Possibly due to the many sitcom jokes and fraudulent claims made about whiplash injuries, they have become one of the more difficult soft-tissue injuries to prove. But whiplash is a serious condition, often requiring a lot of time and extensive physical therapy to heal.
What Is Whiplash?
Whiplash is an injury to the neck caused by a rapid and forceful back-and-forth motion of the neck—similar to the cracking of a whip. It's most commonly caused by rear-end car crashes, but can also be the result of a sports injury or physical assault. It's considered a soft-tissue injury because it involves damage to the muscles and tendons in the neck, rather than a bone fracture.
Because damage to soft tissue doesn’t usually appear on x-rays or MRI scans like a broken bone does, it can be difficult to prove to an insurance adjuster or in court.
Even if you don’t immediately feel neck pain following a rear-end collision, it's important that you see a doctor and tell her that you were involved in a car crash. She will then evaluate you for a neck injury. Not only does this ensure proper medical care for you injury, it also starts the documentation process that will be necessary to proving your claim later on.
Symptoms of Whiplash
Symptoms of whiplash don't always appear immediately, but you should be alert to the following possible symptoms in the days following a car accident:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Worsening of pain with neck movement
- Loss of range of motion in the neck
- Headaches, most often starting at the base of the skull
- Tenderness or pain in shoulder, upper back, or arms
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
Whiplash injuries can also cause concussions. When the head is jerked back and forth violently, the brain can be damaged, despite the head not coming in contact with a hard surface. The following symptoms may be a sign that you have suffered a traumatic brain injury as well as whiplash:
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Sleep disturbances
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
To evaluate for whiplash, the doctor will assess the range of motion in your neck and shoulders; tenderness or pain in the neck, shoulders, or back; and test the reflexes, strength, and sensation in your limbs. She should also order an MRI to rule out damage to the spinal cord.
Treatment for Whiplash
The old whiplash comedy routine always involved a cervical collar—in fact, this isn't the recommended course of treatment in most cases. Doctors have discovered the best treatment for mild whiplash is exercise that encourages increasing range of motion, coupled with pain relievers, muscle relaxants, and ice or heat. More severe injuries may require immobilization and long-term physical therapy. Some people also have success with alternative treatments such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, and massage. In some cases, victims of whiplash suffer from chronic pain for years after the accident.
Financial Recovery for Your Injuries
Because you can’t present indisputable proof of whiplash, insurance adjusters and juries are hesitant to award settlements for this type of injury. Unfortunately, this has also led to insurance fraud and abuse by people who claim to have whiplash when they don’t, making a settlement even less likely. In order to present a strong claim for whiplash, you should take the following steps:
- See a doctor immediately after your accident
- Follow all of the doctor’s instructions for treatment
- Keep copies of all medical records
- File a claim as soon as possible
- Hire an experienced car accident attorney
Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys Will Support Your Whiplash Claim
If you were rear-ended by a careless or distracted driver and your doctor has diagnosed you with whiplash, contact us to share the details of your case. If we believe you have a legitimate case, we'll walk you through the process of gathering evidence and filing a claim. Connect with us through the form on this page to get started.