Yes, whiplash is real. In fact, it has existed since before the invention of the automobile—when it was called railway spine because of its prevalence as an injury in train accidents. Some confusion exists because whiplash is a colloquialism and not a medical term. However, it certainly describes a set of real medical conditions involving your vertebrae and the ligaments and muscles in your neck and shoulders.
If a car accident injured you, meet with an experienced car accident attorney in Clearwater, Florida, for a free consultation. Call Dolman Law Group at (727) 451-6900 today.
What Causes Whiplash?
Whiplash primarily takes place when the neck suddenly extends due to a violent force, often from a rear-end car collision. As the accident throws your head backward and then forward, the anterior longitudinal ligament, which runs down the outside the surface of the spine and is responsible for providing it with stability, stretches or tears.
As your head snaps back and forth, the spine can take on an S shape, which can cause injuries to other muscles in the back. Many whiplash victims also damage the trapezius muscle or the supraspinatus muscle in the upper back, which in a whiplash victim becomes a constant source of pain.
If you were in an accident, you should know whether your head snapped back and forth—but even then, you may not end up with whiplash. Instead, look for the following symptoms, which should appear within 24 hours:
- Neck stiffness
- Increasing pain in the neck
- Decreased range of movement in the neck
- Arm numbness
- Blurred vision
- Disrupted sleep
- Memory problems
If you notice any of these symptoms, don’t delay—go to a doctor or the hospital for treatment. In Florida, you only have 14 days to get medical treatment to qualify for personal injury protection benefits from your automobile insurer, so any delay will make the process of collecting these benefits more difficult—if not impossible.
At your appointment, the doctor will assess the range of motion in your neck and whether any movement causes pain (or increases pain that already exists). The doctor will also assess your reflexes and the strength in your limbs.
Depending on your situation, the doctor also might need to order an imaging test to rule out other conditions that might contribute to your neck pain. For example, the doctor might order:
- X-rays of your neck from multiple angles to look for fractures or dislocations.
- CT scan, a specialized X-ray technology that will reveal details about your bones so that the doctor can check for damage.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), which can produce detailed 3-D images of your bones. An MRI can also detect soft tissue injuries.
Depending on these tests, the doctor might uncover a more serious injury than whiplash, such as fractured vertebrae, which will require a different course of treatment.
With proper treatments, you should recover from whiplash and return to a normal range of motion. Your treatment will consist mostly of rest and pain management. Many whiplash victims control pain by using ice or heat, over-the-counter medicines (like Tylenol or ibuprofen), and muscle relaxants or prescription painkillers.
A doctor may also prescribe exercise to return flexibly and strength to your muscles. Helpful exercises that can restore movement to your neck include:
- Tilting your head to each side
- Rolling your shoulders
- Rotating your neck
- Bending forward so that your chin touches your chest
- Exercises to improve posture and muscle control
Surprisingly, the last thing you should do after getting whiplash is put a foam collar around your neck 24/7. By immobilizing your neck, you might delay your recovery, because your neck and shoulder muscles need to move and stretch to achieve full recovery.
Most whiplash symptoms, including pain, should clear up within a few months, but some accident victims will live with pain for longer. Whatever treatments your doctor prescribes, make sure that you follow them closely and call your doctor if you don’t feel that they are helping you improve.
Consider Whether You Have a Legal Case
Many whiplash victims are injured through no fault of their own. For example, they might have tripped over a hazard and fallen, suffering whiplash, or another vehicle rear-ended them. Depending on the circumstances, someone else might have caused your injuries through their own carelessness, legally called negligence.
In Florida, negligence victims are entitled to compensation for their injuries, and you can hold the party at fault responsible for the costs of your medical treatments, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The more serious the injury, the more likely you are to receive a larger amount of compensation.
The Car Accident Exception
Things are more complicated if you suffered whiplash in a car accident. Florida is a no-fault state, which means you must first contact your insurance company if you sustained whiplash in an automobile accident. You can receive a payout from your insurer—regardless of who caused the accident. Check your policy to see how much you qualify for in personal injury protection benefits.
Furthermore, Florida law prevents you from bringing a lawsuit against the other driver unless you suffer a permanent injury or significant disfigurement. This means that, realistically, you won’t sue for whiplash alone. However, you might have another permanent injury or serious disfigurement from the car accident, such as burns to your face. Whatever your circumstances, only a qualified attorney can assess the situation and find out the best way to move forward.
Talk to a Clearwater, Florida Whiplash Attorney
Whiplash can interrupt your life and leave you in pain through no fault of your own. Accident victims deserve fair compensation for their pain and inconvenience. Whether you’re suing an at-fault party or your insurer to pay out on your insurance policy, Dolman Law Group can help. Contact us for a free consultation at (727) 451-6900 or complete an online contact form.