I had a car accident in which I was rear-ended. The driver's insurance company is trying to get out of paying for my medical bills because I wasn't wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. Is it possible I could have developed this chronic pain condition after the accident even if I had been wearing a seatbelt?
Whiplash injuries occur when the head and neck extend backward and then flex forward in a rapid transfer of energy to the neck. Persistent neck pain, arm pain, headache, and other symptoms following such an accident have been labeled whiplash-associated disorder (WAD). WAD occur most often after rear-end or side-impact collisions.
Often the person affected is at a standstill in traffic and unprepared for the impact. Seatbelt use and the presence of a headrest have both come under scrutiny as possible risk factors for WAD. But a review of all studies since 1995 showed that being unprepared for the crash or sitting in a seat without a head rest were not variables that contributed to a chronic condition from whiplash.
On the other hand, not wearing a seatbelt doubles the risk of developing persistent problems later. But not wearing a seatbelt isn't the only predictive risk factor of outcome. There are other factors that have a significant effect as well. High school education, gemale gender, and a history of neck pain before the accident can also increase the risk of chronic whiplash-associated disorder.
You may need to seek legal counsel in order to find out what your legal rights are and how to best protect yourself. Each state has its own laws that govern some of these issues. Someone in your area with specific training in situations like this could be very helpful in answering this question.