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Understanding The Seriousness Of Whiplash After A Car Accident

Woman experiencing neck pain after a car accident

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, 31,599 personal injury crashes occurred last year across the state. Unfortunately, whiplash after a car accident is common, and many motorists do suffer as a result. The pain of a whiplash injury can linger for months and years. That is why finding a remedy for this type of injury is so important. However, whiplash is an injury that can be difficult to pinpoint and, therefore, may be easily dismissed. If you have been injured in a car accident and suspect that you are suffering from whiplash, consider contacting a personal injury attorney from Steelman Gaunt Crowley today by calling (573) 341-8336 to discuss your legal options.

What Is Whiplash?

Whiplash is an injury to the neck that happens when there is a forceful forward and backward motion. Whiplash is common after car accidents due to the force of a sudden stop. A whiplash injury may involve trauma to the muscles, discs, nerves, and tendons in the neck. Johns Hopkins Medicine lists the following as common symptoms associated with whiplash:

  • Pain in the neck
  • Stiffness in the neck
  • Pain in one or both shoulders
  • Pain in the lower back 
  • Dizziness
  • Pain in the arm or hand
  • Numbness in the arm or hand
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Blurred vision
  • Problems with memory or concentration 
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue

Whiplash Exam

Immediate medical attention is important after any car accident. Even accident survivors who are not visibly injured may wish to seek evaluation from a medical professional to identify whether they are likely to have sustained whiplash, along with any other potential internal injuries. During an examination, a physician or other healthcare professional can conduct a physical assessment that involves palpation and manipulation of the injured person’s head, neck, and arms. The patient may also be requested to execute simple movements and tasks to enable the healthcare provider to evaluate:

  • Movement in the neck and shoulders
  • The amount of motion that triggers pain or exacerbates it
  • Sensitivity in the back, shoulders, or neck 
  • Reflexes, strength, and feeling in the limbs

While a whiplash injury may not be immediately evident through imaging tests, a doctor may order any of these scans to eliminate the possibility of other injuries or conditions that could intensify neck discomfort. These imaging tests can include:

  • X-rays: These can identify arthritis, dislocations, or fractures by capturing multiple angles of the neck.
  • Computerized tomography (CT): This specialized X-ray technique generates cross-sectional images of bones, potentially revealing bone damage from the accident.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Utilizing a magnetic field and radio waves, this imaging test creates detailed 3D pictures of the tested area. MRI scans can also detect certain injuries to the soft tissue, including spinal cord damage, disk issues, or ligament tears.

How Do I Know if My Whiplash Is Serious?

If you have, or believe you have, whiplash, you will want to know if your whiplash is serious. Consider the following symptoms:

Restricted Head Movement

Difficulty in turning your head is a typical indication of whiplash. During a car accident, the hyperextension of the head and neck may have resulted in sprains or strains in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. The impact may have also caused misalignment, fractures, or herniation of the vertebrae.

Onset of Headaches, Cognitive Difficulties, or Mood Changes

A significant number of individuals who sustain whiplash also experience a form of concussion. Although a popular belief is that a concussion entails losing consciousness, this type of injury is defined primarily by a bruising of the brain. The same sudden forward or backward movement of the head during an accident that often results in whiplash can also cause the brain to collide with the skull. Even without the loss of consciousness, this can cause serious damage.

A person with a concussion might develop challenges in concentration and memory retention. Headaches, dizziness, insomnia, and feelings of anxiety or irritability can also manifest as symptoms of a concussion.

Persistent Ringing in the Ears

A persistent ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus, might signal an injury to a person’s nerves, veins, or brain. Severe cases of tinnitus can impede a person’s ability to concentrate and, in some instances, hinder his or her hearing.

Painful Swallowing or Chewing

Hyperextension of the neck and head, typical in whiplash injuries, can also impact a person’s jaw. The force from the accident can displace the jaw and cause harm to the soft tissues responsible for its smooth movement.

Pain or Tingling in Other Body Parts

Sensations like tingling in the fingers might indicate a potential whiplash injury. While the initial injury occurs in the cervical spine, other parts of the body may also be affected either directly by the accident or indirectly as they attempt to compensate for the compromised support of the head and neck by the cervical spine. Nerve and soft tissue injuries can lead to lower back pain, impaired mobility, pain in the lower limbs, or other symptoms.

How Long Does It Take for Whiplash To Set In After a Car Accident?

Detecting the signs of whiplash immediately after an accident is uncommon. Following an accident, the body’s automatic response is to release the flight or fight hormone adrenaline, which can lead to a state of shock. As a protective measure, the brain may temporarily conceal pain and injuries, allowing the injured person to continue functioning. Hours, days, or even weeks may go by before this effect subsides entirely and reveals the lingering pain of an injury.

While most whiplash cases manifest symptoms within the initial 24 hours after a car accident, there are exceptions to this pattern. Therefore, a car accident victim should promptly seek whiplash treatment to either rule out or diagnose the condition and start the recovery process at the earliest opportunity. Delaying treatment could potentially exacerbate the situation.

How Much Compensation Do You Get for Whiplash?

There are several elements that contribute to the determination of compensation after a person experiences whiplash from a car accident. The severity of the whiplash, known as the whiplash grade, may impact the amount of compensation. Generally, settlements for minor neck and back injuries resulting from whiplash can fall within the range of $10,000 to $100,000. An experienced attorney from Steelman Gaunt Crowley may be able to help determine an injured person’s potential compensation after reviewing the pertinent data.

Do You Always Get Compensation for Whiplash?

Whiplash after a car accident is considered a compensable medical condition. However, establishing the veracity of this injury can present challenges, especially when insurance companies are dedicated to downplaying injury claims. The ambiguous or delayed nature of whiplash symptoms sometimes allows insurance adjusters the opportunity to minimize the perceived impact of these injuries.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney for Your Whiplash Claim Today

To substantiate a whiplash injury claim and have a better change of receiving appropriate compensation, it may help to collaborate with a lawyer who has direct experience pursuing these cases. An attorney may be able to assist with gathering crucial evidence, including police reports, witness statements, and medical records. Additionally, attorneys generally have access to medical specialists and financial experts to help them ascertain a client’s present and future damages. The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim in Missouri is five years, so individuals who think they may need to pursue compensation through a personal injury claim may wish to act promptly. The longer a person takes to file an injury claim, the more challenging the process can become. Consider contacting an experienced personal injury attorney from Steelman Gaunt Crowley by calling (573) 341-8336 to schedule a free consultation and discuss your legal rights regarding a whiplash claim.