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Whiplash Injuries: Understanding the Injury and Your Legal Options

Written by Daniel B. Brill

Close-Up Photo of a Man Having a Neck Pain

Accident victims frequently suffer whiplash due to the severe forces involved in a crash. Whiplash can be a serious, debilitating condition that could potentially result in long-term health implications if it’s not correctly diagnosed and treated in a timely manner.

Contrary to common misperception, whiplash is far more than just a stiff neck. It is a complex neck injury caused by a sudden and forceful back-and-forth movement of the neck, akin to the snapping of a whip, hence the name ‘whiplash’.  This type of injury is prevalent in personal injury cases because it frequently occurs after a person is rear-ended.

The Multifaceted Nature of Whiplash Injuries

The complexities associated with whiplash go beyond the mechanism of injury. The sudden and violent force exerted during a crash can stretch and tear the muscles and tendons in your neck. In more severe cases, whiplash might lead to dislocation or even fracture of the cervical spine.  A common diagnosis along with whiplash is a cervical sprain/strain. Despite what some insurance companies argue, a person can suffer from long-term, chronic cervical pain as a result of whiplash.

Initial symptoms of whiplash can range from neck pain and stiffness to headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, and fatigue. In certain cases, victims also report experiencing difficulty concentrating, memory problems, ringing in the ears, sleep disturbances, and increased irritability. These are also considered concussion-like symptoms. A person can suffer a concussion as a result of whiplash even if they don’t strike their head or lose consciousness. Rapid acceleration and deceleration of the head can cause the brain to smack the inside of the skull, leading to a concussion.

Whiplash symptoms can surface immediately after the crash or may take several days, or even weeks, to develop.

The Importance of Proper Diagnosis and Treatment

The process of diagnosing whiplash involves a medical provider taking a history, asking about complaints, running tests, and doing a physical examination. If symptoms persist or if there is reason to suspect a more serious injury, healthcare providers might opt for imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs to rule out other conditions.

While there is no universal ‘one-size-fits-all’ treatment for whiplash, a combination of rest, pain management, physical therapy, and chiropractic is often recommended. Each individual’s recovery path from whiplash can be different, and a treatment plan should be customized according to their specific symptoms and overall health status.

Timely medical attention following a traumatic incident, even when symptoms are not immediately evident, is crucial. This not only facilitates early diagnosis and treatment, reducing the risk of long-term complications, but it also helps substantiate any potential personal injury claims. Insurance companies and their lawyers will try to weaponize any delay or gap in treatment against whiplash victims to argue they aren’t really hurt.

Legal Implications and Challenges of Whiplash Injuries

From a legal perspective, if you have suffered a whiplash injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation.  Victims often get compensated for medical expenses, loss of income due to inability to work, compensation for pain and suffering, and other related costs.

However, one of the biggest challenges in claiming compensation for whiplash injuries is the proof of injury. Unlike a broken bone or a laceration, which can be easily seen and documented, whiplash is primarily an internal injury, with symptoms that are largely subjective and often not immediately visible. This can make it more difficult to provide solid evidence of the injury, thereby making the claim process more challenging.  For that reason, you need to make sure you hire an experienced and qualified personal injury lawyer who completely understands the medicine behind whiplash injuries.

The Crucial Role of Personal Injury Attorneys in Whiplash Cases

An experienced personal injury attorney becomes invaluable in whiplash cases. An attorney with expertise in whiplash injuries will be well-equipped to navigate the complexities of documenting such injuries, finding the right experts, and presenting solid evidence in court.

Personal injury lawyers can help gather all the necessary medical records, consult with medical experts, and prepare a compelling case to prove the extent of the injury and its impact on the victim’s life. In doing so, they can help ensure that you receive the compensation you are rightfully entitled to.

Consult With a Skilled Attorney After a Whiplash Injury

While whiplash injuries are often underestimated and misunderstood, they can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Recognizing the seriousness of these injuries is the first step toward securing appropriate medical care and legal protection. Whether you are the one experiencing symptoms or you are supporting a loved one through their recovery, remember to seek immediate medical attention and legal counsel to protect your health and legal rights.

If you or a loved one suffered from a whiplash injury due to the negligence of someone else, please reach out to our office to see if your case qualifies. We have handled hundreds of whiplash cases and will be able to give you immediate help.