Case Study: Whiplash Injury Insurance Settlements

Here we show you two whiplash injury claims caused by a driver trying to dodge a deer in the road. See how liability is determined and what it takes for the victims to settle their insurance claims.

The following case example is a fictionalized account based on a composite of real-life auto insurance accident claims.

Get an inside look at a car accident involving three vehicles and a running deer, and how fault – and related liability – was determined for each driver.

We’ll review the circumstances of the accident, liability, injuries, settlement negotiations, and the final claim resolutions.

Running Deer Leads to Three Car Collision

The accident takes place on the four-lane interstate that runs through the small town where our accident victims live. It’s still daylight in the late afternoon of a clear and dry weekday.

Vehicle One: Abby was driving home in her red Taurus after a hard day at work. She was heading northbound on the interstate.

Suddenly, a deer ran into the interstate and Abby, an avid animal lover, swerved to miss it. When Abby swerved, she crossed the center divide into oncoming traffic.

Abby managed to correct her vehicle without hitting anyone, coming to a stop in the median strip.

Vehicle Two: Betty was driving her blue Corolla southbound on the four-lane interstate. She was driving the speed limit and obeying all rules of the road. Suddenly she saw a red sedan swerve across the median, into her lane of traffic.

To avoid a head-on collision, Betty abruptly swerved her vehicle to the right, sideswiping a green SUV that was also traveling southbound. Her car continued to careen right, ending up in a roadside ditch.

Vehicle Three: Carl was driving his green Blazer southbound on the interstate on his way to a dinner meeting. He saw the red car swerve into oncoming traffic just a moment before he felt the blue Corolla smashing into the driver’s side of his vehicle. The impact forced Carl’s vehicle off the road, and into the ditch, behind Betty’s car.

The deer, startled by the squealing tires, ran back into the wooded area next to the road.

Injuries Caused by the Crash

Vehicle One: Abby was completely unharmed other than relative shock about her own conduct.

Vehicle Two: Betty had severe whiplash because her body was violently jerked to the right and then to the left when she hit Carl’s vehicle. When she tried to correct her vehicle by straightening on the interstate, her body was then jerked to the left again. When she ended up in the ditch, she jerked violently to the right. She also bumped her head on the driver’s side window and got a concussion.

Vehicle Three: Carl also suffered whiplash injuries caused when his head jerked back and forth in the vehicle from being side-swiped and then again to the right when he collided with the ditch. He later developed bruising over his chest and shoulders from the safety harness that kept his torso in the seat as he was thrown about.

Driver Liability for the Collision

Though Abby was trying to avoid hitting the deer, she was at fault for swerving into on-coming traffic. When she did so, she caused a chain reaction whereby Betty side-swiped Carl and both Betty and Carl came to rest in a ditch. Even though Betty hit Carl, the reason she did so was to avoid hitting Abby.

The police officer at the scene investigated the tire marks, angle of the cars, and spoke to other drivers who witnessed the crash. The officer determined Abby was at fault for the crash.

Abby was ticketed for failing to maintain control of her vehicle and failing to stay within her lane while driving. The police report also indicated that based on witness statements, Abby was speeding when the deer ran into the road.

Whiplash Claims in No Fault Insurance States

If this accident happened in a no-fault auto insurance state, Betty and Carl would turn to their own insurance company to cover their injuries.

If you live in a no-fault insurance state:

  • Your insurance company must provide Personal Injury Protection coverage (PIP)
  • PIP will pay your medical bills and lost wages no matter who caused the accident
  • You’re not allowed to seek compensation from the other driver for most injury claims
  • PIP does not pay an amount for pain and suffering

Damages and Insurance Negotiations

Abby’s insurance policy carried personal injury liability limits of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident, and property damage coverage of $25,000.

Betty and Carl each made property damage claims for their respective vehicle repairs that were settled within the policy limits.

The victims’ bodily injury claims were handled separately, by an insurance adjuster trained to handle injury claims.

Damages covered by bodily injury coverage include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Physical therapy
  • Out-of-pocket expenses for medication and medical devices
  • Lost wages
  • Transportation costs for medical appointments
  • Replacement services such as childcare, grass cutting, and house cleaning
  • Pain and suffering

Betty’s Damages and Settlement

Betty, in Vehicle Two was taken by ambulance to the emergency room where she was treated for whiplash and a mild concussion. She was sent home the same day for follow-up with her regular doctor.

Betty’s whiplash neck injury was treated at first with a cervical collar, heat, and muscle relaxers. She suffered headaches from the concussion that gradually diminished over the next two weeks.

Once Betty’s concussion resolved, she had four weeks of physical therapy before she was released by her doctor to return to work as a nurse in a long-term care facility.

Betty hated being out of work. On top of that, before the crash, Betty and her sister took turns caring for their elderly mother. Betty also shared cooking and household chores with her husband in their home.

Betty was frustrated and distressed that she was unable take care of her mom and her home while her painful injuries healed.

Betty had medical expenses totaling $3,200, lost wages of $4,800, and valued her emotional distress at $12,000. She made a demand to the insurance company for $20,000.

The insurance adjuster countered with a settlement offer of $9,000. Betty wasn’t rattled by the ridiculously low offer. Instead, she negotiated with patience and persistence, until after a few rounds, her claim was settled for $17,000.

Carl’s Damages and Settlement

Carl, in Vehicle Three, was able to leave the accident scene under his own steam, driving his damaged SUV.

He made it to his dinner meeting, believing he was unhurt. However, the adrenaline surge from the crash wore off, and Carl became increasingly stiff and sore during the meal. After concluding the meeting, Carl drove straight to the nearest Urgent Care Canter.

He was diagnosed with whiplash injuries to his neck and back and given muscle relaxers. The Urgent Care doctor ordered Carl to avoid work for a week, and to follow up with his family doctor if he wasn’t better by then.

Carl’s medical expenses totaled $400. He missed a week’s wages of $900 before he returned to work, while still taking it easy at home. Within three weeks, Carl was fully recovered.

Carl not only missed going to work for a week, he had to skip his regular workouts at the gym for the full three weeks and had to let his yard work go to avoid aggravating his injuries.

Carl made a compensation demand for $2,500 to Abby’s insurance company.

The adjuster assigned to Carl’s claim was happy to make a quick settlement. Because Carl was well prepared to negotiate and wasn’t asking for an unreasonable amount, his claim was settled within days for his demand of $2,500.

Important Points About Whiplash Injuries


 

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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 >>