Whiplash – we have all heard of it, some of us may have even suffered from it or know someone who has; but do you really know what whiplash involves or whether you are able to claim for such an injury? Our whiplash lawyers investigate exactly what whiplash is, how it occurs and what type of claims can be made for such an injury.
Whiplash is an injury that occurs to a person’s neck following a sudden acceleration-deceleration force that causes unrestrained, rapid forward and backward movement of the head and neck. This type of injury is most common in motor vehicle accidents involving rear-end or side impacts.
The forces experienced in such an accident may result in painful injuries to the muscles, nerves, ligaments and joints around the neck and spine. Other common causes of whiplash include sports injuries, falls, physical abuse or assaults, bungee jumping, and amusement park rides.
There are two types of whiplash injury:
- Typical neck hyperextension injuries occur in drivers/passengers of a stationary or slow-moving vehicle that is struck from behind. This is because the person’s body is thrown forward but the head lags, resulting in hyperextension of the neck. When the head and neck have reached maximum extension the neck then snaps into flexion.
- A rapid deceleration injury throws the head forward and flexes the neck. This forward movement may be sufficient to cause longitudinal distraction and neurological damage. Hyperextension may occur in the subsequent recoil.
As the symptoms of whiplash can, in some cases, take time to develop and individuals may not know that they are in fact suffering from whiplash. While many of us associate whiplash with a sore neck there are other symptoms indicative of whiplash.
Common symptoms of whiplash injury include:
- Neck pain and stiffness;
- Swelling and tenderness in the neck;
- Temporary loss of movement, or reduced movement, in the neck;
- Muscle spasms;
- Pain in the shoulders or arms;
- Pins and needles, numbness or pain in the arms and hands.
Symptoms may appear immediately after the incident or have a delayed onset of a few hours, days, or even a few months. Early treatment of a whiplash injury is critical to overall recovery, as left untreated they become more difficult to treat successfully.
Treatment for a whiplash injury may include:
- General mobilisation exercises;
- Strengthening exercises;
- Posture exercises;
- General fitness exercises;
- Pain-relieving or anti-inflammatory medication;
- Gentle soft-tissue and joint mobilisation.
So how common is a whiplash injury?
Let’s look at some interesting facts regarding whiplash:
- More than 1 million people suffer from a whiplash injury each year;
- In Australia the incidence of whiplash disorders is about 300 per 100,000 people;
- Around 20% of people involved in rear-end motor vehicle accidents develop some whiplash symptoms;
- Between 10-40% of people suffering from whiplash injury experience symptoms persisting for months or years.
While most people recover from a whiplash injury within a few weeks others, such as the 10-40% of people mentioned above, continue to experience long-term neck pain and other symptoms. For these people, their injury is likely to be more permanent in nature.
Often attached to this are losses flowing from the injury such as: lost wages, the cost of medical and rehabilitation expenses, the cost of pharmaceuticals etc. This is when consideration should be given to commencing a claim for damages so that an injured person may be compensated for these losses.
If you sustained your whiplash injury in a motor vehicle accident, and you did not cause the accident, you can bring a claim for damages against the person at fault’s CTP insurer.
A claim for whiplash sustained while bungee jumping or while riding on an amusement ride may be much more difficult to pursue given these activities are likely to be considered a “dangerous recreational activity” by the Court, and by participating in such you have assumed the risk of suffering some form of injury.
Whiplash is the most common injury sustained in an accident.
Even what may be perceived as a slight or minor accident can cause sudden jerking of your neck, leading to chronic neck and back pain, headaches, or more serious injuries.
While motor vehicle accidents account for the majority of whiplash cases, whiplash can be experienced from any activity that has the potential to cause your neck to suddenly jerk forwards and backwards.
Successful claims for damages for such an injury will depend upon the severity and duration of the symptoms suffered and also whether the injury was caused by the negligence of another. Left untreated whiplash injuries can lead to more serious complications developing.