Why is Whiplash So Common After a Car Accident?
Car accidents result in a variety of injuries. The type of accident, force of the crash, and health and age of the occupants play a role in determining how severe the physical harm will be. When thinking about injuries that can inhibit a person’s life, broken bones, head trauma, and back injuries often come to mind first. Soft tissue injuries, like whiplash, however, can seriously impact a person’s day-to-day life.
Whiplash, which is another term for a neck strain or sprain, is one of the most common injuries a person can sustain after a wreck. This has a lot to do with the forces the body is subjected to in a crash. When the neck is rapidly forced back and forth, like the cracking of a whip, the bones in the spine, disks between bones, muscles, ligaments, nerves, and tissues can be injured. While the discomfort may not be immediate depending on the severity of the injury, the symptoms that follow are likely to be painful.
If you’ve been diagnosed with whiplash or you are concerned you may have developed the condition, you’ll benefit from understanding as much about the condition as you can, in addition to seeking medical treatment and following your doctor’s orders.
How Common is Whiplash?
There approximately six million car crashes every year in the United States. While many accidents only result in property damage, millions of people are still injured, and thousands lose their lives. Soft tissue injuries like whiplash are among the most common types of physical damage, as it’s estimated nearly three million people suffer from it annually. Not all of those injuries are sustained in car accidents. The second most common cause of whiplash is sports-related incidents.
Whiplash is common after a car accident because of the motion the vehicle subjects the body to. When a car is traveling and is suddenly brought to a stop or is forced in the opposing direction, the bodies inside the vehicle continue to propel forward at the original speed the car was traveling. The force is what puts enough stress on the head, neck, and back to cause an injury. Due to the fact that the muscles and ligaments often take time to fully “settle” after a traumatic event like a collision, symptoms of pain or discomfort can be delayed.
What Accident Types are Most Likely to Result in Whiplash?
While whiplash can occur in any type of automotive wreck, there are certain types of accidents that are more likely to result in a soft tissue injury. Rear-end accidents are the most common cause of whiplash, which makes sense if you think about how whiplash occurs. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rear-end collisions are the most frequent type of crash.
When a person is unexpectedly hit from behind, their body will travel forward as the vehicle comes to a stop. Just as fast, their body will jerk backward and come to a stop. If the rear-end happens at a high speed, the victim may jolt back and forth multiple times, resulting in a more serious injury.
Because of the direction the vehicles are sent, side-impact and sideswipe collisions are also likely to result in whiplash. Multi-car pileups can result in a soft tissue injuries because cars could be hit multiple times, from multiple angles.
How are Soft Tissue Injuries Diagnosed and Treated?
Because whiplash is so common, doctors are generally able to diagnose someone with the condition with a physical examination. The doctor will ask the patient about the incident and their symptoms. The examination may include the physician asking their patient to perform simple tasks that can help determine the range of motion in the neck and shoulders, the tenderness in the shoulders, neck, or back, and the degree of motion that causes or increases pain.
If a physical examination cannot diagnose the condition, there are additional steps. In most cases, the injuries to muscles, ligaments, and discs cannot be seen on X-rays. So, specialized imaging tests, like CT scans or MRIs, may be needed.
Sprains and strains, just like more serious injuries, can impact a person’s ability to complete everyday tasks until their injury has improved or healed. It’s often the case that car crash victims with less visible injuries will try to return to their normal activities faster than someone who is restrained with a cast or has undergone surgery. This is dangerous, as it can hinder recovery and worsen conditions. It’s crucial to follow your doctor’s treatment plan to improve your chances of a faster recovery.
There are generally specific courses of treatment to follow for whiplash because of how common it is. Pain management and exercise are usually the focus. The doctor may recommend rest, applying heat or cold, over-the-counter medications, or muscle relaxants. If the pain is severe, prescription medications or injections are an option. Exercises to stretch and move the neck can help restore the range of motion. Physical therapy may be needed if the whiplash pain is ongoing or if the patient needs assistance or guidance with the range-of-motion exercises.
How Can a Lawyer Help Determine the Value of a Whiplash Injury Claim?
Because of the nature of whiplash, insurance companies are sometimes skeptical about providing settlements to individuals who have sustained the injury. Some companies even refer to them as “nuisance” claims, implying the claim isn’t actually worth anything. We recognize, however, that whiplash injuries can be expensive and medical bills and records can prove to insurance companies that you are owed compensation for your injuries.
While the value of a whiplash injury claim varies, a mild to moderate injury is likely to be valued between $2,500 and $10,000. When significant treatment and rehabilitation is involved, usually in the form of physical therapy, the compensation could rise to around $30,000. In the most serious of cases where it’s discovered the soft tissue damage affected the nerves or vertebrae, settlements could exceed $100,000.
It can be difficult to cope with the physical pain of whiplash and the mental trauma of a car crash while trying to get the compensation you need to recover fully. That is why it’s often in your best interest to seek guidance from an experienced lawyer. An attorney can determine what you claim is worth and fight to get you that amount.
At Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC, we have years of representing victims of accidents with soft tissue injuries. We’re here to help struggling individuals and their families reclaim what they’ve wrongfully lost. If you’re looking to file a car accident claim or are in the middle of negotiations with an insurance company, we can evaluate your case and help you determine how best to proceed based on your unique circumstances. Reach out to us today for more information.
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