Have you ever been rear-ended in a car accident and later experienced whiplash symptoms? The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that whiplash is the most frequently reported injury in US insurance claims. On an average day in Pennsylvania, there were 335 reportable traffic accidents statewide according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Crash Facts and Statistics for 2016. Of those accidents, 227 resulted in injuries, averaging 9 injuries per hour each day.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash, also known as Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD), is caused by a rapid, forceful back and forth movement of the neck that results in neck strain. This sudden “whip” causes the tendons, ligaments, and muscles in the neck to stretch and tear.
Most people associate this type of injury with car accidents, but any similar motion that causes your head to whip back and forth has the potential to result in whiplash. When soft tissues like muscles and tendons are damaged, they will swell and press on surrounding nerves which send pain signals to the brain.
Always Seek Medical Evaluation After an Accident
Here’s the important thing to remember about whiplash injuries: just because you don’t feel pain immediately after an accident doesn’t mean you haven’t been injured. When you are involved in an accident, your body releases the hormones cortisol and adrenaline into your system. These hormones work to mask the pain you may be experiencing so that your body can react to danger. That means that after an accident, it may be hours or even days before you feel whiplash symptoms even though you may be severely injured.
Given the dangers of a hidden injury, you should always seek medical treatment after an accident. You may not feel the pain of a whiplash, but X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans can clearly show damaged tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Accept help from paramedics if they are available; if not, you should go to an emergency room or your personal physician to be evaluated for injury immediately.
There is another reason you should be evaluated by medical professionals right after an accident: the longer you wait to seek medical help, the more likely it is that the claims adjuster or, in the case of a trial, defense attorney will argue that you could not have been hurt very badly if you did not have a medical evaluation. This could have an extremely negative impact on your claim.
Here are some of the more common whiplash symptoms:
- Pain, stiffness, or limited range of motion in the neck or shoulders
- Hard or knotted muscles
- Headaches coming from the base of the skull
- Weakness in arms (one or both)
- Pain in the jaw
Look for pain when your rock your head back and forth or side to side. Also be on the lookout for pain when you attempt to look back over your shoulder. Some people may also experience nausea or vomiting, blurred vision, or ringing ears.
Medical Treatments for Whiplash
Fortunately, there are a variety of medical treatments available for whiplash. Your primary care physician may send you to a specialist such as an orthopedist once he or she determines you are suffering from whiplash. Your doctor may prescribe painkillers, muscle relaxants, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to help with the pain. The anti-inflammatories will also help with swelling of the soft tissue.
You may be required to wear a collar-type neck brace, but only for short term use (long term use tends to weaken the neck muscles). Your doctor may recommend the use of ice on your neck to reduce swelling and help with pain for the first few days after a whiplash injury. After that, the use of moist heat is often recommended. Other treatments that may help include massage or ultrasound therapy. As the whiplash symptoms begin to heal, physical therapy will probably be recommended to restore the range of motion and strength of your neck and shoulders.
Documenting Medical Expenses
It is very important that all medical expenses related to both treatment and recovery are carefully documented. This includes medical bills, insurance co-pays, prescriptions, mileage to and from doctor visits, and lost wages as well as any out-of-pocket costs related to your treatment or recovery. You will find that any associated legal matters will go much more smoothly if you take the time and effort to carefully track and document these expenses. Remember: you cannot be reimbursed for expenses that can’t be proven valid.
Building a Claim for Whiplash
The most important thing you can do to mount a successful personal injury claim to recover the losses you’ve suffered is to seek medical attention immediately after the accident. Remember, do not wait until you feel whiplash symptoms to go to the doctor since chances are you won’t feel the injury right away.
Do not go to a doctor or chiropractor whose advertisements claim to help with insurance claims. Insurance companies are very much aware of these doctors, and their diagnoses do not carry much weight. You are better off going to the emergency room or to your personal physician and any specialists they recommend.
Carefully document your medical expenses as already discussed, and don’t forget to gather medical documentation along with it. This includes copies of any tests performed (including blood tests, X-rays, CT scans), medical charts, doctor’s notes, and even admissions forms. The goal is to demonstrate a steady pursuit of medical treatment.
Personal Injury Lawyer for Your Whiplash Injury
You cannot be sure whether or not an insurance adjuster will pay out on your claim or that the person who hit you had insurance at the time of the accident, which means that it may become necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you do decide to file a lawsuit, you will need to seek the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Donaghue & Labrum is a personal injury firm that has over 25 years experience in winning accident cases involving cars, motorcycles, trucks, and bikes as well as workplace accidents. Our team has the skill and expertise to aggressively fight for the settlement you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.