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What Is "Whiplash" And The Dangers Associated With It?

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Whiplash is a neck injury commonly associated with rear-end car accidents. It happens when someone experiences a forceful overextension of the neck beyond its typical range of motion. The movement is rapid, like a whip.   

Whiplash may be an invisible injury, but that’s not to say it isn’t serious; the aftereffects can linger for months and even years to some degree of chronic pain. Even mild cases can result in debilitating discomfort and impact daily life as an injury nearly impossible to ignore.

Quick Facts about Whiplash

The Spine Research institute of San Diego provides the following statistics:

  • About 3 million Americans sustain whiplash injuries each year
  • About 1.5 million Americans suffer chronic pain from whiplash
  • About 300,000 of Americans become disabled due to the pain of whiplash
  • Most whiplash injuries occur at crash speeds below 12 miles per hour
  • There is no correlation between vehicle damage and extent of injury
  • Aging significantly increases the risk of whiplash; children have 2/3 the risk of adults

Symptoms of Whiplash

Whiplash injuries can include damage to spinal joints, discs, and ligaments, cervical muscles, and nerve roots. Symptoms such as neck pain can appear immediately after the accident, but others can take up to several days to detect.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Muscle and ligament injuries
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Burning, numbness, tingling, itching, prickling or other abnormal sensations in the arms, hands or shoulders
  • Shoulder or back pain
  • In some cases, victims of whiplash may experience cognitive or psychological conditions, such as:
  • Memory loss
  • Impaired concentration
  • Nervousness or irritability
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue

Neck injuries can worsen without treatment. As the highway to the brain for the body’s systems, it’s critical to receive a proper diagnosis and address any symptoms after sustaining a neck injury. 

Whiplash Treatment may include:

  • Pain medication
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Antidepressants
  • Muscle relaxants
  • A cervical collar for neck support
  • Range of motion exercises
  • Physical therapy
  • Cervical traction

During the first 24 hours, applying ice can help reduce pain and swelling. Afterward, heat can be applied for relief as it loosens and relaxes tight muscles.

It’s important to note that whiplash is typically easy to treat and recover from. Unlike many injuries, rest is not recommended as the best way to recover from whiplash. It is suggested to gradually resume normal activities to regain mobility.  Resting for more than a few days will cause muscles to weaken and can actually prolong the pain.

 Most cases recover within three months, however, about 25% of whiplash patients report symptoms for up to a year. Additionally, 10% of people report experiencing permanent symptoms from their injuries. 

Technical advances in seat belts and head restraints have been designed to prevent the neck from hyper extending. Though whiplash is most commonly caused by front or rear-impact car accidents, it’s possible to sustain the injury at any time. Someone can get whiplash from a trip and fall, or high-impact activities like snowboarding, football or gymnastics.

Whiplash happens at all speeds. Researchers have proven that someone can get whiplash injuries at low-speed crashes less than 5 miles per hour.

Whiplash Lawsuits and Settlements

Like most personal injuries, the amount awarded to the victim depends on the severity of the injury. With whiplash, it makes a big difference whether there is major damage to nerves or vertebrae.  

Even though whiplash is an injury that usually heals over time, victims can still seek compensation if the injury was caused by someone else’s negligence. 

However, all too often an at-fault driver’s insurance will offer the lowest possible settlement that just barely covers medical costs. With the help from our experienced legal team, other damages commonly awarded to whiplash victims are:

  • Present and future medical expenses—including hospital bills, medications, and other treatments
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future income and reduced earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress and trauma
  • Property damage (such as vehicle damage) 

Each injury is evaluated on a case by case basis, often with people settling for what others believe is appropriate compensation. It is always advised to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help determine the true cost of a victim’s rightful compensation. 

It’s important to take notice of any time limits implemented by insurance providers. Most companies require people to submit a claim within a “reasonable