Some people dismiss whiplash as a minor injury or as something others exaggerate when trying to inflate compensation amounts from insurance companies. Most of these people have never had whiplash. If they had, they would know how painful and potentially serious this condition can sometimes be.
Whiplash is also sometimes called a neck strain or sprain and is caused by sudden extension or flexion of the neck. This often happens in car accidents as forward momentum propels the head forward and back violently; in fact, whiplash injuries account for more than 65% of bodily injury claims. Fully 83% of people involved in collisions suffer from whiplash of some form or other.
Whiplash is so much more than simply a sore or stiff neck. It may also include injuries to:
- Intervertebral joints
- Cervical muscles
- Nerve roots
Some whiplash sufferers may feel symptoms immediately after their vehicle crash, but many don’t realize how badly they are hurt until the next morning when they try to lift their head from the pillow and find that they can’t. This happens because often in the moments after a traumatic accident, bodies may be flooded with adrenaline that masks pain.
Some injured people may not even experience symptoms of whiplash until days or weeks after the crash. This is one reason why it is so important to be checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible after a collision. Insurance companies will significantly discount your injury if the initial diagnosis is delayed. This can be overcome, but why give them ammunition. Also, it’s better for your health to get checked out as soon as possible.
Symptoms of whiplash
- Neck pain
- Neck stiffness
- Myofascial injuries (injuries to the muscles and ligaments)
- Shoulder pain
- Back pain
- Paresthesias (sensations of burning or prickling)
- Memory loss
- Impairment of concentration
- Nervousness or irritability
A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study found that more than half of whiplash sufferers reported that they had not recovered one year after the accident. Furthermore, five years after the accident, whiplash injuries “still have poorer quality of life in the physical domain than other mildly injured casualties.”
Those with chronic (constantly recurring) whiplash may need surgeries, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and medication for an extended period of time, but even after their treatment, they may continue to suffer from pain for a lifetime.
More than 50% of people who are injured with whiplash still have chronic pain even 20 years after their injury. It is also estimated that one in every 100 people in the world suffers from chronic neck pain because of whiplash injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents.
One of the problems with whiplash (in addition to the pain and discomfort) is that insurance companies tend to downplay it. It presents differently for different people, and insurance companies tend to take the nebulous nature of the beast and use it as an excuse to discount symptoms.
How whiplash is diagnosed:
- Doctors will note your description of pain and discomfort while asking you questions about your injury.
- Doctors will also feel (or palpate) different parts of your neck to check for tenderness.
- Doctors will check for range of motion by testing if your neck can move from side to side or up and down.
- Doctors can use rubber hammers to test whether nerves are sending the appropriate signals to the biceps, triceps, or forearm muscles.
- Doctors can perform basic tests to see if there is any significant weakness in the shoulders, arms, or hands.
- X-rays can show if there are any fractures in the spine.
- They may also use CT scans or magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) to locate damaged soft tissue as well as ligaments and discs.
- Bone scans can detect small fractures.
How whiplash is treated:
- Pain management: Your physician will want to alleviate your pain for your comfort, but also so that you don’t hold one position. It is important to restore the normal range of motion in your neck.
- Applying heat or cold for 15 minutes at a time can help with your pain level.
- Rest: This is beneficial for a day or two, but after that, you should try to keep your shoulders and muscles moving.
- Muscle relaxers: Used in the short term, these can loosen your muscles and lessen the amount of pain you are feeling.
- TENS units: These use soothing pulses that are sent via the pads through the skin and along the nerve fibers. The pulses suppress pain signals to the brain and encourage the body to produce higher levels of its own natural pain killing chemicals.
- An injection of lidocaine may help your muscles allow you to complete physical therapy.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapists can create personalized exercise routines for you.
- Foam whiplash collars: Years ago, these were routinely given to whiplash sufferers, but now physicians suggest that they be worn for no more than three hours a day. They can help to support the head, but it is now thought to be beneficial for the muscles to move rather than to be locked in place.
Information to gather:
Because your attorney may have to negotiate with the insurance company in order to make sure that you receive the compensation you need and deserve, it’s necessary for you to gather as much information and documentation as possible.
After a whiplash injury, you will be dealing with medical bills, physical therapy expenses, lost income, and emotional trauma. You may not be able to return to work for some time. This is why you need an experienced personal auto accident attorney to help you. It is a good idea to document the following:
- All of your doctor visits (dates and times)
- Contact information for any physicians you have consulted
- Any medicines or treatment regimens that have been prescribed to you
- Any medical tests that you have had (such as X-Rays. CTs, or MRIs)
- A pain journal charting your progress or lack of progress
Statute of limitations:
While the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims in Kentucky is one year from the date of the injury, you get longer for auto accidents. Please read our blog: What is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases in Kentucky? For more information about this.
After an auto accident where you suffered a whiplash injury, please contact McCoy & Sparks for a free and confidential consultation. We’ll ask questions about your situation and help you understand what to do next. Come meet with us. We’ll try hard to make you glad that you did.
Trust us with your case. We’ll work tirelessly to get you the result you deserve.