Rear-end car accidents are some of the most common types of motor vehicle accidents and they are notorious for giving people whiplash. As many as three million new cases of whiplash may occur every year in the U.S., according to studies by the Spine Research Institute. It happens in the blink of an eye, when you’re sitting at a stop sign and another driver bumps your car. You jolt forward suddenly and unexpectedly, without warning. As a result, you may develop a whiplash injury; here is what Kansas City drivers need to know about whiplash:
What Is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a non-medical term for a type of soft tissue in the spine is either strained or stretched due to a sudden, forceful jerk. Although it is possible to sustain whiplash in other ways, such as sports or physical abuse, car accidents are by far the most common source of whiplash. The rapid backward and forward motion can injure not only the tissues in the neck, but also ligaments, muscles, nerves, and bones or disks in the spine.
Numerous factors affect the severity of whiplash injuries, making it difficult to predict how extensive the trauma will be. Severity of injury will depend greatly on the age, sex, and physical condition of the victim as well as the circumstances of the accident, including the speed and direction of the vehicles involved.
Symptoms of Whiplash
Diagnosing whiplash can be difficult since the injury does not appear on X-ray, MRI or CT scans. Typically doctors will use the patient’s description of symptoms as well as the background of the injury to come up with a diagnosis. Over 90 percent of whiplash trauma patients report neck pain, which will usually be pain radiating across the shoulders, into the head and between the shoulder blades. In addition, those who have sustained a whiplash injury may also suffer from symptoms of mild to moderate brain injury.
If you’ve been in a car accident, it’s important to be aware of the following symptoms that may indicate whiplash:
- Stiffness and pain in the neck;
- Increased pain with neck movement and a decrease in range of motion;
- Headaches, typically originating in the base of the skull;
- Shoulder, upper back or parm pain and soreness;
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing, and hoarseness;
- Dizziness; and
- Burning, ringing in the ears, and tingling or other abnormal sensations.
Some people will experience additional signs of injury,, such as blurred vision, sleep disturbances, memory problems, trouble concentrating, and symptoms. Symptoms of whiplash will typically develop within 24 hours of the incident.
Any time you’re in a car accident where injuries happened or may have happened, it’s important to see a doctor. Particularly for a car accident, the insurance settlement will depend on documented medical examinations. In addition, being evaluated by a doctor will ensure the best treatment and reduce the chance of exacerbating the injury or failure to identify other injuries.
Most patients should recover from whiplash within a few months, but those with severe whiplash may experience symptoms for years. Since whiplash is non-fatal injury, most treatment plans revolve around pain control, restoring range of motion to the neck, and returning to normal activities. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment may call for everything from over-the-counter medications to prescription drugs and other specialized pain treatment as well as physical therapy. To control pain, doctors recommend the following:
- Resting – This is especially important in the first 24 hours, however, longer rest may delay recovery.
- Using heat or ice – 15 minutes up to six times per day
- Painkillers – Both over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, for mild to moderate pain or prescription medications for severe pain.
- Muscle relaxants – These can be helpful, especially for injuries that impede normal sleep.
- Neck exercises – A variety of exercises, including rotating the neck and rolling your shoulders, can help return you to your normal range of motion.
- Physical therapy – For extra help with range-of-motion exercise or those experiencing chronic pain may be referred to a therapist to improve muscle strength, posture, and restore regular movement.
Despite treatment, as many as 20 percent of those diagnosed with whiplash continue to have at least some irritation in the neck up to two years after their accident. To reduce the long-term effects of whiplash, it is highly recommended enlisting the help of a chiropractor. Chiropractic treatments, coupled with massage therapy, and exercise rehabilitation are the best bet for combating long-term effects and getting back to a normal routine.
Prevention Techniques For Drivers
Since whiplash is predominantly associated with rear-end car collisions, drivers should always make sure to wear a seatbelt while on the road. In addition, drivers should avoid driving in excessively reclined positions and make sure their headrest is not too low.
Receiving Compensation for Your Injuries
Missouri is an at-fault state, meaning whatever percentage of the accident for which you are not at fault, you may collect compensation for. For instance, if you were 60 percent at fault for your accident, you can still get 40 percent of your damages paid. A majority of rear-end accidents, however, are the fault of the driver who came from behind, meaning you’ll likely recover 100 percent of damages from an insurance company.
Because whiplash is so common in car accidents, it is one of the injuries that insurance companies most frequently will offer a settlement amount for. Compensation available for whiplash injuries include any medical expenses related to the injury, lost income, and pain and suffering. Since whiplash injuries are generally not considered very serious, settlement amounts tend to be small. However, it is still extremely important to document all medical examinations and expenses as well as lost time from work. Injuries which are treated by a doctor are usually seen as more legitimate and will, under most circumstances, merit larger settlement amounts.
What to Do If You Were Injured In A Car Accident
If you or a loved one has sustained a whiplash injury it’s important that you enlist the help of an dedicated car accident attorney in Kansas City. Insurance companies will do their best to reduce the settlement amount they owe to you and you need someone fighting on your side. Contact the legal team at Krause & Kinsman Law Firm to discuss the specifics of your Kansas City, Missouri car accident case.
Robert Kinsman is a personal injury, mass tort, business litigation, and employment discrimination attorney who practices in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and has been practicing law for several years now. Robert Kinsman is passionate about normalizing the life of his clients after they have been seriously injured. Learn more about his experience here.