Rear End Car Accident Compensation Myths

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rear end collision between grey and blue sedans
Victims of rear-end collisions often suffer serious injuries. Victims who are not wearing safety harnesses might experience head, chest, or limb injuries as their bodies are thrown forward, striking the windshield, steering wheel, or dashboard. Since those injuries produce visible marks (cuts, bruises, or worse), there is little doubt that the injuries are real. Victims who are belted into a safety harness usually sustain neck injuries as their heads snap backward and forward.

Insurance adjusters, making air quotes and speaking through a sneer, like to refer to rear-end neck injuries as "whiplash" injuries because the term "whiplash" has developed negative connotations. The belief that whiplash injuries are more often fake than real is one of five myths we expose in this article.

Myth 1: Most whiplash injuries are exaggerated or faked

Every now and then someone fakes a whiplash injury. The problem seems to be particularly prevalent in England, where scammers have recently been faking collisions in order to file fraudulent insurance claims. Unfortunately, insurance adjusters rely on reports of insurance fraud to spread the myth that all whiplash claims are fake. No responsible personal injury attorney wants to help clients make false claims. Legitimate neck injuries that arise from rear-end collisions occur every day.

So many people need help collecting fair compensation from insurance companies that no reputable attorney would risk his or her license by being a party to insurance fraud. The fact is that rear-end collisions produce neck injuries that follow a clear and predictable pattern. Doctors can easily spot patients who are faking an injury because their claims of pain and disability are not consistent with that pattern. Few American doctors will risk their careers and reputations by helping patients make false claims of whiplash injuries.

Myth 2: Only visible injuries follow a rear-end collision

A rear-end collision pushes the injury victim's vehicle forward. Car seats push the occupants forward at the same speed but unsupported heads hang in space momentarily before snapping back. The vehicle's rapid acceleration is followed by deceleration that causes the head to move forward again. If the vehicle is pushed into another vehicle or a fixed object like a wall or pole, the victim's head moves forward even more rapidly. The quick backward/forward movement of the head can damage soft tissues in the neck.

That damage can also cause impingement syndrome, producing pain in the shoulders. Rear-end collisions can also cause brain injuries by forcing the brain to collide with the skull. Neither soft tissue injuries nor brain injuries can be seen by looking at the accident victim, but the injuries are real. A CT-scan and an MRI may or may not produce evidence of the injuries, but medical science has established that many head and neck injuries cannot be observed with diagnostic equipment.

Myth 3: A victim who does not report neck pain immediately is faking a neck injury

Some rear-end accident victims notice discomfort in their necks at the time of the collision, but many are so rattled by the accident that they pay no attention to their mild neck pain. Others feel nothing at all. When paramedics or police officers write accident reports that fail to include complaints of neck pain, insurance adjusters will claim that the victims are inventing an injury when they first see a doctor about neck pain a few days after the collision.

The truth is that injuries to soft tissues in the neck (muscles, ligaments, and discs) may not produce significant pain, stiffness, or other symptoms until hours or days have passed. Some studies have documented delays of more than a week before the onset of symptoms following a rear-end collision.

Myth 4: No serious injury can follow a rear-end collision that produces only minor damage to the vehicle

Insurance adjusters are particularly fond of spreading the myth that low impact collisions do not produce serious injuries. If they do not see a crumpled trunk, they argue that the force of the collision could not have harmed the vehicle's occupants.

That myth has been laid to rest by crash test studies. Collisions of less than 3 mph can injure a vehicle's occupants. Vehicle damage, on the other hand, may not occur until crash speeds of 8 or 9 mph. Those studies merely confirm what is obvious: cars made of steel are sturdier than bodies made of flesh, bones, and soft tissues.

Myth 5: Since liability for a rear-end collision is obvious, I can settle my claim without a lawyer

Even when the responsibility for a collision is obvious, insurance adjusters will look for a way to blame the victim. More importantly, they will rely on all the other myths to argue that a victim's injuries are either illusory or insignificant.

Injury victims may be able to settle their own cases if their injuries are minor (but only after waiting to make sure that the injuries do not worsen or fail to heal). To maximize compensation for a serious injury, however, victims need the help of a rear end car accident lawyer  who knows how to counter the myths that insurance adjusters rely upon to avoid paying claims.
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