There are thousands of car accidents that occur every year in the United States. In many cases, these events result in injuries and death. One of the most prevalent physical problems accident victims experience is whiplash. There are ongoing research studies conducted to determine the extent of the short term and long term effects of whiplash on victims. What does this mean from a legal standpoint if you suffered whiplash in an auto accident due to another driver’s negligence? It means there is a strong possibility that you could be eligible for compensation.
What Is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a condition referred to as cervical acceleration-deceleration injury or CAD for short. As the name suggests, the injury occurs to the soft tissue of the neck when the head violently and quickly snaps back and then forward in a rapid succession. For car accident victims, this occurs when their vehicles are hit from behind, which is known as a rear-end collision.
Many car accident victims experience whiplash. However, the condition has a slow onset, so there may not be any obvious symptoms immediately following a vehicular collision. Because of this, victims don’t always seek medical attention.
Additionally, the symptoms may range from mild to severe. Often, the condition is misdiagnosed. In other instances, victims dismiss any pain and discomfort, assuming it will eventually go away. The problem with this is that without a proper diagnosis or treatment, victims can experience long-term effects of whiplash that may result in extensive medical expenses and even disability.
What Are the Common Symptoms of Whiplash?
It’s not always easy to pinpoint if an auto accident victim is suffering from whiplash. The main reason for this is that the symptoms can mimic a myriad of other medical conditions. If you or someone you know has been in a vehicle collision, take note of the following symptoms, because they are strong indicators of a whiplash injury:
- Shoulder tenderness or pain
- Shoulder pain radiating to upper extremities
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Numbness in extremities
- Blurred vision
- Memory issues
- Sleep disruption or fatigue
Symptoms usually appear within 24 hours after a car incident takes place. These symptoms can vary from patient to patient depending on the nature of the injury.
Whiplash has either a short-term or long-term impact. In the mild cases, the condition will heal on its own if no further injury is sustained. These cases may fall under the category of a mild neck strain, which can heal in a matter of three weeks. Sometimes it takes several months for a full recovery. With lengthy recovery periods, victims may experience headaches or other symptoms. Whiplash injuries lasting longer than a year have more serious medical and financial consequences.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Whiplash?
An individual who is in a severe automobile accident is more likely to experience whiplash. However, what many drivers may not know is that a car traveling as little as 10 miles an hour can result in whiplash. In this scenario, the vehicle may not undergo severe damage, but the body may sustain a serious injury.
Whiplash is the result of damage to the soft tissue of the neck and back, neck joints, disc and ligaments. This, in turn, produces pain that can last for six months or more. When this ongoing pain occurs, it is referred to as chronic whiplash. If this condition goes undiagnosed or untreated, whiplash symptoms long term can lead to permanent disability.
Approximately 43 percent of victims live with chronic whiplash. As a result, the quality of their lives is greatly compromised and hinders their ability to carry out their daily activities. The common symptom they experience is chronic pain. Other symptoms of chronic whiplash include:
- Blurred vision
- Jaw pain
- Weakness in legs or arms
- Numbness in legs or arms
- Travel anxiety
- Severe headaches
- Upper and lower back pain
- Pain and stiffness in the neck
- Pain and stiffness in back
As stated earlier, signs and symptoms often appear for 24 hours or more after a whiplash car accident occurs. It’s crucial that victims seek medical attention soon after the incident. Delays in treatment often lead to more physical complications down the road.
What Is the Treatment for Whiplash?
There is a wide range of treatment options available to whiplash patients. There is the traditional medical route that involves prescription painkillers, muscle relaxers and physiotherapy. Additionally, there are alternative treatments, such as:
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
- Massage therapy
- Chiropractic care
Whatever method of treatment sought, there are medical costs associated with the recovery. Also, if you must take time off work for an extended period of time it can add another financial burden on top of an already life-changing situation. This is where consulting with a personal injury lawyer can help ease your financial hardships after suffering a whiplash injury due to a car wreck.
What Are the Statistics on Whiplash?
Whiplash is an injury that shouldn’t be ignored or taken lightly. It can have a negative, long-term impact on a victim’s quality of life. There are over three million new diagnosed cases every year and over 50 percent of those individuals end up with varying degrees of chronic symptoms. Below are a few statistics illustrating why drivers must take this condition seriously and consider the long-term effects of whiplash:
- Over 50 percent of individuals diagnosed with whiplash experience chronic pain 20 years after the initial injury.
- Individuals experiencing chronic pain due to whiplash often have abnormal psychological profiles.
- The majority of whiplash injuries result from driving less than 12 mph.
- People between the ages of 30 and 50 years old experience most whiplash injuries.
- Women are five times more likely than men to suffer a whiplash injury.
- Whiplash victims lose roughly eight weeks of work.
- It can take weeks or months before whiplash symptoms appear post-accident.
- Seventy-five percent of whiplash patients have symptoms that last six months or more.
Although car accidents are one of the most common causes of whiplash injuries, it is not the only cause. The injury can occur as a result of physical abuse, sports, extreme amusement park rides and on-the-job mishaps.
Can Whiplash Be Avoided?
There’s nothing that provides a 100 percent solution for preventing whiplash if you’re in an auto wreck. With that said, safety experts offer advice on how drivers can reduce the risk of this injury when they’re on the road.
One of the basic safety precautions you can take is to keep a safe driving distance between you and the other drivers. A distance of at least two seconds is recommended. This decreases the likelihood of being hit from behind, which often leads to whiplash.
Additionally, it’s recommended that drivers use their car’s headrests to their advantage. What you need the most is protection for your head and neck. Make sure the headrest is perfectly aligned and leveled with your head. The right positioning provides the support and cushioning you need in case your vehicle is rear-ended. The headrest keeps your head from jerking backward beyond its normal range of motion, which reduces the possibility of you sustaining a severe neck injury.
What to Do After a Car Wreck?
A car wreck is a traumatic and sometimes life-altering event. Despite your best effort to protect yourself while driving, often traffic accidents are unavoidable. If you find yourself in this circumstance, there are specific actions you can take following the incident to ensure the situation is handled properly. Following these steps is especially important if you decide to file a claim for compensation. Here is what you do:
- Call the police.
- Move your vehicle away from traffic, if possible.
- Exchange insurance information with the other driver.
- Take photographs of the damaged property and injured individuals.
- See a doctor as soon as possible.
- Contact a personal injury attorney.
- Report the incident to your insurance provider.
Why Speak With a Personal Injury Lawyer?
The most important phone call you can make after visiting your doctor and receiving a whiplash diagnosis is to call a personal injury attorney. This attorney has the expertise necessary to determine whether your case qualifies for compensation. If you’re a whiplash victim of a negligent driver, you may be eligible receive a substantial amount of money to cover the following costs:
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Hospital stay
- Medical bills
It’s also a good idea to speak with an attorney about any insurance settlement offers. Your lawyer can get you the best resolution or represent you in court if your case goes to trial.
Get the Money You Deserve
Don’t ignore any neck pain, stiffness or other symptoms after you’ve been in a vehicle accident. Visit your doctor immediately after the incident, so you can get the proper diagnosis and treatment. The sooner you seek medical attention, the better chance you have of avoiding the long-term effects of whiplash.
If you have been injured in a Palm Beach County car accident, I encourage you to contact me, Brian D. Guralnick, personally to discuss your legal rights. To learn how the injury team at Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers can help you Demand More® for your injuries, call 561-202-6673 now.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog is not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. If you need advice on specific legal issues, please consult with a licensed Personal Injury attorney.