Whiplash is one of the most common car accident injuries, but it’s often misunderstood. Although most people will recover with no lasting difficulties, whiplash can sometimes lead to lifelong chronic pain that interferes with daily activities. However, compensation is available as part of your personal injury claim.
What Is Whiplash?
The term whiplash is used to refer to a type of soft tissue injury sustained after the muscles in the neck move rapidly backward then forward—stretching and tearing the tendons and ligaments. Whiplash gets its name from the fact that the neck is moving in the same motion you’d use to crack a whip.
Car accidents are the most common cause of whiplash, but the condition can also result from playing contact sports, being physically abused, or sustaining a fall in which the head violently jerks backwards.
What Are the Symptoms of Whiplash?
The symptoms of whiplash vary and often overlap with other types of accident injuries. Possible symptoms of whiplash include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Blurred vision
- Problems with concentration and memory
- Ringing in the ears
- Difficulty sleeping
Most people with whiplash will see symptoms within 24 hours, but it can sometimes take several days for symptoms to appear. For this reason, it's important to see a healthcare professional immediately after your car accident for a physical examination. Even if you feel fine at first, you want to establish a record of your condition in case further problems develop. If you neglect to seek treatment, the insurance company might argue that your whiplash was caused by some other activity.
Whiplash is diagnosed with a physical examination, but X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans may be ordered to establish that your pain isn't related to another type of injury.
How Is Whiplash Treated?
Minor cases of whiplash are treated with over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol or aspirin. Patients who report significant neck pain may be given prescription muscle relaxers and a foam collar to help keep the neck stable.
Alternative therapies for whiplash include chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage, and electronic nerve stimulation. These types of treatments can be useful in relieving discomfort, but you should still seek medical attention from your regular healthcare provider first. When filing a personal injury claim, alternative therapies may be viewed with suspicion if there is no definitive diagnosis in your medical records.
It can take patients from a few days to a few weeks to recover from whiplash, with the majority of people recovering fully within three months of their injury. However, a small percentage of people will continue to experience chronic pain or headaches years after their accident. Damaged neck joints, discs, and ligaments increase the risk of this whiplash complication.
The National Institutes of Health reports that older adults and women are more likely to experience difficulties recovering from whiplash, as are people who were already struggling with chronic pain before their accident.
Am I Entitled to Compensation?
If your whiplash is the result of an auto accident caused by the negligence of another driver, you're entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. You can still receive compensation if you were partially at fault for the accident, although your ability to collect damages will be proportionally reduced by your assigned percentage of fault.
Whiplash cases are often particularly challenging personal injury claims because of the perception that accident victims will fake or exaggerate their condition to receive a larger settlement. To protect your rights, it's best to provide detailed documentation of medical treatment, including prescription costs and insurance co-pays. You will also want to track expenses such as mileage, lost wages, and the cost of hiring household help during your recovery.
Hiring a personal injury attorney to represent your interests will help maximize your eligibility for compensation, since the laws surrounding whiplash settlements can be complex. The experienced attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault are committed to advocating for the needs of those who’ve been injured due to the negligence of others. Schedule a free, no-obligation case review to learn more.