You’ve been in a car accident and suffered a whiplash, plus you have a constant ringing noise in your ears. Your doctor diagnosed tinnitus, and now, you are curious to know if the car accident caused your tinnitus and whether you can file a claim based on this condition.
Yes, you can file a claim for damages for any injury you suffered in a car accident, including tinnitus. One of the causes of tinnitus is whiplash, i.e., head and neck injuries.
The term “whiplash” typically refers to neck pain, headaches, and a stiff neck. However, there are other symptoms associated with whiplashes, such as ringing in the ears or tinnitus.
Tinnitus caused by Whiplash
Whiplash is an injury to the neck caused by forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip. Whiplash commonly occurs during a rear-end auto accident.
Statistically, about 80% of whiplash injuries due to traffic accidents recover within a few months. However, about 15% – 20% develop “late whiplash injury syndrome” with many complaints including neck pain, headache, disturbances of the head sensorineural systems, including vertigo, hearing loss, and tinnitus.
Sometimes injured persons don’t focus on tinnitus at the time of the accident but research into “late whiplash injury syndrome” explains why ringing in the ears after a car accident often goes undiagnosed for weeks.
Tinnitus is defined by WebMD as “a common condition characterized by the sensation of sound for which there is no external source outside the individual.”
In other words, people with tinnitus hear noises such as ringing, clicking, or buzzing when no environmental or external sounds are present. The late whiplash injury syndrome is frequently permanent.
Because of its permanent presence, the constant ringing in the ear often becomes intolerable and is severely disturbing to daily life. The degree of psychical impairment depends on the intensity of the tinnitus. Simple, non-contact whiplash injury can cause long-lasting, chronic disturbances.
Sometimes, ringing in the ears after a car accident is the result of a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Trauma can cause damage to the brain function resulting in tinnitus. At some point, individuals recognize the ringing is not going away and seek medical treatment.
Tinnitus occurs when the nerve pathways of the ear are damaged by head trauma. When these nerves are affected, it causes a “rewiring” of the brain’s tone map. Individuals who suffer a traumatic brain injury may have dormant nerve clusters in the brain activate.
The activation of nerves results in information flowing an incorrect route and sent to a part of the brain not meant for processing auditory information. Accordingly, these clusters of nerves not generally associated with hearing create a ringing the ears.
Can you file a claim for tinnitus caused by a car accident?
Yes, you can file a claim for tinnitus caused by a car accident; however, just like in any personal injury claim, you must meet some legal standards. Louisiana’s negligence law is codified in Civil Code Article 2315 (A), which states: Every act whatever of man that causes damage to another obliges him by whose fault it happened to repair it.
Tinnitus is just like any other injury, it requires proof you have the condition, that the motor vehicle accident caused the disease, and the other party was at fault in causing the accident through his negligence.
To establish your claim, you must show that the negligent conduct was a cause in fact of the harm you suffered, the party had a duty and breached their duty, and finally that you suffered damage because of the breach of the obligation.
Once liability is established, the party at fault is responsible for your losses. The recoverable damages are divided into two categories, special damages, and general damages.
Special damages are easy to determine. They are the actual hard dollars lost because of the accident. The party at fault is responsible for any medical bills, past and future, past, and future lost wages and any personal expenses you have related to tinnitus.
You are also entitled to recover general damages. General damages are not as simple to value; they include personal losses such as past pain and suffering, future pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium.
What legal steps should I take regarding my tinnitus injury after my accident?
Contact our office for a free consultation with an experienced attorney as soon as possible after your car accident. Ideally, you should set up an appointment within one week of the accident for several reasons:
- Insurance companies move fast and begin their investigation of your claim immediately
- It would help if you had legal advice before the first offer the insurance company gives you
- Proceeding without an attorney increases the chances of a mistake that costs you money
Insurance companies sometimes offer “fast cash” to settle your claim. Don’t rush; likely, you don’t know yet what the total cost of your injury will be. Many tinnitus ailments cause chronic pain or permanent disability. A lawyer can help you assess the full value of your recovery and help get you the total amount of money you are owed.