Whiplash is often the butt of jokes about car accidents. Whenever a character in a movie or sitcom is faking an injury in order to sue someone, they usually wear a neck brace and claim to have whiplash. While it’s true that it can be hard to provide medical evidence of whiplash—and therefore, easy to pretend you have it when you don’t—the effects of a whiplash injury can be severe, painful, and debilitating. At the Mottley Law Firm, we focus on representing car accident clients with serious injuries. If you are experiencing extreme pain and physical limitations after suffering whiplash in a car accident, call our personal injury lawyers in Richmond to schedule your free consultation. We’ll help you decide what actions to take.
What Is Whiplash?
As the name implies, whiplash occurs when a person’s head is thrown back and forth with great force, like the lashes of a whip. When the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the neck are stretched and strained beyond their typical range of motion, the result can be neck pain and stiffness. Because muscles, ligaments, and tendons are what is known as soft tissue, these strains will not show up on an X-ray or MRI. Whiplash is diagnosed primarily based on your description of symptoms and the range of motion in your neck. Pain and stiffness might not occur immediately after a car crash, but can develop over the following days.
When assessing a patient for whiplash, the doctor should also screen for more serious related injuries such as fractured vertebrae and traumatic brain injury, which can also occur with the neck is forced back and forth in a car accident.
What Causes Whiplash?
While whiplash can happen in a fall, physical attack, or while playing sports, the most common cause of whiplash is a rear-end car accident. When you are in a car that is hit from behind, your seatbelt will prevent your entire body from being thrown forward, but your neck doesn’t have that protection. Instead, your neck and head will whip back and forth violently.
Treatment for Whiplash
Whiplash is usually considered a minor injury, but it can take weeks of treatment before the pain subsides and you have full range of motion again. Treatment may include:
- Pain medication, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxants
- Wearing a neck collar and avoiding strenuous work
- Applying ice or hot packs
- Physical therapy
- Chiropractic treatments
- Injections in the neck to block pain
It is important that you follow your doctor’s treatment plan, whatever that may be. Because you will not have x-rays or other concrete proof of your injury, seeing your doctor, following up with specialists, doing assigned stretches or other therapy, and taking prescription medications will demonstrate that you are taking your injury seriously.
When You Might Be Able to File a Claim for Whiplash Damages
In a rear-end vehicle collision, the driver of the car that hits from behind is almost always at fault for the crash. If your whiplash or other accompanying injuries are serious enough to cause significant medical bills, time off work, and pain and suffering, you might be able to hold the at-fault driver accountable for your damages. Common causes of rear-end collisions in Virginia include the following:
- Running a red light
- Driving while intoxicated
- Falling asleep at the wheel
- Distracted by a cellphone or navigation system
- Aggressive driving
If the driver is ticketed at the scene for one of these reasons, that will strengthen your claim for damages.