Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Whiplash Injuries

Whiplash Injury

If you’ve ever suffered a whiplash injury, you know how excruciatingly painful these injuries can be. You also know how long this pain can last. Some people recover within a few weeks or months. However, studies show that up to 50% of whiplash victims still experience persistent pain a year or more after sustaining the injury that caused it. The pain occurs not only in your neck, but also can extend to your head, shoulders, arms and back. In addition, a whiplash injury can severely decrease your neck’s range of motion.

Causes of Whiplash Injuries

By definition, a whiplash injury is caused when an accident forces your neck to move rapidly forward and backward. It is similar to the motion of a cracking whip. While the vast majority of whiplash injuries result from motor vehicle accidents, particularly when someone’s vehicle rear-ends yours, they can also be caused by the following:

Whiplash Symptoms

Whiplash can lead to severe pain and decreased range of motion. Suffering this kind of injury can also cause you to exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Severe headaches
  • Tingling or numbness in your arms
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Tinnitus, i.e., ringing in your ears
  • Concentration and/or memory problems
  • Sleep disturbances and consequent constant fatigue

The longer your whiplash pain persists, the more likely you will also suffer from depression.

Whiplash Diagnosis

Diagnosing a whiplash injury is fairly easy for any experienced health care professional. As soon as you mention that you hurt your neck, the red flags go up. Unfortunately, however, diagnosing the severity of your whiplash injury is considerably more difficult. Your health care provider likely will want to test your range of motion, the amount of tenderness in your neck, shoulders and back, and the strength of your hand and arm reflexes. He or she likely will also want to schedule you for an C-ray, computerized tomography (CT scan) and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). While none of these will show a whiplash injury, they can rule out other causes of your symptoms. This includes, a broken bone, a spinal cord injury, a herniated disk or ligament damage.

Whiplash Treatment

There is no cure for a whiplash injury. Only time can heal one. Whiplash treatments, therefore, attempt to control your pain and restore your normal neck range of motion.

In terms of pain management, your health care provider will likely recommend initial bed rest. They may also suggest the application of either heat or cold for 15 minutes every three or four hours. He or she may also recommend taking such over-the-counter pain relievers as Tylenol, Advil, Motrin IB, etc. If you’re experiencing excessive pain, he or she may give you a prescription for a stronger pain medication, an antidepressant or a muscle relaxer.

In terms of both decreasing your pain and increasing your range of motion, your health care provider may recommend specific stretching and movement exercises you can perform at home or a course of physical therapy. Your physical therapist, in turn, will create a personalized physical therapy plan for you. That may include such things as range of motion exercises, passive limb manipulation, massage and possibly the use of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which applies a mild electrical current to your skin that improves your muscle strength and eases your neck pain, at least temporarily.

Doctors used to routinely recommend that their whiplash patients wear a foam cervical collar to prevent their heads and necks from moving. This practice has decreased over the years. This is due to studies that have shown that wearing such a color for long periods of time can cause your muscles to lose strength, thereby prolonging your recovery.

Whiplash Lawsuit Process

Obviously, your medical and rehabilitation costs can skyrocket after a whiplash injury. This is especially true if its pain continues for a lengthy period. You may wish to consult an experienced whiplash injury attorney with regard to filing a personal injury lawsuit against the person who caused the auto or other accident that resulted in your whiplash injury.

If you do, be sure to take all your medical records with you. That includes those showing the tests you underwent and their results. Also take your physical therapy records and your receipts for your over-the-counter or prescription drug purchases. Why? Because these become evidence of the economic damages you have suffered as a result of your whiplash. If you have missed work due to your injury, take any documents that show how much work you’ve missed and the wages or salary you lost because of it.

Assuming your attorney advises you that your whiplash symptoms are serious enough and have persisted long enough to warrant filing a personal injury lawsuit, he or she can file one on your behalf against the person whose negligence or wrongdoing caused the accident that caused your injury. In this lawsuit, you will ask the court to award you economic damages to cover your past, present and future costs and loss of wages stemming from your whiplash and noneconomic damages to compensate you for your intangible damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.

Why You Need an Experienced Attorney

The amount of damages you recover will depend not only on the type and severity of your whiplash injury but also on your attorney’s knowledge, skill and experience. Most whiplash victims who file lawsuits receive settlements or jury awards of between $2,500 and $10,000. A serious whiplash injury, however, can result in a settlement or jury award of $30,000 or more. If your whiplash leads to nerve damage or injured vertebrae, you could recover in excess of $100,000.

Not only do you need an experienced personal injury attorney, you need a local one thoroughly familiar with your state’s laws. For instance, each state has its own statute of limitation, dictating the time you have from the date of your injury to file your lawsuit. If you miss this filing deadline, you may be precluded from filing a lawsuit at all.

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