What You Should Know About Whiplash Car Accident Settlements
If you have suffered whiplash as the result of a motor vehicle accident, you should seek medical attention as well as the advice of a qualified and dedicated motor vehicle accident attorney. As a result of your whiplash and back injury claim, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your physical injuries, damage to you vehicle, lost wages and more. In this case, it’s good to know the facts about whiplash car accident settlements.
Don’t delay in filing your claim, as the more time that passes after your accident, the more difficult it can be for an attorney to fight for financial compensation.
Whiplash Injury Causes
Whiplash most commonly occurs during rear end car accidents. It happens when a vehicle strikes your car, causing the body to jerk forward quickly. The head usually trails by a second, causing injuries to the muscles and soft tissue in the neck as it makes exaggerated movements due to the force of the crash. Thankfully, these accidents are typically easy to prove fault.
In other types of car accidents, whiplash occurs from the sheer force of a collision and the effects that force has on the head, neck, and other body parts. The sudden forward and backward or side to side movement that often occurs during a car accident can cause painful whiplash.
Note that whiplash symptoms can develop days or even weeks after the accident. If at any point after your accident, you experience stiff neck pain, difficulty moving your head, or frequent headaches at the base of the head, seek medical attention immediately.
How to Prevent Whiplash in a Car Accident
It’s easy to forget how much power is harnessed by the modern automobile. As we run errands or sit in traffic, we rarely consider the sheer weight and force required to get us from one place or another. It’s not until we’re involved in an accident that we truly appreciate the physics at work. During a crash, a person’s body weight is multiplied by the speed of a vehicle, causing G-forces to bear down on some of their most sensitive body parts.
Not surprisingly, that weight can have a serious impact on the human body. While safety features have come a long way to take the brunt of this weight, injuries like whiplash are still incredibly common. Sudden stops can cause serious damage even when a person does not sustain cuts, bruises or wounds in a crash. Thankfully, there are a few steps a person can take to minimize the impact of this force on the body and prevent whiplash from occurring.
The Physical Impact of Whiplash
Whiplash occurs when a person’s neck is jerked suddenly back and forth. The movement pulls the cervical spine beyond its usual range of motion, damaging the muscles and ligaments in the neck. Particularly common among victims of rear-end car accidents, whiplash can occur any time a person’s neck moves back and forward unexpectedly.
Whiplash can be deceptive, with symptoms often not presenting for hours or even days after an accident. Common symptoms include headache, blurred vision, dizziness and neck pain. Though thought of as a relatively mild injury, whiplash can have long-term effects on a person. Chronic pain and discomfort is possible in people suffering from whiplash. Most, however, recover in about three weeks.
Reducing the Risks
Understanding the physics at work in a car crash scenario can help accident victims minimize the effects of whiplash. Because whiplash occurs when the head is jerked back and forth, having the headrest properly adjusted can reduce the severity of such movements in a collision. A headrest should sit directly behind your head while driving. Adjust it as close to your head as is comfortable, with the height reaching to the top of the ears. Ideally, there would be no space between your head and headrest. Realistically, that would be both uncomfortable and impractical. Instead, limit the space between as much as possible. Distances greater than 10 centimeters have been associated with increased symptoms of neck injuries.
Wearing your seatbelt can also help reduce the chances of whiplash. Though seatbelts may not keep your head from jostling in a wreck, they can help keep your torso in place. This complements the work done by the headrest, keeping your entire body in place despite the amount of force it endures. The reduction of strain minimizes the effects of whiplash.
Of course, the best way to avoid whiplash is to prevent car accidents altogether. By driving defensively and staying alert to changing traffic conditions, you can lower the odds of ever being involved in a wreck. While not all collisions are avoidable, many of the most common kinds of accidents are indeed preventable.
Evolving Technology and Whiplash
Modern cars are designed to absorb as much energy as possible in crash situations. Rather than pass the energy on to the passengers, vehicles offset collisions by using crumple zones to bear the impact of the crash. Air bags, seat belts and side impact protection go a long way to prevent the force of the wreck from harming passengers inside.
Headrest effectiveness has become a particular point of focus for safety regulators in recent years. Newly introduced federal standards on the height of head restraints and the allowable distance between the head and the headrest have seen dramatic changes in the way car interiors are manufactured. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety began a rear-crash program in 2004. Their initial research revealed that nearly half of front head restraints were rated “poor.” By 2014, however, none were rated “poor” and 95 percent were classified as “good.”
The Importance of Aftercare
Even when you take precautions to prevent whiplash, accidents happen. Controlling for damage sometimes isn’t enough. If you have been involved in a car crash and feel the telltale signs of whiplash, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. A doctor will conduct a thorough examination and may require imaging like X-rays, CT scans or an MRI to better understand your injuries. In many cases, a doctor will prescribe physiotherapy to help the patient heal.
Before visiting the doctor, make a list of your symptoms. Be ready to explain exactly what led to your injuries and what treatments, if any, you used to combat pain. Have a list of questions about your whiplash ready, and be sure to address concerns about chronic pain. Do not leave your doctor’s office without getting copies of their findings. If you choose to file a claim, documentation will be required by your insurance company.
The 5 Levels of Car Accident Whiplash
When it comes to whiplash caused by a motor-vehicle accident, patients are classified on a 5 level scale that represents the pain and severity of their injury. These 5 levels can be used to help doctors determine what type of treatment you should receive for your whiplash. The levels are:
- Grade 0 – No symptoms or physical signs of neck injury.
- Grade 1 – Symptoms of pain or tenderness with stiffness, but no physical signs of injury.
- Grade 2 – Symptoms of pain, stiffness, and physical signs of injury including difficulty moving the head.
- Grade 3 – Symptoms of severe pain, headaches, tenderness and other symptoms. Physical signs are more pronounced and include a decreased range of motion, difficulty moving the head, and tenderness in key points of the neck and shoulders.
- Grade 4 – Symptoms of extreme pain, headaches, and other symptoms. Neck fracture and dislocation are assigned to this grade.
The 5 level scale helps both you and your medical professional classify the severity of a whiplash injury. If you are experiencing neck pain after a car accident, you may be suffering from a case of whiplash. If you are diagnosed with whiplash, receive treatment, and otherwise have to alter your normal day to day life because of your car accident, you may be entitled to a whiplash settlement to help cover the financial costs.
What are the symptoms of whiplash?
Whiplash is a type of neck strain or injury most commonly associated with car accidents, but can occur due to any impact that causes your neck to jerk suddenly in an unnatural direction. Our neck muscles are strong, but can not withstand abrupt force without suffering from strains and possibly even tears. Because our heads and necks are unrestrained while we drive, this puts us at a greater risk of whiplash when involved in car accidents such as being rear-ended.
The symptoms and pain associated with a whiplash injury will depend on the severity of your injury. Some of the most common symptoms of whiplash include:
- Pain or stiffness in the neck
- Difficulty turning the head or nodding
- Muscle spasms
- Blurred or obstructed vision
- Headaches at the base of the skull
- Periods of dizziness
- Sustained fatigue
While the above are obvious warning signs of whiplash, there are also less common but equally as serious symptoms. These include:
- Trouble sleeping or insomnia
- Sudden mood changes and irritability
- Tenderness of the neck
- Pain in the lower back
- Ringing in the ears
If you are experiencing any sustained symptoms of whiplash after a car accident, seek medical attention immediately. Starting the diagnosis and physical therapy process to treat whiplash as soon as possible is crucial to your long term health. Additionally, having a medical track record of treatment that you and your lawyer can reference may help you win a whiplash settlement claim that helps offset the financial costs involved with an accident.
What does whiplash feel like?
While every accident is different, whiplash is named after one of the most common causes of the injury: a sudden and forceful back and forth of the head, which can be compared to the crack of a whip.
Many who have suffered from whiplash describe the pain as a stiffness or burning sensation in the neck. Some may feel numb in their lower neck or arms, or suffer spells of dizziness or feeling “out of sorts.”
If moving your head causes immediate or intense pain, seek medical attention. Symptoms that may initially present themselves as a minor case of whiplash may be a serious case of whiplash or another type of injury. Sometimes the initial impact that causes whiplash may also result in a concussion or other serious medical complications.
How long does whiplash last?
While the pain associated with your whiplash may be intense, thankfully the majority of whiplash cases have pain that can go away in as little as a few days. Even serious cases of whiplash can resolve themselves within three months. The symptoms of whiplash can vary in their severity or length, and the majority of whiplash car accident settlements account for a person’s individual situation rather than relying on the existence of extreme pain and suffering.
However, lasting pain from whiplash is unfortunately very possible. Studies have shown that severe, immediate pain following your accident can be an indicator of whether or not your whiplash will be persistent. If your whiplash is permanent, you may be entitled to far more legal compensation from your whiplash settlement than you may initially believe.
How long does it take for whiplash symptoms to appear?
Every car accident is different and so is every driver and passenger. Whiplash symptoms can appear immediately and be extremely painful from the moment of the accident. However, many cases of whiplash do not follow this pattern. In some cases, you may not begin to feel the symptoms of whiplash until several hours after your accident.
Occasionally, it can even take days after the accident for the true extent of your symptoms and pain to show themselves. As soon as you begin to experience symptoms of whiplash, start building a medical record by going in to see your doctor. They will be able to give you a diagnosis and guide you along the next steps toward treatment for your whiplash pain.
How is whiplash diagnosed?
Whiplash injuries can be extremely hard to pinpoint using modern medical technology. Due to the fact that whiplash injuries primarily consist of damage to the soft tissue of the neck, X-rays can not be used to determine if a person does or does not have whiplash. Your doctor may order MRI or CT scans in order to help rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.
However, the primary method of diagnosing whiplash remains your symptoms – so be sure to answer any and all of your doctor’s questions about your pain and your accident truthfully. Exaggerating your pain or minimizing how bad it is in order to appear tough will only cause more confusion and make treating your whiplash injury more difficult.
Your doctor will refer to the 5 level classification system for whiplash car accidents to help further guide your treatment. Less severe cases of whiplash can be treated with at home remedies such as ice packs, heating pads, and over-the-counter-medication. However, extreme cases of whiplash can lead to permanent damage that requires extensive physical therapy, medication, and even surgery to correct.