Attorney David I. Fuchs
Mar. 21, 2018
Whiplash, or neck sprains and strains, are the most common injuries for insurance claims in the U.S. Car accidents are the leading cause of whiplash injuries, as the forces in the accident can “whip” the head and neck forward and backward in quick succession, straining the muscles and soft tissues in the neck. Serious whiplash injuries can cause long-term nerve damage, rupture the neck’s ligaments, and even fracture the uppermost vertebrae. You could suffer chronic, lifelong pain from a whiplash injury – or one of these other surprising outcomes.
The adrenaline from your accident can conceal the fact that you suffered a painful neck or back injury. Whiplash can cause delayed symptoms, not appearing for hours or even days after the collision. Often, whiplash starts to appear several hours after the crash and then grows worse over the next 48 hours. It’s important to refrain from saying that you didn’t suffer an injury in an accident – especially a rear-end collision – until you’ve seen a doctor to make sure. Saying you don’t have an injury and then discovering one later can make it more difficult to prove your insurance claim.
It comes as a surprise for many people to find that neck pain isn’t the only potential symptom of whiplash. While pain in the neck, shoulders, back, and arms is the most common symptom, other people have reported signs such as dizziness or vertigo, fatigue or difficulty sleeping, headaches, memory loss, problems concentrating, burning or prickling sensations, tingling or numbness, throat problems, speech issues, hearing loss, blurred vision, nervousness, irritability, and depression. If you notice anything out of the ordinary after a crash, see a doctor.
It’s logical to assume that a rear-end collision at a higher speed of impact would cause a more severe whiplash injury; however, this is not necessarily the case. Even “minor” fender benders at just 2.5 miles per hour have caused symptoms of whiplash injuries. The severity of injury instead depends on other factors, such as the victim’s health and use of proper restraints, such as a seatbelt and headrest. Neck injuries can happen in any type of car accident, not just high-speed collisions.
Whiplash injuries affect the body’s soft tissues and therefore are not like injuries such as broken bones. As a soft tissue injury, the victim’s physical health and fitness can affect the severity of whiplash. Your physical and even emotional state prior to the accident can determine how much pain you suffer from your whiplash injury. Psychological distress and pre-collision health can predict neck pain after an accident more than the factors of the collision itself. A habit of physical therapies such as massage can even help prevent car accident traumas such as whiplash or reduce the amount they affect the individual.
While most whiplash injuries fade away after weeks or a few months, around 25% of patients report symptoms a year later. Whiplash can, unfortunately, follow a person around for life. Injuries to the neck’s muscles and soft tissues can result in chronic pain and flare-ups long after the accident is over. It can also predispose the person to future injuries to the neck and back. Always talk to an attorney after suffering a whiplash injury, as it could affect you for months.