How a Car Accident Settlement Is Valued for a Whiplash Claim in Georgia

What is the settlement value of a whiplash injury case in the Atlanta area? This guide discusses how Georgia personal injury lawyers value and prove neck injury and whiplash claims.

Key Points:

  • In whiplash injury cases, how quickly you receive medical care can be an important factor in settlement value.
  • The total amount of past medical bills, the expected cost of future care, and whether your injury is temporary or permanent are all considered.
  • Serious whiplash cases resulting in permanent injury can be worth more than a sprain or strain from which you recover.
  • As the victim of a car accident, you have the burden of proving how the injury was caused and how long it will last.
  • Jury Verdict Research is often used by Georgia car accident attorneys and insurance adjusters to determine and negotiate case values.

Questions Answered:

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The Definition of Whiplash and How Long Does it Usually Last?

Whiplash is the spraining and/or straining of the neck and/or shoulder muscles as a result of the forceful backwards and forward motion of the neck during a motor vehicle collision. The most common symptoms are pain, stiffness, loss of range of motion, muscle spasms, and soreness. While whiplash is a soft-tissue injury, which usually subsides, its duration will vary on a case-by case basis.

There are several factors that contribute to the duration of a whiplash injury. For example, the severity of the pain and/or soreness you experience; the type of treatment you undergo for the whiplash injury; how soon after the collision you begin treatment; whether the whiplash is accompanying by other symptoms (i.e., numbness or  tingling in limbs) which may be indicative of a more severe and/or permanent injury; and the length of time you treat for your injuries.

A whiplash accident victim

Symptoms of whiplash include: neck pain, neck and shoulder stiffness, loss of range of motion, headaches, numbness or tingling in the neck or upper arms.

Most people report their whiplash lasting for a few weeks and resolving after consistent care (i.e., chiropractic or physical therapy). However, a few severe cases of whiplash never completely go away or it is discovered that a more serious injury exists, such as a herniated disk.

How do Insurance Companies and Lawyers Put a Value on a Whiplash Injury?

To place a value on a whiplash injury case, insurance companies and personal injury lawyers will first need to have documentation of all of your medical care after the emergency room, including all records of your visits to primary care physicians, doctors and chiropractors. In addition, it is often necessary to get the records of your past medical care.

Review of Past Medical Records: Car accident lawyers and Insurance companies will closely review your past medical records to see whether you have any pre-existing conditions. Insurance adjusters will often argue that past or pre-existing neck pain or if you are an older person you have degenerative conditions, in order to diminish your case.

A good reason to hire a personal injury lawyer is to protect yourself from such attacks on your injury claim. Personal injury lawyers will focus on showing that you did not have problems with your neck before the crash, or if you did, that the wreck made your condition worse.

suffered whiplash injury

Damage to the Vehicles Involved in the Crash: Other things that the insurance adjuster will consider in making a settlement offer include how much damage was there done to the vehicles in the collision (were the cars destroyed, or is this a bumper-tap) to form their opinion about the severity of your case.

Whiplash Case Values From Georgia Settlement and Jury Verdict Research

The Millar Law Firm regularly reviews surveys of case settlement and jury verdict results gathered from all across the state of Georgia to help determine fair case values. Our research shows that, among reported case settlements and verdicts, between 2000 and 2020, the average reported Georgia whiplash settlement was approximately $25,000 to $35,000.

A graph showing award in US dollars by resolution. Comparing average award to median award in the year 2000 to 2020.
Georgia whiplash average and median settlement values
2000 – 2020

As can be seen, the average whiplash case settlement was greater than the median award. This is because the average includes the very largest and most catastrophic cases, involving severe permanent car accident injuries, often involving surgery. The median case settlement value includes all smaller cases, including chiropractic or conservative care.

If Whiplash Is A Long Term Injury Will It Result in a Higher Settlement?

Generally, yes. But, there are other factors to consider that make a long term whiplash injury settlement amount increase or decrease. If the whiplash injury is a severe one which requires substantial and prolonged treatment, a higher settlement amount is likely.

However, if you have a history of the same whiplash type injury or neck pain prior to the motor vehicle accident, you may expect the insurance company to offer a lower settlement amount. When this happens, you have the option of filing a lawsuit and having a Jury determine the value of your claim.

Overall, a more severe and long term injury will likely result in a higher settlement offer if you have the medical evidence to support your case.

How to prove your whiplash injury?

Whiplash injuries are usually defined as an injury to the neck related to a sudden backward and forward movement, usually caused by a car accident. Symptoms of whiplash from a car accident can include pain in the neck and upper back and referred pain to the shoulders and arms.

whiplash legal quote

Treatment for whiplash: Medical care for whiplash often includes medication, chiropractic care, massage therapy, electrical stimulation therapy, orthopedic care and physical therapy. Injury victims whose cases of whiplash that do not resolve in a few weeks often seek treatment specialist such as an orthopedist (bone and muscle doctor).

The value of prompt medical treatment: After your accident, did you immediately go to the emergency room or get medical care within the first few hours or days? In whiplash injury cases one of the first things insurance companies look at is when you received treatment. How quickly a person sought or received medical care is an important factor in how much an injury case is worth.

a list for treatment for whiplash including medication, chiropractic care, massage therapy, electrical stimulation therapy, orthopedic care, and physical therapy.

The harder it is to relate the injury to the collision, often the lower the potential settlement value is. You can imagine that an office worker who goes directly to the emergency room complaining of neck pain is going to have an easier time convincing an adjuster (and later on a Judge and Jury) that his neck injury came from being in a car accident than a construction worker who does not go to the doctor until several days, or longer, after the accident.

How vehicle damage relates to case value: There is no direct relation to the amount of property damage to the value of a neck injury claim. As car accident lawyers we have handled and reviewed many cases where the damage to a car was small, but the case resulted in a large settlement or verdict.

However, how much damage there was to the vehicles does often influence how much an insurance company is willing to offer in settlement without a trial. Insurance adjusters seem to be obsessed with this. If there is a lot of damage, insurance company adjusters tend to take the case more seriously and make better settlement offers. But what if the damage is small? We all know that today’s cars are well made, with durable bumpers. If your car does not show visible damage, it can be tough to convince an insurance adjuster to make a fair settlement offer in an injury case. This is where medical and expert testimony becomes highly important. Under such circumstances, testimony from a doctor or bio-mechanical expert may be needed to support the relationship between the collision and the injury.

XRAYs and Whiplash

How medical documentation helps settle whiplash injury cases: Even more important than visible damage to the vehicles is documentation of the injury. Current and past medical records are the key to proving a whiplash injury.

Whiplash may not show up on an x-ray or MRI, and must be proven by having the symptoms documented and treated by medical professionals. Emergency room records are examined to see what your complaints and symptoms were at the time of first treatment, what tests were done, and what diagnosis was made. The records are used to prove to Insurance Company, and to the Judge and Jury if necessary, that you were injured in the car accident and to what degree. The records of your medical care after the emergency room, such as treatment with a doctor, chiropractor or physical therapist are then used to prove the progression of your recovery and in support of the amount of your medical bills.

How Does The Legal System View Whiplash Injuries?

Whiplash injuries might be the most common injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident. For many, these injuries resolve after a few weeks of conservative care. Because of their prevalence, insurance companies and attorneys know that these injuries will be claimed by most persons after being involved in a motor vehicle accident. Even though they may not be severe and/or permanent in nature, these injuries are not uncommon and are still viewed as legitimate injuries following a car accident.

What are The Biggest Value Drivers in Whiplash Cases?

The amount of medical bills, the cost of future care, and whether the injury is permanent are among the largest value drivers in whiplash cases. Fortunately, most cases of whiplash are temporary injuries, with a good recovery. Such cases may be worth hundreds to thousands of dollars more than the medical bills, depending on the severity of the injury. Sometimes a person suffers more seriously and does not fully recover. In such cases a doctor’s expert opinion is usually needed to prove the connection between the crash and the injury and to explain how and why the injury is permanent. Whiplash cases resulting in permanent injury can sometimes have a very high value, particularly if injections or surgery will be needed. Serious whiplash cases resulting in permanent injury can be worth thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the severity of injury.

symptoms of whiplash quote

Finally, if the insurance company’s adjuster fails to make a reasonable settlement offer in response to you or your attorney’s demand request, injury victims have the option to file a lawsuit. Your injuries will be proven in court using the medical records and the testimony of the treating doctors and other medical professionals. Know that in the State of Georgia, it may not be enough to just show up in Court and tell the Judge and Jury about your injuries – they may not believe you, and the defense will certainly argue that your explanation alone is not enough to justify a verdict. The best and safest practice is often to introduce the medical records and a narrative report of medical testimony from a medical witness who can explain your injuries to the Jury.

Our Law Firm: We Are Whiplash Injury Lawyers Near You

At The Millar Law Firm we are Atlanta, Georgia attorneys who specialize in proving whiplash cases and many other types of injuries that can result from car, truck, and motorcycle accidents.

We recommend that when reading attorney websites, you look to see where the law firm is “really” located. Many large firms work hard to obscure where they are actually located. You will see that many national advertisers are actually run or managed from outside of Georgia.

Whether you hire us or another law firm, we recommend that you research your attorney to make sure that he or she is local to your area and fully understands how to prove your case in Georgia. Law firms who advertise for cases all over the country may be spread thin or depend on referring cases to hungry or less experienced area lawyers.

Call us today for a free evaluation of your injury case and to learn more about our firm’s experience. If we are able to work with you and move forward with your injury case, We think you will be glad you did.

Article Summary

Proving damages and winning a settlement in a whiplash case, in or out of court, depends in large part upon the documentation gathered about the accident and the injuries it caused.

Ideally, you will have gone immediately to the emergency room to obtain treatment. Unfortunately, many whiplash symptoms don’t become apparent right away. This lapse in time between the crash and medical attention makes proving the injuries are a direct result of the accident more difficult. Delay in treatment can also make the injury appear to be less serious.

Getting medical help as soon as possible after the accident, as well as documenting the symptoms and prescribed treatments are critical to proving the severity of your injuries. It is also very important to attend all follow-up appointments for physical therapy.

- D. Lo
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