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What Is Involved in a Whiplash Lawsuit?

Whiplash is most often caused by a car accident or other similar incident.
Whiplash is an injury that occurs when there's a sudden whipping back of the head that causes damage to ligament, tissues, muscles, and nerves.
A woman wearing a neck brace for whiplash.
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  • Written By: Christopher John
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2014
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Whiplash is a term that describes injury to muscles, ligaments, and soft tissue in the neck. Whiplash typically occurs as a result of a rear end vehicle collision. In a whiplash lawsuit, a plaintiff, i.e., the injured party, files a complaint against a defendant. The defendant then files a response. In addition to putting together its own evidence, each side then prepares for the whiplash lawsuit by obtaining information from the opposing side through a process called discovery. If the case doesn't settle, the parties present their case in court and a judge or jury decides the outcome. Most people hire a personal injury lawyer to help them prepare documents and present their case.

The plaintiff’s complaint starts the whiplash lawsuit. The complaint contains the claims against the defendant and makes a request for relief. The claims are the plaintiff’s version of the facts of how an accident occurred and who is at fault. The request for relief is the remedy or the amount of money the plaintiff is seeking as damages. After the complaint is prepared, the plaintiff files it with the court and must have it served upon the defendant by a private process server or through a sheriff.

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Once the defendant receives the complaint, he or she must file a response within a fixed period, which is usually 30 days in most jurisdictions. A response is either a motion or an answer to the whiplash lawsuit. A motion is a document that raises legal defenses that could get the case thrown out and requests the court to make a particular ruling. For instance, a motion might raise the statute of limitations as a defense to the whiplash lawsuit. A statute of limitations sets deadlines for lawsuits, which means that a court is not able to hear a case filed after a deadline expires.

A response to the whiplash lawsuit may also be in a document called an answer. The answer admits or denies each fact stated in the complaint. It may also contain may ask the court to apportion some fault for the cause of the accident on the plaintiff. Apportioning fault on the plaintiff could reduce the amount of damages a defendant would pay.

Next, each side may conduct discovery, which allows the plaintiff and defendant to obtain information about the case from the opposing side. Parties to a lawsuit may use discovery methods such as interrogatories, depositions, subpoenas, and requests for admissions to gather information. Each discovery method may uncover vital information about the strength of the opposing party’s case. For instance, in a whiplash lawsuit, a defendant could learn that the plaintiff’s injuries were not severe by questioning the plaintiff’s doctors through a deposition.

After discovery, assuming the case isn't settled without the necessity of a trial, each sides in a whiplash lawsuit present their case in court. A judge hears the case unless one of the parties requests a jury trial. In a jury trial, the jury decides the facts and the judge rules on disputes over the law. The judge or jury then decides the outcome, i.e., who is at fault, after hearing all the evidence and arguments. The party that loses may appeal.

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