Whiplash Can Be a Debilitating Injury

What is whiplash?

In fact, whiplash is no joke and can be a very serious injury. As its name suggests, whiplash is an injury to the neck caused when the head is thrown backward, forward, or side to side by a sudden impact. Such an impact can also cause a neck sprain, which is an injury attributable to the fact that the ligaments in the neck are overstretched due to the strong jolt.

Although whiplash can occur whenever a person’s head or neck is violently whipped around, such as while playing sports or in a fall, the most common cause of whiplash is a car accident. Whiplash is often the only injury that a person in a car accident suffers because if the person is properly belted in, his or her head and neck are the only parts of the body that will move very much, but they will move violently.


Like many injuries, the effects of whiplash can vary from mild to severe. At its mildest, whiplash will cause short term stiffness or soreness. More serious cases can make it impossible to turn one’s neck or perhaps affect one’s ability to walk. At its worst, whiplash can cause long term debility due to severe headaches, muscle spasms, pain, and paresthesia. The treatment of whiplash will vary with the severity of the symptoms, ranging from rest to chiropractic care to physical therapy and surgery.

Unlike a sprained ankle, many serious whiplash injuries produce almost no immediate pain. The injured person may recall some minor stiffness at the scene of the crash and some-times report a mild burning sensation in the neck, mild headaches or dizziness, but often leave believing they are “ok” only to have the discomfort in the neck progress over the following hours and days after the accident.

Doctors affirm that what causes the delayed syptoms caused by whiplash are the immediate and temporary swelling in the area as well as the adrenaline released under the stress of the collision. Often people notice that after a minor collision they are shaking; this is because they are in a clinical state of shock which masks the pain until the adrenaline wears off.

See a Doctor Immediately

Because the onset of whiplash symptoms can be delayed, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible after a collision. This is vital because it allows a professional to examine you and, if necessary, to begin treatment. The examination will also document the symptoms that you feel are related to the collision. A delay between the collision and treatment will allow the insurance company to argue that you don’t actually have whiplash, or that it was caused by something other than the accident.

Treatment by a doctor is necessary not only to provide the proper care for your injuries, but also because it will make it easier for you to prove the connection between your neck pain and the accident. In order to recover for an injury, you have to prove that the injury was either caused or made worse by the collision, and such proof requires a doctor’s diagnosis. A good doctor will document your symptoms, the treatment necessary to treat the whiplash, and the likely cause, making it easier for you or your personal injury lawyer to connect the dots and prove that the car accident caused the whiplash.

If you have suffered whiplash in an accident that is not your fault, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. This is not a windfall, its purpose is to reimburse you for the cost of the medical care necessary for your treatment, cover some of your lost wages suffered because you were unable to work due to your injuries, and make up for the pain which the doctors cannot take away, commonly referred to as “pain and suffering.”

Obviously, the amount you can recover will vary depending on the severity of your injuries and the length of time that you are debilitated by the whiplash. It is important to remember that the possible delay in the appearance of whiplash symptoms means that you should resist the temptation to take the first offer that the other driver’s insurance company makes an offer that seems generous at first may turn out to be far less than the cost of the medical care you will incur.

Herman & Wells, P.A. handles personal injury lawsuits for the injured and their families in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and surrounding areas of Florida.

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