While Manhattan’s traffic is often frazzling, motorists in the borough may also join the millions of Americans who annually suffer a whiplash injury. The consequences of whiplash from a vehicle collision can range from a multi-week nuisance to lifetime debilitation. If you suffer a whiplash accident owing to another party’s negligence, gaining fair compensation is your right. Obtaining that goal requires knowledge of New York’s laws and the state’s auto insurance system.
Whiplash Health Consequences
Whiplash describes the rapid backward and forward motion of a person’s head in a vehicle collision. If you have seen slow-motion footage of a crash test, the whip-cracking action of the dummy’s head is instantly apparent. While rear-end collisions are the most likely to trigger whiplash injuries, impacts from any angle put occupants at risk.
If you believe that Manhattan’s stop-and-go traffic eliminates your risk of whiplash, think again. A car striking a stationary vehicle at nine miles per hour is more than enough to cause whiplash injuries. Whiplash can harm any combination of human tissues in the neck and shoulders:
Typical symptoms of whiplash include:
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Tingling or numbness in the arm and hand
- Blurred vision
- Impaired sleep
- Lower back pain
These symptoms may appear moments after a collision or days later. Slow-onset symptoms are a compelling reason to seek a prompt medical evaluation after a collision. With a suspected whiplash injury, a physician may order X-rays, a magnetic resonance imaging scan or a computed tomography scan. These imaging techniques can reveal the severity of tissue damage.
Whiplash injuries usually respond well to conservative treatment such as ice packs, pain medication and foam cervical collars. If symptoms persist, a physician may suggest sessions with a physical therapist or chiropractor. In extremely rare circumstances, a whiplash injury may require surgery to repair a spinal disc.
Most whiplash victims recover within six months. Nonetheless, about 15% of persons with a whiplash injury cope with symptoms more than a year after their collisions. On top of treatment and rehabilitation expenses, a whiplash injury may impair a person’s ability to earn a living. These realities make monetary compensation a high priority.
Whiplash No-Fault Insurance Compensation
New York operates under a no-fault auto insurance system. By law, every motor vehicle driver must carry at least $50,000 in personal injury protection coverage. You may apply your PIP coverage to these situations:
- Medical bills
- Compensation for lost income up to $2,000 per month for a maximum of three years
- $25 per day for necessary non-medical expenses such as transportation to therapy sessions
Doubling PIP coverage to $100,000 is not expensive, and many motorists pay for the higher coverage limit.
Even if you believe another party’s negligence led to your injuries, your path to compensation begins — and frequently ends — in the no-fault system. That compensation hinges on meeting three critical deadlines.
The Critical NF-2 Filing
To preserve their rights in New York’s no-fault system, persons injured in an auto accident must submit the state’s Form NF-2 to the insurer of the vehicle they were riding in. Form NF-2 is a notification, not a claim. Submitting this form preserves your right to file a claim but does not obligate you to follow through.
Most insurers will include an NF-2 form with their claims package after an online or telephone notification. Nonetheless, it is your responsibility to submit an NF-2 within 30 days of an accident. Failure to meet this deadline effectively forfeits compensation in the no-fault system.
If you file your NF-2 with your insurer’s online portal, record the confirmation number. If you submit a paper copy, mail the form with a return receipt to provide proof of delivery. If passengers in your vehicle suffered injuries, they must also file an NF-2 with your insurer.
Treatment and Lost Income Claim Deadlines
To receive compensation for medical treatment, you must submit these bills to your insurer within 45 days of the accident. Failure to include a bill incurred in this period forfeits your right to right to payment for that expense. Finally, to claim compensation for lost employment income, you must submit proof to your insurer within 90 days.
For whiplash victims who make full recoveries within a few months, the no-fault system often works well. Claim payments typically issue within 72 hours after approval. With severe whiplash injuries, no-fault compensation may fall short.
Whiplash Compensation Beyond the No-Fault System
To seek compensation outside of the no-fault system, your situation must meet strictly defined conditions. First, the majority of fault for your injury must lie with another person or group of parties. Second, your injury must conform to the New York state law definition of a serious injury. With a whiplash injury, three conditions may apply:
- Permanent physical impairment
- Significant limitation in the use of a limb
- Full or near-full disability for 90 days or longer
Whiplash nerve injuries or spinal disc damage may meet one or more criteria. If the circumstances of your collision allow you to move outside the no-fault system, you will need a personal injury attorney to navigate your path.
In Manhattan, proving that another party bears the fault for your whiplash injury may be a slam dunk. The New York Police Department maintains more than 3,600 intersection cameras in the borough. Many private businesses have installed cameras. Between these public and private sources, Manhattan is among the most surveilled places on the planet.
If one or more of these cameras captured your collision, your attorney can take steps to preserve this footage. Evidence preservation is a compelling reason to consult with an attorney if your injury costs threaten to outstrip your insurance coverage.
Without camera footage, your attorney may need to fall back on more traditional evidence. These steps may involve interviewing witnesses or contacting a forensics expert to examine vehicle damage. Selecting an attorney with the proven ability to gather evidence improves your chances of success.
Establishing Serious Injury
With fault established, proving your injury meets New York’s serious injury threshold becomes the next hurdle. Beyond meeting your no-fault filing deadlines, take care to retain every medical bill and treatment receipt. Maintaining a daily symptom diary will help your physician guide your treatment and — if necessary — assist your attorney’s case preparation.
With a compelling body of evidence, your attorney may be able to negotiate a settlement payment with the at-fault parties’ insurers. If this fails, your attorney can file a lawsuit. A lawsuit does not mean you will have to attend a trial. Overwhelmingly, the parties in a suit negotiate a settlement.
The Value of a Personal Injury Attorney
If your whiplash injury stems from another party’s negligence, consider early consultation with a personal injury lawyer. Nearly every personal injury attorney will evaluate your case for free and spell out your compensation options. If your situation merits moving outside the no-fault system, an attorney can handle insurance company negotiations while you focus on rehabilitation.
Cellino Law’s heritage of seeking fair compensation for injured persons spans more than six decades. We have offices in Manhattan, Buffalo, Rochester and Melville. Consultations are always free, and you will pay nothing unless we recover money for you. If you now confront a whiplash or other injury, we invite you to contact us today.