What You Should Know If You Have Been Involved In A Car Accident...and suffered from a whiplash injury.
If you have been in a car accident, you have a lot of things to think about. Did you know that one of the most stressful aspects of living in the modern age is dealing with the problems that arise after an auto accident?
Were you also aware that most accident injuries are hidden and often are not detected for months or even years? In one of the largest (and longest duration) research studies ever performed on whiplash injured patients looked at the injured 17 years after their accident. It was found that 55% of the accident victims were still suffering from pain caused by the original trauma. (Accident Analysis and Prevention, 2002). Fifty-five percent of those injured in a car accident still had some sort of pain 17 years later! That is a scary number!
Worse than that, most auto accident victims are unaware of the damaging effects of hidden injuries so they release the insurance company from liability by settling before getting checked for hidden injuries.
That is a “No-No!” Please Don’t let this happen to you!
Because if you do, you may experience pain, headaches, muscle stiffness, fatigue, and other problems months down the road. Nothing is more important than your health, especially when you start to lose it.
Here’s where the problem begins…
Most people who suffer from an auto accident have one thing on their mind; Their automobile!
Common questions include,
“Who is going to fix my car?”
“What will I drive in the meantime?”
“They’re fixing it with after-market parts?”
“Will my insurance rates go up?”
“Who is going to pay for everything?”
To sum it up, car accidents are a real pain!
Not only that, you may have noticed that since your accident, you have not been feeling your normal self. You may be experiencing obvious pains and symptoms like headaches, muscle stiffness, neck pain, difficulty sleeping, irritability, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and many other difficulties.
Either way, did you know that auto accidents can cause post traumatic osteoarthritis? Osteoarthritis can ruin your posture, cause discs in your spine to degenerate, produce severe pain, and lead to an inability to move properly. When this happens, simple tasks like turning your neck become almost impossible.
"SO WHAT DO I DO?" I created this report because I have noticed a common trend in my patients who have been involved in a car accident...no one really knows what to do after you have been hit. I mean really, who plans to be in a car accident?!? No one plans ahead and researches the steps to take after a car accident because no one PLANS on being in one.
So, what I have done is taken out all of the confusion as to what your next steps should be. Simply follow these steps and your car accident should be a far less stressful life event.
Step One- Call Your Car Insurance
This is an often confusing step for most depending on who was at fault in your car accident. A very common question that I hear is this, "If I was hit by someone else, why do I call MY insurance and not THEIR insurance?" Regardless of who was at fault you need to call your own insurance company because they are your "quarterback". A quarterback on the Seattle Seahawks is who the team goes to in their huddle, and that quarterback calls all the plays. In much the same way your insurance is who you go to after anything happens and they communicate with the other persons insurance.
If you are at fault, it is very, very important to call YOUR insurance company. The reason for this is the person that you hit will most likely call their insurance, who will call your insurance and its important to have your side of the story on record. I have had situations with my patients, in which they failed to report the accident to their insurance and it created a major headache for them. It is a simple call to make to avoid a ton of headache in the future. (Also, the law in the State of Washington is "no fault", meaning your insurance company handles your claim regardless of who is at fault. Your insurance company then collects from the other party's insurance when appropriate.)
Lastly, what if you do not have insurance? Well this is an interesting situation, but not at all uncommon. Maybe you were involved in a car accident in a cab or on a bus. Who do you call to report what has happened and who pays for any health care you may need to receive? Well, we are going to talk in far more depth on this in a little bit, but you need to get the advice of a good car accident attorney to help you navigate what can be an extremely confusing situation. Do not hesitate on this one because without some advice you may be left holding the bag without anyone to pay for your medical bills.
Step Two- Gather Any And All Information
After an accident there is so much going on! You have most likely been injured, you have adrenalin flowing through your veins, you mind is on the damage to your car...YIKES! Your next step is an important one because it is something that your doctor may need, an auto body shop may need, and who knows who else. The good news is, once you have compiled all this information it is done and you shouldn't have to do it again.
Here is a short list of information you will need:
If you are feeling ANY aches or pains following your accident (and especially if those aches and pains have not gone away after a couple days) you need to be examined by a doctor. We have already talked about how whiplash injuries can potentially continue to cause issues. I have found that one of the reasons this happens is because these people were not examined by a doctor who is a car accident specialist or perhaps not examined at all.
When you are researching whom you should go see, it is important that you are looking for a car accident specialist (or someone who sees a lot of car accident victims). Many doctors are not trained in the art of car accident injuries. In fact I have found that many doctors, once they are satisfied that you have not broken any bones or there is no "big" injuries will give you some pain meds and send you home. The problem with this approach is that they may be missing hidden ligament injuries which are extremely common and an often overlooked part of your injury that can continue to cause you a lot of pain.
If you are searching for a doctor to see following you accident, look for anyone who mentions that they specialize in car accident injuries. Another thing to look for is anyone who has or mentions they utilize "video motion x-rays", because this is one surefire way to assess for hidden ligament injuries. Don't go see just anyone! Going to see someone who does not specialize in your injury is like going to the podiatrist when you have an earache. They are probably not going to be able to help you like an EENT doctor will.
As a chiropractor, Dr. Michael Weir is specially trained in car accident and whiplash injuries, most specifically in the biomechanics of the human body. This means that he can perform specific orthopedic, neurological, as well as other functional tests that measure muscle strength, range of motion, and joint and nerve function. Special x-rays as well as motion x-rays are taken. Dr. Weir will analyzes the x-rays and results of the examination and to find out if there has been any structural damage.
"Dr. Weir is what is called a primary care doctor, so you will not need a referral from anyone else to see him."
Step Four- Order The Incident Report
If a police officer was called to the scene of your accident, odds are there was an "Incident Report" that was taken. This is simply where the officer makes a record of the event, tries to give an account of what happened, and takes interviews from both sides and any witnesses. An issue that seems to come up semi regularly is that the other person in the accident gives a completely different account of what happened. Now this is obviously an issue, because if they were at fault, but they are saying you are at fault it puts you at potential risk for being liable. If this is the case, it will be in your best interest to call a car accident attorney and get his or her advice.
"An issue that seems to come up semi regularly is that the other person in the accident gives a completely different account of what happened."
The other reason that you will want to request this report is because at times as the officer is interviewing you he may get some of the facts a little bit different than you had said. Obviously no one is a fault her. We are all human and sometimes there are communication issues. The point is that you will want to make sure that your interview is consistent with what was written in the report.
To order these reports, simply go to the website of police/highway patrol/sheriff (whom ever reported to the scene) and get the phone number of the station. When you call simply explain your situation and ask for the incident report. Some stations will ask that you pay a small office fee for them to get it to you.
Step Five- Call A Car Accident Attorney
The car accident you were involved in has many different part to it. There is the part that has to do with the damage to your car. There is the part that has to do with your medical treatment. There is a part that has to do with who is going to pay for the whole thing once it's all said and done. And then lastly there is the legal part. There are some accidents that are very straight forward. After you have completed steps one through four, it is all over. Then there are accidents that are extremely complex and require a little help. This is where a car accident attorney comes into play. Think of them as your car accident advocate. They will step in and deal with all of the complexities that certain car accidents can bring.
"Think of them as your car accident advocate."
Now, like I said, not all cases need an attorney. To know if you need help on your case, simply find a "car accident attorney" (sometimes they are called personal injury attorneys) and ask if they have complimentary consultations. Most attorneys will have free consultations for you to explain your situation and allow the attorney to better tell you if retaining an attorney is necessary.
Step Six- Get Everything Better!
This is the point at which you just need to focus on getting everything better! Get your car better, and get your body feeling better. This can require some time and energy on your part depending on how bad your injuries were. Know, that it is worth putting in the time now to get better so that these problems do not follow you for the rest of your life.
"...you just need to focus on getting everything better!"
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Should I see an attorney first, before I see Dr. Weir?
It is important that you get checked by Dr. Weir first, that way his findings will allow you the information you need in order to decide if an attorney is necessary. We have found that there are certain cases that are fairly straight forward and Dr. Weir and his staff can help you navigate things without the help of an attorney. The only way to know for sure if to sit down with him and discuss your case and perform an examination.
First call (425)635-0495 and mention that you would like to schedule a Whiplash Injury Detection Test with Dr. Weir. His office is trained in handling all the paperwork to see that your rights are protected and that your injuries are thoroughly documented. Injuries are easier to find if you do not wait weeks after the accident… so the sooner you are checked the better.
2. “But my car only has minor damage?”
A “Controlled Low Speed Impact Testing” conducted at the University of British Columbia proved that there is more damage to vehicle occupants if the vehicle does not wreck. And additional research says that the amount of damage to an automobile bears little relation to the force applied to the cervical spine of the occupants.
Gargen and Bannister reported a late onset of neck pain, extremity pain or paresthesia, interscapular pain, tinnitus, headache, dizziness, and visual disturbances after one week. Nerve damage can lead to Carpel Tunnel Syndrome up to 2 years later.
All in all, significant injury can occur to the spine even in a low impact collision.
3. "What is PIP?"
PIP stands for "personal injury protection" and it is the portion of your car insurance that covers medical costs following a car accident. You can simply look at your car insurance policy or call your car insurance company to see if you have this type of coverage.
4. "What if I do not have PIP insurance or no insurance at all?"
This is a common predicament to be in and we see this quite often. The problem with being underinsured in any way is that it can leave you vulnerable to not getting the medical care you may need. Many physicians, clinics, and hospitals do not take patients who have been involved in car accident without proper insurance.
Your first step in this situation needs to be to check and see if you have health insurance that may cover your care. Insurances like Regence, or Premera can cover medical costs when you are not insured through your car insurance. The problem is that most health insurances either have a high deductible or are insufficient to cover the full cost of care.
Thankfully, at Back in Action Chiropractic, Dr. Weir takes cases on what is called a "lein". What that means is that we find it so important to take care of injured patients that we are willing to wait to get paid until your care has ended. Now this process is slightly more complicated, but the outcome is that you will get the care you need in order to feel great again.
If you have any questions about this please call our office and schedule a time to sit down with Dr. Weir for an absolutely FREE consultation where he can answer any questions you may have.
5. "My insurance company has contacted me and is offering a settlement. What should I do?"
While the final decision is always up to you, if you have not been seen by a physician following your accident I highly recommend doing so before you accept any type of settlement. I have seen far too many of my patients be left with lingering issues the rest of their life and not have the resources to pay for any type of care.
A Personal Note From Dr. Weir:
“Hello, my name is Dr. Michael Weir and I am the clinic director of Bellevue Whiplash Center at Back in Action Chiropractic. If you have been in an auto accident recently, there are some important decisions you have to make and if I were you I’d make these decisions very seriously.
Most of my patients have been to other doctors before coming to my office for my specialized care. In my experience the vast majority of people that are in a car accident suffer from a variety of injuries. It is very important that you are checked to see if you have sustained any correctable injuries. You are welcome to visit our Injury Center and get a Whiplash Injury ProAdjuster scan test to detect any hidden injuries. This is at no obligation to you, just to give you peace of mind of what may be going on in your body.”
You have rights, and you may not be aware of what those rights are. You also need to know that most doctors are not trained in treating soft tissue injuries.
Soft tissue injuries are usually more dangerous than even a broken bone. Broken bones can heal up pretty fast and well. Soft tissues heal with scar tissue and cause future pain and suffering. Scar tissue can affect tendons, ligaments, discs, joints, blood supply, lymph nodes, range of motion, muscle strength and can rapidly speed up the degenerative processes of the spine known as
Post Traumatic Osteoarthritis.
A good majority of our patients with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome had experienced an auto accident in the previous 5 years and #1.) received no treatment because they thought they just had the "normal" headaches and sore neck that you usually get from car accidents. 0r #2.) Had conservative medical treatment. (“All you have is muscle spasms, take Advil and muscle relaxer”, which may be an important part to the healing process, but not the whole thing!)
There have been reports recently of insurance companies contacting accident victims immediately after the accident. The companies tell victims they want to help and ask them to settle their claim. If you’re in an accident and this happens to you, ask yourself, whom is the insurance company really trying to help?
It is my opinion that using an attorney is a wise choice since lawyers can help clients get all the money they are entitled to after an accident. Most accident victims don’t know all their legal rights or all they are entitled to under the insurance policy.
The insurance industry’s own research shows that car accident victims receive more money when represented by a lawyer.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Michael Weir
Clinic director at Bellevue Whiplash Center at Back in Action Chiropractic
“Working to get you Back in Action”
P.S. If you have ANY questions, call the office at (425)635-0495 and we would be happy to answer them.
Dr. Michael Weir is the clinic director at Bellevue Whiplash Center at Back in Action Chiropractic. We will also be hosting a variety of relevant guest bloggers to help you understand your injuries better.