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What is the average settlement for whiplash?

More than 4 million people experience injuries caused by car accidents every year in the United States, and the most common of those injuries occur in the neck and back. Car accidents have a big economic impact, accounting for $871 million in annual costs to citizens. Nearly half of that is in direct medical costs. If you suffered neck pain following a car accident, you should see a doctor immediately. If the pain is caused by a condition called whiplash, you could receive compensation for your medical bills and other damages.

What Is Whiplash?

Whiplash injuries are caused by the sudden and unexpected stopping of a vehicle in motion, most commonly in rear-end collisions. It happens less frequently in head-on and side-impact crashes. The forceful bending of the neck caused by the collision can damage the bones, muscles, nerves, and soft tissue around the top of the spinal cord. The severity of the injury varies from mild to very serious and can last anywhere from a few days up to years. Without proper medical care, it can cause severe pain and potentially further damage.


In the immediate aftermath of a car accident, the rush of adrenaline can mask the pain caused by internal injuries. However, the physical effects of whiplash often occur quickly. Some common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the neck, shoulder, lower back, arm, or hand
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness in the extremities, such as hands
  • Blurred vision
  • Problems with focus and memory retention
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Tiredness and irritability
  • Ringing in the ears

The individual symptoms can look like other conditions. However, a medical professional can easily diagnose and treat the problem. A more serious whiplash injury causes problems with coordination and mental health issues, often presenting as dramatic changes in mood and behavior. Tingling and numbness indicate nerve issues and require immediate medical attention. 

Diagnosis and Treatment

Most physicians recognize whiplash quickly based on the presentation of symptoms and the conditions of the accident that caused the injury. They may order an x-ray to document injuries to muscles and bones, and an MRI or CT scan to assess potential damage to soft tissues. 

The specific treatment varies depending on your overall health and the extent of your injuries. Some common treatments include ice application, wearing a neck collar, a prescription for muscle relaxers, and recommended use of anti-inflammatory medication. If the pain is persistent, you may need ongoing physical therapy treatments. 

What Factors May Impact Your Whiplash Case Settlement?

There is no exact number to adequately represent a definitive average settlement in a whiplash case. The amounts vary so greatly that the best you can get is a ballpark figure that can range anywhere from $3,000 to $100,000 depending on a number of situational factors. Some elements of a whiplash case that could affect your settlement include:

  • The severity of your injuries. Short-term effects often amount to a lower settlement. You should still receive compensation for any pain and suffering caused by another person’s negligence, but more severe injuries incur larger settlements. The difference is due to more extensive treatment for long-term complications that may also require a future treatment plan.
  • Your level of income prior to the accident and how long you were out of work. Economic damages include loss of wages. A higher-paying position will require a higher claim in your settlement. Additionally, how long you were out of work affects the amount you receive. If your injuries cause you to lose work hours in the future, you may also request compensation for future lost wages or earning potential.
  • The extent of your medical expenses. This falls in line with the severity of your injuries. More severe injuries may accrue higher medical bills. If you have long-term whiplash complications, you may require future treatment, such as regular physical therapy, that your settlement should cover. 
  • Your health prior to the accident. If you suffer from a pre-existing condition, it could affect your compensation. The insurance adjuster may limit coverage for treatments that relate to your condition and label them unrelated to the accident.
  • The distribution of responsibility for the accident. Your own insurance policy may cover injuries caused by the accident regardless of who is at fault. However, you must prove that the other driver bears responsibility in order to file a claim with his or her insurance company. If both parties share responsibility for the accident, the amount of compensation you receive reflects the percentage of fault the other person bears. For example, if the value of damages is $10,000 and you are 20 percent responsible, you pay $2,000 and the other party pays $8,000. Some states use the pure comparative fault law that allows you to recover compensation regardless of your percentage of responsibility. Others operate under modified comparative fault law, which states that you are not eligible for compensation if you bear more than 50 percent responsibility. 

The potential for non-economic damages also impacts your settlement. These include pain, suffering, and emotional distress. They sometimes account for the largest part of your settlement, but they are difficult to quantify if you do not have experience in personal injury law. An experienced personal injury attorney knows how to value your claim and quantify non-financial losses associated with your case. 

Other pragmatic matters to consider include the amount of insurance coverage available and whether or not you have an attorney. If your losses exceed the maximum amount of coverage in the policy, you may only receive what the policy offers. Additionally, personal injury settlements are overwhelming larger in cases where the plaintiff has legal representation. Therefore, hiring an attorney can greatly impact your final settlement.

What Happens if Your Case Does Not Settle?

Most personal injury cases settle during the negotiation process. When both parties are not able to come to an agreement, they may seek alternative methods to settlement, such as mediation or arbitration. When all else fails, your case can go to trial. Sometimes the insurance company refuses to make a fair offer and opts to take a chance and go to court. However, this is rare. Most companies find trial more costly than it is worth and decide to settle. One major advantage of hiring a personal injury attorney is that he or she prepares for trial from the start, ensuring that all necessary documents and evidentiary support are available should a trial be the only answer. 

It is also important to remember that you, more often than not, should not accept the first settlement offer. Low-balling is a common tactic used by insurance companies, particularly if you do not have legal representation. Your patience level may also affect the amount of your settlement. If you are willing to wait it out, you may receive a higher settlement. Your attorney will advise you on the best time to settle. 

How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help You?

Auto accidents cause physical, emotional, and financial damage, and navigating the complicated legal process of a personal injury case can be overwhelming during such a vulnerable time. If you suffered a whiplash injury in a car accident, let the car accident attorneys at Fielding Law explore your case and help you get the compensation that you need and deserve. Call us today and schedule a consultation.