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Neck Injuries Complicate Compensation for Florida Car Accident Victims

X-ray of an injured neck

Neck injuries are a prevalent and often serious consequence of car accidents, with an estimated 800,000 incidents reported in the US each year. But for many victims, the road to compensation is fraught with challenges. Why? Because neck injuries can be deceptive, with symptoms often taking time to manifest fully. Such delays in recognition and reporting can undermine a victim’s legal position. Prompt medical attention and early legal counsel with a car accident lawyer are vital where a neck injury is suspected. Let’s examine why.

Neck Injuries Often More Serious Than They Initially Appear

The neck, with its intricate structure of nerves, vertebrae, and soft tissues, is extremely sensitive and vulnerable to damage. The sudden forces involved in a car accident can subject the neck to abrupt and unnatural movements, whipping it back and forth or side to side. These exertions can overextend and damage the muscles, ligaments, tendons and spinal nerves. 

In some cases, car accidents can lead to neck injuries that are chronic or deteriorate with time. In such cases, the full seriousness of the injury isn’t clear immediately following the accident. Victims who contact a car accident lawyer at Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein report many such injuries.

  • Whiplash is the most prevalent neck injury in car accidents. It occurs when an abrupt motion of the neck damages muscles, tendons and ligaments. Recovery can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, and in some cases, patients may experience long-term or chronic symptoms. 
  • Disc injuries occur when the intervertebral discs, which act as cushions between the spine’s vertebrae, become herniated or bulge out from their normal position. As the initial injury may be minor, early diagnosis can be difficult, even with X-ray imaging. These injuries often begin as mild pain, numbness, or weakness that can easily be attributed to muscle strain. They can worsen with time and, where the damaged disc begins to affect nearby nerves, the victim’s ability to carry out daily activities can be impacted. 
  • Nerve root damage refers to the injury of the nerve roots in the spinal column, which can result from compression, stretch, or severance due to various causes, including disc herniation, spinal stenosis, or trauma. Early symptoms may include radiating pain, tingling, weakness, or numbness in the areas served by the affected nerves, such as the arms or legs. Like disc injuries, nerve root damage can be elusive in early diagnosis because the symptoms may be mild and overlap with other conditions. The damage may not emerge immediately post-injury. 

These injuries underscore the need for a thorough medical examination and competent legal counsel following a car accident, to ensure that long-term costs and impacts on quality of life are adequately accounted for in any compensation claim.

How Delayed Diagnosis Affects Compensation Claims in Florida

Delayed diagnosis for neck injuries from Florida car accidents can present difficulties when it comes to compensation. 

Where a victim claims compensation through their insurer’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) scheme, the insurer will typically pay out only if the victim seeks medical care within 14 days. In many cases, the full extent of a neck injury won’t be evident at that time. The insurer will then typically try to make the victim close the case once compensation is paid, closing any opportunity for further compensation should the injury worsen. 

In cases where a victim seeks compensation through a personal injury lawsuit, the full extent of the injury needs to be made clear to the court at the time of the claim. Such cases usually depend on the initial medical diagnosis to establish the basis for awarded damages. If the injury’s severity becomes apparent only after the lawsuit is filed or after a settlement is reached, it may be challenging or impossible to adjust the compensation accordingly. 

Adding to this, the Florida statute of limitations for personal injury cases sets a two-year deadline for filing a lawsuit. Once this period has expired, a victim usually loses the legal right to file a lawsuit seeking damages, regardless of the injury’s severity or the presence of new symptoms. 

Beyond the statute of limitations, delayed personal injury lawsuits present many other challenges. Proving causation – that the defendant’s negligence caused the injury – is more difficult to establish long after the event. The medical link between the accident and the injury becomes more tenuous, and evidence will also degrade over time. Witness statements, surveillance footage, and physical evidence from the accident scene may be lost or become less reliable. The court also may question the seriousness of any injury that wasn’t immediately obvious following the accident. 

Act Immediately Following a Neck Injury 

If you’ve suffered a neck injury in a Florida car accident, don’t risk going undercompensated. Contact a Florida car accident lawyer at Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein today. Our team will ensure you get immediate access to competent medical examination that will ensure the full extent of your injuries are realized. Call us at 305-371-2692 or schedule a free consultation online. From our office in Miami, we serve personal injury victims across Florida.