Whiplash Causes, Treatments and Legal Consequences

You didn’t stay out late drinking. You had your lights on. You avoided risky driving situations. You used your blinker. No matter which way you slice it, you can’t understand why you were rear ended at such a high speed.

This is just an example, but it’s a common enough scenario. It often results in stiffness and pain in your neck that just won’t seem to go away. Within a day or so of the accident, you may have noticed pain radiating down from your neck or causing headaches at the base of your skull. More serious symptoms might include dizziness or memory problems. You almost certainly have whiplash.

If so, it’s important you understand the injury and treat it immediately. If you have concerns about whiplash, or are wondering whether or not you need to see someone, here are some common questions along with answers. Learn about this injury now so you don’t have to wonder about it later.

What Is Whiplash?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Whiplash is a neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip.” Although it most commonly results from motor vehicle accidents, it can also occur in response to sports injury or abuse. Whiplash is most frequent following rear-end accidents, and usually affects the person in the car being rear-ended.

How Common Is It?

Whiplash is actually surprisingly common, and even a minor accident can cause a pretty severe case. According to the Spine Research Institute, the best estimates place whiplash incidence at about 3 million cases per year in the United States, or about 1,172 people per 100,000 experiencing it annually. Taking all types of vehicle accidents into account, however, the incidence of whiplash is still alarmingly high, hovering around 33 percent, says the Spine Research Institute of San Diego.

What Are the Symptoms of Whiplash?

In addition to neck pain and stiffness, upper back and arm pain, headaches, dizziness and memory problems, a host of other symptoms also frequently result from whiplash. These include a loss of range of motion, tingling or numbness in the arms, fatigue, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, poor sleep, irritability, depression and difficulty concentrating.

Generally symptoms come on within 24 hours of the accident, though they may come on much sooner. In mild cases, you may notice a delay in symptoms, or you may notice some symptoms without significant pain or discomfort.

Should I See a Doctor?

Although the 33 percent figure sounds quite high, many of these cases are often so mild it isn’t necessary to see someone. If you aren’t in pain, are sleeping well, can work without getting uncomfortable or unfocused, and generally don’t notice any symptoms that negatively impact your life, you most likely don’t need to see anyone.

If you notice any of the above symptoms, however, it’s important to schedule an appointment right away. Often minor symptoms indicate a major problem, and you don’t want to find out that’s the case too late. If you notice anything, see a doctor immediately.

Can I Be Compensated for Whiplash?

Yes, you can. Whiplash is a very real injury, and causes pain and discomfort in addition to lost wages and medical bills. If you have experienced an accident that was not your fault (or even mostly not your fault), and have whiplash, you should seek compensation. This is another reason to see a doctor quickly: if you wait too long, it may appear as though your symptoms aren’t real.

Would you like to learn more about your options concerning whiplash and other accident-related issues? Get in touch with us to speak to an attorney today.