Whiplash, back injuries, and numbness are common injuries that result from minor impact car accidents. But when it comes to receiving treatment and dealing with the insurance companies, they are the most frustrating injuries to have.
This is not coincidental. In the last 30 years insurance companies have taken an extremely aggressive approach toward "minor impact soft tissue" cases. Why? Well, to make more money, of course. State Farm, Farmer's Insurance Company, and Allstate are a few of the greatest offenders--each having been disciplined, fined, or sued in some capacity for insurance fraud in their approach to soft tissue cases. (Allstate puts on boxing gloves and denies treatment.)
But what does this mean to you? It means that if you suffered neck or back injuries in a fender bender, then the insurance company will delay your claim, ask you for additional information, and then eventually deny your claim as execessive. If you have been through this, then tell me if this sounds familiar: "your claims for medical treatments are too high based on the damage to your car and are thus denied." Uhh, wait, what does injury to my car have to do with injury to my body?
Can't sleep at night because headaches you now get every night following the car accident are too painful? Wake up with intense pain or numbness in your arm or shoulder? Experience intense pain after getting out of bed, standing up after sitting or lying down? The law recognizes that you should be compensated for this pain and suffering in order to make you whole.
But insurance companies disagree. What's worse, however, is that not only do they disagree, they will accuse you of fraud for attempting to get medical treatments that resolve your pain. If they don't overtly accuse you of fraud, they will strongly imply it by blaming your pain on a "pre-existing condition" or a disease that sounds bad but may not actually be a disease at all.
A Pain in the Neck
There are hundreds, thousands of real-life examples of insurance companies taking false positions against minor impact soft tissue cases. Click here for a CNN segment on minor impact soft tissue cases. But the following case exemplifies my experience with similar cases:
38 year old man, Mr. Smith, gets rear-ended by Mr. Jones while waiting to make a right turn at a busy intersection. He was looking over his left shoulder at the time watching on-coming traffic. The impact was minor since the negligent driver--Mr. Jones-- was going only about 10 miles per hour when he rear-ended Mr. Smith.
Nonetheless, the impact cause Mr. Smith's head to jerk backward sharply over his left shoulder. His left arm went numb almost instantly. Mr. Smith claims the numbness is akin more to the feeling of hitting the funny bone than the numbness that results when you can't feel anything. This funny bone feeling ran from his neck to the fingers on his left hand and continued for a few days. He complained immediately about the pain/numbness he experienced. Later, Mr. Jones admitted the accident was his fault and that he was negligent.
For almost two years Mr. Smith sough medical treatment. The pain subsided somewhat and mostly flared when the weather would be overcast and rainy--although he continues to feel pain every morning. In total, he paid out-of-pocket approximately $2,500 for medical treatments that would identify and treat the source of the pain. Finally, after an MRI was performed, an injury was identified in a disc in his neck. Despite $2,500 in actual out-of-pocket medical costs, the insurance company refused to pay more than $1,500.
Mr. Smith did not want to take his case to court. But he was left with no choice. The insurance company constantly told him that based on the damage to his car, his medical treatments were unnecessary. When he pointed out that damage to his car had nothing to do with the pain he experienced, the insurance company told him his numbness and pain was NOT caused by the accident, even though he had no prior medical history of pain or numbness in his arm.
Instead, the insurance company claimed my client's numbness is due to a disease: Degenerative Disc Disease. But the problem is that it's not a disease. For the most part, Degenerative Disc Disease simply means you are getting older. It also did not explain why he exeperienced no "symptoms" of degenerative disc disease until after the accident took place.
You Are At A Disadvantage The Moment You Suffer a Minor Impact Soft Tissue Injury
In the early 1980's insurance companies identified soft tissue injuries as an area to increase profits. Several problems existed with soft tissue injuries at the time that the insurance companies identified as a barrier to increased profits: 1) victims sought legal representation; 2) damages were primarily based on pain and suffering; and 3) they felt too much was paid out.
Insurance companies attacked all three problems head on. First, insurance companies began a campaign to color all such claims as frivolous and fraudulently based. Pain had no value because it did not show up on an X-ray or MRI. Next, insurance companies implemented policies and practices to discourage accident victims from seeking legal representation. Third, insurance companies began to bonus its claims adjusters for reaching settlement less than the arbitarily low standards it set for certain soft tissue injuries.
If you have been injured, the insurance company does not need to be bothered with facts about your specific injury. Even though they will claim each incident is different, insurance companies follow pre-scheduled payment amounts and loathe to exceed those pre-determined amounts. Without an attorney, your odds of getting a fair recovery are dismal.