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Each year in the United States, more than three million people are injured in car accidents. Put that many people into a single city, and it would replace Chicago as the nation’s third-largest city. Although car accident victims have suffered every imaginable type of injury, some injuries are more common than others. Proving the true extent of certain types of injuries can be surprisingly difficult.
Whiplash and Other Soft Tissue Injuries
The term “whiplash” has become almost synonymous with a fraudulent injury claim. This is unfortunate because whiplash can be excruciatingly painful yet difficult to prove the existence of. Common whiplash symptoms include neck pain, back pain, blurred vision, tingling, and headache.
Whiplash injuries occur when your neck snaps forward and backward like a whip being cracked. Since whiplash is particularly likely to occur in a rear-end collision, this is one way to help prove its existence. You might need physical therapy, a neck brace, ice, and medication to recover from whiplash.
Lacerations slash the body at skin level or all the way to the bone. Windshields and windows shatter, seatbelts dig into the abdomen, airbags deploy, and you may hit the sharp metal edge of just about any part of the car. Surgery is sometimes required, and permanent disfigurement is a frequent consequence.
Ultimately, the human body is fragile, and parts of your skeleton can easily break from the force of an auto accident. The restraint of a seatbelt can fracture your ribs even as it prevents your body from flying through the windshield. Broken bones, however, usually do not do permanent damage except where the spine or the skull are involved.
Burns can be among the most painful of all injuries. Ironically third-degree burns are the least painful in the long term because the nerves themselves have become dysfunctional. Third-degree burns cause some of the worst forms of disfigurement, however. Most people don’t realize that airbags and seatbelts cause a large percentage of car accident burns. Wear your seatbelt anyway, because the alternative is worse.
Neck and Back Injuries
Neck and back injuries can cause chronic, lifelong pain as well as permanent paralysis. In addition to broken bones, the overwhelming force of an auto accident can cause herniations or ruptures of the discs of the spine. Do not ignore an injury like this, especially if pain persists beyond a few days.
Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
A traumatic brain injury can occur when your brain slams against the inside of your skull. The most insidious aspect of a concussion or TBI is that symptoms can be delayed for hours or even days after the accident. If you don’t seek medical treatment because you don’t believe you were injured, you run the risk that the insurance company will claim that your injuries were not even caused by your car accident. Be alert –TBI can drastically affect your personality and cognitive function.
Internal bleeding is a silent killer. It often occurs in conjunction with fractures, when a bone or another hard object penetrates your blood vessels. Even if it doesn’t kill you, internal bleeding can cause you to lose a limb, or it can cause your internal organs to fail. You might be suffering from internal bleeding even with no puncture wounds on your body.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
A serious auto accident is a traumatic event that can wound your psyche just as it can wound your body. You might develop a phobia of driving or even riding in an automobile. You might develop chronic anxiety, or you might suffer insomnia or nightmares. In any case, do not write off these symptoms as “only psychological.” They are serious, and they require attention. Treatment is available, and you should seek it if you develop PTSD symptoms.
How to Prove Pain and Suffering From Your Injuries
Medical expenses are relatively easy to prove once you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI), although estimating future medical expenses can be tricky. Lost earnings are usually relatively easy to prove as well. Disfigurement is not terribly difficult to prove either. Pain and suffering, however, is an element of your compensation that can be hard to prove.
That is too bad because one of the main reasons for proving the nature and extent of your injuries is to claim pain and suffering as a major portion of your compensation. Pain and suffering damages are important elements of your recovery that compensate you for physical suffering. Most people underestimate the amount that they can win. It is common for pain and suffering to add up to three to five times the amount of medical bills.
The trick in a pain and suffering claim is to prove just how much you suffered. Suffering is inherently subjective, and the challenge is to find objective evidence of subjective suffering. Following are some possible forms of evidence:
- X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, etc, from your doctor;
- An evaluation from a medical expert of the seriousness of your injuries and the extent of the pain that most people suffer with your kind of injuries;
- Evidence that you hired a babysitter because you were unable to care for your child;
- Evidence that you hired someone to take your children to school because you couldn’t drive;
- A prescription for sleeping pills or anti-anxiety medications, issued by your doctor in response to your complaints of insomnia (if you are claiming PTSD);
- Evidence that you have been undergoing counseling for depression, or that your doctor prescribed you antidepressants (if you are claiming PTSD);
- Photographs of your injuries over time.
- Photographs of you in a hospital bed (preferably looking pitiful) and at various stages of recovery; and
- Statements from witnesses of the extent of your suffering, especially from caregivers.
It is also a good idea to keep a journal in which you record your own experiences and how the accident has affected you. Describe your pain, its duration, what kind of assistance you required from caregivers, any activity you have had to give up or postpone, and any anxiety or depression that you have experienced.
Compensation for Your Injuries: Settlement vs. Trial
Almost any auto accident victim prefers settlement to trial. Defendants typically prefer settlement as well, which is why well over 90 percent of auto accident claims never make it to trial. Ironically, however, the best way to settle a car accident claim is to prepare well for trial and wait for the opposing party to lose their nerve. If your claim is sizable, a personal injury lawyer would be useful for this purpose–especially if they have a strong trial record.
Contact us today for a free consultation to see how we can help you with your auto accident claim. We may not be able to undo the hardships you’ve endured as a result of the accident, but we can and will fight to make sure that you’re compensated properly.