Car accidents are the leading cause of back and neck injuries. And they can also be a nightmare to settle, as Karen (not her real name) can attest. "I was a passenger in a stationary vehicle waiting to turn left on a two-lane road," she says, "and we were struck from behind by a driver who did not see that we had stopped. At that moment I was bending forward fussing with something and right after being hit, I got a terrible headache and both my arms were numb."
Karen is mainly worried about her future health, because she still has constant pain in her upper back, radiating at times to her arms, chest and head. "I had an MRI but it showed nothing conclusive," says Karen. "An x-ray showed my spine out of alignment so my lawyer set up an appointment with my doctor, who then set up appointments with a physical therapist and a chiropractor. Heat treatment helped—but everything is a temporary help. My prescription for painkillers ran out and I don't want to take them anyway so I just live with the pain.
"Of course it has affected my work: I am a sales rep and my customers tell me I am bitchy. They are consistent clients so they know what happened; by the end of the day they expect me to be cranky to some extent.
"It was completely the other driver's fault—she received a traffic violation. My ex-boyfriend—he was the driver—was friends with the attorney I retained, so he made the initial contact. He needed my signature to get my medical records and other than that I don't know what I have signed."
Karen's attorney advised her to go back to her doctor, but she can't afford any more medical treatment! "My insurance company doesn't want to pay any of my medical costs because my injuries are a result of a car accident, which is apparently 'not their fault,' so right now I am putting everything on my credit card.
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Karen says the settlement her attorney has negotiated will leave her with about $2,000 after paying medical costs to date. That doesn't cover anything down the road.
"I'm not trying to make money on this accident but I am concerned about my future health" she adds. "I would like to speak with an experienced attorney who can advise me about my attorney's proposed settlement. Is there someone who knows what a normal settlement is in this situation? I have talked to a few people who have had similar experiences; they are concerned that I am not being taken care of adequately. I just need to talk to someone before signing on the dotted line."