Whiplash is an injury to the soft tissue in the neck, a result of when the neck and head are thrown forward (hyper-extension) and then suddenly jerked backward (hyper-flexion) beyond their normal range of motion. A whiplash injury can cause damage to the discs, ligaments, joints, muscles and nerve roots as well and even result in mild traumatic brain injury (TBI.) This article will explain the causes of whiplash injuries, what to do if you suffer from a whiplash injury and how to protect your rights for compensation and money damages in the event of negligence or other misconduct.
Common Causes of Whiplash Injuries
The most common cause of whiplash injury is automobile accidents, which frequently results in a long term personal injury. Statistics show that each year approximately 120,000 people in the United States are involved in some type of accident that causes them to suffer a whiplash injury. (Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) An estimated 25% of all victims of whiplash will typically require medication for ongoing chronic pain. (Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) There are other common causes of whiplash, which include personal injuries as a result of sporting accidents including car racing, bicycle riding, horseback riding and even skiing. “Shaken Baby Syndrome” can also cause of whiplash injury in children under the age of 5 who are shaken violently, which causes their head to move dangerously back and forth.
Symptoms of Whiplash
Typical physical symptoms of a whiplash injury include the following:
Psychological symptoms of a whiplash injury include the following:
- Neck pain, aches or stiffness
- Loss of motion in the neck
- Injured muscles and ligaments
- Memory loss
- Poor concentration and/or memory
Medical Treatment of Whiplash
If you have suffered a whiplash injury you should immediately seek medical treatment. There is no need to seek out legal counsel beforehand. However, you may need legal representation later if you need to file a lawsuit for compensation and it is probably best to speak to a lawyer sooner rather than later to ensure that you have preserved your rights and evidence you may need to prove your damages. Even if you are not in pain after a car accident, you should always see a medical doctor since you may be injured without knowing it at the time of the incident.
Medical treatment of whiplash includes taking x-rays, cat scans and MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to determine whether there is a fracture or damage to the cervical spine and discs of the vertebrae in the neck. Certain medications may be prescribed like pain medication, anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants. People with whiplash injuries are typically given a cervical collar to wear and a prescription for physical therapy and possibly antidepressants.
Noticeable effects of whiplash injuries typically last for up to three months after the injury was suffered. However, there may be long term chronic pain for some people who have suffered a more severe injury and typically occurring at high rates of speed. Whiplash injuries also have the potential to lead to arthritic degeneration of the neck and spine, as well as being the cause of bursitis (the inflammation of fluid filled sacs that sit between the tendons and the skin, most common injuries occur in the shoulder and hip.)
Submitting an Insurance Claim for Medical Treatment for a Whiplash Injury
In most cases, a person suffering from a whiplash injury as a result of an auto accident does not have to file a lawsuit in order to be compensated for the cost of medical treatment. Uninsured motorist coverage is a policy that will compensate you for a deficiency in the other driver’s insurance policy, such as a negligent driver who does not have sufficient insurance coverage or any insurance coverage at all. If uninsured motorist coverage is included in your auto insurance policy, it should pay for your medical expenses when you submit a claim of injury to the insurance company. Uninsured motorist’s insurance coverage normally pays for medical damages including medical treatments, loss of wages and rehabilitation and you would not have to worry about whether your health insurance coverage would compensate you.
If you do not have uninsured motorist’s protection then it may be more difficult to recover any damages for this under your auto insurance policy. An attorney can contact the insurance company of the other driver’s insurance company to inform them of a potential claim for damages in the future and perhaps negotiate a settelement. If it turns out that you are entitled to financial compensation for loss of employment, permanent injury, emotional distress, pain and suffering and humiliation, your rights will be protected. If the other party does not have insurance or the other party’s insurance refuses to pay your medical expenses, your attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf.
Protect Your Health, Preserve Your Rights - Seek Medical Attention
It is usually best to seek medical attention anytime you are in an accident since many injuries only become apparent at a later time. Whiplash is one such example where a person may experience during a car crash but only feel pain several hours or even a day later. Your neck should be stabilized if there is a whiplash injury.
It is advisable to inform a doctor of the accident and how it happened. In the event of a lawsuit, your doctor may be called as a witness. Also recommended is having a detailed written account of the accident and your injuries and, along with the doctor’s report, you will have complete and adequate documentation of the incident. Your doctor’s written account will provide specific information as to the degree of injury and could be an invaluable statement in a lawsuit. An accident injury attorney can use the medical information provided by your doctor to prove your case. A personal injury lawyer can tell you what a personal injury claim is worth. Work together with your attorney to gather as much evidence as you can about the cause of the accident. Obtain copies of the police report and statements from witnesses.
Timing and taking the right steps is important to protect your claim for personal injury money damages. If you take too long to see a doctor after an accident has occurred, a defense lawyer may claim that you obviously didn’t have severe pain caused by the accident or you would definitely have sought medical attention sooner. In addition, a claim could be made that a second unreported injury that occurred shortly after the accident is the probable source of your pain and suffering and the reason you decided to go to a doctor. A third defense is the claim that you really weren’t hurt badly at the time of the accident but decided to go to a doctor in order to make the injury look worse in the hope of collecting greater money damages from a lawsuit.
Whiplash Injuries at Work and Your Legal Rights to Compensation
Like other work related injuries, if you experience a whiplash injury at work, you can file for worker’s compensation. You also have the option to file a lawsuit. If you choose to file for worker’s compensation you will be agreeing to the financial limits that are common for worker’s compensation. You should speak with an attorney before you make your decision on which way to file a claim for compensation. A lawsuit may be more beneficial for you in the future although it can also take a much longer period of time to obtain a settlement or a jury award.
Worker’s Compensation Benefits for Whiplash Injuries
If you are injured at work, report the incident in full as soon as possible. You should also be evaluated by a medical doctor immediately so you can have the medical evidence you need for your claim and the necessary treatment you may need for your injury. It is good practice to consult with a worker’s compensation lawyer to ensure you complete all of the steps needed to file your claim and to protect your legal rights.
- Medical expenses, including physical, mental, and vocational rehabilitation expenses
- Compensation for a temporary period including time lost while you are unable to work
- Compensation for permanent disability or a specific injury
- Death benefits for certain surviving relatives and certain dependents
- Accident & Injury Law:
Whiplash Whiplash Injuries: Advice, Treatment & Compensation
By Michael Wechsler |
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