Whiplash Injury Compensation
Introduction to Whiplash Injury Compensation
It is estimated that nearly 75 percent of claims made to motor insurance companies in the UK relate to whiplash injury compensation – implying that more than half a million people each year sustain an injury in a rear-end accident.
Despite whiplash injury claims in the UK often being trivialised by the media as “questionable”, whiplash is a real injury which can develop into a long-term health issue if not attended to in good time by a medical practitioner.
Furthermore, if you have suffered a whiplash injury in an accident for which you were not to blame, you are entitled to compensation for a whiplash injury and should speak with a whiplash injury solicitor to ensure that you receive an adequate settlement of your claim for whiplash injury which genuinely reflects the pain and incapacity you have experienced.
Typical Whiplash Injuries
Whiplash injuries are caused by the unnatural and sudden stretching of the ligaments and soft tissues around the top of the spine when the heads snaps back and forward following an impact – such as when your car is jolted forward after being hit from behind.
Typical whiplash injuries start with neck ache and tenderness around the injured area; can manifest as headaches (where the brain has ricocheted around the inside of the skull) or pins and needles to the arms and legs due to damage to the nervous system within the spinal cord.
Whiplash injuries can also happen without a motor vehicle in sight. Claimants who trip on an uneven surface, slip on a wet floor or experience a fall in the course of their work can also experience the symptoms of whiplash injury if their head hits a static object as they fall.
Provided that a whiplash injury has been sustained in an accident which was caused by the carelessness of somebody who had a responsibility for your health and safety, you will eligible to claim whiplash injury compensation.
What to do after a Whiplash Injury Accident
There are certain procedures to follow, if you believe that you have sustained whiplash injuries due to somebody else´s negligence, which will help support any subsequent claim for whiplash injury compensation.
The first is to seek immediate medical attention. Not only will prompt medical treatment help to prevent your whiplash injury from deteriorating; any unjustifiable delay between the date of your accident and the date on which you were diagnosed with a whiplash injury could be used as a defence against your compensation claim for a whiplash injury to suggest that your injury was insignificant or that it could have been acquired in some other accident scenario unconnected with that you are claiming for.
Furthermore, if you did indeed exacerbate your whiplash injury between the time of the accident and when you sought professional medical attention, how much compensation for a whiplash injury you receive may be reduced to reflect your own lack of care. Symptoms of whiplash injuries can be masked by the pain of other injuries sustained in an accident, so it is always in your best interests to undergo a thorough medical examination as soon as possible.
Once you have received medical attention for your injury, you should report the accident which resulted in whiplash injuries to the correct authorities. In the case of a road traffic accident which the police did not attend, you should visit your local police station and make an entry in the police “Accident Report Book”. If your whiplash injuries were sustained at work or a place of public access, these venues too should have accident report books in which the circumstances of your accident and injury should be recorded. You should retain a copy of the entry to provide to a whiplash injury solicitor along with any other documentation to support whiplash injury claims.
Making Whiplash Injury Claims for Compensation
Once a whiplash injury solicitor has assessed your case and determined that you have a claim for whiplash injury compensation which is worth your while to pursue, he or she will send a Letter of Claim to the insurance company of the person responsible for causing your injury.
The insurance company has twenty-one days in which to acknowledge your solicitor´s letter and then a further ninety in which to inform your solicitor if their policyholder accepts liability for your injuries. If liability is admitted, your solicitor will enter into negotiations with the negligent party´s insurers to arrange the maximum possible settlement of your claim.
If liability is denied, your solicitor will issue court proceedings on your behalf in order that your claim for a whiplash injury can be litigated in court. A court appearance is not necessarily inevitable, as insurance companies – mindful of the court costs they may incur for disputing your claim – often agree to settle whiplash injury claims out-of-court.
Whiplash Injury Claims for Children
Whiplash injury claims for children have to be made by a parent or guardian acting on the child´s behalf as a “Litigation Friend”. This is because, by law, children are not allowed to initiate legal action or instruct a solicitor until they reach the age of majority (18 years of age).
The “Litigation Friend” must be somebody who has no conflict of interest in the claim and must accept any financial liability for bringing whiplash injury claims for children if the claim ultimately fails to be successful.
The majority of the procedures for claiming compensation for whiplash injuries to children are practically identical to those when an adult makes a claim for a whiplash injury and, when both parent and child have been hurt in a car accident, may be run in tandem.
However, compensation settlements of whiplash injury claims for children have to first be approved by a court before the settlement is paid into court funds; where they will be held until the child reaches the age of eighteen. Funds can be accessed for medical or educational requirements, but only on application to the court.
Whiplash injury claims for passengers are handled in exactly the same way as those for a driver in an accident, and might even be made against the driver of the car in which they were travelling if that person was responsible for causing the accident in which the whiplash injuries were sustained. As with whiplash injury claims for children, whiplash injuries can often be more severe for passengers in car accidents than drivers – who may have warning in their rear-view mirror that an impact is about to occur.
Unsolicited Offers of Whiplash Injury Compensation
Whether an adult or a child has sustained whiplash injuries in a car accident, there is a strong likelihood that a potential claimant will receive an unsolicited offer of whiplash injury compensation from the negligent party´s insurance company soon after a whiplash injury has been diagnosed.
Insurance companies are keen to pay as little compensation for a whiplash injury as possible, and will frequently make offers which are inappropriate to the level of injury a claimant has sustained. If such an offer is made to you, it should immediately be referred to a whiplash injury solicitor for assessment.
If you were to inadvertently accept an offer of whiplash injury compensation which failed to pay for your medical costs or support your family while you were unable to work, you cannot go back to the insurance company and ask for more. In cases where your financial situation is an issue, your solicitor may be able to apply for interim payments of compensation for a whiplash injury until your claim is satisfactorily resolved.
How Much Compensation for a Whiplash Injury
How much compensation for a whiplash injury you may be entitled to receive will depend on the extent and severity of your injuries and the impact they have on your quality of life. Compensation for the pain and suffering you experience, your “loss of amenity” or inability to lead your usual day-to-day life and any psychological trauma you may have suffered due to the nature of your accident will all be assessed in accordance with the Judicial Studies Board Guidelines for General Damages in Personal Injury Claims.
You will also be able to recover any quantifiable financial expenses you have incurred which are directly attributable to the accident in which you sustained your whiplash injuries. Therefore, the cost of any repairs which are required for your vehicle, any fares paid for public transport while you are unable to drive or any loss of income you have experienced due to your injury can all be claimed in a claim for whiplash injury compensation.
It is important to explain that no two whiplash injury claims are the same. Women and children tend to receive more whiplash injury compensation than men because of their (generally) weaker neck muscles and soft tissues surrounding the cervical spine. Claimants who have an active social life will be awarded more compensation for their loss of amenity than those who spend their leisure time in front of a television, and a higher salary earner will be reimbursed for his or her loss of income more than a claimant on a lower wage.
“No Win, No Fee” Whiplash Injury Claims
Probably the most popular way of pursuing whiplash injury compensation is “No Win, No Fee” whiplash injury claims. These conditional fee agreements enable claimants to make whiplash injury claims knowing that, if their claim is unsuccessful, they will not have to pay legal fees to their whiplash injury solicitor. However, “No Win, No Fee” whiplash injury claims are not suitable for everybody.
Should your claim be unsuccessful, you may not be liable for your own solicitor´s legal fees – but you could be liable for those of the defending party. Therefore, your solicitor may ask you to examine any existing legal fee insurance you may have attached to a credit card, membership of a motoring organisation or contained within your car insurance policy prior to making a claim for whiplash injury.
If your existing “before the event” insurance is inadequate to cover your potential financial liability, your solicitor will advise you to take out an additional “after the event” insurance policy to protect yourself against potential financial liabilities associated with “No Win, No Fee” whiplash injury claims. No matter how strong your claim for whiplash injury compensation may appear, and even if your solicitor accepts to represent you on a “No Win, No Fee” basis, there is never any guarantee that a claim for a whiplash injury will be successful.
Speak with a Whiplash Injury Solicitor
Although whiplash injury compensation claims are the most common types of personal injury claim in the UK, there are many variables influencing how much compensation for a whiplash injury you may be entitled to receive. Therefore, it is always in your best interests to discuss the nature of your accident and the whiplash injuries you sustained with a whiplash injury solicitor at the first possible opportunity.