Learn how to file a claim for maximum benefits after a whiplash injury—even if the accident was your fault
Whiplash is one of the most common types of workplace injuries. It can happen in the blink of an eye, but its effects can be long-lasting, especially if complications develop with mobility, pain relief or cognition.
Another challenge associated with whiplash injuries is getting the appropriate compensation. If you’ve been hurt on the job, you might be entitled to workers’ comp benefits, but the red tape surrounding whiplash injury claims can be extensive.
Seeking the help of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney early on in the process can ensure all the necessary steps are followed so you can recover maximum compensation.
What is whiplash?
Named after the rapid swish of a whip, whiplash is characterized by a sudden, forceful jerk of the head, typically in a frontward and backward motion. It’s often associated with car accidents and contact sports, but it can happen in the workplace as well. Warehouse workers, for example, can experience whiplash after being struck by the moving parts of a machine.
The consequences of whiplash can include everything from neck pain to sudden changes in mood, memory and attention span. Additionally, it can range in severity, so some cases of whiplash might heal in a couple of days while others might take years.
The different grades of whiplash
Medically speaking, whiplash is classified into grades:
- Grade 1. Pain only
- Grade 2. Pain with signs of injury
- Grade 3. Pain with signs of injury and neurological symptoms
- Grade 4. Pain with severe or disruptive side effects that impact the person’s ability to live normally
As you can see, Grade 1 is the least serious; it can often be treated with simple bed rest and over-the-counter medications. By contrast, Grade 4 can require hospitalization and years of recovery. There have even been fatal cases of whiplash, though that tends to happen instantaneously at the time of the accident. Fatal whiplash isn’t graded on the scale.
What are the symptoms of whiplash?
What are whiplash injuries? They usually cluster around the neck, shoulders and upper back, but the pain can migrate to other areas of the body as well. They can also impact everything from muscles and nerves to ligaments and tendons, so their side effects can be countless.
The most common symptoms of whiplash include:
- Neck pain
- Back or spinal pain
- Stiffness, swelling or immobility
- Tingling in the arms or hands
- Ringing ears
- Blurred vision
There can also be neurological symptoms of whiplash, such as irritability, sleeplessness and problems with memory and concentration.
What are common causes of whiplash at work?
Anyone who drives as part of their job duties is at risk of whiplash. Vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes.
Other sources of whiplash include the following:
- Slipping or tripping
- Falling from a great height, like a roof, ladder or scaffolding
- Being struck by something heavy that jerks your head in a reflexive motion
- Experiencing violence in the workplace
People who play contact sports can suffer whiplash. So can people who operate moving tools and machines like forklifts.
Types of jobs where workers typically experience whiplash injuries
- Grocery and hardware store workers
- Truck drivers
- Professional athletes
- Office workers
- Police, paramedics, firefighters and other emergency responders
How is whiplash treated?
If you suspect that you have whiplash, your doctor might start by confirming it with an X-ray, CT scan or MRI. The next step is prescribing a treatment based on your diagnosis.
Treatment options include:
- Medication for pain and inflammation
- Immobilizing the affected area to let it rest
- Nerve blockers or other injections
- Physical therapy
Ultimately, the treatment for whiplash depends on its grade, location and severity.
Eligibility requirements for workers’ compensation in North Carolina
Almost all employers in North Carolina that have 3 or more employees are required to have workers’ compensation insurance. However, it’s worth checking out the list of exceptions to make sure that you’re covered. Exceptions include certain railroad workers, certain farm laborers and domestic household employees.
North Carolina provides no-fault workers’ compensation, which means that no one has to be held liable for your accident. In other words, your employer doesn’t have to be proven negligent for you to qualify for benefits. In most cases, you can even receive workers’ comp benefits if you caused the accident that led to your injury.
However, please note that your injury must have occurred within the course and scope of your employment to qualify for workers’ compensation.
Potential workers’ compensation benefits
Whiplash compensation can come in many forms, including:
- Payment for medical care, including surgeries, medications, rehabilitation and required medical devices, such as braces and slings
- A portion of your lost income (typically two-thirds of your average weekly wage) while you’re unable to work
- Death benefits for certain dependents if you die from a work-related injury or illness
How to file a workers’ compensation claim in North Carolina
If you’ve suffered a whiplash injury at work, you’ll need to follow these steps to receive workers’ comp benefits in Charlotte:
- Seek medical care to ensure your injury is documented.
- Inform your employer of your injury in writing within 30 days.
- Submit Form 18 to the North Carolina Industrial Commission to start your claim. This should be done as soon as possible but no longer than 2 years after your injury.
- To maximize your benefits and minimize your stresses, consider hiring a workers’ comp attorney to guide you through the process, especially if your claim is denied.
Filing a third-party claim
Applying for workers’ comp means that you can’t sue your employer because of your injury. However, you can sue third parties (someone other than your employer) for acts of negligence that caused or contributed to your injury.
For example, if you get into a car crash while delivering a package for work because of another driver’s negligence, you can sue the other driver in a personal injury lawsuit in addition to filing a workers’ comp claim.
How can workers reduce their chances of a whiplash injury?
Whiplash is often caused by split-second accidents. When you dig deeper, however, the real culprit can be things like improper training or poor safety protocols in the workplace. Here are just a few ways to minimize your chances of experiencing a whiplash injury at work:
- Always wear the appropriate safety gear or personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Adjust equipment as needed (e.g., the headrests in a car).
- Stay vigilant when operating heavy machinery.
- Don’t walk below scaffolds or raised platforms.
- Ensure that things like helmets and hard hats fit you correctly.
- Practice safe driving and avoid distractions.
Contact a Charlotte workers’ compensation attorney
Workers’ compensation claims are not always as simple as they seem. Working with an experienced work injury attorney from the very beginning can help you avoid a denied claim so you can get the compensation you need for a full recovery.
At Wilder Pantazis Law Group, our knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorneys are committed to helping workers in North and South Carolina recover maximum compensation for their injuries. We offer free initial consultations, and we work on contingency—so you won’t pay a fee unless we win your case.
Contact us today for your free, no-obligation consultation to see how we can help you.