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.
History of Whiplash
Whiplash was first seen in Europe before the invention of the automobile. The government began looking into why hundreds of people were coming down with similar symptoms including burning sensations in their necks, neck and/or back pain, headaches, etc. Sometimes people would never completely heal and sometimes, it would prove quite debilitating. It did not take the investigators long to realize that each of the people had ridden in trains when the symptoms began. These trains had huge iron couplers requiring that the train run into new train cars to get them to attached to the rest of the train. Everyone on board’s head would lurch forward or backward for just a second and some people would get what was originally called “train spine” but later, has been termed “whiplash.”
What Kind of Incident Can Cause Whiplash
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. Middle and Low back injuries are also very common but they are caused by different mechanisms often involving poor posture, and a persons’ involuntary tensing of their spinal muscles.
Like many injuries, the effects of whiplash can vary from mild to severe. Most often complaints begin as a mild burning sensation at the neck and headaches dizziness or nausea. At its mildest, whiplash will cause short term stiffness or soreness. However, as the initial swelling inside the persons’ neck goes down, symptoms often get worse. 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.
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 but often leave believing they are “ok” only to have the discomfort in the neck progress over the following hours, days and weeks after the accident.
Doctors affirm that what causes the delayed symptoms 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.
The treatment of whiplash will vary with the severity of the symptoms, ranging from Massage Therapy, Chiropractic Care, Physical Therapy, Pain Management and Surgery. If the palliative treatments don’t work, surgeons are able to perform procedures such as Discectomies where they remove a portion of a damaged disc. Fusion where a disc is removed and the vertebrae on both sides are fused together. Other times the injury is actually to a Facet Joint, and there are now surgical treatments for that.
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 for the person to hit you 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 help the doctor make 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, give you the treatment necessary for the whiplash, and make 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.