For 2016, rear-end collisions made up nearly 25 percent of all car accidents. Following a rear-end collision, a car may have very little to no damage, whatsoever or a car may be completely destroyed. However, even the impact of a low speed collision (less than 10 mph) can cause injuries. One of the most common injuries sustained during this type of accident is whiplash. In general, a rear-end collision is responsible for more injuries to the cervical spine than frontal or side collisions are.
What Is Whiplash?
‘Whiplash’ is the term that is often used to represent a range of cervical injuries, especially those relating to the soft tissues of the neck and upper back. While there are misconceptions that a soft-tissue injury like whiplash is minor, left untreated, whiplash can have lasting effects. For this reason, seeking medical care directly following any kind of collision is essential.
In recent years, the term whiplash has become synonymous with ‘exaggerated’ or ‘fake’ personal injury claims; therefore, today, these kinds of injuries are commonly referred to by more technical names.
Other terms used for a whiplash-like injury include:
- hyperextension or hyperflexion;
- neck sprain or strain;
- myofascial injury; and
- cervical strain or sprain.
Whiplash May Be the Most Common Injury Sustained in an Accident
Due to the forces involved in the collision itself, upon impact, the momentum of the body thrusts the occupant forward before slamming the individual back into the seat. This extreme extension and flexion of the neck after a ‘whip-like’ motion can lead to a stretching or tearing of the tendons, ligaments, and muscle tissue in the cervical spine. According to the study, The effects of ligamentous injury in the human lower cervical spine, when a whiplash injury is sustained, these soft tissues can stretch three to five times their normal length.
There are other factors that can contribute to this type of cervical injury, these factors include the position of the occupant’s head, the seat, seat restraints and headrest when the impact occurred. In addition, women are more likely to suffer a whiplash injury than men are. The relative weight and size of the automobiles involved in the rear-end collision also play a role in the type of injuries sustained.
Other common injuries from being rear ended include:
- broken bones;
- hand, wrist and/or arm injuries;
- injury to the face and/or head;
- brain injury; and
- seatbelt-related injuries (e.g., shoulder).
The severity of a neck injury determines which signs and symptoms, and the level of pain an individual will experience.
The signs and symptoms of a neck injury include:
- headache (typically begins at the back of the skull, radiating to the forehead);
- decreased range of motion in the neck and head;
- vertigo (dizziness);
- stiffness and/or pain in the neck;
- pain in the back, shoulder or arm;
- tenderness in neck and/or shoulders;
- blurred vision;
- difficulty concentrating;
- fatigue (a constant state of feeling weary);
- tingling, prickling and/or burning in the arms;
- tinnitus (ringing in the ears);
- difficulty sleeping; as well as
- psychological and/or cognitive difficulties.
These signs and symptoms typically become evident within 24 hours of the car accident; however, whiplash symptoms can be delayed taking several days, weeks or months to develop.
Individuals experiencing any of the symptoms listed below should contact his or her doctor right away:
- pain while moving the head;
- severe neck pain;
- issues related to the bladder and/or bowel;
- localized weakness in the legs;
- tingling or numbness in the legs, shoulders or arms; as well as
- weakness or numbness in the arm.
Diagnosing Whiplash After a Rear-End Car Accident
To diagnose soft tissue injuries to the neck, a physician may order dynamic x-rays (x-rays taken with the head leaning forward and backward) and/or a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) study.
Whiplash Symptoms Long Term
Although whiplash is usually considered a relatively mild condition, it can lead to long-term pain and discomfort. According to a 2005 study on recovering from whiplash, although it had been seven years since the whiplash injury was sustained, 71 percent of participants stated that they continued to have headaches and chronic pain.
The symptoms associated with chronic whiplash may be experienced for the remainder of the individual’s life.
These lifelong symptoms can include:
- jaw pain;
- lower back pain and/or upper back pain;
- severe headaches;
- stiffness and/or pain in the shoulders, and/or neck;
- difficulty concentrating and/or remembering things;
- weakness or numbness in the arms and/or legs;
- blurred vision; as well as
- travel anxiety (if injury was caused by a car accident).
The Importance of Seeking Medical Care Following an Accident
Directly following any car accident, no matter how minor it seems, you should seek medical care. A neck injury that is left untreated can result in serious consequences, causing a wide range of health issues: Even if you visit the emergency room following a car accident and the doctor sends you home, if any new symptoms develop, or the symptoms you are experiencing worsen, you should seek medical attention right away.
Settlements for Whiplash Injuries
Since whiplash can lead to chronic pain that lasts for years and may require long-term care, seeking compensation following a rear-end collision that caused whiplash is recommended.
The length of time an individual suffers with symptoms plays a major role in the whiplash or car accident settlement amount he or she receives. As each case is unique, settlement amounts for a whiplash injury following an accident will vary.
If you have been involved in a rear-end collision and you have sustained a whiplash injury, contact Johnstone & Gabhart, LLP, today to schedule your free consultation. Moreover, as experienced Personal Injury Attorneys, we know how difficult it can be to get around after sustaining any type of injury from a car accident; therefore, we are happy to offer in-home and hospital visits.