Minor car accidents aren’t always so “minor.” Even if the traveling speed was low and the property damage was minimal, the people inside the car can still end up with significant injuries.
Unfortunately, accident victims sometimes assume that because their crash wasn’t catastrophic they can’t recover compensation — or that filing a claim won’t be worth it.
But minor car accidents are frequently associated with whiplash and other head and neck injuries, many of which are compensable under state personal injury law and which an insurance company may be obligated to cover.
An experienced Kingston auto accident lawyer can — at no upfront cost to you — file a claim for compensation on your behalf and then negotiate strategically with the insurance company, building a compelling case and fighting to maximize the value of your claim.
Whiplash Is the Most Common Car Accident Injury
Whiplash happens when the force of impact causes your head and neck to whip back and forth more quickly than it is supposed to.
It only takes a few seconds for whiplash to transpire, and contrary to popular misconception, it can happen at very low speeds.
In fact, it is generally accepted in the medical community that whiplash can occur at speeds as low as 5 miles per hour. (Similarly, a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that the “limit of harmlessness” for whiplash in a minor car accident begins at 10 km/hour, or appx. 6.2 mph.)
Even at these low speeds, whiplash can cause a wide range of symptoms, which may include:
- Pain and soreness
- Reduced range of motion (difficulty moving)
- Back pain
- Confusion, memory loss, and other cognitive problems
These symptoms can cause accident victims to miss work or stay away from their daily activities until the injuries fully heal. They may require a hospital visit and/or follow-up medical care with a physician, as well as physical therapy, medication, and rehabilitative care. Such losses are compensable under New York personal injury law. We’ll take a closer look at available damages in another section below.
Concussion, TBI, and Mild Closed Head Injury
Doctors at the American Migraine Foundation report the following observations from their patients:
- Mild traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are common.
- Mild TBI (concussion, for example) can be caused by a shaking of the head, e.g. whiplash.
- Concussions and other TBI can be associated with significant disability.
- Concussion does not require loss of consciousness.
- A head injury in a minor car accident can lead to post-concussion syndrome (PCS), a “set of complaints that a person experiences for weeks, months, or sometimes years after a concussion.” PCS symptoms can include: headaches, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, cognitive issues, noise sensitivity, ringing in ears, loss of sense or sensation, and more.
Head injuries are serious, and they deserve to be taken seriously. Experts have long warned that many concussion victims wait too long to seek medical care, assuming their injuries aren’t “serious enough” to see a doctor, or that they will get better on their own.
There are 1.4 million cases of TBI in the United States each year, and 45% of them are caused by motor vehicle accidents. Even in minor collisions, if you experience the symptoms of concussion, it is reasonable to suspect that you may require immediate medical care.
Other Serious Injuries Associated with Minor Car Accidents
While whiplash, concussion, and TBI represent the most common neck and head injuries in minor car accidents, they aren’t the only ones. The human body is fragile, and it is not designed to withstand the forces of collision. Every accident is unique, and injuries can take many forms.
Speed is one factor in a car accident, but it isn’t the only factor. While catastrophic or life-changing injuries are relatively rare in low-speed collisions, they are not unheard of. Moreover, even less extreme injuries may warrant the filing of a claim.
It is important for victims to understand that their right to recovery is not necessarily tied to the speed of collision or the amount of property damage in the crash.
New York Follows the “Eggshell Plaintiff” Rule
Some people are simply more vulnerable to serious injury in a minor car accident than others.
Senior citizens, children, people with disabilities, and drivers or passengers with preexisting medical conditions are all more likely to be injured than are other individuals.
New York follows a longstanding rule of law called the Eggshell Plaintiff Rule (sometimes referred to as the “eggshell skull doctrine”), which says that a negligent driver “takes their victim as they find them.”
In other words, the fact that you were elderly, ill, frail, or suffering from a preexisting condition at the time of your accident will not preclude you from recovery, even if it meant you were injured more severely than a healthy person might have been.
If the at-fault party’s negligence contributed to an exacerbation of your condition, he or she is liable for the damages caused by that exacerbation.
Likewise, if the negligent driver is at fault for your injury, he or she is liable for the full scope of the damages, even if those damages were worse than would normally be expected because of your condition or age.
(Note, however, that if your injuries arise solely because of your preexisting condition and are not actually caused by the car accident in any way, the driver would not be at fault.)
What Can You Recover After Being Injured in a Minor Car Accident in NY?
New York law doesn’t divide accident victims’ financial rights into “minor car accident” and “major car accident” categories.
Rather, the amount of compensation to which you are entitled will depend on the nature of your particular injury, the damages you’ve incurred as a result of that injury, and the length of your recovery (as well as any other relevant facts).
As a general matter, accident victims in New York are entitled to the following damages:
- Medical expenses
- The cost of physical therapy / rehabilitation
- Lost income due to time away from work
- Pain, suffering, and emotional distress
- Loss in value of property (e.g. damage to your vehicle)
- Other losses you have suffered as a result of the crash
If you want to learn more about the damages that might be available in your situation, we invite you to schedule a free case review with one of our experienced Kingston auto accident lawyers. While we cannot promise specific results in advance, we can let you know what people in similar situations have recovered in New York in the past.
Schedule a Free Consultation with O’Connor and Partners
If you’ve recently been injured in a minor car accident in New York and have questions about your right to compensation, please contact the experienced Kingston car accident attorneys at O’Connor and Partners right away. You may be entitled to a larger recovery than you realize.
We are proud to offer no-cost, no-risk case consultations for people who’ve been hurt by someone else’s careless driving. If you do end up hiring us after the consultation, we will not charge a fee unless we get you money first. Our firm fights hard to maximize compensation for the clients we represent.