Article Updated: January 7, 2023

Neck Injury Settlements & Strategy

neck xrayNeck injuries are one of the most common vehicle accident injuries, second only to bruises and contusions.  They are also one of the most commonly undervalued injuries in car accident settlements.

In this article, you, and other auto accident injury victims, will learn why that is.  You will also learn the 101s of:

   Different neck injuries

   When not to settle a neck injury claim

   What is “mechanism of injury” and how it can help you

   Sample neck injury settlement amounts

   What are recoverable damages in a neck injury claim

We will start by reviewing mechanism of injury and its importance to the value of your neck injury settlement payout.

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Mechanism of a Neck Injury

mechanisms of injury

What is Mechanism of Injury

Mechanism of injury is the medical explanation of what happens structurally to your body during a traumatic event which caused your injury.

Without a medical explanation of the mechanism of injury in your neck injury claim, your case would boil down to – “I was in a car accident and now my neck hurts, give me money.”  Meaning, without the jury’s understanding of this topic, how much money you get for a neck injury will be negatively affected.

An un-savvy car accident attorney will skip the medical lesson, and this limits their ability to prove the full extent of a client’s injuries.  The result is a negative impact on your case and neck injury settlement amount. The more serious your injury, the more problematic that becomes for you and your case.

A brief explanation of mechanism of neck injuries, and injury types, in car accidents will help you understand your claim.

Vulnerability of the Neck During Accidents

neck sprain injury has compromised settlement payout

Your neck is left virtually unprotected during a car accident.  This likely explains why in excess of 80,000 neck injuries resulting from car accidents are recorded in the U.S. making traffic collisions the primary cause of neck injuries.

When traveling in a car, your body may be held firmly in place by a seat belt, but your head and neck are unrestrained and remain so up until the point of impact.

Upon impact, your head may jerk backwards and forwards, to the side or even be struck by flying debris. Rapid movements such as these can cause serious injury to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and nerves in the cervical spine, where your neck is located.

Not only does the impact of a collision affect the neck, but the anticipation of impact often causes the individual to tense their neck muscles, meaning that they’ll have more potential for injury than if their muscles were relaxed.

These are all factors that are part of the mechanism of your neck injury and understanding them better will be a part of how to make a stronger claim for whiplash after a car accident.

Mechanism of Neck Injury Following a Car Accident

The following three major injury types can occur to the neck and cervical spine following a car accident:

   Fracturing of the cervical vertebrae and damage/rupturing of the ligaments and soft tissue that link the vertebrae together.

   Damage to the spinal cord or discs due to shearing and bending between the cervical vertebrae, physical stretching of the spinal cord or direct impingement by fractured vertebrae.

   Direct impact damage to the soft tissues containing the trachea with larynx, esophagus, and major arteries and veins to both the head and brain.

The first two injury types are typically caused by an excess of bending, shearing or displacements produced by force pushing the head and neck away from your upper body.


A neck injury caused by hyperextension tends to cause damage predominantly to the soft tissues in your neck.  While this is not life threatening, it can lead to long term disability and can be included in your settlement demand.  Knowing the relationship between this injury and a specific impact type (rear-end accident) can help establish medical causation in your case.

Hyperextension injuries can also cause vertebrae and spine dislocation.  Although this injury is not as common, it is visible in imaging such as x-rays, which will help relate the injury to the accident more easily which can help you in claiming whiplash after a car accident.


This occurs when the head receives an impact when bent forwards, and produces vertebrae wedge and burst fractures, along with spine dislocations.

In a typical front end or rear end accident, the neck will bounce in both directions – forward and then returning to the headrest, or vice-versa.  For this reason, the typical neck injury in an accident is a combination flexion-extension injury.


This occurs when there is an impact to the face while the head is in a neutral or bent position, and can produce fractures of the spinal processes, damage to the load bearing surfaces, and spine dislocations.


This occurs when the body accelerates quickly forward, causing the head to accelerate via the neck.  This might happen to a passenger in a rear facing seat with no head restraint, or an inadequately designed one.

Be Careful with Seemingly Not Serious Neck Injuries

You need to be careful with neck injuries that do not seem serious.  For your own sake, if you decide to wing it without a car accident attorney – which is a terrible idea for so many reasons – do not settle the case in the first 3-4 months.

Let your body go through the recovery motions and keep an eye on yourself so that your neck injury settlement amount comprehensively covers everything you went through because of the accident.

If you are 100% better, or think you are, wait another 30-60 days and see how you feel.  If after that, you are symptom free, then you know the full picture of your injuries and what you are negotiating for.

Common Car Accident Neck Injuries

Soft tissue damage

Tearing, sprains, or strains to the ligaments, muscles and tendons in the neck following a car accident are described as soft tissue damage.  This type of injury is usually painful and often causes stiffness and tenderness in the neck.  Whiplash is one form of soft tissue neck injury.

Slipped or herniated disc

During a collision in which a high level of impact occurs, the intervertebral discs in the cervical spine may slip out of place from between vertebrae and cause the injured disc to compress nerves in the spinal cord. When this happens, you can feel pain, weakness, tingling and numbness in the neck, shoulders, arms, hands and fingers.

Facet joint injury

Helping to stabilize and mobilize the head and neck, the facet joints in the cervical spine can become inflamed and irritated during a car accident. The surrounding ligaments may also be damaged, affecting the individuals range of motion and movement of their joints.

A doctor can diagnose if you have a facet joint injury by using a type of injection with a local anesthetic.  You should speak with your pain management doctor about this.

Neck fracture

Causing significant pain and having the potential to injure your spinal cord leading to paralysis, a neck fracture is an extremely serious injury that requires immediate medical attention.  Anyone suspected of having such an injury should remain as immobile as possible until medical assistance arrives.

When you go to the hospital following a car accident, they will often do an x-ray.  This is to rule out that you do not have an “acute injury” (a serious injury), such as a neck fracture.  The x-ray will not rule out a herniated disc or other discogenic injuries.

Whiplash Injuries

How is Whiplash Diagnosed?

Whiplash injuries can be difficult to diagnose. Generally, the diagnosis is based upon your history (being involved in a car accident would be a strong clue) and symptoms.

An x-ray and MRI are not great tools (but, nonetheless, useful) to use for diagnosing whiplash, though they can help diagnose other types of neck injuries. When you are in a car accident hit from behind and whiplash is suspected, getting proper diagnostics is important.

Can Whiplash Injuries be Permanent?

Yes, whiplash injuries can be permanent.

When symptoms of a whiplash injury following a car accident persist for two years or more, the symptoms have a strong likelihood of being permanent.  Depending on the literature you rely on, some doctors will call it a permanent injury after 6 months or 12 months.  However, 24 months / 2 years, is the conservative standard discussed in reliable literature.

Available medical literature shows there is approximately a 40% chance of your whiplash injuries being permanent if they persist beyond two years. This needs to be kept in mind when claiming whiplash after a car accident, because the neck injury lawsuit settlement should match your injuries.

This means your whiplash settlement should be for a permanent, lifelong injury, not for a 4-6 week minor injury.

Ultimately, those who have whiplash injuries have been often shown to have poor quality of life long after their accidents.

If pain resulting from a whiplash injury continues for more than ten weeks, it may also be an indication that there are other accompanying injuries, such as:

   Facet joint injury

   Torn vertebral disc

   Herniated disc

   Bone spur

   Compressed nerve

Some researchers also believe that some persistent or worsening pain and headaches following a neck injury may be associated with a form of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and that a car accident can cause psychological stress that manifests itself in physicals symptoms.

Low Speed Accident Whiplash Injuries

Traffic accident data has revealed that more than 90% of whiplash injuries result from rear impacts.  Typically, these accidents happen at speeds of less than 15 miles per hour.  Some whiplash injuries even occur when a car is traveling at speeds as low as 5mph.

Drivers are at the highest risk with regards to seating position when compared with passengers in the rear of the vehicle.

Recovery Period for Whiplash Injuries

You can recover from your initial symptoms of a whiplash injury within a few weeks of the accident occurring.  As many as 50% of injury victims go on to develop persistent symptoms that can have a detrimental effect upon their mental and physical well being.

Such symptoms are referred to as ‘whiplash associated disorders’, or WAD.

The bones, muscles, nerves and tendons of the neck may be injured in both whiplash and WADs, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Treatment for Whiplash Injuries

Physical therapy and chiropractic treatment are the most common first stage treatments for whiplash injuries.

During chiropractic treatment, the qualified chiropractor will ensure that the spine is in proper alignment by making a series of chiropractic adjustments. A chiropractor may also recommend a series of safe and gentle relaxation techniques to help the healing process.

Healing from a neck injury following a car accident may occur at different speeds for different individuals, but chiropractic medicine can help expedite an accident injury victim’s recovery, and prevent or greatly reduce, chronic symptoms.

All of this needs to be monitored and recorded so that it can be integrated into your neck injury compensation settlement.

Long-Term Complications & Settlement Impacts

With the ability to cause chronic, systemic issues later in life, untreated or misdiagnosed neck injuries resulting from car accidents can be serious and debilitating.  Your lifelong symptoms from a neck injury may include:

   Chronic neck pain

   Frequent and severe headaches

   Cognitive issues

   Mental disorders such as depression and anxiety

   Early onset of arthritis

   Decreased work performance

   Less relaxing sleep or restless nights

   Depressed or anxious from chronic pain

Each of these is a recoverable element of the damages in your neck injury settlement amount.  You need to relay these symptoms to your doctors so they record it in your medical records, and to your injury attorney so it’s included in any settlement discussions.

The more identifiable symptoms are in your medical records, the more ammunition your lawyer will have to argue for a larger settlement.  This is not the time to macho up and play down your symptoms.  Tell your doctors, physical therapists, and chiropractors everything you are suffering through so they can document it for your case.

Whiplash: The Sketchy Injury

2 Common Categories of Neck Injuries

The challenge is that for decades now, one of the most common neck injuries – whiplash injuries – has developed a reputation of being a claim raised by fakers and exaggerators.  There are dozens, if not hundreds, of scholarly articles discussing the concern for untruthful or exaggerated whiplash injury claims.

What does this mean for you?

Cervical Disc Injury Settlement  Amounts

If your neck injury is a damaged spinal disc in your neck, more formally known as a cervical disc injury, then this might only impact you a little, or none at all, depending on the type of cervical disc injury you have.

In short, cervical disc herniations and extrusions are much less vulnerable to the whiplash bias.  As for bulging cervical discs, call an injury attorney ASAP because otherwise, you may be very disappointed in your neck injury lawsuit settlement.

Whiplash Injury Settlement Amounts

If, on the other hand, your neck injury is a whiplash, soft tissue, or muscle sprain or strain injury, you have a problem.  Our lawyers have recovered $200,000+ settlements for these types of injuries, but it is a dogged fight.

Car accident neck injury settlement amounts related to whiplash can often double and triple, but only after we push the case towards the finish line – i.e., into litigation towards trial.

Average Whiplash Injury Settlement Amounts

What is the average settlement payout for a whiplash injury?  Unfortunately, f you are an injury victim dealing with whiplash, you will be unhappy to hear it is less than $10,000.

Do you want to be average?  If yes, contact a lawyer referral service.  They are inundated with average injury attorneys who will settle your case fast while leaving money on the table.  Otherwise, find a lawyer who really understands these injuries and how to squeeze out maximum value for you.

Thus, how much settlement you can get for your neck injury depends on who is fighting in your corner.

Keep in mind that the average whiplash neck injury settlement amounts will include $2,000 whiplash car accident settlements and $200,000 whiplash auto accident settlements.  You could end up with $2,000 if you don’t hire a lawyer who will protect the value of your claim.

Above Average Whiplash Injury Settlement Payouts

If you want an above average settlement payout for a whiplash injury, you will need a lawyer who will treat your whiplash case like a 100k+ payout case.  Here is how we treat every one of our client’s cases:

If your lawyer goes “all in” and builds your whiplash case like a six-figure case, no surprise, it is more likely to become a six-figure case.  If it is that simple (which, by the way, it is), how come all lawyers do not do this for every case?

Two reasons why.  We will discuss them each in turn.

Limited Resources

First, this approach only works by showing, not telling, that your case is worth more.

That means, you or your lawyer lawyer can’t just write and shout that your case is worth more, or demand more.  The lawyer has to fight for your case, file a lawsuit, go through depositions, and treat your case like a big case.  Only then will the insurance carrier look at the case differently and offer an above average settlement payout for your whiplash injury claim.

Doing that requires a lot of time.  Consider this – if a law firm has 30 cases and each case has over a million dollar potential, whose case will that law firm spend extra time on, your $10,000 case, or someone else’s $1,000,000 case?

Moral of the story – the “Best Law Firm” may not be the “Best Law Firm for YOU.”

You need to find the best law firm that is not too big or small for your case type and likely outcome.  The story of Goldilocks and the three bears is analogous.   You need to find that perfectly balanced bowl of porridge when hiring a law firm, one that aligns with your interests and potential case value.

Limited Time

The second reason the “all in” approach often is not an option is it takes a lot of time.  You may not want to wait 2-3 years to get your money.  Would you rather have $30,000 today or $55,000 in 2 years?  There is no right or wrong answer, only a right or wrong answer for you and where you are in your life.

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Neck Injury
Settlements & Verdicts
From Vehicle Accidents

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Average Neck Injury Settlement

The outcome of every neck injury claim is different and depends upon a unique set of variables, so determining the average cost of a settlement is very difficult.  In our settlements and verdicts page, we describe how even when lawyers use the same methodologies, they may reach different settlement averages for a similar case type.

How Much Settlement For Neck Injury Case?

With that caveat aside, the average neck injury settlement from our experience and research is between $5,000 and $20,000.  These numbers are weighed down by the fact that the average accident involves a short, 3-6 week injury and minor collision.

Surgical Neck Injury Settlement Amounts

The average neck injury settlement where a surgery is involved, such as an ACDF or anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, is around $225,000.

Do NOT use this as the average value of YOUR case.  Our lawyers have handled ACDF accident cases that settled for $75,000, and ACDF accident cases that settled for over $750,000.  It boils down to all the intangible facts, which we discuss in our case valuation page.

To find out what you might be able to claim for your neck injury, schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers via email or the contact form below.

Insurance Company Valuations of Neck Injuries

cervical x-ray

Medical Record Documents

First, the insurance company will demand full documentation of all the medical care and emergency room records, including visits to primary care physicians, doctors and chiropractors, and past medical records.

Past Medical Records

Do NOT give the insurance adjuster any past medical documents or sign an authorization for them to collect these documents without speaking with a lawyer.  Once you give them this and they discover hurtful information, there is no undoing that.

If you have already done this, stop reading and call a lawyer ASAP.

The insurance company will scrutinize your past medical records to try and bring forth the argument that you had a pre-existing condition.

Looking for a record of pre-existing neck pain, they’ll also be checking for evidence of any degenerative conditions if you happen to be an older person.

Past Neck Injuries

If your medical records show that there was a neck problem prior to the car accident, then with the right help from a creative lawyer, it could be proven that the accident made the existing condition worse.

It is also possible to separate the injuries and prove that car accident caused a different type of neck injury.

Increased Value With Clean Medical Past

If your medical records show no prior complaints of neck pain prior to the accident, it could increase the value of your injury case.

Other Valuation Variables

An insurance adjuster will consider how much damage was done to the vehicles involved in the car accident before making a settlement offer, check whether the claimant’s injury shows up on an x-ray or an MRI, look at how long the recovery period was, and whether the neck injury is permanent.

Some of these variables, like property damage, are not genuine and are the subject of disingenuous lowball offers.  You have to know which adjuster arguments have teeth and which to do not, or else the adjuster will know you are shooting in the dark and will reject all of your arguments and lowball you on the entire claim.

Recoverable Damages in Neck Injury Cases

Medical Costs

Depending upon the severity of the neck injury, the overall cost of medical and chiropractic treatment can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.  For injuries with lifelong complications, those costs can become insurmountable.  Both your past and future medical care costs are recoverable in your neck injury settlement.

Lost Wages

If you give up work permanently or even on a short-term basis, the money lost through unearned wages are recoverable.

These are hard fought damages – insurance companies are notorious for refusing to pay full lost wage claims.  Work with a lawyer to ensure you have rock solid documentation supporting your lost wage claim.

Pain and Suffering

A neck injury can be both physically and mentally painful, and cause you to lose all enjoyment in life, and be consumed with grief and mental anguish.  Both that physical pain and emotional suffering are recoverable and impact your Car accident neck injury settlement amount.

Howe well these damages are valued will depend heavily on the creativity of your lawyer, more than based on how much you say it hurts on a scale of 1 through 10.

Danger of Early Settlements in Neck Injury Claims

How quickly does a neck injury manifest itself?

As is often the case, signs and symptoms of a neck injury may not appear until several hours or even days after the accident occurred. Some symptoms can take up to weeks to manifest.

Car accident neck injury amounts will be greatly affected by the steps you take in the period following your accident.

If you experience any of the following, be sure to seek medical assistance as quickly as possible:

   Pain or stiffness in the neck

   Radiating pain that penetrates the shoulders, arms and hands

   Any tingling, numbness or weakness in the arms, hands and fingers

   Dizzy spells

   Headachesneck pain

Even if you don’t feel as if the level of pain that you’re suffering warrants a trip to a doctor or emergency room, you should still seek an opinion from a medical professional.

A doctor will diagnose your neck injury and can help prevent potential chronic pain and long-term complications from ruining your life.

We see this too often, where someone is in a car accident and does not think they are injured or thinks they are injured only a little.  As a result, they settle early on for a nominal amount making their whiplash claims payout average much lower than it could be.

Sometimes, that nominal amount is $5,000, and they think they just pulled a fast one on the insurance adjuster but what this does in reality is close the door on any more money when you realize your injury is actually worse.

Six months later, the symptoms have not gone away, and you are wondering what happened.  You later learn you have ligament laxity or other damaged tendons or ligaments which have healed over with scar tissue, and will cause lifelong permanent symptoms.

Neck Injury Q&A

How do I know if my neck injury is serious?

The best way to know if your injury is serious is to contact a medical professional and get the proper testing.  Having dealt with hundreds of these claims, we can often predict when an injury is serious, but at the end of the day we are lawyers, not doctors.

How long will it take to recover from my neck injury?

As mentioned above, close to 50% of all soft tissue and whiplash neck injuries are permanent.  If you suffered a disc injury in your neck and had surgery, that always causes and leaves permanent issues and symptoms.  Generally speaking, the answer to this question depends on your injury severity and the treatment you get after your injury.

Should I contact an attorney if I think I have a neck injury?

It is in your interest to have an attorney on your side in this situation. The insurance companies will have their attorneys and you should not be alone in this fight.

My insurance company offered me money for my whiplash, should I accept it?

It is best for an attorney to help you navigate this and help you make a decision versus taking the first offer that you are given.  When you get an offer, especially a quick offer, it is a red flag that the insurance company wants to settle with you before you lawyer up.  They are hoping you take the money before you realize the true value of your case.

How much is a neck injury worth?

It will vary depending on the type of injury, but the average payout for a neck injury is between $5,000 and $50,000.  Soft tissue neck injury claims are worth between $5,000 and $20,000 on average.  Neck disc injury cases that result in surgery average over $200,000.

What is whiplash?

Whiplash is the rapid movement of the neck and head forward and then returning to the head rest.  In an auto accident, this can cause you to have short-term and long-term pain.

Will my neck injury be permanent?

Some neck injuries and the pains associated with them will be permanent. This is not always the case but it is a reality that many will have to deal with.

How long will my whiplash last after a car accident?

Whiplash can heal and pain symptoms go away as short as a few weeks, but in some cases, it has been shown that whiplash can last up to a decade.  Whereas broken bone injuries are an event, whiplash injuries are a process, and take several weeks to complete that process.

Is whiplash a serious injury?

Yes, whiplash can be a serious injury that can cause you to have lifelong chronic pain that will require medical treatment and possibly physical therapy.

Is whiplash serious enough to go to the hospital for?

If you have pain in your neck, you should go to the emergency room or an urgent care as soon as you can. Getting a diagnosis is imperative for making sure that you get the treatment needed that can help you best.  Also, if you do not go to the hospital, the insurance company will use that as an excuse to say you were not really hurt.  Do let them do that.  Go get the medical care that you need!

Get Help With Your Neck Injury Settlement

Do you want to learn more about whiplash car accident settlements, strategy, and information?

Do you want us to review your case to see if it has the potential for an above average whiplash or neck injury settlement payout?

To receive more information or a FREE consultation with one of our Los Angeles attorneys, give us a call, send us an email, or submit the contact form below.

IAG Lawyers have recovered over $10,000,000 in auto accident insurance claims for injured clients like you.  We fight the insurance company and do whatever it takes to get you justice.  Period.  Let us help you win.

Los Angeles California Neck Injury Lawyers

No matter where you are, the Injury Advocates Group lawyers can help you maximize your neck injury settlement and recovery.  With a national reach, we invite you to contact us for help.  Our auto accident practice includes service in the follow areas:

Serving all of Los Angeles, including Arcadia, Beverly Hills, Claremont, Canoga Park, Chino, Chino Hills, Covina, Diamond Bar, Downey, East Pasadena, El Monte, Encino, Highland Park, Inglewood, La Verne, Long Beach, Malibu, Montebello, Monterey Park, North Hollywood, Northridge, Pasadena, Pomona, Rancho Cucamonga, Reseda, Rosemead, San Gabriel, San Dimas, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, South Bay, South LA, South Pasadena, Sunland, Tarzana, Thousand Oaks, Torrance, Van Nuys, Venice, West Covina, West Hollywood, and Westlake Village.

Serving all of California, with a focus on Kern County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, San Diego County, Santa Barbara County, and Ventura County.

Serving nationwide in all 50 states on a case-by-case basis with a national network of relationships and on a Pro Hac Vice basis.

Lawyer Experienced in Herniated Disc Injuries

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Tournier, C., Hours, M., Charnay, P., Chossegros, L., & Tardy, H. (2016). Five years after the accident, whiplash casualties still have poorer quality of life in the physical domain than other mildly injured casualties: analysis of the ESPARR cohort. BMC public health16, 13.

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About the Author

Article Author:  This law article was written by attorney Ray Benyamin, Esquire.  Mr. Benyamin received his Juris Doctor degree from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and his license to practice law from the State Bar of California.  His law license number is 277263.  He has been practicing law for 10 years.  Mr. Benyamin is a registered member of the following legal organizations: Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA), the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA), the State Bar of California, the American Bar Association (ABA), and the American Association for Justice (AAJ).  Mr. Benyamin has personally helped his clients recover over $10,000,000 in vehicle accident insurance claims in the State of California.