One of the first things that come to mind after a car accident is usually the state of your health and your financial position. You can easily lose your mind as you start stressing about whether your car is drivable, whether you’ll ever regain full mobility, what will happen to your family if you cannot go back to work and other things that make the world seem like a dank and miserable place to live in. Another thing you have to think about is whether your insurer will compensate all concerned parties without incident.
Whiplash, a medical condition caused by car collisions, ties all these problems together. This seemingly minor issue costs the global insurance industry billions of dollars and affects more than 20% of the population.
Whiplash is also commonly referred to as neck strain and is usually characterized by a sharp pain in the neck region every time you apply pressure on it. This pressure can be anything from sitting down at a computer to lying down for a rest. You would expect that whiplash occurs only in high impact collisions but the converse is more accurate. This is because cars are designed to absorb most of the force in high impact collisions. This does not happen when relatively minor accidents are concerned i.e. those around and below 12mph. This therefore means that the people in the car absorb the force causing them to develop whiplash without even knowing it. The problem is that most people discount the existence of whiplash because there is no immediate physical evidence of the injury.
In simple terms, the sudden force from impact causes injury to the vertebrae below the skull, related muscles and nerves, disks and ligaments along the back. You’ll find that there is usually no connection between the state of your bumper and the health of your neck. A better way to know of you have whiplash is by careful examination of your physiology and by asking yourself the following question.
Did I get whiplash from that accident?
You may be suffering from whiplash if you exhibit the following symptoms a short time after the accident:
• Stiff neck
• Dizzy spells
• Shoulder and back pains
• Painful internal injuries to ligaments and muscles
• Strange sensations on the skin e.g. prickling, numbness, tingling etc.
In addition to the above you may also be experiencing the following:
• Partial or total amnesia
• Lack of concentration
• Irritability and depression
• Sleep disturbances and fatigue etc.
All the above show that your lifespan will be seriously shortened if you do not get proper medical attention in the shortest time possible. Whiplash, when left untreated, almost invariably makes you a candidate for:
• Strained relationships
• Lower levels of productivity at home and at work etc.
By now you may be trying to dispel your fears by thinking about all the (inaccurate) information you’ve heard about whiplash. In order to make you understand that whiplash is not a fictitious medical condition that doctors made up in order to make money off the unsuspecting masses, the following few paragraphs will dispel the most common myths.
Popular Myths about whiplash
1. The extent of the damage in my car determines whether or not I have whiplash
This is usually a very dangerous assumption because low impact crashes are usually the most responsible for most
whiplash incidents. The most important things to consider when inspecting a car crash include:
• The size of the car that rammed into yours
• How much and how forcefully your head was jerked during the accident
• The positioning of your head and the headrest
• The kind of collision i.e. head on collision, broad side collision, rear end collision or sideswipe collision
• The state of motion i.e. was the standing still or was it in motion when the collision occurred.
• Which safety features deployed i.e. airbags, shattered windscreen etc.
It should be added that while some car features are lifesavers in high impact collisions, they also tend to cause whiplash in seemingly minor crashes. This is because something like soft seats causes the head to jerk back more than hard ones during a low impact rear collision. All this goes to show that you cannot determine discount the possibility that you escaped whiplash just because your car was relatively unscathed in a crash.
2. I don’t feel any pain therefore I am not injured
This is very inaccurate because pain from whiplash starts developing a few hours or days after the accident. This causes you to think that the pains are unrelated to the accident, a mistake that may cost you a lot of happiness and money. You may not feel immediate pain if the spine or nerves have been injured. On the other hand immediate pain signifies that substantial damage has occurred and you need to visit a chiropractor.
3. Whiplash is only for grownups.
There is nothing further from the truth because children are more prone to this injury than adults. This is because their bones and tissues are still in the developmental
phase and can therefore not withstand the sudden forces that occur during a crash. A good way to determine whether or not your child has been injured is by looking for the above listed psychological symptoms e.g. irritability, withdrawal etc.
4. The x-rays say that I don’t have whiplash
X-rays only show signs of severe whiplash e.g. mild fractures of vertebrae and not damages to the muscles, nerves and ligaments, which are most affected during low impact collisions. It is only motion x-rays and MRIs can be used to find mild whiplash because they can detect abnormalities in movement of vertebrae and disks. When left untreated whiplash will lead to spine arthritis. This apparently non–existent injury can cost you a large chunk of your life savings when left untreated. This is because the displacement and injury of neck bones and muscles will degenerate into osteoarthritis, while the other injuries cause internal bleeding, liver and kidney problems. Just the thought of this should start making you consider treatment immediately after the mildest of car crashes.
How whiplash becomes arthritis Mild whiplash will occur after a low impact accident causing displacement of and minor injuries to associated nerves, disks and ligaments. This causes unnatural
movements in the neck area to which the body reacts by forming scar tissue. This internal scarring may temporarily restrict localized movement but over time, mobility of many vertebrae is hindered and changed.
Over time (months and years) the scar tissue contracts, causing a reduction of disk size which then results in permanent neck stiffness ergo osteoarthritis. You should only go for doctors that use more active treatments like physical therapy over those that use passive methods e.g. neck braces. This is because these passive treatments only serve to restrict movement of joints and muscles and thus hinder quicker recovery.
Is hiring a lawyer really necessary?
After you have determined that you suffered whiplash, the most pertinent question becomes whether or not you’ll need a lawyer. It is usually prudent to get a good lawyer because most insurance companies tend to treat whiplash as a fictitious medical condition designed to extort money from them. A good insurance lawyer can also negotiate a settlement that’s vastly higher than what your insurer could otherwise have given you. This therefore means that if you are looking to get back to work without having to worry about medical bills, undue suffering and lower productivity, you should start looking for a good lawyer.
How do I get the best lawyer?
If you are a first time whiplash sufferer, you are probably familiar with the confusion that’s intrinsic to the lawyer selection process. The following are some pointers you could follow to keep you from getting a charlatan lawyer:
• Get a personal injury lawyer – It is best to go for a lawyer that has experience with the kind of claim you are making. This is because personal injury lawyers have experience in both the medical and insurance industries and can therefore negotiate an attractive compensation for you.
• Look at the referrals – After making a list of good lawyers get the best one by looking at their referrals. Only go for those with stellar reviews on both the results they get and the fees they charge.
• Customer care – You should only get a personal injury lawyer that you are comfortable with. This is because there will be many meeting as the case proceeds meaning that you’ll want someone that is more concerned about your needs and not his retainer.
Find out more about whiplash treatment at Scotctown Chiropractic and Physical Therapy