Accidents are common occurrences. The Georgia Department of Transportation collects data on traffic accidents in the state. Statistics show that an accident occurs on Georgia roads about every minute and, on average, a driver may be involved in an accident about once every 10 years. Luckily, most car accidents are minor fender-benders. However, sometimes, an accident causes serious and severe injuries. One of the most common injuries caused by traffic accidents is whiplash. Whiplash is a neck and back injury that can range from minor to extremely severe.
What Causes Whiplash?
Whiplash results from a sudden, strong jolt that whips the head forward and back. Auto accidents are one of the most common causes of whiplash, particularly rear-end collisions. The faster a vehicle is traveling when it plows into the back of another car, the more likely whiplash is to occur. Whiplash happens when you are wearing a seatbelt. The restraint keeps you from going through the windshield, which would likely cause your death. Whiplash injuries are often very difficult to treat because the symptoms may not appear immediately and the condition can worsen over time.
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Diagnosis and Treatment of Whiplash
Symptoms of whiplash may include headaches, neck pain, stiffness in the neck and upper back, and reduced mobility of the head. Some people will experience sleep disturbances, ringing in the ears, memory problems, depression, difficulty concentrating, blurred vision, and irritability. Whiplash is typically considered a sprain or strain and will generally improve over time. Sometimes, whiplash leads to complications such as severe neck pain, ongoing headaches, and pain that radiates to the arms. Those who have previously had whiplash or other back injuries are more likely to suffer complications.
The doctor will examine the injury and may perform some tests such as a CT scan, MRI, or X-rays to evaluate and diagnose the condition. Treatment typically includes a variety of things to reduce and manage pain. Rest is essential immediately following the injury. Then, the doctor will instruct you to apply heat or cold to improve the pain. The physician may prescribe pain relievers or muscle relaxants to reduce the pain and improve mobility. Exercise and physical therapy will strengthen your muscles and restore movement. You may need to limit your movements and might need to wear a foam collar to keep your neck still.
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How Long Does Whiplash Last – And Why?
The symptoms of whiplash usually go away after a few days. However, some people are more likely to experience not only the injury but a more severe form of it.
Research says you are more prone to whiplash if you:
- Already have neck pain
- Have a desk job (and the corresponding tight muscles)
- Are a woman
- Are young
- Are rear-ended (and particularly if your car is stopped)
Additionally, your whiplash is more likely to last longer if:
- The pain is severe immediately
- The pain comes on in the hours post-accident
- The pain is accompanied by neurological symptoms
- The pain shoots down your arm
When your injury or pain is more severe, then you are more likely to face the long-term effects of whiplash.
Whiplash Symptoms Can Mask Other Injuries
If you were in an accident and now present symptoms of whiplash, you need a medical evaluation.
Whiplash can present delayed symptoms, but you may also not notice spinal or brain injuries for several days. Adrenaline can mask all the related symptoms for several days.
Be sure to receive a medical evaluation of some type – either at the ER or with your doctor – within two to three days after an accident.
Remember: you don’t have to hit your head to suffer from a brain injury. The movement that causes whiplash can also result in a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Are There Long-Term Effects of Whiplash?
Whiplash is the inflammatory response your body has to a neck injury (cervical acceleration-deceleration or CAD).
Your body’s short-term response may include:
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Back pain
- Tingling/pins and needles
- Reduced range of motion
Almost everyone will experience at least some of these symptoms. However, when they are more pronounced, you are more likely to experience chronic whiplash or long-term effects.
Long-term effects can include both pain and more cognitive symptoms:
- Chronic stiffness in the neck
- Chronic headaches
- Jaw pain
- Blurry vision
- Numbness in the arms and hands
- Memory problems
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Personality changes
All of these can impact the way you live your life because managing the injury requires ongoing medical care.
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Treating Whiplash Can Help
Because whiplash is so common, it’s tempting to think it doesn’t require treatment. Even though it will usually heal on its own, particularly if you are healthy and don’t already have neck or back issues, seeking treatment is essential.
Both your doctor and a chiropractor can help you manage your whiplash.
They will recommend things like:
- NSAIDs (Tylenol, Advil, etc.)
- Heat and ice
If your pain is severe, you may receive prescription medications or muscle relaxants. However, doctors tend to prescribe these when over-the-counter therapies are ineffective.
Chiropractic care can also help you heal faster. A combination of manipulations to ensure your spine is correctly aligned as well as assigned exercises and stretches can relieve the symptoms and manage inflammation.
Is Long-Term Whiplash Worthy of a Personal Injury Claim?
Victims of car accidents can and do sue over whiplash injuries – and they can win. Only a personal injury claim lawyer can confidently tell you whether the claim is worth pursuing.
To file a personal injury lawsuit, you not only need to be injured but it needs to be the result of someone else’s negligence (thanks to liability as defined by tort law).
If it is possible to prove liability, then you have two options: settling out of court or trying the case in front of a judge. In cases of negligence, many parties (and their insurance companies) prefer to settle out of court.
How Much Can I Win in a Whiplash Case?
The value of your settlement varies according to the severity of the case.
A typical whiplash case may settle for between $2,500 and $10,000. In cases where the whiplash includes nerve damage and other long-term complications, you can ask for five or six figures.
You Need a Record of Treatment to Sue
One of the issues that car accident victims face when suing is their medical record.
Many people experience whiplash or other back or neck injuries but don’t visit the ER or a doctor within an appropriate timeframe. If there’s no record of your injury at all, the case is even more challenging to make.
Generally, you need a diagnosis and evidence of injury (x-rays, CTs, etc.) and proof of following a treatment plan.
Are you out of luck if you didn’t visit the doctor? Potentially. When you wait more than a few days to see a physician, you signal that:
- Your injury isn’t severe enough to warrant immediate medical attention
- Your injury perhaps originated elsewhere
When the defendant can make one – or both – of these arguments, it is difficult to receive compensation even if they are the liable party.
What to Do Following a Traffic Accident Injury
If you suffered whiplash, or another injury as the result of a traffic accident, the negligent driver should be responsible for your medical bills and other damages. You might be entitled to money for your lost wages, pain and suffering, and all of the costs of your current and future medical care. If you were in an accident, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Your neck or back may not immediately hurt, but the pain might progress over the next 24 to 48 hours. Contact an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney to assist you in obtaining the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Contact our legal team at Bader Scott Injury Lawyers today for a free consultation about your case.