As a Dallas-Fort Worth personal injury lawyer, I know that whiplash is among the most common injured suffered by car wreck victims. Whiplash injuries generally involve soft tissue damage necessitating chiropractic treatment, but they may also involve bruises, back injuries, herniation of the spinal disks, headaches, dizziness, pain when bending or twisting your torso/chest, and lower back problems.
Although these injuries are most commonly associated with car crashes, they can also occur in a variety of other accident scenarios such as falls from a bicycle, when riding a rollercoaster or being shaken (for example, shaken baby syndrome can involve severe injuries to the child).
What is Whiplash?
This is a broad term that covers many different types of neck pain, including many types of soft tissue injuries. These injuries commonly occur in car and truck crashes when the victim was rear-ended by another car. A rear impact collision causes the driver (and any passengers) to be violently jerked in their seat, snapping their neck and head at forces of approximately 5 g’s (depending on the speed) within a matter of milliseconds. This is known as cervical acceleration-deceleration (CAD) trauma and the collected symptoms are known as whiplash associated disorder.
Your doctor might refer to whiplash in medical terms like cervical sprain, cervical strain or hyperextension injuries. These are all common medical conditions that fall under the heading ‘whiplash.’ Whiplash is something that must be taken seriously, especially if conditions worsen or do not fade.
The most common symptom of whiplash is pain in the neck and back. Injured victims may also experience shoulder pain, headaches and a "pins and needles" feeling in the arms and legs. You may begin experiencing whiplash symptoms within hours of an accident, or it may be days before whiplash symptoms occur.
Numerous studies have constantly shown that women are more likely to suffer serious whiplash injuries than men. Females are also more likely to feel pain for longer and suffer greater impairment as a result of their injuries. It's speculated that this difference exists because the female neck is typically less muscular, narrower and longer than male necks. As a result, women will often experience a greater force on their neck when their car is slammed from behind.
Sometimes victims feel pain right away, though that's not always the case. Often, the victim is not aware they are injured until a few days after the accident occurred. For this reason, if you're involved in a traffic accident, don't tell people at the crash scene that you are fine or unhurt. Instead, you can simply say that you don't need an ambulance and you'll drive yourself to the doctor. You should refrain from giving any sort of statement until the full and true nature of your injuries can properly be assessed by a medical professional. This is because as soon as you say "I'm fine, I'm not hurt," you're giving a statement that can be used against you later by the insurance company. Similarly, you should not provide a recorded statement to the insurance adjustor until you are fully aware of the extent of your injuries.
Whiplash and Headaches
Headaches resulting from whiplash can be very painful. These strong headaches (migraines) may not come to a victim of whiplash until at least day after an accident and can get worse in the following days. Whiplash headaches can appear to be similar to other forms of headaches, except that the pain can be increased when the affected areas, such as the neck, shoulder, and even jaw are moved in a certain way. Headaches, in combination with other whiplash symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and weakness, can become a very painful and frustrating experience.
For people who have experienced headaches after having whiplash, it is important to receive a thorough medical exam, followed by a rehabilitation plan after the source of the pain is discovered. In certain situations, a neurologist may be needed to accurately identify the root of the headache. This may include imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI, neuroimaging, or electroencephalogram (EEG).
Whiplash and Concussions
Similar to headaches from a whiplash, a concussion from a whiplash can take more than one day to develop. According to the American Medical Society, a concussion is a “traumatically induced transient disturbance of brain function involving complex pathophysiological process.” In other words, a concussion is the result of a violent shock of the brain caused by force. When a person gets whiplashed, their brain can get temporarily affected when the neck and body is spun in a car. This can cause the following symptoms:
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Difficulty falling (or staying) asleep
A normal recovery method for a concussion from whiplash is rest. It is important to seek medical attention once symptoms are identified; postponing treatment could lead to more symptoms and a longer recovery time. However, most people who have experienced a concussion from whiplash have a complete recovery, and most symptoms are completely resolved within a couple of months if treatment is sought immediately.
Whiplash Is Sometimes More Serious that It Seems
What might start out as a sore neck or back can sometimes turn out to be a more serious issue. Here at my firm, I've seen it happen again and again. A client comes in with a sore neck, unaware that there is a more serious issue that may take months of therapy - or even surgery - to treat.
One of the ways we help our clients is to get them in quickly to see doctors we trust who can determine if the whiplash will heal on its own, or if there is something more serious we should be concerned about. We help our clients form a treatment plan, and start building their cases. If the accident was not your fault, you don't want to be left paying for a serious injury on your own, which is why it's so important to identify an issue early on, gather all the necessary evidence and prepare to fight the at-fault driver's insurance company for the compensation you deserve.
Because whiplash is typically used to describe types of soft tissue injuries to the neck, you’ll find many types of treatments, depending on the doctor. Some prescribe medication, while other doctors may recommend physical therapy to help improve your range of motion and reduce pain and swelling. Still other doctors may refer you to a chiropractor to relieve whiplash symptoms through chiropractic manipulation.
In mild cases, you may undergo treatment for days or weeks until your soft tissues heal and you are able to resume regular activities. During this time, you may be confined to bed rest, and you may be unable to work and perform other normal activities. It is important to follow the doctor's orders so that you can recover fully and to prevent future pain from occurring.
Some injuries result in permanent restrictions, though, such as being unable to move your neck beyond a certain point, or permanent pain and change in activities.
One of the biggest contributors to whiplash complications is the amount of time taken to seek treatment. A patient with headaches, concussions, and others symptoms can have difficult recovering if they delay their treatment for weeks after the accident occurred. Chronic pain in the affected areas such as severe neck pain, migraines, and radiating pain to the arms can occur.
Long-Term Whiplash Damage
In Texas, if you were hurt in an accident that was the other driver's fault, and the accident caused you whiplash that resulted in long-term damage or injury, you have a right to compensation for that injury. To do this, you'll need to file a claim against the at-fault driver and their insurance, and then fight for the compensation you deserve using evidence. One of the most common reasons our clients hire us is to fight these claims for them.
Do You Need a Car Accident Lawyer?
Compensation may be available to a victim of a car accident who has experienced whiplash. Victims can obtain compensation for the medical expenses associated with the accident, such as doctor appointments, medicine, physical therapy, and surgeries. Compensation may also be available for lost wages. If you took time off work to treat to receive treatment, you were ordered by a doctor to stay home after a procedure, or you received a certain type of medicine that could inhibit your ability to safely function at your job, you more than likely lost wages for that period. In a personal injury lawsuit, we make sure that every penny you lost is accounted for.
Also, other types of damages, such as pain and suffering, can be compensated for. If you missed your child’s first football game, missed a family vacation, or have anxiety every time you enter a vehicle, you have the right to pursue compensation. You should not have to pay for expenses generated from a car accident you did not cause, which is why the Anderson Law Firm is committed to ensuring your recovery without you having to worry about mounting medical bills.
There are two main types of insurance policies that would be activated in a car accident: personal injury protection (PIP) coverage and medical payments coverage. PIP insurance covers, as the name implies, expenses related to treating injuries from an accident. If you are required to have a caregiver or someone take care of you, this expense can be covered through PIP.
Similarly, medical payments coverage also covers personal injuries, but does so in a more in-depth way. For example, x-rays, medical imaging, and surgeries can be covered through medical payments coverage. When a personal injury claim is made, your personal injury attorney will determine which insurance coverage(s) is most appropriate to file against.
Want more information? You can learn more about auto insurance here.
It is important that you seek medical help as soon as possible following your accident, even if you do not initially believe that you have been hurt.
If you or a loved one has suffered from car wreck injuries in a North Texas auto wreck or other accident, please contact the personal injury attorneys at the Anderson Law Firm for a free, no obligation consultation on your legal rights.