Whether it was a severe accident or even a minor fender bender, whiplash is one of the most common injuries to result from auto accidents. While treatable, whiplash can be a minor annoyance, but in the worse cases can result in nerve damage.
However, what makes whiplash so frustrating is that it might not be an apparent injury right away. In order to effectively document and seek treatment or damages for whiplash, it is important to know the symptoms.
What is Whiplash?
The term whiplash is thrown around a lot, but very few people actually know what it is. The term whiplash is used to describe a neck sprain or neck strain. While these injuries can be caused by other accidents, whiplash is technically characterized by a series of symptoms that occur following damage to the neck in an auto accident. However, whiplash is caused by the same occurrence each time, the rapid back and forth movement jerking of the head during a collision. While a seatbelt will keep your body safe during a car accident, sadly even if the air bags deploy, they will not protect your neck from this event.
Symptoms of Whiplash
What makes whiplash so frustrating to seek damages for is that symptoms often wait 24 hours or more after an accident to manifest. Following the initial trauma, typically the injury begins to display symptoms within the following days. Symptoms of whiplash include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Shoulder pain between the blades
- Lower back pain
- Pain or numbness in the hands
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory Loss
- Irritability or Fatigue
- Sleep Disturbances
Noticeably, symptoms range above and beyond simple neck pain. In a whiplash injury, the intervertebral joints between the vertebrae, discs, ligaments, and nerve roots in your back become damaged which can result in pain or discomfort well beyond the neck area. In serious cases, you may even lose feeling in a portion of your body for an extended period of time.
How Whiplash is Diagnosed?
As most whiplash injuries occur in the soft tissue around the discs, muscles, and ligaments, the actual injury cannot be seen on a simple X-ray. To diagnoses whiplash effectively, the injured party will need more specialized imaging tests like a CT scan or a MRI, which can be costly even with health insurance to cover the bulk of it. While these expensive tests help keep false complaints of whiplash down, it also greatly hurts those who are really suffering and don’t know how to get legal proceedings going to get back what is owed to them in damages.
While expensive to diagnose, whiplash can also be tricky to treat effectively. While there is no absolutely effective way to treat the injury, typically pain medication is prescribed to help treat the initial pain. However, for deeper damage, those who suffered whiplash may require physical therapy, massage, injections, or an immobilization collar to heal effectively.
I Have Whiplash, Now What?
Because of the numbing effect that the combination of adrenaline and cortisol create after an accident, many who have a whiplash injury think they are okay. If an injury is not documented at the scene of an accident, it can be more difficult to seek compensation for later. However, for as much hassle as a personal injury claim will be, it needs to be done if you don’t want to get stuck with a huge stack of medical bills.
The first step to a successful personal injury claim is to seek medical attention as soon as possible. If your auto accident is not serious enough to merit paramedics, then you should have yourself checked out by a reputable doctor as soon as even mild symptoms begin to manifest. The longer you wait to seek medical attention after an accident, the more ammunition you give claim adjusters to argue the seriousness of your injury. If you wait several days or even weeks to get checked out by a doctor, they may even try to infer that your injury was caused by some other incident which will leave you stuck with the bill and the injury. The faster whiplash is diagnosed, the more credible your claim becomes.
After the injury is diagnosed and you are preparing for a personal injury claim, be sure to establish a paper trail of medical documentation. The documents you should have gathered include:
- Emergency room admission forms
- Medical charts
- CT scans
- Blood tests
- Doctor’s notes
- Record of follow-up treatment
However, even all that, you may be asked by the other party’s lawyer or a insurance claim adjuster to undergo an independent medical exam. Providing you went to a reputable physician and did not try to pad your medical bills, this can and probably should be declined. These exams typically use a doctor that has frequently agreed with a claims adjuster in the past and may try to disprove your doctor’s diagnosis. The only time an independent medical exam should be accepted is when it is demanded by your own insurance company for a no-fault state (where they pay for damages regardless of fault and just want to verify the expenses of an injury) or when your personal injury claim is going to trial. Otherwise, you are under no obligation to partake in an independent medical exam.
If you have been the victim of an auto accident that resulted in whiplash and want to seek damages to cover your medical costs, but aren’t sure where to start, the Farrish Johnson Law Office might be able to help. Contact us today for a consultation to see what sort of compensation you may be eligible to receive.