Neck injuries are common after a sudden jolting of the neck and shoulders. Whiplash happens most often in rear-end collisions but can happen in almost any kind of vehicle accident.

Whiplash injuries happen when your head is violently and abruptly thrown backward and then forward from the impact of a car wreck, or other types of trauma.

The forceful whiplash motion can injure bones in the cervical spine, disks between the vertebrae, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and other soft tissues in the neck and back.

Symptoms of whiplash usually appear within a day of the accident, but some symptoms may crop up later.

Most common symptoms of whiplash are:

  • Neck and back pain and stiffness
  • Increased pain with neck movement
  • Inability to move the neck freely
  • Headaches
  • Pain in the upper back, shoulder, or arms
  • Tingling or Numbness in arms
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Some whiplash victims also experience:

  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing of the ears (tinnitus)
  • Sleep problems
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression

Most whiplash victims recover within a few weeks or months. Some people continue to suffer for years from severe pain, headaches, and physical limitations.

Those most likely to endure whiplash complications are people who had severe symptoms from the start, older adults, and accident victims who had a prior whiplash injury.

Whiplash Injury Compensation Questions

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>