Question: I was in an automobile accident about two weeks ago. The other driver was at fault. I did not think I was hurt and never sought medical treatment. Recently, however, I am experiencing some difficulty in my neck and shoulders and have gone to my doctor for treatment. It appears that I may have to go for physical therapy treatments and these injuries may have some long-term effects. Can I still file a claim against the other party?
In the State of Ohio, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury action based upon negligence is two years from the date of the accident, assuming that you are an adult. Therefore, you can still present a claim for your injuries to the other party’s insurance carrier.
If there is a lengthy delay between the injury and treatment, causation may be a problem. That is, the insurance company will question whether your injury and treatment are actually the result of the auto collision. It is best to seek treatment as soon as the problems occur. Two weeks is not a long time and there should be no problem in establishing the connection between your injury and the auto collision.
In fact, it is often the case with whiplash-type injuries that the symptoms are mild initially, but intensify within 48 to 72 hours. The most common complaint after a whiplash-type injury is neck pain in the cervical and upper back region. Any rotation of the head or neck at the time of impact increases the force imparted to the cervical/neck or shoulder area. Other symptoms include decreased range of motion, headaches, shoulder pain, dizziness, and visual and auditory disturbances. Often, whiplash injuries have no objective findings and negative x-rays.
Whiplash injured patients have three times the incidence of neck and/or shoulder pain seven years post-accident compared to a normal population. 84% of patients who sustained a second whiplash injury reported recurrence and/or worsening of previously resolved neck and arm symptomatology. Of those patients reporting a recurrence, 97% were symptom-free before the second accident.
Short-term immobilization, followed by active physical therapy with a return to normal daily activities, seems to be paramount for quicker resolution of symptoms. The majority of patients report resolution of their symptoms by 4 to 6 weeks, but up to one-third of them may complain of chronic neck/arm symptoms. In fact, approximately 15 million Americans currently complain of chronic whiplash symptoms. Surgery is rarely indicated in treating whiplash patients and is reserved for ligament instability, worsening cervical deformity and other neurological complaints.
Whiplash associated disorders are caused by acceleration/deceleration injuries, as the automobile and its occupants are forced forward while the occupant’s head and neck are forced backward, and are most often seen after rear-end motor vehicle accidents. Higher speeds at impact result in increased force to the passenger and increased head acceleration/deceleration. Just before a rear-end collision, drivers often rotate the head to look into the rearview mirror, increasing the facet capsule strain leading to injury. Headrests in a car should be at the level of the ear, the head’s center of gravity. The more reclined the seat is at the time of the collision, the larger the arc of motion of the head and neck, which increase neck injury.
It is important that you receive the proper treatment for your injuries in a timely fashion. This will help not only to ensure your physical well-being, but will help establish the relationship between your injuries and the collision.
You should definitely pursue your case by seeing an attorney. We would be happy to meet with you for a free initial consultation. Contact our office for further information or representation, and we will be glad to give you our personal attention. You may also visit our website at sternbergandzeid.com or you may e-mail us at [email protected] .