Soft Tissue Injuries in Motor Vehicle Accidents
Some of the most common injuries sustained in a car accident are soft tissue injuries. These refer to the muscles, tendons and ligaments that become strained, sprained, torn or bruised as a result of a twist or blow to the body. In the context of an auto accident, these types of injuries frequently occur in rear-end accidents.
A rear-impact can produce a whiplash type reaction to the occupant’s neck and back, also referred to as an acceleration/deceleration type of force. Upon impact, the driver’s head is first thrown backwards before suddenly whipping forward and then back again. This action can tear or strain the muscles and tendons of the neck or back as they twist and stretch during the body’s movement. For older people and those who are not in particularly good physical condition, this type of injury can cause long lasting effects.
After an impact, you may feel dazed or slightly dizzy and not immediately experience other symptoms. At the scene, you may refuse medical attention if you are not bleeding or suffered any broken bones or another injury. However, you may not begin experiencing certain symptoms for hours or even for days after the accident. These commonly include:
- Neck pain
- Restrictions on neck movement
- Stiffness and swelling in the neck
- Tingling in the hands
- Shooting pain traveling down your arms and legs
- Shoulder and back pain
- Memory loss
- Nervousness and irritability
- Mood changes
Symptoms may last a few days to several months or even longer in some cases. The initial treatment generally consists of icing the affected area, taking over the counter pain medications, rest and applying heat after the swelling has dissipated.
For cases where symptoms persist, many claimants seek chiropractic care. These practitioners will use more sophisticated treatments such as ultrasound or a TENS unit along with massage and manipulation of the spine. Treatments can cost thousands of dollars and last from 2 to 4 months in typical cases.
Soft tissue injuries can also mask more serious injuries such as herniated or bulging discs or temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), which can occur in motor vehicle accidents.
Subjective Injuries and Token Settlements
Soft tissue injuries and their symptoms are subjective. X-rays and other diagnostic tests do not show tears or strains nor the extent of an injury. Despite the prevalence of such injuries among car accident victims, especially in rear-end collisions, insurance adjusters are generally skeptical when you allege such injuries since their severity or even existence, is difficult to prove.
Car accident attorneys have to prepare for insurance adjuster skepticism and the token settlement offers they typically present in soft tissue injury cases. To do this, your attorney may present the following:
- The extensive damage to your vehicle
- The immediate onset of symptoms or symptoms that were experienced within a day or two
- Your inability to work
- Your inability to engage in normal daily activities such as driving, cleaning, cooking, picking up children, or recreational activities
- That you promptly sought medical treatment
- The results of your clinical examination by health care provider
- Period of treatment and cost
Testimony from a physician or chiropractor, or at least a well-drafted report, is essential in these cases. A chiropractor will have to show that the symptoms presented were credible and that the patient was not fabricating or exaggerating. Claimants who have not previously presented such claims and who have sound character traits and present themselves as credible and believable will often receive more generous settlement offers. If the case does not settle and goes to trial, your attorney may seek the testimony of a medical doctor to corroborate the chiropractor’s findings and opinions.
In no-fault auto accident States, you must meet certain thresholds before you can bring a claim against the party who caused the accident. These include having medical expenses of a certain amount, sustaining a permanent injury, serious injury, or a fatal one. In other states, there is no threshold, and you can bring a claim for any minor injuries.
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