Whiplash is a serious injury that can affect a car accident victim’s quality of life. The recovery process can be slow and impact the person’s work and participation in daily activities. It’s important for accident victims to understand the average payout for whiplash to ensure they receive fair compensation for their injuries. Your case may be more or less than the average settlement. Knowing the common range for these personal injury cases can give you a guideline for preparing your case and evaluating settlement offers. Our experienced Colorado car accident lawyers explain the average settlement for whiplash in this comprehensive guide.
If you sustained injuries in an accident in Colorado, contact the personal injury lawyers at Front Range Injury Attorneys today to schedule your free consultation. Our experienced legal team are knowledgeable and zealous advocates for our clients and their cases. We treat our clients as people, not case files. Learn more about how we can help you pursue compensation for your injuries and damages. Contact our Denver law firm to learn more.
What is the average settlement payout for whiplash injury in Colorado?
The average settlement for a whiplash injury can vary based upon the severity of injury, medical care necessary to heal from whiplash and a number of other factors. Most whiplash injuries that result in insurance claims or lawsuits involve car accidents or other motor vehicle collisions. The settlement range for neck injuries like whiplash can range from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Whiplash injuries alone often settle for less than more sever neck injuries that can result in permanent impairment and pain, or even paralysis. The average settlement for a whiplash injury in Colorado can range from a few thousand dollars for minor injuries to $20,000 for more severe whiplash.
What is whiplash?
The Mayo Clinic defines whiplash is an injury to the soft tissues of the neck, upper back and the base of your head caused by forceful, rapid back and forth movement of the neck, similar to cracking a whip. Car accidents are the number one cause of whiplash, but it can occur from other forceful blows to the body, such as sports accidents, physical abuse, falls and other trauma.
The mechanism of injury for whiplash is a rapid acceleration and deceleration of the neck. Picture a passenger in a rear-end car accident. The passenger is restrained to the seat by the seat belt. When the car is struck from behind, the force of impact throws the passenger forward and the head jerks forward. The body is caught by the seat belt and jerked back against the seat. When that happens, the head quickly stops moving forward and snaps backwards. With the initial hit there is a rapid acceleration forward followed by a rapid deceleration. In a more severe accident, the head may snap back aggressively and strike the headrest, causing a second round of rapid acceleration and deceleration. The neck and tissues within take on the force of the sudden movements, causing injury.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, millions of people experience whiplash injuries every year. Among these injuries:
- 300,000 Americans have become disabled due to their neck trauma
- It takes approximately 17 weeks to heal from less severe whiplash injuries
- At least 45 percent of victims remain symptomatic 12 weeks after an accident
- Approximately 7% of patients cannot return to their normal job duties
- Typically 8 weeks of recovery time is needed before victims can return to normal job duties
What are the common symptoms of whiplash after an accident?
The symptoms you experience after an accident or other traumatic even can differ from one person to the next due to the severity of injury, pre-existing conditions, age, size, safety restraints in the vehicle and even body posture. Whiplash may affect multiple tissues in your neck including muscles, tendons, ligaments, vertebrae, discs, nerves, blood vessels, cartilage and the spinal cord. Trauma to these different tissues can result in a range of symptoms and severity. Medical research indicates common symptoms include:
- neck pain
- tightness and stiffness
- shoulder and upper back pain
- arm pain
- numbness or tingling in the neck, upper back, shoulders, or arms
- difficulty concentrating
- ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- blurred vision
In an auto accident causing whiplash, it is common for victims to experience other injuries, such as brain injury and spinal injury. Additional injuries can have overlapping symptoms which makes it challenging to accurately diagnose and treat accident trauma if you do not obtain treatment from medical experts in traumatic injuries who can employ appropriate diagnostic tools and effective treatment plans.
How is whiplash diagnosed?
Often the first stage of diagnosis occurs in an emergency room or urgent care facility shortly after the crash. The physicians will rely on your narrative of the accident, health history, visual observation, physical examination and may order imaging to see inside. Imaging at this initial stage may not tell the full story due to the amount of inflammation in the soft tissue in and around your neck. Nevertheless, this can be critical to ruling out a life-threatening injury.
As you begin treatment for whiplash, your doctor may order additional imaging to better diagnose your injury and track your progress. As inflammation reduces over time, imaging can better assess less obvious injuries like vertebral fractures and disc bulges. Your doctor will determine the appropriate types of imaging and timeline to thoroughly understand and treat you.
Imaging may include:
- CT scans
Each of these technologies have their own strengths and weaknesses, so it is possible that you may undergo one or more types of imaging throughout your course of treatment.
Grades of whiplash injuries
Whiplash injuries can range from minor to severe injuries. A minor injury may be described as a cervical sprain/strain. In other words, the soft tissues like the tendons, ligaments and muscles are inflamed from traumatic movement or overextension. Whiplash can also involve more serious injuries like disc herniations, disc ruptures, fractured vertebrae and nerve impairments. In extremely serious cases, they can include nerve or spinal cord damage severe enough to cause paralysis as well as serious damage to blood vessels in the spinal column. More serious cervical injuries generally include less severe injuries like a sprain/strain, so a neck injury may involve multiple separate issues.
Experts created a grading system for the severity of whiplash disorders, known as the Quebec Classification of Whiplash-Associated Disorders. This scale grades injuries from grade 0-4 with increasing symptoms.
- Grade 0: no pain or symptoms of injury
- Grade 1: stiffness when moving and tenderness around the injury
- Grade 2: symptoms of grade one plus radiating pain, muscle spasms, bruising or swelling, sensitivity
- Grade 3: can include any combination of symptoms including:
- muscle weakness
- numbness in neck, upper back, shoulders, upper arms
- burning, tingling, feeling pins and needles in same areas
- vision problems
- hoarseness, loss of voice, trouble swallowing
- dizziness or vertigo
- Grade 4: all of the above symptoms but more severe. Often indicates damage or movement of vertebrae.
How long does it take to feel pain from whiplash?
The onset of pain or other symptoms can vary based on the type or severity of injury along with other factors. It is typical to begin feeling pain, stiffness, tightness and other symptoms within the first 24 hours. You may experience pain immediately after an auto accident. Some people feel minor pain after the accident but no alarming symptoms that day. When they wake up the next morning, they feel more severe symptoms. Delayed onset of symptoms does not mean you may not have serious injuries. You should seek medical attention whether your symptoms are immediate or delayed.
How long does whiplash last?
The duration of whiplash injury can vary from one accident victim to the next. Mild cases may resolve within days or weeks with little or no medical intervention. On the other end, more severe cases can result in permanent impairment and disability with long term symptoms and ongoing care.
In our experience representing thousands of accident victims, most whiplash injuries resolve within six months. The best way to fully heal from an injury as quickly as possible is to obtain a treatment plan and follow your doctor’s advice completely. It is also our experience that clients who delay medical care or do not follow their doctor’s advice consistently are more likely to experience symptoms for a longer period of time.
What are the long term effects of chronic whiplash?
Long term effects of chronic whiplash can include persisting pain, limited range of motion, muscle weakness or spasms, impaired coordination, sleep disturbances, anxiety and depression. Serious cases can involve nerve impingement that requires ongoing treatment such as ablations or pain management.
How do I know if I have whiplash?
If you were involved in an auto accident, repetitive trauma, sports injury, slip and fall incident, or other physical trauma causing sharp neck jolting, it is important to obtain a medical evaluation. You should see a doctor if you experience any whiplash symptoms. A thorough medical exam can determine if you suffered a whiplash injury and what treatment is appropriate for you. A physician is best equipped to diagnose your symptoms and make sure you are not suffering other injuries.
Do not delay seeking evaluation. Sometimes people believe they should wait to see a doctor and hope their symptoms will go away. While that may be true for minor injuries, they risk aggravating their injury and making symptoms worse. If you were involved in an accident and delay evaluation, the insurance adjuster will for your claim will argue that you were injured at a later date or your injury was not that serious.
Is whiplash common in rear-end auto accidents?
Whiplash injuries are common in rear-end accidents as they often result in the forceful acceleration-deceleration movement of the neck. You can experience whiplash in other types of collisions as well. Rear-end accidents account for approximately one-third of all auto accidents, with about 1.7 million whiplash injuries annually. Over half occur in low speed impacts. Almost two-thirds of all permanent impairment claims due to car accidents are for minor neck injuries. If you were in a car accident and experience any whiplash injury, seek medical care immediately and contact a personal injury lawyer.
After a whiplash injury, what should I do?
- Seek medical attention: Immediately after an accident, seek medical evaluation and treatment for your whiplash injury.
- Consult with a personal injury lawyer: Consult with a personal injury lawyer to determine if you have a legal right to pursue compensation from the responsible party. Your lawyer will provide guidance through the process, negotiate with the insurance company and file a lawsuit, if necessary.
- Follow your doctor’s treatment plan: Your doctor is best equipped to determine the treatment plan best able to help you heal from your injuries. That may include physical therapy, medication, chiropractic care, rest, ice, heat treatment, or more serious medical procedures.
- Keep a record of all correspondence: Keep track of all of your correspondence and contact through your treatment. That includes medical visits, health insurance letters, police reports, photographs, insurance offers and communication with witnesses to the incident resulting in your whiplash injury.
- Document expenses and lost income: Keep records of your costs such as medical bills and prescriptions, as well as any lost wages or time lost at work. These records will help show the financial effects of your injury when your lawyer determines it is the best time to present a demand to negotiate a resolution to your case.
- Monitor symptoms and progress: Pay attention to your progress and discuss it with your doctor. Providing your doctor with information about changes in your physical condition will help your doctor refine your treatment plan to help you move towards a total recovery.
I’ve sustained a whiplash injury in an accident, can I be compensated under Colorado law?
Your right to compensation under Colorado law depends on multiple factors. These include the type of accident and who is responsible for causing it. One or more insurance claim may provide compensation for medical bills, out of pocket costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, or other damages. If another person or entity caused the accident due to negligence, a personal injury lawsuit may be an option to receive further compensation.
People sometimes worry that a prior injury or preexisting degenerative spinal condition means they cannot recover compensation. A preexisting condition may make your accident case more complicated but it does not mean you cannot obtain compensation for the additional symptoms caused by the accident.
How do you know what a whiplash case is worth?
The value of a whiplash case depends on a number of factors, including the severity of your injury and medical expenses involved. The effects on your life are important factors in the financial value of your case such as lost wages, pain and suffering endured, harm to your quality of life and whether the injury results in permanent impairment.
When our personal injury lawyers evaluate a whiplash case, we continue to evaluate the case value over time. The full symptoms may not be immediately apparent. We will not know the length of time to reach full recovery or the types of treatment necessary to get there. Our attorneys will help you track and document injuries and financial effects as part of your legal claim.
How do I calculate potential settlement amounts?
The best way to calculate the potential value of a settlement is with the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer. They will use their knowledge and expertise of the law, jury verdicts in similar cases, insurance policies, common insurance negotiation tactics, how to present a strong case for damages and other factors to determine a fair settlement amount.
A whiplash settlement value is a combination of the value of all of your economic and non-economic damages, so it is important to consider all of the types and evidence of damages to advocate for full and fair compensation of your case.
Insurance companies typically evaluate a claim based on a simplified calculation that undervalues your claim. They often decide what they think your medical bills should be worth and add a multiplier for pain and suffering. For example, they may decide your case is worth 1.25 times your medical bills as a total of bills plus pain and suffering. They may not even include your lost wages or other non-economic effects in their evaluation. An experienced personal injury lawyer will advocate for full compensation and consider whether a settlement is in your best interests.
What makes a whiplash settlement worth more or less than average?
Some whiplash cases are worth more or less than the average range. Every accident case has its own value based upon the specific facts and circumstances involved. The insurance company will not consider whether your case is average when negotiating with you or your attorney. Factors that can make a whiplash settlement more or less than average include:
- injury severity
- need for future medical expenses or lost wages due to permanent disability
- how the accident affected your health and ability to work
- existing factors, such as a degenerative cervical condition
- the extent you can prove your injury and damages through evidence
- whether an insurance company is involved and the insurance policy terms
- how much each party to the accident is liable for your injuries
- Colorado state law on liability and compensation for damages due to an accident
Typically claims above average involve more severe injuries. In these cases, it is important to obtain medical care and follow through with recommended treatment to try to heal and show the extent of your whiplash injury. In most cases, you will not receive fair compensation if you rush to settlement before treatment is complete and the full extent of injury is understood. Your accident lawyer will evaluate the case and determine the best time to initiate settlement negotiations.
How is a whiplash settlement determined in Colorado?
Determining the value of a whiplash injury for settlement depends on a number of factors and facts involved in your case. There is no simple calculation for settlement value under Colorado law that decides what your case is worth. Fair compensation for your case should consider all of the relevant factors, including:
- medical bills incurred
- lost wages due to time your injury prevented you from working or while obtaining medical care
- future medical expenses
- pain and suffering endured
- physical disability or impairment, both past and future
- duration of symptoms and which symptoms occurred
- likelihood of chronic or permanent symptoms
- severity of injury
- limitation on life activities, both past and future
- questions of fault and legal liability
- severity of the accident and aggravating factors
- insurance policies and the ability to recover compensation from the responsible parties
- legal right under Colorado law to pursue damages from the liable parties
Settling a whiplash injury is part of the car accident claims or lawsuit process. Compensation for your injury reflects the total value of your legal damages. You may have additional damages for other injuries and property damage. Your right to recover compensation under Colorado law reflects the specific facts of your case and the actual damages you sustained. The amount of money somebody else received for their case or an average settlement amount does not help you understand the fair value of your injury case.
How do insurance companies delay whiplash claims?
Insurance companies delay or avoid whiplash claims through a number of tactics designed to frustrate you and push you to accept less money than your claim is worth. They may delay the decision to even accept or deny a claim. The insurance company may insist they need more time to investigate the facts or try to trick you into admitting partial fault for the accident to use comparative negligence to reduce the amount of money your case may be worth.
Once they accept the claim, they may continue to use other tactics to devalue your claim. They may ask for medical records and other documentation that is unrelated to your case to try to find alternative reasons for your symptoms or injury. They may insist you need to submit to an independent medical examination with a healthcare provider on their payroll. That can delay your claim and give them an opportunity to come up with reasons to make your case worth less than you deserve.
The insurance adjuster may also provide inaccurate information about relevant laws pertaining to your case to discourage you from pursuing legal action or to believe you cannot recover the full value of your claim.
Remember, the insurance company for a liable party owes a duty to their insured to protect them from legal action. They do not owe you honesty, fairness, or any help proving the fair value of your case. In most accident claims they have two goals: (1) to run out the clock on the statute of limitations so you lose the right to receive anything for your claim or (2) settle your case for as little as possible. Settling your case exchanges an amount of money for your promise to end your case against their insured. It is in their interest to pay you as little as possible for that promise, so they will use any tactics they can to convince you to accept the least possible.
How do I get a fair settlement for my accident case?
The best way to get a fair settlement for your whiplash claim is to consult with an experienced car accident lawyer who can use the law to advocate for you. An experienced lawyer knows how to assess your case, determine the factors that influence the compensation you are entitled to receive and present a strong case for fair compensation. An attorney will negotiate on your behalf with insurance companies and other parties involved in your case to ensure you receive a just result that accounts completely for your costs and effects of your whiplash injury. Your attorney will change the dynamic of negotiations with the insurance company by protecting you from their tactics and letting them know that if the adjuster does not make a fair offer that you can take your case to a jury instead of accepting their lowball offer.
An important step in recovering a fair settlement is presenting a demand to the insurance company that fully presents your economic and non-economic damages. These include:
- documenting your neck injury and gathering medical evidence
- submitting medical evidence diagnosis your injury, such as imaging and reports of examinations
- presenting a first hand account of your injury and the way it affected your life
- producing evidence of past and future medical expenses
- establishing a pattern of treatment to resolve your injury and symptoms
- valuing pain and suffering caused by the accident
- presenting evidence of past and future lost income and out of pocket costs
- submitting evidence of a complete claim for whiplash and all other injuries you sustained
- identifying legal issues and minimizing insurance company tactics to reduce claim value
- negotiating your settlement and advising you on decisions through your case
Evidence is the foundation for any insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. By presenting complete evidence persuasively, you create the best opportunity to reach a fair settlement. Let our experienced car accident lawyers work for you to pursue full and fair compensation for your whiplash case.
Do I have to go to court for my whiplash case?
In Colorado you have the right to let a jury decide the value of your whiplash case if you do not accept a settlement offer. It is your choice to accept a settlement offer, if any, or proceed to litigation. The only circumstance that requires you to go to court for your whiplash case is if the insurance company does not make any settlement offer. Then your choice is between walking away or filing a lawsuit. Generally, an insurance company will decline to make an offer if they believe their insured is not legally obligated to compensate you because their insured is not liable for the accident or the statute of limitations passed before you could file a lawsuit.
Your personal injury lawyer will discuss the merits of going to court versus a settlement during the negotiation process in your case. The decision to go to court depends on many factors, such as the settlement offer, the fair value of your case, the cost of litigation and the likely outcome. It is not always best to accept a settlement offer but a trial is not always the best outcome in every case. Your lawyer will advise you on the merits of your case based upon its unique facts and circumstances.
Hire our experienced Colorado personal injury lawyer for your case
At Front Range Injury Attorneys, we understand dealing with whiplash and other injuries from a car accident is challenging. Adding the insurance and legal processes on top can make the experience significantly more frustrating and overwhelming. By hiring an experienced car accident lawyer you take that frustration away so you can focus on getting better while your lawyers deal with the other aspects of your case. We’re here to help you get the medical care you need and advocate for fair compensation for your case. Contact our Denver law firm today for a free consultation about your case. You can speak with our attorneys at no cost and no obligation to understand your rights and determine if we are the right law firm for your accident case.