A lot of people who have been injured in a car accident dread hearing the words, "You have whiplash," because that's just the sort of injury that people who've never experienced one will accuse someone of making up just to try to make an easy grab for some insurance money. However, a whiplash injury is anything but easy.
In fact, whiplash can have devastating short-term effects on your life, and the long-term effects of unresolved whiplash can be even worse. This is what you should know.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash, involving a car accident, is the catch-all term for the injuries that occur when your neck is forcefully whipped forward and then back by the sudden collision (usually from the rear). All that momentum and force from the motion of the cars have to go somewhere, and your neck and head are -- unlike your upper body -- free of restraints.
If you've ever seen one of those desk toys called a "Newton's Cradle," where a swinging metal ball strikes a whole row of balls on strings but sends only the last one into motion, that's exactly what's just happened to your head and neck. In the process, any number of muscles, ligaments, and vertebrae in your upper shoulders and neck can be strained, bruised, pulled, and put out of alignment all at once.
Why is Whiplash Serious?
While whiplash remains the butt of a lot of jokes when it comes to auto accident claims, the reality is very serious. A new study, done just in 2016, shows that there are actual physical changes in the brain's ability to process pain and posture processing -- indicating that there are likely changes in blood flow to the brain from the swelling and injuries associated from whiplash. (That sort of imaging may also eventually end the controversy surrounding whiplash injuries because they may soon become much easier to medically prove.)
The pain from whiplash is very real. The swelling, numbness, tingling, dizziness, and associated symptoms that go along with whiplash can range from mild to disabling. One long-term study looked at patients who were treated in emergency rooms for whiplash and found some surprising results: even two years later, 70% of the victims hadn't fully recovered. A full 30% of victims said that the pain intruded on their daily lives and ability to function normally, and 4% were actually disabled from their injuries. In addition, while the majority of the subjects showed no mental health problems at the time of their injury, those who didn't recover from whiplash often went on to develop psychological problems as a result of their pain and trauma.
Incidentally, the same study concluded that the compensation those victims with enduring pain received did not generally equal the real costs of the injury to their lives. That's why it's smart to retain a personal injury attorney even if you have something as simple and "easy" as a whiplash injury. Your attorney can help you assess your situation and make sure you get the appropriate compensation for your serious injuries. For more advice, talk to an attorney today, such as those at firms like Caldwell Kennedy & Porter.