Whiplash is one of the most common injuries sustained in car accidents, especially rear-end collisions. Whiplash occurs when the head is jerked backward and forward, straining the neck's soft tissues. However, recognizing the signs and symptoms of whiplash may not always be immediate.
What causes the delayed onset of whiplash symptoms?
Whiplash symptoms often don't manifest immediately after a car accident. Some people may experience symptoms within hours, while others may take longer to realize they have whiplash. This delayed onset can be attributed to several factors, including:
- Adrenaline rush: After a traumatic car accident, the body releases adrenaline. This "fight or flight" response may temporarily suppress the awareness of an injury and mask the pain.
- Inflammation and swelling: Soft tissue injuries, including those in the neck, may not exhibit symptoms until inflammation and swelling develop. This can take time, and the symptoms become more apparent as the swelling increases.
- Gradual progression: Whiplash injuries often involve micro-tears in ligaments, tendons, and muscles. As these injuries gradually worsen, you may experience pain and discomfort.
Common symptoms of whiplash
While the exact timeline for symptom onset can vary from person to person, the following are common whiplash symptoms:
- Neck pain: This is the most common symptom of whiplash. It's often described as aching, soreness, or stiffness in the neck.
- Headaches: Whiplash can lead to tension headaches or migraines due to the strain on the neck muscles and joints.
- Reduced range of motion: You may find turning your head or moving your neck challenging.
- Shoulder and upper back pain: Pain and discomfort can radiate from the neck to the shoulders and upper back.
- Tingling or numbness: You may experience tingling or numbness in your arms, hands, or fingers due to nerve irritation.
- Fatigue: Whiplash injuries can be physically and mentally draining, leading to feelings of fatigue and exhaustion.
- Dizziness: A sensation of dizziness or vertigo may occur due to the rapid neck movement during the crash.
- Difficulty concentrating: Cognitive symptoms can also manifest. This includes difficulty concentrating and memory problems.
Seeking medical attention for whiplash
If you suspect you may have whiplash after a car accident, seeking medical attention is crucial. Even if symptoms are not immediately evident, a medical evaluation can identify any underlying injuries. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the condition from worsening as well as create an official record of your injury (which can be important if you later decide to make an insurance claim for your injuries).
When diagnosing whiplash, a doctor may perform several procedures, including:
- A thorough physical examination to assess your neck mobility, tenderness, and any signs of muscle spasm or injury.
- X-rays to rule out fractures or dislocations.
- MRI or CT scans to provide more detailed imaging of any internal injuries you may have suffered.
- Neurological assessment to check for injury to your central nervous system, including your brain, and identify any sensory or motor deficits.
The following medical treatments may be necessary to recover from whiplash:
- Rest and activity modification.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for severe pain.
- Applying ice to the injured area for the first 48 hours to help reduce swelling and pain.
- Heat application to improve blood flow and relax tense neck muscles.
- Physical therapy to improve neck strength and flexibility.
- Alternative treatments such as massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic care.
What are my legal options if I sustained whiplash from a car accident?
You have the right to pursue compensation for your damages (e.g., medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering) if you sustained whiplash in a collision. However, knowing where to start can be challenging. If you deal with insurance companies directly, you could end up with a lowball settlement or no settlement at all.
Insurance adjusters often try to minimize whiplash claims. They do this by questioning the severity of your injury, suggesting that it was pre-existing or unrelated to the accident, or downplaying its impact on your life. They may also request recorded statements where seemingly innocuous statements can be used against you to diminish your claim's value.
To protect your rights and maximize your chances of a fair settlement, it's essential to consult with a car accident attorney who has experience dealing with insurance companies and successfully handling whiplash claims.
Here at The Scott Law Firm, PLLC, we have represented countless individuals who have suffered a whiplash injury in a car accident. We can help assess the value of your damages and fight to recover the compensation you deserve. To learn how we can help you, contact us today for a free consultation. We proudly serve injured motorists throughout the greater Vancouver area and Southwest Washington.