Minor Back or Neck Pain – Should I Still Contact a Personal Injury Attorney?
As a personal injury attorney in South Florida, I am surprised at the number of people who do not immediately contact an attorney after a car accident, especially a rear-end collision, as a result of only exhibiting (what the victim considers) minor back and neck pain or headaches.
In a rear-end collision (even at low speeds such as 8 to 10 mph), a victim’s neck is quickly accelerated then decelerated (commonly called “whiplash”) which can cause tremendous damage to the victim’s muscles and ligaments that stabilize the cervical discs. Whiplash can occur from even low velocity as the force of the car is absorbed by the occupants of the vehicle– especially if the vehicle does not dent or crumple. The potential for injury is oftentimes worse if the victim’s body does not have the opportunity to “prepare” for the impact.
Immediately after a whiplash event, a victim’s adrenaline kicks in followed by gradual swelling. The swelling is the body’s defense mechanism to heal the affected area. Typically swelling following a whiplash-related accident peaks approximately 72 hours after the accident although this varies by victim. This is one reason why a victim’s neck (especially the back of their neck) hurts a few days following the accident, instead of immediately following the accident. In many of our cases (even in cases with serious injuries such as multi-level disc herniations), the police report reads that the victim “did not report pain”.
Another reason for the delayed onset of pain is that the victim typically “guards” their neck and upper back by “taking it easy” after a car accident (i.e. take a day or two off from work, skip the gym, etc). After a few days, the victim goes back to their normal routine only to realize that they have sharp, dull or burning neck or shoulder pain and/or radiating pain into their shoulders, hands, and/or fingers.
Additionally, in some cases the victim admits themselves into a hospital following a car accident. The hospital performs a “cursory” examination (including X-Rays) to uncover any catastrophic injuries and sends the victim on their way with a prescription for Motrin. Very rarely does the hospital have the victim undergo a MRI to check for soft tissue injures (damage of muscle, ligaments, and tendons) as MRIs are expensive. Since X-rays are used to examine bones and not soft tissue they will not uncover whiplash-related injuries.
So I’ll contact a personal injury attorney a few days after the accident, what’s the “big deal”?
After a car accident, the at-fault insurance company may call the victim seemingly to discuss their property damage claim. During these conversations, the at-fault insurance company may try to “resolve” the victim’s claim before the victim’s injuries manifest themselves and before they retain a personal injury attorney. The at-fault insurance adjuster is NOT your friend. The at-fault insurance adjuster may manipulate the victim’s statements so they admit (1) partial liability (i.e. not paying attention, texting, bad brakes, etc.) or (2) that they were not seriously injured or even injured at all. These statements are terribly damaging to a victim’s case at litigation. Remember, the victim will very likely not realize the true extent of their injuries until a few days after the accident, especially in whiplash-related cases. Also, insurance companies oftentimes argue that since the victim did not receive immediate medical treatment, he/she must not have been injured in the motor vehicle accident.
As a result, the victim should NEVER discuss the extent of their injuries or liability with any insurance company until after they speak with an experienced accident attorney.
The bottom line, personal injury attorneys such as Lyons, Snyder & Collin offer FREE consultations. It can only be in the victim’s benefit to discuss their case with an experienced accident attorney immediately following any whiplash related accident.