Whiplash is a term that most people have heard about, but few understand. This type of injury mostly occurs as a result of an auto accident that causes the head to whip back and forth rapidly. The problem lies in how your neck muscles react to this sudden movement; they become stretched out like overstretched elastic bands.
At the same time, your neck ligaments can become torn, and the bones in your spine jarred out of place. The result is severe neck pain that can last for weeks or even months.
This blog post discusses everything you need to know about whiplash injuries from car accidents. Read on to learn more.
What Is a Whiplash Injury?
The medical term for whiplash injury is neck strain injury. The term is usually used to refer to a series of neck injuries caused by or closely related to a sudden distortion of the neck.
When a moving car is suddenly hit, the car occupant’s body is suddenly pushed forward while the head remains behind for an instant. This forces your head to rock up and back, stretching and even tearing muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
The neck muscles automatically contract, bringing the head forward, more rapidly. The head may end up rocking forward quite violently, further tearing the ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
How Does Whiplash Injury Happen?
Many of us associate whiplash injuries with a car being rear-ended with another. The reasoning is that only the driver and the co-driver in front will suffer whiplash injuries.
But that is not the case at all. The impact can come from any direction causing the head to move forward or sideways rapidly. As long as there is an uneven and uncoordinated movement of the head and the neck, anyone in the car can suffer whiplash injuries.
Besides car accidents, a whiplash injury can also be sustained in other ways, including falling off a bicycle, contact sports, blows to the head with a blunt object, amusement park rides, and horse riding accidents.
In simple terms, the tendons and ligaments in the neck region are severely sprained in a whiplash injury since they are overstretched. Although the neck hasn’t broken, it may take several months for you to recover from this type of injury.
Women are more prone to whiplash injuries than men because their neck muscles aren’t as strong as men’s.
What Factors Influence a Whiplash Injury?
Not every car accident results in a whiplash injury to the driver and passengers. Many car accident victims only suffer a minor degree of stiffness or soreness that disappears within one or two days.
Unfortunately, other victims experience chronic pain and disability that may last for a couple of weeks or even months. Some of the critical factors that are likely to influence the likelihood of sustaining whiplash injuries in a car accident include:
- Awareness of an impending car collision: You are more likely to suffer a whiplash injury if you were unaware of the accident.
- Pre-existing conditions: This includes degenerative changes, arthritis, prior spinal fusion injury, or past whiplash injuries.
- Gender: Generally, women are more prone to whiplash injuries because they have less neck muscle than men.
- Age: Typically, the older you are, the more likely your neck muscles and bony structures are weak hence an increased chance of sustaining whiplash injuries.
- Delay in receiving medical treatment for car accident injuries.
- Being a passenger: The driver is more likely to be aware of an impending collision than a passenger.
How Do I Know If I Have Whiplash Injury?
The best way to know if you have sustained a whiplash injury after a car accident is to seek medical attention as soon as possible. A doctor will examine you and help you establish the true extent of your injuries.
Sometimes, what may seem like a whiplash injury could be a much more severe and life-threatening neck injury or spinal cord injury.
It is also essential to note that many whiplash injuries take a couple of days to develop. So, even if you feel fine after a car crash, it doesn’t mean you did not sustain any injuries.
Some of the common warning signs and symptoms of whiplash injury include:
- Neck pain.
- Difficulty moving your neck.
- Frequent headaches.
- Tingling or burning sensations in your legs, fingers, and arms.
- Trouble sleeping.
Do not try to diagnose yourself if you have been involved in a car crash. Be sure to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
The delayed nature of whiplash injuries can also lead to legal issues during the settlement negotiation process. The at-fault driver’s insurance company may not accept your alleged injuries and will argue that you are trying to defraud them.
If you denied any injuries at the accident scene, failed to seek medical attention, or gave a statement immediately after the incident in which you denied sustaining any injuries, it could threaten your claim for compensation.
That is why it is essential to seek medical attention as soon as possible and avoid giving statements to anyone until you consult an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer.
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How Long Do Whiplash Injury Symptoms Last?
Typically, the symptoms can last anywhere from a few hours to a couple of weeks or even months, depending on the severity. In more severe cases, the injury can lead to long-term complications.
No matter how long your symptoms last, you will generally have difficulty healing from the injuries. Sometimes, the injuries can leave your head and neck feeling uncomfortable and even affect how you sleep.
In such a case, it is not just the injury that decreases your quality of life but also the secondary effects of the whiplash injury.
Treatment for Whiplash Injury
The other treatment options include prescription pain relievers for severe injuries, applying heat or ice to the injured area, and muscle relaxants to help reduce muscle spasms.
Physical therapy plays a critical role in recovery. Your doctor will carefully assess the true extent of your injuries and recommend a specialist.
Additionally, recovery may include practicing good posture, a wide range of exercises to build strength, and learning relaxation techniques to help keep your muscles from straining.
Depending on the severity of your injury, you may be given a foam collar to help keep your neck stable. Do not wear a foam collar for more than three hours a day, and it should only be used for a few days after the injury.
Will Whiplash Injury Cause Me to Miss Work?
Many doctors and therapists usually recommend that patients take a leave for a couple of weeks to recover. This is because you need to recuperate fully before returning to work to avoid endangering your health further.
Generally, going back to work too soon can make the healing process take much longer than it has to.
How Can I File a Whiplash Injury Claim?
The first step to filing a whiplash injury claim is to seek medical attention as soon as possible. You need to document everything related to your injury and how it has affected your life.
This will include all medical bills, prescriptions, lost wages, doctor’s visits, physical therapy sessions, and anything else that can show the severity of your whiplash injuries.
The second step is to contact an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer who can help you file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver.
Your car accident lawyer will investigate the accident, gather evidence, and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf to get you the compensation you deserve.
What Are the Average Settlements for Whiplash Injury Claims?
The average settlements for whiplash injury claims can vary depending on the severity of your injuries, how much income you have lost, and whether you have suffered any long-term complications.
Generally, the more severe your injuries, the higher the settlement. If you have suffered a loss of income or long-term complications, you may also be awarded punitive damages.
These damages are designed to punish the at-fault driver for negligence and deter others from engaging in similar behavior.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you have been involved in a car crash and sustained whiplash injuries, it is essential to seek legal help as soon as possible.
An experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer will be able to guide you through the claims process and help you get the compensation you deserve.
At Legal Giant, we strive to provide our clients with the best possible legal representation. We have a team of experienced car accident lawyers ready to fight for you. Contact us today for a free consultation.