Whiplash lawsuits and the average settlement – when you have neck pain and stiffness after a car accident
Florida is notorious for car accidents. And that means Florida also sees a lot of whiplash injuries. When it’s time to recover for damages, what is the typical payout or settlement amount?
Whether the high number of car accidents is because of poorly-designed infrastructure, insurance requirements, or simply too many people in too small a space, nobody really knows. What we do know is that it doesn’t take much of a car crash to cause an injury like whiplash.
A quick refresher on whiplash
Whiplash occurs when your head snaps forward and backward (or side to side) from the impact of a car accident. They are most often associated with rear-end accidents, though any type of force would be enough to result in this disorder.
Whiplash is the most common of injuries when it comes to car crashes
Common symptoms include:
- Neck pain
- Stiffness in the neck and shoulders
- Arm pain or weakness (this indicates a pinched nerve in your neck)
- Jaw stiffness and soreness
- Dizziness, nausea or vomiting
Whiplash treatment involves keeping the neck as fluid as possible. Those who refrain from physical activity actually heal slower than those who use a combination of activity, stretching and periods of rest with a cervical collar. Simple range-of-motion exercises are helpful in recovery, though all regimens should be approved by a healthcare professional. Other treatments include physical therapy, chiropractic work, trigger point injections or epidural steroid injections.
What is the typical payout for whiplash injury?
The important thing to remember is that each state is different. Here we focus on Florida when looking at the typical payout or the average settlement for whiplash.
Florida normally requires that your whiplash be a permanent injury in order for you to recover damages for pain and suffering (of course, there are always exceptions). This is codified in Florida’s tort law:
(2) In any action of tort brought against the owner, registrant, operator, or occupant of a motor vehicle with respect to which security has been provided as required by ss. 627.730-627.7405, or against any person or organization legally responsible for her or his acts or omissions, a plaintiff may recover damages in tort for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience because of bodily injury, sickness, or disease arising out of the ownership, maintenance, operation, or use of such motor vehicle only in the event that the injury or disease consists in whole or in part of:
(a) Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.
(b) Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement.
(c) Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
This means that you must wait until your injuries have reached maximum medical improvement, or the stage at which your physical health is unlikely to improve or degenerate. If you have a significant injury, you will then be able to proceed with a personal injury lawsuit for your car accident.
Florida normally requires that your whiplash be a permanent injury in order for you to recover damages for pain and suffering
However, do keep in mind that Florida’s no-fault law will cover typical payouts for slight to moderate whiplash injuries.
Drivers are required to carry “personal injury protection” insurance, or PIP, of at least $10,000. This primary insurance is what typically drivers use in an accident payout. Your personal medical insurance will be used if you exhaust the PIP limits or if your primary insurance carrier denies coverage. No-fault insurance covers expenses no matter who caused the accident, and the $10,000 payout limit is normally enough to cover a hospital visit, lost wages, medical necessities, and a few physical therapy visits. As such, whiplash injuries are normally not litigated in Florida, as PIP insurance handles most claims.
However, if you have a preexisting injury that a whiplash accident exacerbates, you can pursue a claim.
This is based on the “eggshell plaintiff rule,” which essentially states that you take the plaintiff as you find them, in any condition. The defendant is responsible for the accident and its ensuing damage, especially if that damage worsens a previous physical issue. This goes beyond the typical payout for whiplash injury. You will need documentation of your injuries both before and after your accident, so make sure to see your doctor.
Whiplash injuries are normally not litigated in Florida, as PIP insurance handles most claims. However, if you have a preexisting injury that a whiplash accident exacerbates, you can pursue a claim.
Because PIP insurance covers most whiplash injuries, an award from a jury will likely not reach more than $10,000 to $15,000. They will take your pain and suffering into account when calculating damages, as well as your degree of fault in causing the accident. That, plus medical bills and lost wages, along with a pain and suffering multiplier between 1.5 and 4, will likely result in a settlement less than $20,000.
See more on how pain and suffering is calculated.
Remember that many Florida drivers (almost 25%) forsake the insurance requirement and drive with none. You should buy an underinsurance policy, which gives you another option for recovery if your medical bills exceed the amount covered by PIP after an auto accident.
When to get a lawyer for a whiplash claim
If your medical professional tells you that your injuries are permanent, you should pursue a whiplash claim. Florida gives you four years to file an accident for personal injury, but don’t procrastinate until the end of that window. Contact us today if you need a Florida attorney to assist you with your whiplash claim.