If you’re wondering whether you can claim workers compensation settlement for whiplash, yes you can. But it won’t be easy.
A whiplash injury happens when your head and neck are forced forward then backward so suddenly causing a strain on your muscles and tendons and putting extreme stress on your cervical spine. It’s one of the most common types of neck injuries caused by a car accident, especially in rear-end collisions.
Due to the nature of the injury, the symptoms of whiplash can vary widely. The pain can range from a mild tingling sensation to debilitating. Some people may also experience neck stiffness, shoulder pain, and numbness that extends from the shoulder down to the arms.
Though whiplash injuries rarely cause lasting disabilities, they can still be pretty disabling. Some cases have even resulted in temporary reduced physical and mental capabilities.
So if you’re planning to file a workers compensation claim for whiplash, here’s a quick guide to give you an idea of how much settlement you can expect.
How Much is the Average Settlement for Whiplash?
There’s no actual data that accurately reflects the average settlement for whiplash injuries as most whiplash claims are often lumped together with other neck injuries. According to the National Safety Council, the average settlement for neck injuries including whiplash amounts to $58,507.
Most insurers, however, estimate that the average settlement for whiplash can range anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000. But it can go as high as $100,000 depending on the extent of your injury.
In general, there is no minimum settlement amount for whiplash injury. But if your symptoms are very mild and you’ve recovered quickly, your compensation will obviously be lower.
For work-related whiplash injuries, the compensation tends to be higher. But of course, this depends on the state. In Florida, the average settlement for neck injuries like whiplash is $33,323 in 2021 alone. But in 2012, the average even went as high as $37,363.
Besides, workers comp settlements typically include medical benefits and lost wages compensation. So your actual settlement amount will depend on the medical and wage loss benefits you’re entitled to.
How Common is Whiplash?
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke estimates that around 3 million Americans suffer from whiplash each year. Many of which resulted from a car accident.
The statistics also suggest that people 30 to 50 years of age are more prone to whiplash injuries. This type of injury is also more common in women than men.
Though most whiplash injuries aren’t fatal, more than half of them can lead to some form of chronic symptoms. Pre-existing illnesses like arthritis also increases the likelihood of the injury to cause severe pain.
On average, it takes 17 weeks for the neck to stabilize after a whiplash injury. More than 75% of patients also experience symptoms for up to 6 months after the accident. While 22% of injured patients fail to “return to normal” even after 2 years.
Why It’s Hard to Get Workers Compensation for Whiplash Injuries
Whiplash, as mentioned, is a type of neck injury caused by vigorous and sudden back-and-forth motion. This stretches the tissues and tendons in the neck, damaging them. It can also hurt your cervical spine resulting to severe pain and disabling symptoms.
But unlike most types of injuries, whiplash symptoms don’t usually show up immediately after the accident. And sometimes, the true extent of the injury will only become apparent months later. This makes it hard to get workers compensation for whiplash injuries.
In most states, work-related injuries have to be reported within a certain number of days. Failure to do so will give your employer reason to deny your claim. But if the symptoms take time to show up, reporting your injury on time can be difficult.
Another reason why it’s hard to claim compensation for this type of injury is the nature of the injury itself. You see, soft-tissue injuries like whiplash don’t show up in x-rays or other diagnostic tools. As such, it’s hard to get a medical document to support your claim. This is why whiplash claims are often written off as nuisance claims.
In addition, most whiplash symptoms go away in a week. In Florida, you won’t get wage loss compensation for the first seven days of disability. Some states also have similar rules. This means you’ll only get medical benefits but not your lost wages if you can get back to work within 7 days.
Factors Affecting Whiplash Injury Settlement
Like most work-related injuries, the settlement amount you can get from whiplash depends on factors like:
The Severity of Your Injury
Since workers comp medical benefits pay for all medical bills and expenses, the severity of your injury will affect your settlement amount. The more severe your symptoms, the more expensive your medical bills will usually be.
Unlike personal injury claims, workers comp doesn’t pay for psychological damages like anxiety or depression. Your employer is only required by law to pay for medical costs and supplies. So if you’re only experiencing mild symptoms, you can’t expect thousands of dollars in compensation.
How Many Days You Miss Work
Aside from medical benefits, a workers comp settlement will also include lost wages compensation. That is if you miss a significant time off work.
In most cases, the wage loss benefit is equal to 66.67% of your average weekly wage. So if you were earning $1,000 before your injury, expect to get about $667 a week.
But unless the damage goes way beyond a simple muscle strain, whiplash injuries rarely last long. Nor do they cause permanent disability. That’s why lost wages compensation for whiplash injuries aren’t usually that much.
The Mode of Payment
Workers’ comp settlement can be paid in two ways: lump sum or periodic payments. If your claim is approved, you’ll be asked how you prefer to be paid.
If you choose to be paid in lump sum, obviously, you’ll only receive payment once. They’ll estimate how long your injury will last and compute your compensation accordingly. It’s usually a huge sum but you won’t be able to request any more after that.
Periodic payments, on the other hand, entitle you to monthly checks until you’re able to go back to work. If your injury will last only a few weeks, obviously, the amount won’t be that much.
Understanding the Whiplash Grading System
Doctors tend to use a grading system to determine the severity of a whiplash injury. The five-tier system takes into account the symptoms and any physical impairment the patient suffers to determine the extent of their condition.
Here’s an overview of the whiplash grading system:
- The patient doesn’t show any symptoms or injury
- No injury complaints are made
- Chronic neck pains lasting up to months after the accident
- No physical signs of injury
- Complaints of neck pain
- Shows physical signs of musculoskeletal injury
- Complaints of chronic neck pain
- Shows signs of neurological disorders
- Signs of chronic neck pain
- Cervical spine fractures
- Fatal cervical spine injuries
Even if your doctor rates your whiplash injury as Grade zero, it doesn’t mean that you’re injured. As mentioned, the symptoms of whiplash injury can take several days to show. That’s why it’s still important to report your injury to your employer even if the symptoms aren’t yet apparent.
Is It Worth Suing for Whiplash?
In most cases, whiplash injuries aren’t that serious. So most people find it bothersome to go through a lengthy lawsuit just for it. But there are instances when a whiplash injury can lead to more serious long-term conditions.
Some workers who suffered from a whiplash injury reported chronic symptoms like:
- neck painb
- impaired neck movement
These symptoms can affect a worker’s productivity and may even impair their ability to work. So if you won’t sue for whiplash, you’ll have a hard time claiming compensation if it leads to a more serious medical condition.
To know if your injury is even worth filing a legal claim, you should consult an experienced worker’s comp lawyer like Victor Malca. He has already helped thousands of injured workers in Florida. He can help you get fair compensation for your injuries too. Call us now for a free consultation.
VICTOR MALCA – Florida Workers Compensation & Social Security Disability Attorney
Victor Malca P.A. has over 27 years of litigation experience in Workers Compensation and Social Security Disability lawsuits. His experience and continued success when fighting for his clients puts him among the most trusted workers’ compensation attorney’s in Florida. He specializes in representing injured workers on compensation benefit cases and disabled individuals claiming lost social security disability benefits.
Book a free consultation today. Our unwavering advocacy for employee rights and privileges are recognized by our past clients across South Florida.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a writer and editor for the Victor Malca Law P.A. website and blog. She enjoys helping people in need with questions about social security disability and workers compensation law. She has a passion for helping those in need and the elderly with accurate legal information that can make a positive difference in their lives.