Whiplash is one of the most common injuries in car accidents, yet one of the least understood. If you have experienced neck pain, stiffness, headaches, and vision changes after an accident, you may have suffered a whiplash injury.
It is essential to understand the causes of whiplash, how serious it can be, and the compensation you may be entitled to recover after a whiplash injury.
What Is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a common soft-tissue neck injury also known as cervical acceleration-deceleration or a neck strain. It involves damage to the muscles, nerves, tendons, and/or discs in the neck when they’re overextended. This forceful movement causes tendons and muscles to stretch past their normal range of motion.
Whiplash may be relatively minor, but for some, it leads to chronic pain and reduced range of motion. A serious injury can even cause nerve damage and dislocation.
Misconceptions About Whiplash Injuries
Unfortunately, there’s a misconception that whiplash is usually faked. Juries have been exposed to decades of media portraying faked whiplash injuries. Insurance companies play up this misconception, too.
In a whiplash case study published in Pain Research and Management, researchers noted that the originator of the term “whiplash” once joked that whiplash is “any strain of the cervical spine that doesn’t resolve until all litigation is concluded.” Many studies have already refuted the link between whiplash and litigation. The study also concluded that chronic issues after a whiplash injury are likely much more prevalent than previously known.
Juries tend to be skeptical of all types of soft tissue injuries because they generally don’t show up on X-rays or even MRIs. Injuries like whiplash can also happen in low-speed accidents and crashes with minimal property damage. Many people expect serious injuries to only happen when there’s significant damage to the car. The reverse can also be true: when the car doesn’t absorb energy from a crash, it can transfer to the occupants.
An experienced personal injury attorney will gather evidence and explain your injury to the jury to overcome this bias. Your lawyer will also educate jurors on the relationship between property damage and injuries in a crash.
What Causes Whiplash Injuries?
Whiplash happens when the head is moved forward, backward, or side-to-side suddenly and forcefully. Most whiplash injuries are caused by a car accident. Rear-end crashes are more likely to cause whiplash than other types of crashes. This is because the impact pushes the stationary car forward while the occupant’s head lags in the movement due to inertia.
Other causes of whiplash include the following:
- Motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, and other traffic accidents
- Physical assault
- Boat accidents
- Sports, especially contact sports
Virtually any accident that causes rapid, violent movement of the head can cause injury to the neck.
What Are the Symptoms of Whiplash?
The symptoms of whiplash may be felt immediately after an accident, but they can also take hours or several days to appear.
The most common whiplash symptoms include:
- Neck pain that worsens with movement of the neck
- Pain that extends to the shoulders, arms, or upper back
- Reduced range of motion of the neck
- Stiffness, numbness, or tingling in the neck that may extend to the arms
- Headaches radiating from the base of the neck
Some accident victims experience secondary symptoms such as blurred vision, sleep changes, trouble concentrating, and tinnitus or ringing in the ears.
How Common Are Whiplash Injuries?
Whiplash is the most common injury sustained in motor vehicle accidents. Research suggests up to 83% of people involved in a crash develop a whiplash injury. It’s also a common cause of chronic disability.
Some risk factors make someone more likely to suffer whiplash in an accident. Whiplash itself does not appear in X-rays. Two conditions do frequently show up in x-rays of whiplash patients: pre-existing degenerative diseases like disc degeneration and loss of the lordotic curve of the cervical spine.
Cervical lordosis refers to an abnormal curvature of the cervical spine. It may involve the normal wide C-shaped curve straightening out or curving in the wrong direction. This condition can be caused by poor posture, repetitive strain, a fall, a car accident, or it may be congenital. Whiplash can also lead to cervical lordosis or worsen an existing case.
How Is Whiplash Treated?
A clinical diagnosis based on an exam and your symptoms is necessary to diagnose whiplash. Your doctor may order X-rays and MRIs to check for instability and more severe injuries, especially if your symptoms do not improve with rest.
Whiplash was once treated with a soft cervical collar designed to reduce the range of motion and allow the soft tissues to heal. These collars are rarely used today as immobilizing the neck can actually slow healing.
Common treatments for whiplash today include:
- Physical therapy and rotational exercises as symptoms allow
- Occupational therapy
- Pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs
- Chiropractic treatment
Seeking medical attention as soon as possible after your accident is important to improve your recovery, limit complications, and document your injuries. Be sure to follow all physician recommendations and go to all follow-up appointments.
What Compensation Can I Recover for a Whiplash Injury in Stuart, FL?
The effects of whiplash can be long-lasting, especially if the injury worsens a pre-existing injury or causes permanent disability and pain. Damages you may recover for whiplash injuries are divided into two broad categories: financial or economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages refer to the financial losses you suffered, such as medical bills and lost wages. Non-economic damages cover intangible losses like pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Under Florida law, your first avenue for recovering compensation after a car accident is your PIP coverage. This covers 80% of your medical expenses up to $10,000 and 60% of lost wages up to $10,000. Non-economic damages and property damage are not covered by PIP insurance.
If you suffered more serious injuries caused by someone else’s negligence, you can pursue compensation outside of Florida’s no-fault system. Under Florida’s modified comparative fault rule, you can recover compensation if you are 50% or less to blame for the crash. Your damages will be reduced according to your share of the assigned fault.
Contact Our Stuart Personal Injury Lawyers for Help
Don’t underestimate the severity of a whiplash injury after a fall or car crash. Neck injuries can be debilitating and leave you with chronic pain and permanent disability. If you believe you have suffered whiplash in an accident, a personal injury lawyer can help you explore your legal options. Contact our attorneys at Kibbey Wagner Injury & Car Accident Lawyers Stuart to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. You can call us at (772) 444-7000.