Did you know that an estimated 3 million Americans will experience whiplash in a year? There are many different kinds of soft tissue injuries that occur, and whiplash is just one of them. Unfortunately, despite how common these injuries are, they are some of the most difficult to obtain compensation for. Fortunately, with the right evidence and expertise, many cases are successful in covering medical bills, missed work, and other expenses. This article will explore the various types of soft tissue injuries, from bruises and sprains to whiplash and muscle strains, and factors that influence settlements. If you are curious about getting compensation for your soft tissue injury, follow along to learn more.
Common Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries can occur anywhere in your body as you have soft tissue surrounding every joint and bone. This category of injury includes strains, sprains, contusions (bruises), bursitis, tendonitis, and whiplash. Soft tissue injuries are common in slip and fall or car accidents but also appear in many other situations and alongside other injuries. Though only a medical professional can diagnose your injury, we’ll break down a few of these terms as explained by Johns Hopkins Medicine to give a clearer picture of the soft tissue injuries mentioned above.
Type of Injury
Injury to the muscle or tendon caused by force, overstretching, or excessive use.
A partial or full tear to a ligament caused by a sudden stretch or a twist.
Otherwise known as a bruise, contusions are blood that pools in the soft tissue caused by blunt force of some kind.
Inflammation of a fluid-filled sac called a bursa that sits between the bones and muscles/tendons. This injury is often caused by direct trauma to the joint or overuse.
Whiplash is a neck strain or sprain caused by sudden bending. This soft tissue injury is most often associated with car accidents.
This broad category is further broken down by severity into three Grades: Grade 1 (mild), Grade 2 (medium), or Grade 3 (most severe). Again, the best way to be sure where your injury sits on this scale is to seek medical attention right away. A medical professional will evaluate and diagnose your injury, which is important evidence needed if you are considering a lawsuit. With a diagnosis, you will have an idea of how long recovery may take and what effects the injury will have on your daily life.
Factors That Influence Soft Tissue Settlement Amounts
Settlements will vary greatly depending on the details of each individual's case. Every person is unique, and therefore, the same injury may not affect two people in the same way. Courts consider many factors, such as the severity of the injury, whose fault the accident was, and how much the accident has disrupted your day-to-day life. The section below will discuss these factors to give a better insight into what might sway a court one way or the other.
Injury Grades 1 through 3
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery, the severity of soft tissue injuries are graded on a scale from one to three. The grades will be broken down in the following section, but this can influence the settlement amount as the grade will indicate the seriousness of the injury, possible medical procedures needed, and how long recovery is estimated to take.
Quality of Life
Following an injury, there may be unavoidable changes to your lifestyle. Permanent disability, loss of work, changes in relationships, and daily routine are all factors that are considered when determining your settlement. For instance, if you work a physically demanding job and are involved in an accident where you experience severe whiplash, your ability to work may be put on hold while you recover from your injury. Though this is not absolute, the more areas of your life that have changed as a result of your injury often relate to a higher settlement amount in court. The higher amount is due to an accumulation of medical bills, lost wages, and the pain and suffering endured.
Injury cases depend on the coverage offered through insurance policies. This means that, unfortunately, the defendant may be limited by what their specific policy can offer the injured party and how much is recoverable from the plaintiff's own insurance. Amounts that exceed the defendant’s and plaintiff’s policies often do not get paid.
Comparative Negligence Laws
In many states, the settlement will be dependent on the percentage of fault the court decides is on the plaintiff vs the defendant. This percentage of fault split between the two parties is called comparative negligence. For example, if the court places 40% of the fault on the person who filed the lawsuit and their settlement was 10,000, the settlement would be reduced by 40% and therefore be 6,000 (total settlement reduced by the percentage of fault). Further, if the person who filed the lawsuit is found to be more than 50% at fault, the case may be lost or dismissed.
Average Soft Tissue Settlement Amounts
We’ve established that there are many different kinds of injuries that can occur in the soft tissue of a person’s body. This section will focus on the grades of severity to provide a clearer idea of how courts may settle these injuries. The table below provides a quick look at the average settlements for the three grades of injury. Follow along beneath the table to get a better idea of each grade and where your injuries may fall on the scale.
Type of Injury
Grade 1: This grade will have the lowest effect on your quality of life, with recovery taking only a few days to a week. The physical injury might be light bruises, mild whiplash, or injuries that affect up to 10% of the muscle, tendon, or ligament. Injuries in this category are likely to heal on their own without medical intervention. Therefore this category is often mentioned alongside other complaints in a lawsuit but is unlikely to justify a case on its own unless sufficient loss of work or medical bills have accrued during recovery.
Grade 2: With the second grade, life is more affected, work may be missed, and medical bills may be higher. This grade covers injuries such as 10-90% tears or moderate whiplash. Due to the stress on the tissue, this grade of injury can be very painful. Settlements in this category are often between 10,000 and 20,000 on average due to the need for physical therapy, medication, cortisone treatments, possible surgery, or other ongoing medically assisted recovery. Time off of work may be longer, and due to the loss of wages, a person can seek a higher settlement amount.
Grade 3: The most severe of the three grades, these injuries are a complete rupture or tear to the ligament or muscle. Recovery in this category may take months to years and often requires surgery or immobilization, therefore impacting your life significantly. Medical bills, rehabilitation, and loss of wages are often highest in this category of injury, and therefore, higher settlements are sought.
What Can an Attorney Do For Me?
Thanks to television's portrayal of lawyers, many people think that an attorney is out of reach and out of budget. On the contrary, when bills are piling up from an injury that was not your fault, an attorney may be just the ticket to help you out of your predicament. A competent attorney can significantly increase your case's chance of success and allow you some peace of mind while moving through the litigation process. Below, we’ll explore some of the ways an attorney can help you get the outcome you desire. Also, if you are unsure where to start your search - check out Expertise.com’s attorney directory. Our rigorous evaluation process ensures that we are only listing the best of the best in your area. So, while your attorney focuses on the stuff we’ll mention below, you can focus on healing.
Navigating Legal Process
There are a lot of steps in the litigation process, and at each stage, there is paperwork, procedures, and deadlines that must be followed to a T. A competent attorney knows which moves to make and when. From the first meeting, your attorney will begin strategizing the case and gathering the necessary evidence to prove your personal injury claim. Complex legal language and court proceedings are easier to navigate with an attorney to break it all down and keep your case on track.
Above, we stated that attorneys know what evidence to gather to prove your case. The evidence gathered is used to establish negligence, which means proving the opposite parties’ fault for your injury. This is done by calling expert witnesses (professionals in various fields that provide support for your case) and gathering medical records, statements, police records, and other supporting evidence your attorney may suggest.
One of the most important aspects of your case that an attorney will assist with is calculating damages associated with your injury. That means translating all of the pain, medical bills, property damage, and changes in your life into a dollar amount that you can request from the opposing party. Competent attorneys will seek every possible opportunity to compensate you for your injury. They will use all of the tactics described above in order to justify the demands of the case.
Insurance companies are set on paying out the lowest possible sum whenever they can. An attorney is aware of the insurance company's goals and is ready to fight for your compensation. Experienced attorneys can evaluate settlement offers and advise you when it’s the right time to accept or continue the fight. In the first demand letter sent to the opposing side, they will lay out the details of your case. Until a reasonable settlement is reached or the case is lost, your attorney will continue to negotiate toward your desired outcome.
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