Making a Claim for Whiplash

by admin on June 2, 2010

Whiplash and whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) represent a range of injuries to the neck.  Whiplash is commonly associated with motor vehicle accidents, usually when the vehicle has been hit from behind by another vehicle.  However, the injury can be sustained in many other ways, including many types of falls, including falls from bicycles, horses, and ladders etc.  It is also possible to sustain a whiplash injury from playing sports, for example from a sudden blow to the head (e.g. during contact sports such as boxing or rugby).  Less common causes may include being hit on the head by a heavy object, or a slip or fall where the head is jolted backwards.

Any contact that causes your head to snap quickly back and forth can cause a whiplash; the soft tissue in the spine is stretched and strained after the body is thrown in a sudden, forceful jerk, which can result in painful and debilitating symptoms.  Put simply, the ligaments and tendons in the neck are sprained during a whiplash injury because, for example, the ligament has been overstretched. Even though the neck has not been broken, it may sometimes take several months for everything to heal.

 

Symptoms

The symptoms of whiplash can take a while to develop after an accident or incident. Any swelling and bruising in the neck muscles is not usually obvious at the time of the accident.  It may take 6 to 24 hours for the symptoms of whiplash to become apparent. The pain and stiffness is often worse on the day after the injury. The pain may continue to get worse during the days after the injury.

The most common symptoms of whiplash include:

neck pain and/or stiffness
swelling
tenderness along the back of the neck
difficulty moving the neck
headaches.

Other less common symptoms of whiplash may include:

pain in the lower back
pain, numbness or pins and needles in the arms and/or hands
muscle spasms
dizziness
tiredness
difficulty swallowing or speaking
blurred vision
vertigo (the sensation that your are moving or spinning)
tinnitus (ringing in the ears)

Occasionally, whiplash can cause memory loss, poor concentration and irritability.

Following a whiplash injury, the dizziness, headaches, blurred vision and problems with swallowing should only last for a short while. See your GP if any of these symptoms don’t clear up quickly.

Treatment

Whiplash is treated by dealing with the pain and stiffness in the neck and by healing the damage to the affected area.  This could be through gentle exercise, applying ice packs, taking painkillers, maintaining good posture, but ALWAYS consult your GP before trying any treatment in case it is not the best way to treat your injury.  Your GP may refer you for physiotherapy or osteotherapy if necessary.

 

Recovery

After a few days, the symptoms of whiplash should begin to improve. In about 60% of cases, the symptoms improve significantly or completely disappear within one to four weeks. It can sometimes take a few months for the symptoms of whiplash to disappear completely and some people still have some neck pain and stiffness for a long time after the injury.

 

What should I do next?

Visit your GP if you have recently had a motor vehicle accident or a sudden impact to your head and are experiencing pain and stiffness in your neck.  To make a diagnosis, your GP will ask you about your symptoms and details of how the injury happened.

Some people make a quick recovery, but for others, the pain and restricted movement caused by a whiplash injury can be long-lasting – a whiplash compensation claim can help if time off work is needed to recover from your injury.

If you have been injured in a car accident, some insurers may be quick to contact you directly to make an early offer to settle your whiplash claim, but make sure you insist on getting independent legal advice before agreeing to any compensation settlement.  Don’t tell the person phoning you that you ‘feel fine’, tell them calmly that your solicitor will be in touch even if you don’t have one yet – they don’t know this and have no way of finding out!  If you are asked which solicitor you are using, simply say that they will find out when your solicitor contacts them.  Don’t feel pressured!

Compensation amounts awarded depend on the severity of the injury, and as a result it is impossible to state the average amount that is paid out.  You can claim for the physical pain and suffering caused, as well as the emotional pain and loss of enjoyment of life.  If the pain and suffering you have encountered has caused you to suffer psychological disorders such as depression then this may also be included in your compensation claim.

It is also possible to claim ‘special damages’ for any loss of earnings (including any potential loss of future earnings as a result of the accident) you may have endured while you recovered from the accident; car hire expenses you have had to pay as a result of your car being repaired, or costs from having to pay someone to look after you while you recovered from your whiplash injuries. If you have paid for medical attention to treat the injury you can also include those bills in your claim.  However, if you want to claim for any of these ‘special damages’ then you need to keep a careful track of all the payments you have made and where possible you’ll need to have receipts.

REMEMBER – make sure that the solicitor you use is experienced in dealing with whiplash claims.  A specialist solicitor could help make a huge difference to the amount of any compensation payment that you may receive.

 


About the Author:
Mike Massen is a practising solicitor with Gartons Solicitors Leeds – 0113 2310766, mmassen@gartonsolicitors.co.uk  www.gartonsolicitors.co.uk. Gartons provide quality legal service in the following areas: accident claims, buying and selling property,wills and probate, Lasting Powers of Attorney, criminal injury claims, sexual abuse claims. Gartons have particular expertise when dealing with dogbites and needlestick claims.
If you have found this article of interest please feel free to forward to other sites etc however I would ask that you give full credit to Gartons Solicitors for such, thank you.
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