A whiplash neck injury is common in car accidents because the impact of the collision can cause the head to whip forward and backward violently. The whipping motion causes damage to the nerves, ligaments, and neck muscles. It’s important to understand the steps you should take after a whiplash injury to protect your health and to prevent further injury, which could result in long-term disability and complications.
6 Things to Do If You Experience a Whiplash Injury After a Car Accident
- File a Motor Vehicle Accident Report
- Seek Medical Attention as Soon as Possible for a Whiplash Injury
- Follow Your Doctor’s Whiplash Treatment Plan
- Consult a Physician Regarding Additional Treatments
- Document Your Injuries and Damages for a Whiplash Injury Claim
- Talk to a Whiplash Attorney Regarding a Whiplash Injury Claim
Symptoms of Whiplash
Whiplash injury symptoms may appear within a few hours after a motor vehicle accident, or it may be days or weeks until symptoms appear. It’s important for accident victims to be able to recognize whiplash symptoms, so they will know when to seek whiplash treatment from a medical professional.
What are the symptoms that are associated with whiplash?
Signs of whiplash trauma to watch for if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Chronic pain, including pain throughout the shoulders and neck
- Shoulder pain
- Muscle spasms
- Loss of range of motion in the neck
- Pain or tenderness in the upper back or arms
- Numbness or tingling in the arms
- Blurred vision
- Sleep disturbances
- Ringing in the ears
- Memory problems
- Problems with concentration
How long does whiplash take to heal?
In many cases, whiplash can be treated at home. With time and rest, many whiplash injury victims recover and return to normal activities within two to three months, depending on the severity of the neck injury. However, some car accident victims experience long-term complications from whiplash. The long-term consequences of whiplash could last for years.
6 Steps to Take After a Whiplash Injury
Before finalizing your automobile insurance claim, it is a good idea to follow these basic steps for seeking whiplash injury compensation to improve your chances of receiving full compensation for all damages and losses.
1. File a Motor Vehicle Accident Report
Immediately after a car crash, contact the police department to file a vehicle accident report. The quickest and easiest way to report a motor vehicle accident is to call 911 and remain at the accident scene until police officers arrive. Whiplash injuries are common in rear-end collisions, but a person can suffer a whiplash injury in any type of car accident.
Take photographs and record videos of the accident scene while waiting for the police to arrive. This evidence can help with a whiplash injury claim. However, be cautious because you do not want to cause additional neck injury or cervical spine injury by moving around. Until you are examined by emergency medical services or a medical professional, it can be difficult to know how severely you may have injured your neck or cervical spine.
If an eyewitness stops to check on you after the crash, ask the eyewitness for his or her name and contact information. Eyewitness testimony can help prove that the other driver caused the car accident when you file your whiplash injury claim. Make sure that you tell the police officer everything you remember about the motor vehicle accident, but do not admit fault. Even if you believe you may have contributed to the cause of the crash, you cannot know this for sure until you discuss the car crash with a trained personal injury lawyer.
2. Seek Medical Attention As Soon as Possible for a Whiplash Injury
It’s a good idea to be checked by a medical professional after any traffic accident. However, if you experience any of the above whiplash symptoms or your symptoms continue to worsen, it is wise to see a doctor immediately.
A neck strain or cervical sprain may sound minor, but soft tissue injuries like whiplash can be extremely painful and debilitating. Damage to the ligaments and muscles in the neck and cervical spine sustained in a motor vehicle collision can severely limit a person’s range of motion. The pain and stiffness can last from several months to many years. Only a trained medical professional has the knowledge and experience to diagnose whiplash and conditions related to whiplash, including whiplash syndrome, locked jaw, whiplash brain injury, TMJ syndrome, neck injuries, and cervical spine injuries.
How do you diagnose whiplash?
A doctor can perform several diagnostic tests to determine the severity of your whiplash injury. Imaging tests of your neck and spinal cord, including x-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used to rule out other conditions that could present similar symptoms of whiplash. However, a whiplash injury is typically diagnosed during a medical exam with a trained doctor or chiropractor.
A medical provider physically examines your neck, spine, shoulders, back, and arms to determine the severity of the injury to soft tissues in the neck, shoulder, and cervical spine. You will likely be asked to perform a variety of tasks so that the doctor can determine your range of motion and the degree of motion that causes pain, reflexes, tenderness, stiffness, strength, and sensations. Be as accurate as possible when discussing your whiplash symptoms with your physician to assist with an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
3. Follow Your Doctor’s Whiplash Treatment Plan
Many individuals can treat a whiplash neck injury at home. A doctor may advise the following for whiplash injury treatment:
- Cold and/or hot compresses
- OTC (over-the-counter) pain medications
- Stretching and movement exercises
Typically, a whiplash injury heals within a few weeks or months. The pain and stiffness should decrease until it is completely gone while range of motion increases until the person can function normally. However, in cases of severe neck injury or cervical spine injury, the individual may require additional treatment to treat the neck injury. If your symptoms of whiplash do not begin to disappear within a few weeks of the car accident, you may need to follow up with your doctor to discuss additional treatment options for whiplash injury.
4. Consult a Physician Regarding Additional Treatments
If whiplash injury symptoms continue, a doctor may re-evaluate your condition to prescribe a more aggressive treatment plan for your whiplash injury. In some cases, prescription pain medications and muscle relaxants can help with chronic pain from a neck injury. Injections may also be necessary to numb the area while a therapist performs physical therapy to improve the range of motion and strength of the neck, shoulders, and cervical spine. Some physicians prefer to use a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit to help control long-term pain instead of using opioids or injections for pain management.
In severe cases of whiplash and neck sprains, the neck may need to be held still with a foam collar while the damage heals. The use of a collar does have its risks. Some physicians believe that holding the head and neck still for long periods can result in more harmful long-term effects by decreasing muscle strength which could interfere with recovery.
Other forms of treatment for whiplash injury symptoms include massage, acupuncture, occupational therapy, chiropractic care, and vocational therapy. The severity of the injury and the level of the symptoms dictate the treatment plan and the types of whiplash treatment that your doctor may prescribe to help you overcome a whiplash injury. If a neck or cervical spine injury leads to a permanent impairment of disability, you may require additional medical treatment.
5. Document Your Injuries and Damages for a Whiplash Injury Claim
If the traffic accident that caused your neck injury was the fault of another driver, you might be entitled to compensation for the injury to your neck. However, you must document the injuries and damages to recover compensation for your whiplash injury claim. Some of the ways that you can document your injuries and damages to improve your chances of recovering maximum whiplash injury compensation amounts include:
- Keep a detailed pain and suffering journal. Write down your daily pain level and how your activities are restricted because of the whiplash injury. Make sure also to note the days you miss from work and the activities you miss because of the neck injury. You also want to include any emotional conditions or disorders that result from your injury, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and anxiety.
- Keep copies of all medical records and make notes of everything your doctor tells you about your injury.
- Retain receipts, invoices, bills, and other evidence of the expenses related to the injury and your recovery, including the quote from your auto body shop and proof of any loss of income. Expenses include travel costs, over-the-counter medications, medical equipment, and paying someone to assist with household chores you cannot perform because of your injury.
- Keep detailed notes about your recovery efforts, including treatments you attempted and whether the treatments were effective.
Documenting damages after a car accident is essential for recovering compensation for an injury claim. Assisting you in documenting damages is just one of the ways a personal injury attorney can help you if you sustain an acute whiplash injury.
6. Talk to a Whiplash Attorney Regarding a Whiplash Injury Claim
If you have suffered a whiplash injury or cervical spinal injury after a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your neck injury, losses, and damages. The first step in filing a personal injury claim for whiplash injury compensation is to consult with a personal injury lawyer. A personal injury attorney conducts a thorough accident investigation to determine how the car crash occurred and identify the parties liable for your damages. Through an accident investigation, your attorney gathers evidence to prove fault and liability so that you can receive a fair and just whiplash injury settlement.
Should I Consult a Whiplash Injury Lawyer?
It’s a good idea to consult with a whiplash injury attorney before accepting a whiplash injury settlement from an insurance provider to ensure that you are receiving maximum compensation for your injury. Keep in mind that laws and filing deadlines can vary by state. If the accident occurred when you were traveling or on vacation, talk to a local attorney who is familiar with the laws of that state. For example, if you live in Los Angeles but your car accident was in Salt Lake City, reach out to a local attorney there who specializes in Utah car accidents and whiplash cases.
In cases involving permanent disabilities and long-term complications from whiplash, the insurance company may attempt to settle your claim before you realize the full extent of your injury. If you settle before you understand the true value of your injury claim, you could receive much lower settlement payouts than you deserve for your injury.
Compensation for a Whiplash Injury
A whiplash injury can result in chronic pain and limited range of motion if left untreated. Acute whiplash can prevent you from returning to your normal activities, including taking care of your family and returning to work. Following the above steps can help you recover from your whiplash injury and protect your right to recover whiplash compensation. In most cases, the person who caused the motor vehicle collision is liable for damages arising from the crash, including a whiplash injury claim.
Contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your claim. This will give you the best chance of recovering compensation for your damages. While a monetary award does not ease the pain from whiplash, it can pay for your medical treatments and living expenses and compensate you for your lost wages. A whiplash injury settlement can also compensate you for the physical pain and emotional trauma caused by a negligent and careless driver. Reach out to Acadia Law Group today for a free consultation.