If your median nerve is compressed, twisted or squeezed, carpal tunnel syndrome may develop. Carpal tunnel occurs in the hands and causes pain, numbness, discomfort or tingling in the hands/fingers and wrist. The condition is a progressive one that normally begins with light tingling and numbness, followed by intermittent cramps and pain that becomes more regular. While age and heredity can play a role in carpal tunnel development as a result of a narrowing of the tunnel of nerves in your hand, the compression of the median nerve can also result from injuries that frequently occur in a car accident. In such cases, you may be able to file a carpal tunnel personal injury claim.
Filing a Car Accident Claim
When you wish to seek recovery for car accident damages, the first question that you need to find out the answer to is whether your state is a fault state or a no fault state. In one of the 12 no fault states, you are restricted to collecting damages through your own personal injury insurance protection no matter who caused the accident, unless the injuries fall within the state legislature's definition of "serious." The 12 no fault states include Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Utah. Within these states, the money collected for carpal tunnel will include only medical bills and lost wages from your insurer. No pain and suffering or other damages are available unless the injuries meet the seriousness requirement. In the remaining states, lawsuits may be filed or compensation recovered from a party in any situation in which he or she causes you to suffer a car accident injury through negligence.
Whether you live in a fault or no fault state, therefore, is going to affect how you recover for carpal tunnel. The major benefit to living in a no fault state is that no negligence must be proven in order to get your medical bills and lost wages due to the carpal tunnel paid for. The major disadvantage is that you will not be compensated for your pain in most cases.
Negligence and Car Accident Claims
If you do live within one of the fault states, or if your injuries meet your own no-fault state's definition of serious, you may collect monetary damages for your injury from the person who is responsible for causing the car accident. The key to holding that party responsible will be to prove negligence.
In the context of a car accident case, this means demonstrating that the driver failed to behave with the same reasonable level of care any driver on the road would have. You can show this by pointing out what traffic laws were broken or how the driver's actions were careless and a breach of the duty of reasonable care. A police report of the accident (especially if the other driver was ticketed), photos from the accident scene, and/or eyewitness accounts can all be helpful in showing negligence.
Once negligence has been demonstrated, you must show that it was the proximate (direct) cause of the injury you are seeking compensation for. This would mean proving that the negligence of the other driver was directly responsible for causing you to develop carpal tunnel. You are probably going to need a doctor to testify about this causal link, as it may not always be clear to the opposing insurance company (or to the judge and jury) whether it was the car accident that caused the carpal tunnel or whether the carpal tunnel simply developed for some other reason. Without the causal link between the negligence and the injury, there will be no recovery.
Your Carpal Tunnel Damages
If the person you are trying to hold responsible accepts that he or she was at fault and that the negligence exhibited caused you to develop carpal tunnel, chances are that he (or his insurer) will be eager to settle the case outside of court. Most insurance companies prefer settlements because it both allows them to save on expensive legal fees and because it allows them more control over costs than they would have if a judge or a jury assessed the case and decided on the damages. However, it will be up to you to decide if this settlement offer is or is not fair based on what has happened.
If you are offered a settlement or are in the process of trying to negotiate one, you need to understand what damages are supposed to be covered (and would be, if a jury agreed the other party was at fault). Damages typically awarded in a car accident case include the following:
- Medical care costs: Carpal tunnel may be treated with exercise, physical therapy or even surgery in some cases. Acupuncture and alternative treatment methods can be used as well. If you undergo any medical treatment that medical experts have accepted or consider a possible method of treating the carpal tunnel, that treatment should be paid for by the person who caused your accident. If you are going to have to continue to receive medical care because of your carpal tunnel, that too should be compensated for by the responsible party.
- Lost wages: Carpal tunnel can sometimes cause you to miss work and can even interfere with your ability to make a living at all in the future if you are a person who depends on your hands to work. If someone has caused you to suffer carpal tunnel, and your income was harmed as a result, the other party should be responsible for past and future lost income.
- Pain and suffering: This is supposed to compensate you for your pain. Carpal tunnel can be painful and progressively becomes worse if treatment is not effective, so make sure you get a fair number for all the pain you have or will endure.
- Emotional distress where appropriate if the car accident or the resulting carpal tunnel or other injuries cause you emotional distress.
When deciding if a settlement offer is fair, you need to consider both how much compensation you are receiving for all of the above categories as well as whether you have a good chance of winning in court or not. If your case is weak, accepting a lower settlement offer becomes more attractive than taking a risk, while the reverse might be true and risking court with a strong case may be better than accepting a lowball offer.
Carpal tunnel is a debilitating condition, and if someone has caused you to suffer carpal tunnel due to negligent driving, you need to get a lawyer. An experienced attorney will assist you in every step of your personal injury claim, helping to make sure your rights are protected.