Whiplash From a Car Accident
What to Know About a Whiplash
Let’s set a scene: you’re stopped at a red light. You’re wearing your seatbelt, have both hands on the wheel, and you’re not using your phone. Seems safe enough, right? But as the traffic light changes from red to green, you’re suddenly hit from behind by an overeager driver in a hurry. On impact, your head violently jerks back and then snaps forward. This is what you call a whiplash.
And it’s way more common than you might think. According to a 2016 study, whiplash is one of the most common neck injuries in road accidents, particularly for motorists. Moreover, the Harvard Health Letter wrote that more than a million Americans suffer neck injuries from whiplash each year.
By the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)’s definition, whiplash is a soft tissue injury to the neck, which is also called neck sprain or neck strain. It is characterized by a collection of symptoms that happen following damage to the neck, usually because of sudden extension and flexion.
It doesn’t take much force in order to have a whiplash. In fact, many neck injuries from vehicle accidents occur at speeds as low as 5 to 10 mph. While it is commonly thought of as a relatively mild condition, it can cause long-term pain and discomfort.
Most people who have whiplash feel better within a few weeks and don’t seem to have any lasting effects. However, a whiplash is actually a very serious medical injury. It primarily depends on the extent of the overextension of the soft tissues and ligaments in the neck. People who experience a whiplash can possibly continue to have pain for several months or years after the initial date of the injury. When a whiplash is the result of someone else’s negligence — like in the event of a traffic accident — it’s important to hold the at-fault driver accountable.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which is funded by auto insurers, neck sprains and strains are the most frequently reported injuries every year. Moreover, taller people, especially women, are most susceptible.
As aforementioned, whiplash typically occurs when the head is forcefully and quickly thrown backward and then forward. This motion can injure bones in the spine, disks between the bones, ligaments, muscles, nerves, and other tissues of the neck.
A whiplash may result from:
- Car accidents. Whiplash commonly happens from a rear-end car accident.
- Physical abuse or assault. Whiplash may occur if a person is punched or shaken.
- Contact sports. Football tackles and other sports involving strong, physical impact could sometimes cause whiplash.
- Other types of traumas. An example of this is falling.
Whiplash symptoms can be numerous, complicated, long-lasting, and hard to diagnose, which is why they are commonly known as whiplash-associated disorders. Symptoms like neck pain may present themselves directly after the injury or may be delayed for several days.
Other common symptoms may include:
- Neck stiffness
- Injuries to the muscles and ligaments (myofascial injuries)
- Abnormal sensations, such as burning or prickling (paresthesias)
- Shoulder or back pain
Moreover, some people may experience cognitive, somatic, or psychological conditions such as memory loss, concentration impairment, nervousness, irritability, sleep disturbances, fatigue, or depression.
Most people with whiplash get better within a few weeks by following a treatment plan that includes pain medication and exercise. However, some people have chronic neck pain and other long-lasting complications. Additional complications of a whiplash include a more-limited range of motion and pain that spreads to the arms.
The following risk factors have been linked to a worse outcome:
- Having had whiplash before
- Older age
- Existing low back or neck pain
- A high-speed injury
Some people with whiplash do experience chronic pain or headaches for years following their accident. Doctors may be able to trace this pain to damaged neck joints, disks, and ligaments. However, chronic pain following a whiplash typically has no medical explanation.
In any case, lingering symptoms of neck injury or whiplash should not be ignored. It’s important to seek medical treatment if the symptoms aren’t going away, especially if they’re preventing victims from doing everyday activities.
Most mild to moderate cases of whiplash can be treated at home using over-the-counter medication, ice, and other remedies. More severe injuries may require prescription painkillers and muscle relaxants to reduce muscle spasms.
However, you should immediately seek medical help if you have the following symptoms:
- Pain or stiffness in the neck that goes away and then returns
- Severe neck pain
- Pain, numbness, or tingling in your shoulders, arms, or legs
- Any issues with your bladder or bowels
- Localized weakness in an arm or leg
In addition to medication, physical therapy plays a crucial role in recovery. Practicing simple exercises will help you build strength, flexibility, and good posture. It is also beneficial to learn relaxation techniques in order to keep the neck muscles from straining and to help with your recovery process.
How to Proceed With a Whiplash Claim
Your health and well-being are obviously the first priorities following a whiplash. However, a neck injury of this capacity can alter a person’s life. If a whiplash was caused by someone else’s negligence — like in the case of a rear-end car accident— it’s possible to seek proper compensation.
If you’ve experienced whiplash in a traffic accident and want to pursue an injury-related insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit, it’s crucial to have documented medical evidence — such as treatment records and medical bills — for every injury you are claiming to ensure a satisfactory resolution to your case.
Only an attorney can accurately advise victims on the best course of action to pursue legal claims related to personal injuries and secure the best possible outcome. Consult with legal counsel to pursue your rights following a whiplash.
West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here to Help
If you have sustained a whiplash as a result of another driver’s carelessness, you have the right to hold that driver responsible. An auto accident attorney at our firm can help you recover financial compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Call us today at (888) 979-9356 or email [email protected] to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, caring, and compassionate legal team.