Neck injuries, including whiplash, are common car accident injuries, especially rear-end accidents. The impact when vehicles collide causes a tremendous force on the bodies of the people inside the vehicle. That force can result in the whipping motion that causes a whiplash injury.

What Causes Whiplash?

Whiplash is commonly the result of the head moving a back and forth motion like the crack of a whip. The abrupt deceleration caused by a crash causes the head to jerk back suddenly and then forcefully snap forward.

The sudden, forceful motion of the head can result in strains and tears of the neck ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Whiplash can also involve injury to the discs and intervertebral joints of the neck.

Most cases of whiplash are mild, and people recover within two to three months. However, some car accident victims suffer chronic pain and permanent impairments from whiplash injuries. Victims may continue to have headaches and neck pain for many months or years following a whiplash injury.

Symptoms and Treatments for Whiplash Injuries

The symptoms of whiplash may not be immediately present after a car crash. It can take several hours or days for symptoms to appear.

Common whiplash symptoms include:

  • Neck pain
  • Stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep disturbances and fatigue
  • Depression
  • Problems with memory and/or concentration
  • Abnormal sensations such as prickling or burning
  • Pain radiating down to the shoulders or back
  • Blurred vision and/or ringing in the ears
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Irritability

Whiplash is categorized as a soft tissue injury because it involves non-bony structures in the body. A medical professional can diagnose whiplash through a physical examination, review of the person’s symptoms, and use of diagnostic tests such as x-rays, MRIs, and CT Scans.

Treatment for whiplash typically involves rest and pain control. A doctor may prescribe pain medications, muscle relaxants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and antidepressants to treat whiplash. In some cases, a doctor may advise a patient to use hot or cold compresses to relieve pain and muscle tension or prescribe a cervical collar to immobilize the neck.

If a person’s condition does not improve, a doctor may also prescribe physical therapy, range of motion exercises, and cervical traction.

What Should You do if You Experience Whiplash Symptoms?

Seeing a doctor is one of the best steps a person can take if they experience whiplash symptoms after a car accident. Too often, people assume that whiplash is a minor injury that does not require medical intervention. However, chronic whiplash can cause severe pain and interfere with a person’s ability to work or perform daily activities.

Your doctor may prescribe a variety of treatments, including at-home treatments and physical therapy. It is important to follow your doctor’s treatment plan. If you experience depression or other emotional problems because of the pain or injury, you may also need to seek mental health treatment.

Documenting Injuries and Damages for an Injury Claim

If another party is responsible for causing your injury, that party may be liable for damages and losses caused by the injury. However, whiplash claims are problematic. There may be no concrete medical evidence of the neck injury other than your persistent symptoms.

Insurance companies often allege that car accident claims involving whiplash are exaggerated or false. Therefore, it is crucial to document your injuries and damages carefully throughout your diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.

Medical evidence is the best evidence you can provide an insurance company to prove you sustained whiplash from a car accident. When you see a doctor, make sure that you tell the doctor that the injury was sustained in a car crash. Your doctor should note that you began suffering whiplash symptoms following the car accident.

In addition to the medical evidence, it can be helpful to have a journal detailing your pain and other symptoms. Include notes about how the pain and limited range of motion caused by the neck injury impacts your daily life, such as preventing you from performing certain activities or concentrating on your job.

Keep copies of all medical records, medical bills, receipts, and loss of income statements to document your financial losses from the accident. If you need help with household chores or personal care, document those expenses with bills and receipts.

Get Legal Advice for a Whiplash Injury Claim

As stated above, insurance companies aggressively investigate whiplash claims. It is helpful to seek advice from an experienced car accident lawyer. An insurance company may take your claim more seriously if you have a car accident attorney representing you regarding the injury claim.